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Discussion Chapter length?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Sable_Hart, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Nov 1, 2004
    I can read a long action packed chapter, but if it is a conversation chapter...even if I like what is being said...I lose interest after about 2000 words. I think in professional novels it is not so bad because you put a bookmark in and set the book down when you get bored. You see the book later and you start where you left off (this is why I have been reading Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor for three months). In fanfiction you have a tendency to forget what you were reading if the fic gets off of page one. Or if you do see it you can't remember exactly where you left off in that 10K word chapter.
  2. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    I've brought this up in the Pet Peeves thread, so I'll bring it up here. I do believe there is such a thing as having too short a chapter. I've seen fanfic chapters varying in length from four sentences to perhaps a very short exchange of dialogue. That exchange would not even be a page long. Not even a half-page. Barely a quarter-page, and I'm being generous. If taken entirely out of context, those short chapters do not have a beginning, middle, or end. It's as if chapter divisions were thrown in arbitrarily.

    Personally, I view chapters as scenes. Scenes have a beginning, middle, and an end. Taken out of context, a chapter should be able to stand on its own with a definite introduction, middle, and conclusion. Even better if that conclusion is a cliff-hanger of sorts. Now, that doesn't mean that the chapter should be constructed exactly like a story, as dropping the reader into the middle of the action from the get-go, starting in media res is perfectly acceptable for a chapter. However, even then, it still has a defined structure.

    Chapters don't need to be long, as if your scene isn't long and you find yourself starting to ramble, then end that scene. But, I think there is a point where a chapter can be too short.
  3. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    May 11, 2011
    Don't forget, you can have more than one scene in a chapter. In fact, if a story has a larger cast of characters, it is ideal to have scenes to cover each significant point of view. Professional novels do this as a rule, near as I can tell.
  4. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 16, 2006
    True enough. You have to use common sense. The only time I write a chapter that doesn't really have a beginning/middle/end (or what I like to call a segue to the next chapter instead of an end) is when I'm writing a prologue/epilogue, which only go on stories I know are going to be rather long, like "The Bond' which now has 15 completed chapters. One of my shortest chapters was only 887 words, but the scene was complete, and didn't really fit in with the previous or next chapter.
  5. ardavenport

    ardavenport Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 16, 2004
    I had a whole story that was only 895 words long. Short chapters are fine if that's how long they are. One reader posted that shorter chapters made it easier to read the chapter over lunch at work.
    Alexis_Wingstar likes this.
  6. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 16, 2006
    What ardavenport said makes sense. That's the thing about reading an actual book you hold in your hands (or even an e-book on your i-pod) you can bookmark where you are and go do other stuff that needs doing. But reading fanfic on this and other fanfic sights, if you have to go in the middle of the chapter, it's hard to find where you left off when you get back to it.
  7. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    I used to simply divide my scenes up with bullets, but have since divided them up as chapters (which was what I was doing to begin with, I just never actually called them "chapters." Thus, I haven't done anything all that different). Those chapters or scenes could vary in length. If it was a short scene, so be it. I've written short scenes and short chapters, but they still follow a structure.

    When I see too short of chapters, I see them written as such:

    [blockquote]Chapter One
    Rex and Cody entered the locker room and began to stow their stuff.

    "That was quite a battle today, eh?" said Rex.

    "Sure was," said Cody.

    Chapter Two
    The alarm klaxon began to blare, so Rex and Cody hurriedly gathered their supplies.

    "Looks like the day's not over, yet," said Rex.

    "Guess not," said Cody.

    Chapter Three
    Rex and Cody ran down the corridor, half-hopping while readjusting their armor that was causing the body glove to ride up.

    "I'll be glad when I can get this damn thing peeled off," said Rex.

