Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

Chapter breaks should assist the flow of the story. Ultimately, everything you write and how you write it is for the story, so I disagree with any notion of minimum or maximum lengths.

The Da Vinci Code has chapters only a few lines long. It's a thriller, so those short chapters keep you turning pages.

Most Discworld novels don't have any chapters at all. Adding them didn't make the stories better.

If it works for your story, do it. If it doesn't, don't.

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

My brain structures chapters in a very large format. So it is not so much that I write to a 15k'ish per chapter quota, as my brain is naturally inclined towards chapters of that length. Now, having said that, some of my readers have pointed out that my chapters could be divided at what they see as natural break points. For the life of me I don't see it, and that is because of how my brain works.

Regarding what I read, well, I prefer longer over shorter. mostly out of pragmatism, setting TTS going every 5m is annoying, so my tolerance range is generally around the 3k+ level. having said that, I read Chrysalis with my own actual eyes, because I like the story but the chapters and style are not TTS friendly.

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths


peteradixon Wrote: Chapter breaks should assist the flow of the story. Ultimately, everything you write and how you write it is for the story, so I disagree with any notion of minimum or maximum lengths.

The Da Vinci Code has chapters only a few lines long. It's a thriller, so those short chapters keep you turning pages.

Most Discworld novels don't have any chapters at all. Adding them didn't make the stories better.

If it works for your story, do it. If it doesn't, don't.

In general I agree, but for regularly updated online stories, updating a standard amount of words per update is crucial. If you do 1 chapter a week and the reader is used to 2.5k words, a reader getting 150 words in a week will feel cheated. It's possible to simply update two chapters when this happens, but this can cause confusion for readers who may not notice the double update. For regularly updated web serials, keeping chapters of a reasonably similar length is just good general practice unless there's a really good reason to have an unusually short one. (Readers don't mind unusually long ones so much; they're bonus words.)

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

It depends on the contents of the chapter, if it has enough, then it can be relatively short, like 1500 words.

A chapter can be over 10000 words, but if it mostly has words that don't really go anywhere, then the reader will feel like their time was wasted. Like a certain story I know. For over a month I have only read the initial and final 5 or so paragraphs and it feels like I have read everything I needed.

Oh it also depends on the release schedule.

But anyway, well written and released 3-5 times a week, I say 2000-2500 words is a good number.

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

I'm relatively new as a writer, but had a lot of experience as a reader even before joining RR through the mentioning of "He who fights with monsters" on Kindle. (Big shout out there, because it brings more people from kindle to RR!)

In my opinion, as a writer right now, I am not satisfied with chapters < 2000 words. I know I cant push that with force, but if I see myself ending a chapter at around or lower than 2000, then I think the chapter is not as good as it could be. Emotional writing is the word of the day here. Special thanks to one of my very first readers, SKaterle, who is proofreading every chapter so far. I don't know what I would do without someone like him and his hints at my flaws.

If I write <2000 words, it lacks a lot of emotional writing and circumscribing situations, characters, or places.

I'm at chapter 10, in less than a week, and yes it is only "thanks" to corona. But every chapter above 2000 words, or better around 3000, is something even my proofreader praises every now and then and points at well written parts. And MY highest priority right now is my vocabulary, which I'm lacking massively. Never wrote or talked that much in English and I'm not a native speaker. So if I write around 3000 words, I am proud of myself as of now. Yes, I make a lot of technical fails, but it will improve in leaps and bounds while I continue :)

So as a summary:
Try, if you have the time, to aim at around 3000 words per chapter. This is achievable through emotional writing and a good chunk of descriptions.
WE know the world and the characters and everything makes a lot of sense in our head.
BUT our readers need the circumscriptions and all the emotional stuff surrounding the decisions our character is making.

Greetings and see you around :)
David / EsZeus

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

I've always done chapters around 3000 words for the following reasons. 

1000 or even 1500 word chapters aren't even long enough to tell a reasonably lengthy scene. 

If I were to do chapters like that, I would have to either have one short scene or multiple very short scenes. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't occasionally have to do many scenes in my 3000 word length, but even then is acceptable. 

I also feel like you don't really have enough room to actually progress much in 1000 words. Furthermore, it takes longer to write than to read, so 3000 is about 10-15 minutes of reading for my slow reading brain, which is perfect length. I don't wanna be reading forever, but I don't want the chapter to be done before I've even settled into it. 

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths


Lmarief Wrote: Simple question: what is the ideal chapter length?

Traditional novels tend(ed? Is this an antiquated thing?) to have between 1-10k words with 2-5k being the more standard "sweet spot". Web novels, I've recently realized, seem to shoot for less than that.

So!! In your opinion, what is the ideal chapter length? Is it better to have lots of little chapters or fewer more fleshed out chapters? Do you change the length of your chapters based on the publishing format? Specifically for here at RR, what is the approved standard chapter length?

