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Advanced Chapters: How many is too many to write ahead of publishing time?

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This challenge is new for me, I usually am only able to write a chapter ahead at any given point when I am writing a novel length story in recent years, so I would always have materials for readers in the following week in case I catch a cold or something happened at work. 

With the writing of Of Pride and Power, I am about 3, almost 4, chapters ahead now. Part of this stems from the concepts in this story being in the works, since 2019 with various iterations. I believe I once mentioned to @Mark Arbour about writing historical fiction in this period even earlier, but never went through with it, making this idea even older. I've already got a broad outline on how I want things to go, where I am taking characters, and my knowledge of the historic period. Without an editor/beta, I am left with ad-hoc revisions, so there is no turnaround. I worry about this story getting done too fast, harming the story quality.

I know GA's policies on publishing and the general rule of not overloading readers with chapters. That's why it's a weekly publication.

I wonder, do other GA authors ever face a situation where their story seemed to be getting too far ahead? How do you deal with it, other than limiting output to a weekly serial like me in order to not overwhelm readers?

Edited by W_L
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                I am writing it all before publishing. I have two stories in the making, one being edited atm. It was necessary not to publish before being done, because I had to go back and change stuff.      I am pretty fixed with story and character, but I made a factual error that needed  fixing.  So, I write it all before publishin, but writing is not myprofession.I do not want to be pressured to create just something because the publishing date is due. That I have enough at work. Sorry for the formatting,  written on a mobile.     

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51 minutes ago, Libby Drew said:

Can you expand on this thought for me? I think I might know what you mean, but I don't want to assume. 

Thank you. 

It's due to a lack of an editor and the speed at which my ideas are coming to me via the muse that is working overtime right now.

I am afraid without someone to keep my ideas and story organized, I am going to create paradoxes, bad plot holes, and nonsensical stuff like "x" died a few chapters ago, but I am referencing them as someone trying to complete a certain task.

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Whether it's a long short story, (meaning it has more than one chapter, but not more than five,) or a full-length novel, I usually write the entire story before posting.  However, there have been a couple of times when I started posting earlier, but only after I'd already written more than half of the chapters I planned to write.  I do this for several reasons.  First of all, I have gotten several chapters into a story before and then suddenly realized that I'd forgotten to add an important detail in an earlier chapter, but I'd already posted several chapters past where it should have been inserted.  Since those chapters were already posted and read by many of my followers, I couldn't very well go back and add it now.  Even worse, if I tried to add it in a later chapter then it would seem as if I was locking the barn door after the horses had already escaped.  

At other times, after writing multiple chapters I suddenly decide that a major event that I was planning on adding in a later chapter would be more impactful earlier in the story.  Sometimes this might add several chapters where it should have been included, and doing this wouldn't be possible if those chapters had already been posted, so by not posting until it's completely written solves the problem. 

To give you a sad example of this, I knew an author who found himself in one of those predicaments, and since he couldn't figure out a way to solve the problem, since the chapters were already posted, he merely stopped posting altogether.  It was a shame, because it was an interesting and well written story up to that point.  If he hadn't started posting until after he had completed the story, then he would have been able to fix the problem and then finished the story.   I hope that by pointing out these situations that I might save someone else from making the same or similar mistakes.   

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  • 2 months later...

I am a great re-reader and reviser, so most of my stories (the ones on GA and the one's not yet posted) are well on the way, if not complete. I like to leave something to simmer, then return back to it and tweak, so I am usually well ahead. But then, I often rework a little just before posting. But that's me, I like to know where the story is going before committing.

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I only publish finished stories. Made a mistake of publishing a half-written story and I lost interest along the way.

Plus in the middle of writing, if I get an idea and said idea involves earlier chapters, you can't edit it anymore if the chapters are published.

Sometimes my best work comes from my 10th edit or 15th. So editing as a whole is very important in my process.

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Writing chapters in advance is a good idea if you can.

I’m too scatter-brained to do it.

I propose 2 alternatives for preserving your sanity.

1 - outline ahead. It really helps to know where you’re going.


2 - rough draft ahead.

Both can get you there faster with out bottle necking the process.


I have been experimenting with different techniques to get make  the work process easier and faster. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Write at your speed, always.

Publish at most, twice a week.  If you have several chapters, the ability to check for, and correct, inconsistencies prior to posting/publising is invaluable. After all, continuity is part of everything, the other part is good descriptive narration and dialogue of a great sex scene.

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Since I began posting stories here late last year, I tend to write my novels from start to finish before posting chapters. As for my posting schedule, if it’s a short chapter or one that ends on a cliffhanger, I’ll post chapters one or two days apart. But generally, I like to update stories every other day or so.

