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A couple of days ago, I was looking through some fanfics and decided to put the 100000 word filter on (I like long fanfics). I then saw a nice one. One problem though, only six chapters, each one taking 20 minutes to half an hour to read. I looked through some more and found incredibly high ratios (10000-25000 words per chapter). Apart from short one-chapter "stories", I would expect 1000-7500 words per chapter. At the moment I'm writing a fic, and with 1500 words per chapter(average so far, will probably go up a bit to 2-3k)but I don't know if I should write longer chapters less frequently or shorter chapters every 2-5 days.

What do you think the ideal length for each chapter on a fanfic is?

3/18/2012 . Edited by Rhea Silverkeys, 10/20/2015 #1

My chapters uselessly fall between 1500 and 3000, I think that's a nice number. Chapters that are too long turn me of, I know that's bad on my side but i uselessly don't have that much time to read. I never get past three chapters, then I have to bookmark and read the rest later.

3/18/2012 #2
The Lauderdale

We were actually talking about that in another thread recently, starting here: http://forum.fanfiction.net/topic/2872/58102264/1/#58511765

I think, for me, it depends on the story in question. Looking at my own stories, I realized that some chapters have run quite long and some quite short, but since about 2006, they have generally varied within the 4k to 6k range, with some a little under and some a little over. So that appears to be my normal chapter range (outside of the one drabble story I've written.)

I've read and enjoyed stories with quite long chapters, but it's nice to have numerous "natural pauses" in a fic that you can use to easily put it down and set it aside. Chapters provide that. Scene breaks also serve that purpose.

3/18/2012 #3

The length of a chapter has nothing to do with how long it takes you to write it.

1000-7500 probably encompasses most chapters which are actually chapters (i.e. selfcontained story units) but sometimes they're longer than that. I don't have an issue with 20,000 word chapters if that's their logical length.

If I saw a story where every chapter was as short as yours, to be honest it probably would put me off a bit. Very short chapters tend to be written by "a chapter is how much I wrote today" people, and I'm not interested in stories which have had that little editing and planning.

Edit: realised I didn't answer your question! What I consider to be the best average length? Probably 2-3000 words. But I wouldn't expect them to be even. If there's a natural break at 1000 words and none in the next 6000, the best length for the first chapter is 1000 words and for the next is 6000. You don't take an average and stick a break somewhere in the middle.

3/18/2012 . Edited 3/18/2012 #4
Yuli Ban

Depends on a few things, including how you want the story to be presented. For one of my own from last year, every chapter was between 500 to 1,000 words.

But for more conventional fanfiction, 1,500 to 3,500 is ideal. Too little, you turn off readers and you don't leave enough room for your story to fit in! Over 3,500, I find that, even the most compelling fics I've read, I drone out by the 4,000 word mark and, if I'm to leave a review, I just cheat by going to "Reviews" and restating what someone else said. Being an American teenager, my attention span is microscopic.

3/18/2012 #5
Sassy Lil Scorpio

It has nothing to do with length or the amount of words. For me, a chapter is centered on the main ideas and events taking place. Once I wrap all the ideas in that chapter, then it is complete--regardless of length. Some chapters encompass a lot of ideas, and some, only a few ideas or brief scenes. When I first started writing, I used to worry about the length of chapters. If I had a really long one or really short one, I would try to even them out. Now, I just flesh out my ideas that are particular for that chapter, and don't worry about the length anymore. Some readers love long chapters, others prefer shorter chapters. In my opinion, if you find a chapter is too long to read, then just read it in parts. There's nothing that says you have to read the entire chapter (much less the entire fic) in one sitting. I've had chapters as short as 1,000-2000 words and as long as 18,000-20,000 words. It all depends on what was occurring in each chapter. Other times, I've taken one chapter and split it down to two separate chapters, especially when the main idea for one chapter fit better in its own smaller chapter. To each their own.

3/18/2012 #6

If I saw a story where every chapter was as short as yours, to be honest it probably would put me off a bit.

