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Thread: Chapters too long?

  1. #1

    Default Chapters too long?

    My fic Obsession is an ongoing adventure, and part of that has been the varying chapter sizes. One was half a page long, and one was ten pages, and it feels like lately they've been getting far too long.

    I mean, I could bull it and say that it's symbolic, but that simply isn't true. It's a struggle to get these out, and when it takes more and more for me to describe what happens, it takes so much longer.

    The chapter I'm currently working on is the longest so far, and I'm wondering if I should split it up into two parts. I've done that before with a single event, but there was a logical break in there with a bus trip. In here there isn't so much, since the only logical break happens early on.

    So I don't know what to do.
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    Exactly what are you considering "far too long"? Given when talking about your wildly varying chapter lengths you mention one that's half a page and one that's ten pages, it sounds like you're regarding ten as a lot, but I don't think most people would consider that excessive at all - needing to split chapters into two posts because of the character limit is a pretty common occurrence for a lot of well-liked fics here, and at least with the font size and spacing I use, that happens a lot closer to the twenty-page mark.

    If there really is no natural place to split it, I'd honestly say you shouldn't have to worry about it unless it's getting truly excessive. Think something more like forty pages than ten.

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  3. #3

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    I consider above six or so pages to be pretty long, by my standards. Most of my fics are about a page long. The one I got a prize for this past voting cycle, Answering Machine, is just over 500 words.
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    It really depends. While you're writing, think about what information you're grouping together in your chapters and why. What effect is that grouping having on your story? Reread your chapters, and look for any natural stopping places that you might not be taking advantage of. Long chapters are fine, but you need to have a reason for stopping where you're stopping and be conscious of it. Also keep in mind that the longer the chapters are, the more you're asking of your readers and the more likely they are to stop reading, or put off reading. Though, honestly, 6 single spaced pages doesn't seem that long to me. Chapters in professional novels are often 20+ pages, 1.5 spaced.
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    One of my most recent fic's "chapters" was a shade under sixty pages, and it needed to be divided into three separate, smaller parts for ease of reading, so I might not be the best judge for this sort of thing, but I say that chapters should be as long or short as they need to be. I have a personal rule not to go over twenty five pages if at all possible. If you need to increase chapter length to get everything you need in there, then it's probably not a problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjack Gabbiani View Post
    I consider above six or so pages to be pretty long, by my standards. Most of my fics are about a page long. The one I got a prize for this past voting cycle, Answering Machine, is just over 500 words.
    Well, sure, I get that it's long by your usual standards, but my point is if you have in fact written a longer chapter and there is no natural splitting point for it, I doubt your readers will mind if it's unusually long for you. They might if it were ludicrously long on an absolute scale, like "can't get through it in one sitting" long, but if it's just that your chapters are usually shorter, there is probably not really reason to be concerned when one of them ends up somewhat longer. Split it if there is a good place to do it and that makes it fit better with your usual chapter lengths, but if not, it's not something to lose sleep over.

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    Morphic
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    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

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  7. #7

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    I feel like readership will go down with longer chapters. I'm used to people being able to read my fics in a few minutes.
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    Well... As certain people may know, I used to have a thing for long chapters. Like, occasionally 30 pages or longer.

    And, I can personally attest to the fact that yes, some readers are uncomfortable with reading long chapters in an online setting. So yes, Blackjack Gabbiani, your readership can go down with overly long chapters, but it usually takes something consistently over 25 pages over a long period of time before the drop starts. In my experiences, readers are okay with reading the occasional monster of a chapter as long as it's good and/or plot relevant. No one usually likes 30+ pages of filler anyways.

    But, if your tried and true style is for shorter chapters, then try and cut down the chapter until it fits your specifications.

    Just wanted to share a few observations on the matter, as it's a topic that I've had considerable experience with, both good and bad. Sorry if I've simply repeated what others have said, but it's what I've seen in my small time writing.

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    I really agree with Knightfall for this one. I'm not exactly the inspiring author myself, but I've been gaining my skills back over time in writing, and this is what I found to be a difficult task sometimes in writing.

    Don't get me wrong, a LOT of people are on different levels with this sort of thing. By reading a book that you pick up from the bookstore, you'd be able to see that almost every chapter is at least 10-20 pages (but that might scale differently if you're using word. )
    I've found that reading nice and short chapters is waaay easier. It makes all the difference in the world. But by short, I don't mean a few paragraphs. I'm probably talking about 4 pages, which is about the most I can come up with in one days time. (Im a noobie author... Blegh.)