But as to the OP’s question, go at a pace that you can sustain without burning out and be consistent.


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2 hours ago, drown said:

23 days later.

I have no idea what I'm doing still rings true. So much.

Should I have completed the story in a vacuum? Probably. I still wouldn't want to do it. This experience of having people react to my writing as it goes out has been utterly exhilarating to me. And while it doesn't shape the plot as that's almost certainly set in stone, it shapes how I write already. I learned more in the past 23 days than I have over a decade of not showing anything to anyone ever.

Right now it's about 5 chapters ahead in rough drafts, 5 more in detailed outlines, and I still am sticking to a 50 chapter outline. Each chapter aims at 2500 words on the rough draft. If any major things happen in IRL, it would slow me down, but I hope to always have 1–2 chapters per week published.

The problem with this is that your plot progression is locked to whatever it is you've already written because you can't go back to earlier chapters and change anything. Unless you've plotted twists and turns and stuck to whatever you've planned in your story, then you're good.

I'm a panzer and generally it lends itself to interesting plot, my problem in general is that any changes deters me to move forward. So you'd have me stuck in an 8k chapter for a month because I can't make up my mind if Mrs. Rosa should be Italian or Mexican, or if my character should have a past like this or that.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Whatever works for you I guess.

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6 hours ago, LJCC said:

The problem with this is that your plot progression is locked to whatever it is you've already written because you can't go back to earlier chapters and change anything.

That is so true and it IS significant. I might do things differently in the future, but right now the benefit of having a community react to my writing far outweighs continuing to write in a silent bubble.

I do have several twists and turns planned, my outline in itself right now is a very long document of ~24,000 words.

Edited by drown
corrected 'subble' to 'bubble', but I did drink today, so there's that.
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For myself there are two quite different publishing prospects. 

1. You are writing professionally or semi-professionally in which case the novel should be finished, edited, and proof read. If you are posting novels here for free, I wonder about this.

2. You are an amateur playing about with story writing. You publish here for free to get feedback and as a place where people can read what you've written. In this case you can do whatever you like, completed stories, novels, are clearly labelled. Abandoned stories, re-writes, they are all labelled. There is no disappointing readers, because they choose to go along with the ride or only read completed books.

For myself, new here, I write when I feel like it, publish when I can, and intend to finish the book, but there are no guarantees. I have three followers a hundred or so reads, one or two comments, so it's not going to be the end of the world whatever I do, whatever happens. In short, you are worrying needlessly about nothing. You aren't selling something, you are giving it away, relax!

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As a reader, I prefer to read stories which are posted often, preferably two or more chapters a week, but at least once a week.  One author I am in regular contact with has a policy of writing at least seven chapters ahead before starting to publish,  but he prefers to have ten or more completed before he starts posting -- unless the story is shorter than 10 chapters.  (If he starts posting a story and gets down to only five chapters ahead, he is concerned.  (Some years ago he had very serious abdominal surgery and it delayed his postings for almost two months -- and he had only been writing one chapter ahead.)  

Consistency is an important key.  On stories where a writer allows readers to influence chapters -- that is fine, as long as it does not cause a major inconsistency with what has gone before, or as long as it does not derail the overall plan of the author for that story.  There are only a very few authors where I will keep reading with long gaps in a story.  I can think of four such authors on GA, two on Nifty, and three on IOMfAtS.  Those authors I will keep reading when the story is posted.  Other authors will probably lose me.

Edited by ReaderPaul
Correct some spelling errors.
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I missed this discussion when it started, and just read through the many well-thought-out comments.  Though it won't add to the substance, I'll toss in my own unusually-definite opinion, based on experience.

Over the few years I've been trying to write in this arena, strictly as a retirement hobby, I've gone 180 degrees on this topic.  At first I wrote a chapter and posted it immediately - I just couldn't wait to get it out there and get a minuscule amount of email feedback, hopefully encouraging.  But then I discovered a few things. 

(1) The stories were riddled with spelling and grammatical errors (no editor back then, and limited online tools).
(2) Not being compelled to plan, I wrote stories I couldn't end.
(3) I created a "history" I was stuck with.
(4) While many elements of reader input are extremely helpful, they can well be applied to the next story rather than the next chapter.
(5) Content suggestions should be filtered carefully.  I was far more "successful" when I stuck to what was in my heart and mind - I found it to also be in the hearts and minds of others.

I'm a slow learner, and it took a while for the tide to turn, but at this point, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell I would post a word until the story is finished, edited, and proofread multiple times.  Those with better planning skills might take a different approach, and I wish them well.

As for frequency, my opinion is not so definite, but I think it depends on story length.   If stories are simple and only a few chapters, daily seems to work well.  For longer complex stories, a few days to absorb what has been read can be very helpful.

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