Which is why I made this thread. To see what chapter length is the average that people seem to read. I was planning of making chapters longer (I said that in the first post. 1500 is a bit short. 3000 isn't.

Being an American teenager, my attention span is microscopic.

Don't we all? A lot of readers(including me to a certain point)loose interest after a block of 7500 words. Paragraphs help a lot though. Another thing chapters do well is prepare the reader for the next part of the story.

3/18/2012 #7
The Lauderdale

Being an American teenager, my attention span is microscopic.

Don't we all?

I was born prior to the internet (I mean in the large scale public sense of the internet, as it took off in the mid-nineties), and I read some very long books on a routine basis as a teenager. But if you're referring to a "block of 7500 words" in the sense of a single unbroken paragraph, then yes, I think that most people would be put off by that. ;)

3/18/2012 #8

On average I prefer a chapter of between 1000 and 3000 words, about 2000 the ideal but what matters more is how it is written. A long block of text that is not broken up into paragraphs, with no dialogue is hard to read even if it's 1000 words or less.

On the other hand, an engaging chapter of 6000 words, with paragraph breaks, dialogue, interesting character portrayals and action can seem too short!

3/18/2012 #9

I'm mainly against chapters being under 1000 words, because whoa that's just horribly short and it gets choppy if I have to click to a new chapter every 1000 word interval

My favorite length is around 2,000 to 6,000 words.

Anything beyond about 15,000 words a chapter is just a bit too much for me because I can't read that in one sitting.

3/18/2012 #10
Corinne Tate

I write long chapters. But since my longest complete story has over 500,000 words, I guess you can see why I wouldn't want to have short chapters. As it is, there are 71 long chapters in the epic. I think that averages about 7,000 WPC. I'm actually comfortable with that length. I too was born before the internet, and cable TV, so my attention span is a bit longer. I also look at published books for guidance, and they can have few chapters for a novel.

I'm not afraid of setting aside my reading and coming back to it later if I can't finish. If I'm really enjoying a story, I love to click on the chapter and see it's nice and long. When I read, I love to take in the whole journey and soak up the experience. I'm not just racing along to find out what happens. I don't skim and I'm not a speed reader. I also click open my review box, and write the review as I read. Short chapters leave me feeling unsatisfied, and that's especially true if I have to wait for the next update.

That being said, I am trying to cut down my chapter as well as my story length as I go forward. Especially with an online format, it seems the smaller bites make the story easier to swallow. I also try to make shorter paragraphs. I know the rule is to encompass an idea in one paragraph, but I'll break it anyway if it gets too long. I've found that it helps me when reading to see those separations, so I do that for my readers as well.

Sometimes it can look too mechanical and uniform, as I reach the four line mark and start thinking I need to start a new paragraph. But then when I add in dialogue it can break up the monotony.

3/18/2012 #11

Usually my chapters are between 3000-4000 words, depending on that particular chapter. Unless I'm starting a new fan fic, then the first chapter will be a little over 1000 words., just to test the waters of peoples reaction to the story. I think that you can't actually get into a story unless it has at least 1000 words, that's just my opinion of course :)

My first ever fan fic, that is still currently in process, has over 58,000 words, when it's finally finished, it'll have at least 100,000 words, probably more. I like reading lengthy fan fics. Short fan fics and chapters make me want to stop reading and find something that I'll at least spend more than a half hour reading. But I like reading one shots, as long a story doesn't seem as small as a one shot, I hate that.

3/18/2012 #12
Lilly Valens

Mine have varied from 1600-7700. The shorter chapters tended to be more action based with less narrative. The longer chapters included more backstory. The last chapter I wrote was the longest at 7700, but it was all to get the story moving forward.