    "Me too," said Cody.[/blockquote]

    Might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I've seen chapter divisions similar to this, and I honestly have to wonder... why??
  8. Obi-Wan21

    Obi-Wan21 Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 27, 2002
    I believe in a chapter length of around 2,000 words. My max is 2,500 for fan fiction. I don't believe a fan fic chapter should exceed that, as that particular brand of audience does have limitations. Reading on a computer for instance is nothing like reading a book. Hell, I cannot read massive fan fic chapters because of my eyes. It's just draining. To be fair, I expect the same from myself. I am certain there is quality fan fiction I have probably missed out on because of this, but I am not willing to print it out, and it's very difficult to come back to fan fic chapters, especially when the author does not properly index chapter links in the opening post, but that's another argument.

    Less than 1,500 feels selfish; Why tease us with bite sized pieces, but then I also understand pacing, some chapters just need to end and I get that. Honestly it really comes down to personal preference.
  9. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Mar 13, 2007
    It is always best I think to end a chapter at a natural break in the story, but I have seen chapters which go on to twenty or more A4 pages at an Ariel font size of around 10 (with gap of a single line between paragraphs) and I think that is far too much for a story which will be read on a computer screen. It is probably best to have a chapter that is between five pages and ten pages long, with fifteen pages being the maximum.
  10. Jabari

    Jabari Jedi Master star 1

    Jun 25, 2007
    I once read a book with no chapters, only Part One, Part Two and Part Three. It was really kind of disconcerting. There was no good place to stop for a hundred pages.

    One page chapters are ok, as long as they serve a purpose in the format of the story. They should be minimally used, and almost never two in a row.

    I say put the chapter breaks where the story has a good natural break, preferably one that is also a cliffhanger. But you have to watch that you are not breaking up the chapters into too small or too large of chunks.
  11. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Master star 6

    Feb 5, 2005
    I am of the "the chapter is as long as it needs to be" type. This can vary between 2,500 to 4,000 (that's relatively "short" for me and roughly the length of most of my fan fic vignettes and original short stories) to 15,000 (that is definitely in "action-packed chapter" territory). It comes down to the pacing of the segment, of the scenes that are being covered in the chapter. Is it necessary to go to 15,000? Sometimes, yes, because sometimes it is better to have the pace, the flow and the build of the sequence simply "go" rather than interrupting it because you've hit your chapter word limit. But I would never start a story with a 15,000 word chapter. That's something I build towards and even then, it's a fairly rare occurance.

    On average, my chapters tend to be between 6,000 and 8,000 words. There are exceptions. ;)
  12. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Force Ghost star 5

    Nov 1, 2004
    The bottom line is most readers want to digest a fanfic in small bites. There was one fanfic of a friend wanted me to read but the chapters are like 8000 words. I just couldn't do it. My mind started to wander and then I realize if I don't finish the chapter I probably won't know where I left off. So I abandoned the fic.

    If you have a 10K word chapter you are better off cutting it in half and putting a TBC on the bottom and post the rest the next day. If you are a new fanfic writer without a following...keep it short. There are a lot of fanfics and when a new person comes onto the boards people want to sample the writing and plot. If you throw 10K words at them...they just won't continue. If you are an established writer in the forums...then it won't be a problem probably.

    And don't post ten chapters in a row on the same day. For some reason readers don't like that. I have no idea why it turns me off. I think I like to reply to the chapters as they come around and if I come to a new fic and ten chapters are posted in a row I am less likely to leave a review if I read the first chapter. I will say to myself, "I'll comment when I catch up" and then I never catch up.

    To each his own, but as a reader of fanfiction I know I don't like the long chapters.
  13. Anime_Jedi

    Anime_Jedi Jedi Knight star 3

    Jul 12, 2007
    I never worry about how many words a chapter should be. I tend to want get two to six pages pages done if not more. As long as I have a beginning,middle and end in each chapter then I got what I was writing across to the reader.

    I do try to keep the first chapter small if I'm using OCs, or something new to the reader, its about pulling them in, not making the ride end to soon or letting it drag on. Thats in the case of first chapters. After the story just kinda writes itself, its easy for me to find a stopping point or set up cliffhanger.

