Ideal Chapter Length?

#1
Hi all, 

Here's something that I've been thinking about since uploading drafts on RR. I've really started noticing the word count thanks to the RR interface, and it turns out that my word count keeps going up. On average I'm at about 4000 words per chapter, but the last draft I uploaded was about 6000 words. I'm personally of the opinion that cutting the chapters up is a bad idea because the scenes were written to work with each other within the chapter, but as I think on it, I go back and forth between "but readers will lose patience" and "but this is how it's meant to be read." 

Tl;dr: 

1. Do you, as a reader, have a preferred chapter length? Does RR in general have a preferred chapter length? 

2. Is it better to stick with the original plan and vision for a chapter, or is it wiser to give the crowd what it wants? 

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#2
I as a reader don't care how long chapters are. I read whatever I have time to, and pick up where I left off. 

RR in general has a preferred chapter length; more than 1000 and less than 4000, as frequently as possible. I've been posting three chapters of 1300-1700 words each a week, and it has been quite well received; however, 30% of poll responders would prefer a single 3500-word chapter a week instead of three shorter bites, and 20% would prefer two chapters closer to 2000 words each. So it doesn't really matter very much what you do so long as it's within that range. Below 1000 is generally considered too small to be worth waiting for, and above 5k you need a particular type of audience - though they definitely exist, look at Wandering Inn's success. Generalities cannot define the audience completely, and there are always exceptions.

My current project is largely based around giving the crowd what it wants; it's working out very well so far. Is it 'better' from an artistic standpoint to stick with your writerly vision? Maybe. But I aim to make a career as a writer, and artistic integrity doesn't pay the bills. It's possible catering to the crowds won't either, but I ain't gonna knock it until I try it. So, as to its wisdom... it depends on you. Can you be happy writing for the crowd, or would it turn you against your story?

In the specific case of your 6k chapter, if your audience is already used to 4ks, you should have less problem than if you went from 2k to 6k. Still, if there's any way to split it in half, shorter chapters more frequently is much much better for visibility. I recently split a sequence into seven chapters; shameless, perhaps, but what works works.

What matters most to you, the story's integrity, or the reception of it? Has anyone actually complained about chapter length, or are you guessing? You can always split the chapter (or combine it) later if you change your mind; the decision isn't set in stone.

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#3

Aster Wrote: I as a reader don't care how long chapters are. I read whatever I have time to, and pick up where I left off. 

RR in general has a preferred chapter length; more than 1000 and less than 4000, as frequently as possible. I've been posting three chapters of 1300-1700 words each a week, and it has been quite well received; however, 30% of poll responders would prefer a single 3500-word chapter a week instead of three shorter bites, and 20% would prefer two chapters closer to 2000 words each. So it doesn't really matter very much what you do so long as it's within that range. Below 1000 is generally considered too small to be worth waiting for, and above 5k you need a particular type of audience - though they definitely exist, look at Wandering Inn's success. Generalities cannot define the audience completely, and there are always exceptions.

My current project is largely based around giving the crowd what it wants; it's working out very well so far. Is it 'better' from an artistic standpoint to stick with your writerly vision? Maybe. But I aim to make a career as a writer, and artistic integrity doesn't pay the bills. It's possible catering to the crowds won't either, but I ain't gonna knock it until I try it. So, as to its wisdom... it depends on you. Can you be happy writing for the crowd, or would it turn you against your story?

In the specific case of your 6k chapter, if your audience is already used to 4ks, you should have less problem than if you went from 2k to 6k. Still, if there's any way to split it in half, shorter chapters more frequently is much much better for visibility. I recently split a sequence into seven chapters; shameless, perhaps, but what works works.

What matters most to you, the story's integrity, or the reception of it? Has anyone actually complained about chapter length, or are you guessing? You can always split the chapter (or combine it) later if you change your mind; the decision isn't set in stone.


Thank you so much for taking the time to write this out! The info in your post is super useful. I think you're right about being pragmatic to pay the bills, so I'll keep an open mind and stay flexible. 

Can you expand on "giving the crowd what it wants" regarding your current project? In which aspects does this primarily come into play?

Thanks!

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#4
The answer is like 2,000 or a range of 1,500-2,500.

Shorter chapters = more chapters = more visibility.
Also, shorter chapters = good for short attention spans. 


Aster Wrote: I as a reader don't care how long chapters are. I read whatever I have time to, and pick up where I left off.
I prefer shorter chapters because the different chapters are my bookmarks--a lot of users rely on that little feature.

