First off, I have to say that I’m obsessed with your blog, and yes, here in the tropical lands of Cuba, we read and enjoy your awesome work.
So, the issue is: I’m writing a three book series and I intend to post it online first, but not on Wattpad: on my own web page.
That’s why I’m having trouble with chapter lengths. I’ve seen that successful books tend to have a higher number of chapters when the chapters are short, and a lower number when they are longer.
So, I don’t know exactly what’s right or wrong on this regard, and worse: I don’t know how that would influence my posting it online, because I do know that online reading is often quicker and people don’t devote the same amount of time to read online as if they were reading an actual book.
My actual length is 10-15 pages per chapter. Should I leave it at that for both the online and hopefully print version?
Thank you in advance!Dahomy
Hi Dahomy, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!
In a standard book, there isn’t any right or wrong when it comes to chapter length. It’s nice to have chapters that are at least somewhat consistent in length, but that’s about it. And while people on the internet are more likely to be looking for something quick than people who crack open a physical book, that doesn’t mean people don’t read long things online. The context in which people read is important. Do they show up for a quick fix like a daily comic, or is this something they sit down with in the evening when they are relaxing? The type of story you have will influence that.
So you don’t have to cut your long story into tiny pieces just because you’re worried they won’t want to read any chapter longer than 1,000 words. If they like your story but run out of time, they can come back. However, when you’re publishing on the internet and not a physical book, they can’t bend down a page corner to mark wherever they are. So if you put 150,000 words on one web page, and they need to stop halfway down the page, they may have trouble finding their spot later.
This is particularly true because unlike with blog posts, in fiction we generally don’t give each scene a heading they can scan for. So you may want to break the text up so each 2,000-5,000 words or so has its own url. This is different from how much of the story you post at one time. If you’re using something like WordPress for your website, you can put 15,000 in one blog post and then just insert page breaks in the post wherever you want it to go to a new page. There are other ways to mark their spot, but that’s probably the easiest.
For how much text to post at once, you just want to look at your story and choose where the best places are to stop. Is there anything someone should read in one sitting because otherwise they might forget critical information? What section of text should they read to have some fun, get some satisfaction as problems resolve, and yet still have a hook to bring them back? If you always end on cliffhangers they could feel strung along, whereas if everything is tied up, they’ll have less reason to return. If you find a great place to stop every 3,000 words, great, if you only find one every 10,000 words, that’s also okay.
I hope that gives you some ideas. But don’t worry – how much you post at once is unlikely to make or break your story, and with time you’ll find the rhythm that works best for you and your readers.
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Comments on How Long Should My Online Chapters Be?
I try to keep word-count per chapter similar throughout a book (2,500 to 3,000 words a chapter – of course it’s usually a bit longer than that). In my own books, when I read them on my e-reader, 3,000 words usually come down to about seven minutes (but I’m a fast reader), which seems a sensible length to do in one go. (I judge this from my own books, because I don’t know the word count of a book I’ve bought, naturally.)
Keep in mind that your readers can read several chapters in one go (once enough are out) if they have more time, but it’s hard to pick up again where you left of on a website when the chapter is too long.
When I was still writing in Word, my 3,000 words were about six to seven pages (depends on the type of text, of course, as dialogue usually takes more space on the page for less words, and on the setting for the page). I’d suggest going with the word count (every word processor can usually give you that) instead of a page count. After all, people have to read all the words…
It seems that most online readers prefer around 2,000 words. On Wattpad, the preferred length is about 1,000 – 1,500 words, on RoyalRoad, it’s 2,500 – 3,000. 2,000 appears like a sweet middle ground. My readers often complained when I dropped chapters much shorter than that while they found chapters that were 4,000+ words long intimidating (particularly the phone readers).
But I’ve found that, in online fiction, chapter length doesn’t matter as much as updating frequency and consistency. Most online readers want at least two chapters a week; the shorter the chapters are, the more they want. What matters is picking a schedule and sticking to it.