    Short and sweet beats the... I dunno. Obsolete? It rhymes so it's true.

    But, and now here is an interesting question for both Dragonfree and Knightfall, (you guys are both my inspiration! Please don't kill me. ._.)
    Just how do you make your chapters so long? Is it through description? Conversation? Story progression?
    If you could answer this, that'd be awesome. Also, how long does it take for you to perfect a chapter, from the moment you start it?
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    I don't think it's that much of an issue, then again my past chapters of my main fic. rounded out to around 25k words in four chapters, ohohohoh, so I suppose this thread is right up my ally? I wouldn't worry too much about size if the content itself is quality, gotta say, I do get disgruntled when I see lengthy perfectly well-written fics. not getting much critique solely based on size alone. Quality of content varies, but from my own personal experience the majority of short fics. that take about ten minutes to read a chapter tend to be pretty...well...not good. 700 word chapters accumulating a sizable amount of responses, various errors and all still present, full of cliches, poorly paced, because they don't take long to read is something I've seen unfortunately more than a few times compared to perfectly good stories like Travels of the Trifecta or The Angel of Reckoning getting ignored because of the immensity of the chapters despite the fact both stories are quite good.

    If you ask me, I'd rather a story be too long than too short. I can only offer my personal perspective on the issue. I can understand annoyance at "too long" when say....there are paragraphs upon paragraphs spent on needless and overly fancy description. If the detail and description is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's really all that necessary to go beyond maybe one or two sentences of illustration. The constant flowery description does drive up the length of a fic. in some cases so that be a problem in itself. Another issue where I feel complaining is actually worth it is if nothing is really accomplished by the end of the chapter, basically if the chapter is mostly "fluff" it can be tedious for some to read through with little to no progression in the story. That being said from the other side of the fence, if neither of these dilemmas are available, I do get irritated at the amount of people who won't give more lengthy stories a glance solely based on their length.

    Patience is a virtue, I feel like if people just grew more of that then a lot of great stories would get more praise and criticism and overall it would encourage a more active, healthy and secure community for writers without fear of discrimination based on length. Personally, I'm not saying short stories are crap or anything but I don't think it's exactly perfect to have a dozen short chapters rather than two sizable ones and vice versa, but I usually see the former done to maintain a pretty consistent readership.
    Last edited by Doryuzu; 27th June 2014 at 5:10 AM.

  11. #11

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    To me, there's a difference between a long chapter in a fic and one in a book, because with a fic you're looking at it on a screen and thus usually want to be able to finish it in one sitting, while with a book you just pop a bookmark in it and come back to it. So unless you print a fic out, it really is like apples and oranges.
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    Longer chapters also take longer to write, so if you're writing regularly, you'll get content out faster with shorter chapters. And faster content means more happy people!

    I personally like 8 pages per chapter myself. Enough for things to happen, but you can typically get through it in no more than 10 minutes. Although I tend to range between 6-12 pages overall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjack Gabbiani View Post
    To me, there's a difference between a long chapter in a fic and one in a book, because with a fic you're looking at it on a screen and thus usually want to be able to finish it in one sitting, while with a book you just pop a bookmark in it and come back to it. So unless you print a fic out, it really is like apples and oranges.
    I personally have no issue with this, if I want to read a chapter and am having to leave and come back later I can always save my space via bookmarking it on my laptop or simply saving the link. I'm not afraid of setting aside the fic. and returning later.(I think there's a book Chrome app for this...) If I'm feeling the story a lot, it's a joy to see a nice juicy chapter between updates. When I read, I love to take in the whole journey and soak up the experience. I'm not just racing along to find out what happens. I don't skim and I can be a bit of a speed reader on some days from withdrawal and I think I appreciate the update more after going so long without. Short 1-2k chapters do leave me feeling empty if so, I just don't feel like enough was fleshed out and done more often than not.

    Short chapters leave me feeling unsatisfied, and that's especially true if I have to wait for the next update. It doesn't take much for me to skim back to the spot I was and if a chapter is a bit too long for someone's liking then reading it in breaks isn't a crime. Personally, I think the issue of chapters being "too long" is a problem left solely up to the reader and no one else. It seems more like a case of patience than anything else and this is coming from an American teenager whose attention span can be pretty microscopic at times but I still want to really get a grip on the story and elements within it. Short chapters tend to be short on the type of privy detailing I thrive on when approaching a story as a reader.

