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28 November 2012 @ 11:43 am
A Question of Length  
This is another opinion sort of thing, but what do you prefer when you're reading stories that have multiple parts: long chapters or short chapters? If it didn't make a difference how quickly you were able to read the story (i.e it was all posted up at once, so you could read it in one go) which would you prefer to have?

For example, I have a story that's about 9,100 words. I have two ways of dividing it up - either two chucks of approximately 4,500 words each or four, slightly lopsided chunks of 2000 to 2,500 words each. The natural breaks in the story allow for that. I suppose I could also try for three chunks of 3,000 words each.

I'll put a poll up to make it easier, but feel free to leave comments as well.

Poll #1881752 Chapter Length

I prefer....

short chapters (about 2,000 words each)
medium chapters (about 3,000 words each)
long chapters (about 4,500+ words each)
one long, long story all at once, if it fits in a livejournal post
I don't care, I'm happy with any length
donutsweeperdonutsweeper on November 28th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not going to answer the poll because for me it's terribly dependent.

Natural breaks are the most important thing. With a 9k story it won't fit in one LJ post so there must be at least two posts. Ideally, I like as few posts in a story as possible (so the 2 4.5k posts works best) and if there are other natural breaks in the story use a line break or set of dashes or quote or something to break up the story.

On AO3 and FF.net there isn't a limit for posting and 9k can work nicely for a story, however I've seen people post 20,30,50k or more and that can get a bit much for one post.

I do, however, HATE clicking a ton of links. The number of 15k stories that have a lot of chapters (10, 12, or even 20) is ridiculous. A prologue and epilogue being short like that can work pacing-wise, but in general? No. If at all possible chapters should be at LEAST 2k, if not 3-5k. Breaking things up further just interrupts the flow.

(Also, just as an aside, I'm glad you mention the ability to read it all in one go vs it being posted in parts. I'll never understand the desire to post one chapter a week for a completed fic, it's offputting and screams to me of an author's desire to artificially increase their kudos/traffic/comments/whatever and usually results in me doing none of that if I even bother to read it as it's being posted.)
The Writer They Call Tay: DH: Coming Alongawanderingbard on November 28th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your quick and detailed response! You seem to be of the same opinion as me on all points. There are several natural breaks in the story, where I've just used a line break, but I was trying decide where to put the big break between chapters.

I remember before the days of ff.net, there was a wonderful series of Horatio Hornblower fics that were at least 100k or more each and they were posted to a website without any breaks and it was always excruciating to find the place where I left off.

I always have any multipart stories completely finished before I start posting, for fear I'll get stuck and not be able to finish and leave people hanging, or change my mind and have to do massive rewrites on something already posted. When I do post, I try to do two chapters a day, to make it quick but not spam. I don't think I could put up with neverending works that are only updated occasionally. I do think that people tend to comment more on short, infrequently posted things, but I'd rather hold someone's attentions for the whole story than get tons of comments on the first few chapters and have people wander away.
donutsweeperdonutsweeper on November 28th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
I always wind up making changes to stories as I write them- moving scenes about, finding the need to alter something slightly to make compliant with something that happens later, realizing information needs to be added or erased... thus the reason I never post WIPs.

I will read WIPs sometimes, but I tend to forget stuff and then when a new chapter is posted I have to reread previous ones which is annoying and time consuming so I often tell myself I'll wait to read X until all the parts are posted but then sometimes I don't notice when the final part gets posted and I forget to read it completely. *sigh* Who knew fannish reading could be so difficult, right?
The Writer They Call Tay: Merlin: Thumbs up!awanderingbard on November 29th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
Yeah, especially with mysteries when you have to have clues or at least mentions of things before you've fully realized what your solution is going to be. I've written about fifteen chapters of another story and have only just made a firm decision on whodunnit, so now I have to try and have it not seem out of the blue. And since I've changed my mind multiples times on how it was going to play out, I'd hate to have those first chapters posted and be stuck with a plot I don't like.

I don't read a lot of long fic, to be honest, but I don't read much fic in general. Mostly what's on my flist, or what shows up on my tumblr dash. But with tv shows, I know my mum hates long breaks because she forgets the plot and I have to remind her as we go along. Which is why I'm going to wait until much closer to Series Three of Sherlock before I try and introduce her to it. Also, by the time Merlin Series Four comes out on DVD here, I'm going to have to do a recap for her.
donutsweeperdonutsweeper on November 29th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
Oh absolutely, I'm the same way with my longer fic, not that I've written a lot of it, but both my big bangs, I was figuring out the twists and turns as I got to them. Ironically, the time I *did* try to plan a long fic all out the way wound up stuttering and crashing and burning and I never finished.

I totally understand about TV breaks, they can be so frustrating when you're waiting and waiting for more! :)
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: Harry confusedawanderingbard on November 29th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Same. If I try to plan, it all falls apart. I sometimes make notes for later, or with Somus I had a list of victims and when they fell ill for reference and I think I did a chapter outline halfway through Child's Play to help me decide how to divide up the rest of the plot and for this one I'm writing now I've had to make a little timeline because I couldn't figure out how long Sherlock had been in hospital for by the time I was done, but I've never sat down from the beginning and gone 'I shall write this and it shall be like this'. That takes away all possibilities of the characters doing something you didn't expect and stopping to explore that, I think.
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: ST_Captain'sChairguardian_chaos on November 28th, 2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
I agree with donutsweeper! When it comes to breaks in a story, whatever feels natural is probably where they should go, and whether that's every 1,000 words or 10,000 words or etc. doesn't matter as much. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to put in random breaks just for the sake of adhering to a hoped-for word count for each chapter. If a story reads well, it reads well, and people likely won't notice a difference either way. :)

Actually, I think it's a good idea in general not to base any story decisions on the number of words. I struggle with this, and it's definitely to my detriment. When I was younger, I agonized over my stories being too short and so would force myself to write them longer, even if it ruined both the story and my love of writing it. And now, I agonize about making things too long and so end up chopping off a thousand bits I liked because I'm so uncomfortable with how excessive my descriptions have gotten, even if they were maybe perfectly fine. It's a pit of despair I don't want anyone falling into, 'cause it sucks!

Basically, I tend to see that stories come out best when they fall, unassisted, to the word count(s) they want to have. I've read some amazing tiny drabbles, and I've also read some amazing 30,000+ word fics all in one large chunk. Good writing is good writing! I think you're thinking about this too hard. If it works with two chapters, go with the two chapters. Your description of "slightly lopsided chunks" of four already makes it seem a little like that's maybe not what you want to be anyway, so go with your instincts! It'll be fine. :D
The Writer They Call Tay: SHERLOCK: Molly cameoawanderingbard on November 29th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, when I try to write short, I always end up cutting out parts that I like. Sometimes that's for the best, it makes for a cleaner storyline, but sometimes I feel like it takes away the character moments. I write for characters, not plot, so I'm always disappointed to lose a beat or two in a relationship or development of a character.

I have to at least cut this one in half to post it here and I think that's what I'll do. There's a natural sort of break that falls halfway through the story, so that will do nicely. I just didn't want people going 'too long, didn't read', but hopefully people will find it interesting enough to stick with it.

Thanks for the advice! I appreciate it! :D
The other Weird Alaeron_lanart on November 29th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
I'm with donutsweeper - the natural breaks are important so chapters should be the length the story determines. In a long fic, longer chapters are better IMO as it can get a bit frustrating otherwise.

When I'm writing if I post a wip the chapter breaks will often end up to where I'm currently written up to if it's a natural pause.
rodlox: elementaryrodlox on November 30th, 2012 07:46 am (UTC)
whatever the author choses, is what I read.