3/18/2012 #13
The Sky Hedgehogian Maestro: I agree. I believe that for the most part, folks don't come on-line with the goal to be strapped to their computer for an hour to read a chapter. Most that come on-line to read have busy lives and are trying to squeeze in a little entertainment where they can. There have been times that I've gone into a story to read and I just don't have the time to read the whole chapter in one sitting but get too frustrated when I try to return and skim the page to find where I left off since you can book mark the page but not the line itself. Most of the time I end up just giving up on them. Short chapters do not mean that there has been no thought or editing done. In fact, it's easier to edit at times since even the writer tunes out after a while when you edit. :D When I write, I don't write with the goal of, here's what I've got today. (Though I do post frequently when I'm on a roll) I have been known to post a chapter a day of about 3000 words but have 3-6 chapters in que waiting to be released. I write then go back and cut off the chapter at the natural flow when I can so they are all flowing continuously but in bite sized portions.
3/19/2012 #14

My chapters usually range from 1800 to 7000 at most. I really like Mass Vexations but my only problem is that the chapters are really, REALLY long. I find it's better to post chapters at around the 2000k to 5000k mark, because then it gives the reader the option to continue reading or take a break every now in then.

3/19/2012 #15

The ideal length of the chapter is the length that is needed to express all you want to express.

If the story is well written and manage to keep my attention, I could care less how long the chapter is. I usually read stories late in the evening (an advantage of being insomniac, hehe), so I don't have problem to read long chapters. And if I really don't have time, I print it - I'm always on some business trip and it's not always possible to be connected to internet, but that's not reason to fall behind with my favourite stories. :D Though I do that only for the chosen few, or for really remarkable new discovery (I won't waste paper on something I don't really care about).

For multichapters that would be part of a novel or at least novella, I write chapters of at least 1000 words. One of them originated as a fill at livejournal kink meme, where the limit of one post is 4500 signs, at even when I moved it to FFN, the chapters still have approximately that length, simply because I got used to it. :)

But my oneshots are often much shorter. Probably because I take them as 'short story' that doesn't need much setting or character development, depict one moment in time, one scene. I have quite a few stories that are approx. 500 words long, and some are even shorter. The latest one in the collection of oneshots that is a sort of companion to my main story has only 380 words. So far nobody complained – in fact, the reactions to these tiny stories are usually stronger than the reactions to longer ones, because they are more powerful and emotional.

3/20/2012 #16

Now if your working on an actual novel, would it hurt if I just added three or five page's for a chapter and the story has at least twenty of them? That's decent for a young adult/teenager book right?

3/20/2012 #17

My ideal is roughly 5000 words. I write towards that length, and carefully keep track of it while in the process. It usually has just enough length to create a nice cutoff point and still have a lot of information inside.

I find extremely short chapters (1000 words) very off-putting. I can't get absorbed into the story like that.

Longer chapters usually aren't as much of an issue, but I know it's possible to feel overwhelmed by it.

All in all, find a happy medium, but most importantly, write to your own goal. If writing 5000 words seems daunting to you, keep to your original length. Later on, you might find ways to increase the length and add more content and details.

3/20/2012 #18

Well I see here that people seem to like chapters between 2000-6000 (excluding short stories) and chapters that give a "natural pause". This is pretty good advice, for a new writer like me. One person gave a different recommendation...

I find it's better to post chapters at around the 2000k to 5000k mark

You do realize that is two million to five million? I think you mean 2000-5000/2k-5k. I wonder if anyone would take that advice and make a three-million word chapter...

3/20/2012 #19

Yeah for me I can only write at least...a hundred word's per chapter? A thousand would be a bit harder for me I think ^^;

Three Million Word chapter? Wouldn't that be the whole story then?

3/20/2012 #20

I don't know for sure what my "longest chapter ever" was, but I did take a look at my list of stories and sort them by number of chapters, and then look at the word counts for all of my one-shots.

It turns out I've had three with over 5000 words apiece. One of those was up in the 5900s, so it fell just short of hitting the 6000 mark.