    My approach and reaction to "large" chatpers? "Great! Let's do this!" I grab something to eat and take a seat and devour said chapter. Keep in the mind, iirc, the latest chapter of Travel of the Trifecta was in the realm of 40k words but I ate it up in about 1-2 hours iirc. Again, I don't really care about the magnitude of a chapter if the content is good. If I saw a story where every chapter was as very short, to be honest it probably would put me off a bit. Very short chapters tend to be written by "a [#] words chapter is how much I wrote today" people, and I'm not interested in stories which have had that little editing, quality and planning. They usually never draw me in either. I read them and my expectation are usually, unfortunately, met. I think it all depends on the events that encompass each chapter when it comes right down to it.That being said, it depends. When writing one shouldn't focus on length but end it when it "feels" right and natural to do so.

    Switching tracks a bit. I suppose another issue of why chapters can feel "too long" to read is if the author's word choices and structures tend to not have much flavor behind them. If they're too bland and there's a pretty mundane aura too it, I can see how some might just not want it to be dragged out for too long. But overall I don't think there is a perfect rule of thumbs to adhere to in-regards to word count.
    Last edited by Doryuzu; 27th June 2014 at 1:49 PM.

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    "Long" chapters are honestly an entirely subjective matter, because what's long to me might not be long to you, or anyone else for that matter. When I'm writing, I tend to shoot for about 10 page chapters (I use Times New Roman, single spaced, 14 pt font in Microsoft Word, I find it's easiest to read for editing purposes that way. In 12 pt font double spaced, that's about 11-12ish pages). Some of my briefer chapters are about 8 pages, but more often than not I tend to go on for 12-13 pages. There was one instance where I had a chapter that was 25ish pages long, but that's because I was trying to get the story to clock in at 50 chapters even and had to splice two existing chapters together.

    And yes, when I'm writing fanfic, my chapters tend to hover around 8-10 pages (and sometimes shorter) as opposed to my original fictions 10-15. But I had a friend who would just write without really thinking about breaking into chapters and would just post when they reached a good almost-cliffhanger every 25 or 30 pages or so. If they hit the character limit on a post, they would just split that into two posts. But yes, I agree with the point that sometimes a longer selection can be daunting to a reader, so I tend to make my early chapters a little bit shorter so that by the time reading a chapter becomes a commitment they are invested and engaged enough in the story to not mind having to sit down for a little while.

    To Brutaka's point about shorter chapters meaning more frequent postings... that's true, to a point. However, you also run the risk of just writing a lot of filler chapters that way. You can settle into a complacency of thinking "Oh, well, nothing really important happens in this chapter, but that's okay because it's only three pages long and I'll have another one up in a week or so." It leads to a story becoming unnecessarily padded with plotlines that are kinda irrelevant or excessive cliffhangers. I realize I can't speak for everyone here, but when I'm in the peak of my prowess and rhythm and when my admittedly hectic schedule allows, I have no problem putting out about 25-30 and sometimes even more pages of fiction per week, or two chapters of original fiction and one chapter of fanfiction. I used to be pretty good about updating two or three stories every Friday with new material but then I got all washed up, literary and broody (and I say/type that with a healthy dose of self-deprecating sarcasm).

    So basically what I'm trying to say is, there is never any "uniform" length for chapters, and writers adjust their page count for chapters as they need to. Everyone has a comfort zone they fall in, but sometimes you have to be outside of that comfort zone to get things done.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garch0mp0utrage View Post
    But, and now here is an interesting question for both Dragonfree and Knightfall, (you guys are both my inspiration! Please don't kill me. ._.)
    Just how do you make your chapters so long? Is it through description? Conversation? Story progression?
    If you could answer this, that'd be awesome. Also, how long does it take for you to perfect a chapter, from the moment you start it?
    You're kind of thinking about this the wrong way around, here. I don't set out to write a long chapter and then make some kind of special effort to make that happen; that would be a silly way to write. On those occasions where my chapters are over twenty pages (on average they're more like eight), it's because of some combination of a lot of events happening and/or those events taking a while (e.g. a six-on-six battle). I base my chapter splits strictly on the structure of the story, not on length - each chapter is about something, with a mini-dramatic structure of its own, and it's however many words it takes to get to the end of that structure.