I write chapter length based on the story I'm telling. I don't notice a difference of followers from long to short chapters at all. Though I've never had a complaint about my chapters being too long, I have had a few complaints from them being too short. I just got a review recently where the dude said it was a "shame" my chapters were so short. He said it three times in a one paragraph review. I guess he really didn't like that. Despite his issue, he did read the full book and rated it 4 stars, but he also said he wouldn't be reading anymore of my writing.

This should not discourage you, though. Short chapters should be for pacing, not for frequent uploads. If you want a fast paced book, shorter chapters are great. A lot of thriller writers do 1-3 page chapters, while epic fantasy, which tends to be a lot slower, often has 10+ page chapters.

It's all subjective. I don't believe there is a best "average chapter length."

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths


littlefoodie Wrote: After reading this, I feel like my chapters are way too short for many of the readers here (about 1k). It’s not that I don’t want to write longer chapters, but when I feel the chapter accomplished what I wanted to convey and is at a natural break, I had to stop, or else I will just babble.

1k is very short for a chapter, but what you've said about natural break points is the key. I spent a while shooting for 5k a chapter but found out that you can play with pacing by having more rapid chapter breaks during long action sequences for example. 

I gave your story a squiz and it looks like you've almost done a chapter break per scene, instead of having the chapter cover a few scenes that are tied temporally or thematically. So I don't think its a lack on content, just a taste thing. 

I think we get too caught up in what a book is 'meant' to look like, we forget that chapters are just tools in the toolbox. 

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

Personally I would love to read 150-400 page chapters, just put the whole story arc into a single chapter. However this will be horrible for attracting viewers on Royal Road. 
Realistically 5-20 page chapters are about right. Just make sure of 3 things. Half your chapter is not a wall of blue boxes. Each chapter can answer the question, "What did this chapter do to advance the current story arc. And make sure you don't ramble on a tangent for any length of time.

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

I feel like if someone judges a book on its length then maybe they're in the wrong mindset. You want to leave room for a reader to use their own method of imagination yet create a scene that transport them to a world they enjoy or have never dreamt of seeing. Sometimes the best stories are fairly short (look at scholastic books for instance, a lot of those are small but kids love them) and it also tends to be that it depends on who your target audience is. If you're appealing to a wide range of people then good, if you're aiming for a narrow set of interest, then all the best to you.

It sort of depends on the culture and younger reader interest (whatever you consider young but not too old alas) and how the world is at this time trending. Why do you think so many series get so popular? As they've elements that stir a reader's imagination, thus they want to copy that feeling of accomplishment and notice and thus you have fanfictions and spin off of popular series. Even more so when it's easy for the reader to relate or compare to a situation. Whacky and strange are a big hit, but you have to keep in mind the balance of humor, angst, and plot. It doesn't have to be sexual to be good, though many people seem to like sexually driven plots for some reason. I can only hazard a guess, but I figure it has something to do with dominance and sexual frustration. Don't quote me on that though, no offense to anyone out there that likes BL/GL etc, I write about it too.

But back to what I was saying, a chapter can consist of many ideas in a short amount and still be good. There shouldn't be a set word limit on how long or short a chapter should be. A chapter is something that lets you into the loop of things and see what there is to be seen. Overwhelm a reader and they'll be turned off immediately. Deprive them of details and they'll skip through it just as fast. Sometimes the best way to make a chapter interesting is to simply let it flow like a visual stream of information. You don't really need to think to hard about it and if you do, then maybe you're focusing more on things that you find interesting or want to convey; not that it's a bad thing I should also mention.

As a reader I want room to make up my own ideas of the story. I don't want to know every little detail in a story. I want to be able to read something that catches my interest and keeps it. It may be the fact I'm fickle about what I'll read (though I don't mind helping others when it comes to reviewing and that sort of thing, I love helping others reach their goals) and it just boils down to the fact I like to get to the point with reasons that don't trample me. 

How I set up a basic setting is fairly simple. I set a character into a situation and try to feel as if the situation was real. How that character portrays their involvement has nothing to do with length of a story. It has to do with what they're experiencing and if the writer can convince the reader that they're real, in a sense. You really don't need to explain the weather or setting or what have you to get a point across. Sure it's a nice touch, but not a realistic one if you're trying to write for solely length making longer then needed purposes. Sometimes I write long chapters, sometimes I'll write a page or two. Depending on what is going on really is like, dependent on the situation, like I said.

That's just my thoughts and two cents though, I know people will obviously pick that apart given half the chance but when it comes down to the end result, people have short attention spans for the most part. If you grab their interest they will continue and read whole heartedly. Sort of psychological stand point but when you make something a person has interest in, there is at least a 90% increase of interest and devotion to that story, throwing out the rule book when it comes to interest is also something I've noticed. Screw the rules I have length is not a good way of going about writing. But so is screw the rules I have devotion is a whole other matter. 

Just my thoughts anyways, take it as you will.

Re: Let's Talk Chapter Lengths

I think the question needs to be predicated on what the purpose of the chapter is. Different tools have different weights, right? The tone of the story, genre, and author's style all contribute as well. I would caution against writing for a "set" or even "ideal" chapter length, because that might get in the way of allowing a scene to unfold naturally--either it's padded out, or it's truncated.