Near as I can recall: In each case, it was important to me to have the entire thing posted all at once as a single storytelling unit, with the beginning, the middle, and the end all contained in the same document to be part of one quick reading experience for members of my target audience. There were no "natural" places to split the silly thing in half without seriously disturbing the narrative flow I wanted to maintain.

I have estimated in the past that, in my longer serial fanfics, my "average chapter" is probably at least 3000 words long. That is not any sort of hard-and-fast quota I set for myself; it just often works that the length of a chunk of narrative prose ends up somewhere in that range (say, between 3000 and 4000) before I decide: "I've hit a decent stopping point -- so that's a wrap for this chapter!"

As it happens, 3000 words would be roughly 10 pages if the chapter were being published as part of a paperback novel.

P.S. I think I once saw, several years ago, that someone had just posted a writing project on here. Something like 30,000 words, and he posted it all as one "chapter." He had gotten a grand total of ZERO reviews at the time I noticed this (although I think it was in a popular fandom on this site). I figured that was because people studying the "Just In" in that area had been scared off by that sky-high word count and didn't want to read the entire thing before writing a quick review. If he had broken it up into several smaller chunks, he might have seemed more "user-friendly."

3/20/2012 . Edited 3/20/2012 #21

When I first started writing "My Imaginary Sister" I found that I usually had short chapters around 1500-2000 works. It was my first story and was really just learning what my stride was. I have written chapters since then as long as 6000 but try to keep it at around 3000 instead for two reasons. One, it is easier to read that length if pressed for time. If you can read more than you simply read as many chapters in one sitting as you want. I've had several to come across my stories after they had been up for a while and have said that they had read the whole story in one shot. Most of which range from 100000-250000 words. Others are happy to be able to read a little at a time. Plus, most of the loyal readers appreciate a chapter of about 2500-3000 words in their inbox on a near daily business as I tend to do. Lately I haven't been able to do so quite as quickly due to taking meds after a car accident but am quickly on the mend. I've learned that the more I update the more followers I have. Basically, you write according to the audience that you are trying to attract.

3/20/2012 #22

Three Million Word chapter? Wouldn't that be the whole story then?

Most stories don't reach 200k, let alone three million. I've been reading a 123 chapter fic and it is around 120k(some chapters were long, some were short).

Someone should make a challenge: The Three-Million Word Story

3/20/2012 #23
The Lauderdale

Ha ha! No. 8) Here's a Wikipedia list of longest novels, going by word count:


You'll notice that all of them fall well shy of three million words, including the longest of the bunch, Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

It's true that the serial nature of some fanfiction stories steers them in the direction of longer rather than shorter. However, I would point out that Samuel Richardson wrote Clarissa as a serial as well, and it still caps at about one million words. (The article says 984,870, but I think it depends on the edition of Clarissa, since many/most editions excise some of the letters originally written for it.)

It is possible - strike that, I can see that - there are some three million word fanfiction stories out there. (Google the search string Words:numrange:2500000-10000000 site:fanfiction.net) but as for how much is actual story and how much padding...author notes, role-play, trolling, etc...that is the question...

3/20/2012 . Edited by CrystalRei, 2/27/2021 #24

Someone should make a challenge: The Three-Million Word Story

It is possible - strike that, I can see that - there are some three million word fanfiction stories out there. (Google the search stringWords:numrange:2500000-10000000 site:fanfiction.net)

Challenge accepted...and over


3/20/2012 #25

Holy crap! 3,357,528 words! Geez I never thought a story as big as that existed...*applauds*

3/20/2012 #26

17 578 words per chapter - well, it would be less without the AN, but not that much.

And as the author receives 10 reviews per chapter, obviously itdidn'tdiscourage readers.

3/21/2012 . Edited 3/21/2012 #27
Lilly Valens

o_O is all Lily Valens has to say for the moment.

3/21/2012 #28

Yeah...no WAY could I write that many words...O___O Kudo's to the author who wrote the story though.

3/21/2012 #29
Embrace goto statements

If it was published, how thick would the book be?...

3/21/2012 #30
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