    As for how long it takes to perfect a chapter, that varies so wildly I can't give you any sort of useful answer. Most recently, I spent over a year tinkering with chapter 64 of The Quest for the Legends before I decided I was satisfied with it. Meanwhile, chapter 53 for instance took less than two weeks. It doesn't have much to do with length either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjack Gabbiani View Post
    To me, there's a difference between a long chapter in a fic and one in a book, because with a fic you're looking at it on a screen and thus usually want to be able to finish it in one sitting, while with a book you just pop a bookmark in it and come back to it. So unless you print a fic out, it really is like apples and oranges.
    10-20 pages isn't exactly impossible to finish in one sitting, though. There comes a point where it starts to be - I particularly recall never managing to finish the forty-page entries in the Interpretation contest in one sitting - but I'd say that's definitely a bit past the twenty-page mark (well, possibly a bit less if your paragraphs are particularly meaty).

    Quote Originally Posted by Doryuzu View Post
    If I saw a story where every chapter was as very short, to be honest it probably would put me off a bit. Very short chapters tend to be written by "a [#] words chapter is how much I wrote today" people, and I'm not interested in stories which have had that little editing, quality and planning. They usually never draw me in either. I read them and my expectation are usually, unfortunately, met.
    Well, that's a bit presumptuous. Sure, you're going to get a higher percentage of poor, rushed stories that have short chapters than long ones, but that's because poor, rushed stories tend to be short by their very nature (written into the reply box, summarizing events without detailing them properly, etc.), not because shortness in itself indicates a rushed story. Lots of great stories have short chapters because that's how their structure works out.

    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonfree View Post
    Well, that's a bit presumptuous. Sure, you're going to get a higher percentage of poor, rushed stories that have short chapters than long ones, but that's because poor, rushed stories tend to be short by their very nature (written into the reply box, summarizing events without detailing them properly, etc.), not because shortness in itself indicates a rushed story. Lots of great stories have short chapters because that's how their structure works out.
    Well that is true, I was mostly speaking from my personal experiences on the matter. Didn't mean to sound so forward about it. I just haven't really come across any quality 500-2k words a chapter stories.

  17. #17

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    Oh I didn't mean that long chapters were inherently unreadable. But in books you can take breaks if so required, or if something comes up you can set it down, and short of putting the computer in sleep right where it is, you really can't do that with a fic.
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    Eh, in any modern browser you can save your place just by preserving your tabs when you close the program; the chapter will load up again when you re-open the program, and even scroll to the place you left off on the page. Might be different if you prefer to browse on your phone or some other mobile device. I don't know. Or maybe I don't understand what you're getting at there! For me, leaving and coming back to a chapter online isn't a big deal, although I do try to knock them off in one sitting if possible.

    Anyway, returning to the original point of the thread... if you're worried about the chapter being too long and can't find a good place to break it, you do have a couple other options. The first is, of course, to look for something to cut. It might be something to cut entirely, something the story doesn't really need--but perhaps not. Is there any part of this chapter that you think needs to happen, but perhaps doesn't need to happen now? You can try moving that scene or conversation to a later time in the story, where you may be able to incorporate it into a shorter chapter without going over your word budget.

    Alternatively, if there doesn't seem to be any natural place to break the chapter, you can try to insert one. Generally a break feels "natural" because there's a small narrative arc that ends there, your usual build-up and release of tension. It would be the trickiest option, but if you can move around where the "beats" are in your story, the highs and lows in the narrative flow, you might be able to create a pleasing break point earlier than the end of the chapter.

    It is understandable that you might worry about a long chapter if your story tends to have very short ones. It's true, as people have stated in this thread, that there's plenty of diversity in reading preference, and while some people like relatively short chapters, plenty like longer ones, too. However, if your story generally does have much shorter chapters, then you've built up the expectation for regular readers that your chapters are going to be more bite-sized; they may be more hostile towards a length increase than they otherwise would be as a result.

    So it's really on you, then: how much are you willing to risk losing readership by posting something unusually long, balanced against the amount of work it will take to trim it down or find a good place to split it? How likely do you think it is that you'll actually lose readers over a long chapter, rather than just kind of annoy people--and how much do you really care about losing readers? It's all down to what you value; there's no right or wrong answer here.

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  19. #19

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    Well this is embarrassing. I write everything in Notepad so I have no way of really knowing how long things are, and it FELT so much longer, but when I posted it...I don't know, it seemed a lot longer in my head.
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