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#5

bokhi Wrote: Can you expand on "giving the crowd what it wants" regarding your current project? In which aspects does this primarily come into play?
Almost every aspect, to be honest. It's a genre I don't usually write in, with a plot designed to be accessible. I have polls on nearly every chapter to gauge readers' reactions to everything from chapter length to pacing - that's where I got the percentages from, was my poll on chapter length.


I'm not going to do anything too drastic - I have a rough draft of the story and some things are going to stay the same, but a lot of the details are subject to change. The combat to non-combat ratio, for instance, is something I'm shifting at the moment. It started out very combat heavy, but the majority of responses were either 'it's fine' or 'needs more non-combat', so I'm including more interpersonal interactions in the later sections with less of an absolute focus on fighting.

The question about base-building was so divisive, I had to come up with a new solution (and, in my personal opinion, a very fun one) to try to satisfy as many people as possible. But that also led to a fun new side quest and an exciting new mechanic I hadn't explored before.

Generally, I'm using the polls as a way to steer just enough toward the audience that we can meet in the middle; I still want to enjoy the process of writing the story, I still want it to be something I could enjoy reading, but I'm willing to bend on the details to make it so others can enjoy it too - as many others as possible.

And it seems to be working; I've reached 300 followers as of today, and the number hasn't stopped going up yet.

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#6

kieranpierce Wrote: The answer is like 2,000 or a range of 1,500-2,500.

Shorter chapters = more chapters = more visibility.
Also, shorter chapters = good for short attention spans. 


Aster Wrote: I as a reader don't care how long chapters are. I read whatever I have time to, and pick up where I left off.
I prefer shorter chapters because the different chapters are my bookmarks--a lot of users rely on that little feature.


Thanks for your input! I appreciate you taking the time. =) 


Aster Wrote:
bokhi Wrote: Can you expand on "giving the crowd what it wants" regarding your current project? In which aspects does this primarily come into play?
Almost every aspect, to be honest. It's a genre I don't usually write in, with a plot designed to be accessible. I have polls on nearly every chapter to gauge readers' reactions to everything from chapter length to pacing - that's where I got the percentages from, was my poll on chapter length.


I'm not going to do anything too drastic - I have a rough draft of the story and some things are going to stay the same, but a lot of the details are subject to change. The combat to non-combat ratio, for instance, is something I'm shifting at the moment. It started out very combat heavy, but the majority of responses were either 'it's fine' or 'needs more non-combat', so I'm including more interpersonal interactions in the later sections with less of an absolute focus on fighting.

The question about base-building was so divisive, I had to come up with a new solution (and, in my personal opinion, a very fun one) to try to satisfy as many people as possible. But that also led to a fun new side quest and an exciting new mechanic I hadn't explored before.

Generally, I'm using the polls as a way to steer just enough toward the audience that we can meet in the middle; I still want to enjoy the process of writing the story, I still want it to be something I could enjoy reading, but I'm willing to bend on the details to make it so others can enjoy it too - as many others as possible.

And it seems to be working; I've reached 300 followers as of today, and the number hasn't stopped going up yet.


Thanks for your detailed response. I'm thinking now that polls might be a good idea as well! This is a lot to think on. 

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#9
As a reader, I tend to preference the 4k range, so 3k to 5k is generally what I look for. 

I'll wait until a series has 10+ uploads, and than open each one to see how long they are. If they are consistently very short, but still looks like something I want to read, I'll wait until the series has a hefty backlog (say 50 to 100+ uploads) before I start reading it. I'll mark it as read later and wat until there's enough for me to binge read. I do this, because I find that, often writers who upload under 1k per chapter, often also stop uploading after a month or two, and will never go back to finish the story. And, well, I don't want to get hung up on characters/plot/story and than never be able to finish it because the writer abandoned it. 

I don't know, why, but it just seems to me, like the writers who write longer (3k+) chapters are less likely to abandon a series, while it seems like the ones who write shorter (-1k) chapters are more likely to abandon the series. It's not just a RR thing either, I've noticed this sort of thing on other web novel reading sites too. I don't know if that's actually a thing, or if maybe it just seems that way because of the niches I read? (I tend to read niches that aren't very popular, so, they don't get many readers in general, so it could be a thing where writers give up because they can't gain enough traction due to it being a small niche they write?)

Also, I'm prone to binge read, so I'll avoid a series that's new and look for a series that has been going for a while - like say a series that has had daily uploads for 3 months so has 90 chapters or a series that has been going for 2 or 3 years of weekly uploads, so has 150+ chapters, because 1: I like to see that the writer is invested and likely won't just abandon the series, and 2: I set aside a few hours each day to read, so I want there to be enough already uploaded so that I can spend several hours immersed in the story without interruption. 