    In short sort of my advice on this subject would be. Let it flow and just go, when you're done re read the chapter out loud.
    Then ask yourself some questions. Was it fun, did I get lost or bored while reading, was it mouth full to read exct. Getting a beta,friend or just another reader to answers these questions too will help you improve.
  14. ardavenport

    ardavenport Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 16, 2004
    I saw one post from a reader who said she wanted fic chapters to be short enough for her to read on her lunch hour at work. I try to aim for that.
    Jedi_Lover likes this.
  15. darksideyesplease

    darksideyesplease Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 12, 2005
    I was once told, do not "dumb" down your story just for the sake that more people might read it...

    I'm not saying that, I'm just saying I was told that. I think what they meant was, tell the whole story, no matter how long it takes. If what you wrote is good, people will notice it and read it.

    Generally I find that you don't want too many big events happening, even in a longer chapter... Because what you think might be the most important part of the chapter could get overshadowed by something else. I would suspect this could be a problem with longer chapters, having to have many interesting things happening, so it is not boring.

    I've had that happen so many times. I get a few reviews and they are commenting on things... and I'm like... "yeah but what about THIS... this was what I really wanted you to see!"
  16. The-Eternal-Hero

    The-Eternal-Hero Jedi Knight star 4

    Nov 3, 2012
    Yes, way too long! That's about 20 ms pages. These days chapters tend to be short, I'd go with that. Cut it in half or even into three chapters.
  17. hlc88

    hlc88 Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 3, 2012
    Most of my chapters vary between 2500 - 5000 words with on occasion it going past that. If I'm beginning a story, chapters tend to be short, but as the story progresses then the chapters inevitably get longer. Whenever I apologise for shorter chapters, I tend to get people telling me that they prefer longer chapters but understand why they are shorter when they've read the chapter.
  18. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Dec 10, 2005
    Hmmm....I'd never heard that before. Thanks for sharing.
  19. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 4, 2011
    Bot-senses... tingling!

    As for short chapters... that's an interesting way to look at it, and I may actually start formatting my chapters with bedtime reading in mind.

    However, even that can backfire. How many of us have decided to read one chapter before bed, only to look at the clock three hours and five chapters later?
    Kahara and jcgoble3 like this.
  20. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Force Ghost star 5

    Nov 7, 2010
    *raises hand* :p
    JediMaster_Jen likes this.
  21. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jun 3, 2002
    Most of mine fall between 1500 and 3000 words, with some exceptions of course. I think it's really just personal preference. As a reader, I like long chapters. I feel like there are too many stops and starts when you have shorter chapters. But again, personal preference. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.
  22. newdawn12

    newdawn12 Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 9, 2013
    I just write the chapter, as it needs to be written, and I've started putting my chapters into multiple parts, usually 4 to 5 sections.
  23. tallie_tachi

    tallie_tachi Jedi Knight

    Jan 6, 2008
    so what if you've already written in a such a way where there are no specific chapters but only a few 'breaks' here and there...should i try to break up what i've already written even though I like where my breaks are? or should i better write to suit the readers' desires?
  24. tallie_tachi

    tallie_tachi Jedi Knight

    Jan 6, 2008
    i should also mention that i've basically written a book but i've broken it down by movie (PT saga) with a few vignettes in between. does that make sense?
  25. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 10, 2005
    tallie_tachi - If you like the breaks where they are, that's fine, there are no rules that say you have to make your posts a certain length. But, on forums, long posts makes a story harder to read and there's a lot of reading for people to do, so as a general rule people are more willing to read and comment on something that is posted in shorter chunks.

    You can always do something like Chapter (or section, or whatever) 1.1, then wait a bit and post Chapter 1.2, then wait a bit and post Chapter 1.3, and so on. This shows that all the parts of that were part of the same chapter or section, but are broken up by scene (or however you want to do it) in order to make the story easier for people to read.