I'm the type of reader who thinks the longer the better. I mean, I like the Nancy Drew books because there are 800+ volumes in the series so I can spend years on end reading about one character's endless adventures. So, when it comes to reading things like web novels, my mind set goes the same way: I want lots and lots and lots and lots of story all about one single character, so I'm going to look for series that have both the longest chapters and the most chapters.

That means, that while 3k to 5k per chapter is my general preference to look for, I'll not be put off by 6k, 7k, or even 10k chapters.

As for the question of cutting chapters into parts... I dislike that. I'd rather the writer uploaded one super long 6k chapter, rather than cut it in half into two seperate 3k parts 1/2 of a chapter.

As a writer, I tend to just write anything that I want to read. I'm not someone who is overly concerned with "writing to the market". Which means most of what I write ends up being off the wall stuff that doesn't cater to the general public or a mass audience. I'm always looking for things to read based of this or that odd idea that popped into my head, and than the idea will be so strange that no one out there has ever written anything like it, so I end up writing the idea, just so I can have it there to read.

Well, because that it my writing method, because I'm just writing the things that I as a reader want to read, that means, wen it comes to word counts, I tend to also write in the same word counts that I prefer to read. Thus, my chapters are usually 4k to 5k range, not for any other reason, than that's just my personal preferred reading length per chapter.

I think in the long run, there really is no right or wrong answer, because I think there are readers for everything. I think it's best to write whatever word counts are going to fit best for your own story. 

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#10

EelKat Wrote: As a reader, I tend to preference the 4k range, so 3k to 5k is generally what I look for. 

I'll wait until a series has 10+ uploads, and than open each one to see how long they are. If they are consistently very short, but still looks like something I want to read, I'll wait until the series has a hefty backlog (say 50 to 100+ uploads) before I start reading it. I'll mark it as read later and wat until there's enough for me to binge read. I do this, because I find that, often writers who upload under 1k per chapter, often also stop uploading after a month or two, and will never go back to finish the story. And, well, I don't want to get hung up on characters/plot/story and than never be able to finish it because the writer abandoned it.


Thanks for your input on this. It's good to know that there are people who like to read a lot of text in one sitting! 


EelKat Wrote: I don't know, why, but it just seems to me, like the writers who write longer (3k+) chapters are less likely to abandon a series, while it seems like the ones who write shorter (-1k) chapters are more likely to abandon the series. It's not just a RR thing either, I've noticed this sort of thing on other web novel reading sites too. I don't know if that's actually a thing, or if maybe it just seems that way because of the niches I read? (I tend to read niches that aren't very popular, so, they don't get many readers in general, so it could be a thing where writers give up because they can't gain enough traction due to it being a small niche they write?)
[...]
As a writer, I tend to just write anything that I want to read. I'm not someone who is overly concerned with "writing to the market". Which means most of what I write ends up being off the wall stuff that doesn't cater to the general public or a mass audience. I'm always looking for things to read based of this or that odd idea that popped into my head, and than the idea will be so strange that no one out there has ever written anything like it, so I end up writing the idea, just so I can have it there to read.

Well, because that it my writing method, because I'm just writing the things that I as a reader want to read, that means, wen it comes to word counts, I tend to also write in the same word counts that I prefer to read. Thus, my chapters are usually 4k to 5k range, not for any other reason, than that's just my personal preferred reading length per chapter.

I think in the long run, there really is no right or wrong answer, because I think there are readers for everything. I think it's best to write whatever word counts are going to fit best for your own story.


I also wonder if it's also because authors who write 3k+ chapters have more investment per chapter? I imagine they spend a longer time writing and editing each chapter in comparison to chapters with lower word counts!

Thanks for your detailed and thorough response! I also like to write what I want to read, which is why everything just tends to stay in my hard drive, but I figured I'd give this public posting thing a go now, haha. We'll see how it goes, aye? 

Your book looks pretty interesting. I've put it on my "Read Later" list. Thanks!  

Re: Ideal Chapter Length?

#12
Most of my chapters are between 2k and 4k and I stopped to look at the actual length after a while. My first three chapters, it's my first webnovel, are much shorter.

While I fixed format,  grammar and some spelling as well recently in these chapters I don't want to completely rewrite them, since I personally don't like changes in earlier parts of a story so that I have to reread it completely.  This is okay when you're in the first dozen or two chapters I think, but as the story gets longer it's confusing from my point of view.