How long should a story update be?

6 years ago | t4nky (Member)

I was just talking with a friend and he said that my story posts were too long and that I should space them up a bit more. I trust him, but since he doesn't really read web serials that much, I want to get a second opinion. Are my chapters too long? If they are, what is a good chapter be?

Link to the first chapter:

"An uneducated man may rob a rail car. An educated man can steal the railway."

Read responses...

Page: 12


  1. Tartra (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Why does your friend feel it should be broken up? Are your chapters dragging? Are so many things happening that it's hard to read in one sitting? Does he just not like scrolling? Because the answer to 'how long should it be' is a resounding 'it varies depending on the story'. More than that, it can vary based on the update itself. They don't have to be a uniform length.

    The Other Kind of Roommate — Like Fight Club meets X-Men meets The Matrix meets Superbad.
  2. t4nky (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Ok, that helps a bit. Thanks!

    "An uneducated man may rob a rail car. An educated man can steal the railway."
  3. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    The length of the first chapter is a little over 1800 words, which seems fine to me. My most successful serial (Pay Me, Bug!) averaged 1600-2000 words per chapter. Each update of The Points Between tends to be between 2,000-3,000 words, with a few exceptions that go short. Each update of Curveball is 8,000-10,000 words, but it updates monthly and is usually broken down into 4-5 parts, so it works out there as well.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  4. Fiona Gregory (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    That was a good length for me. Lengths can vary a bit, but something that takes between 5 and 15 minutes to read, a coffee or lunch break amount of time should fit nicely into readers' schedules.

  5. Kess (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Posts should be as long as the scene needs to be. There's no minimum or maximum, though it's usually a good idea to set rough ones for yourself for consistency.

    Personally, I aim for no more than 2,500 words per post, and will split it if it goes above 3,000 (I'm super-awesome at sticking to my limits, clearly). This is more for my sanity and what I can deliver in a week, rather than what my readers demand. I'm sure they'd love longer posts and fewer cliffhangers. ;)

    It really depends on you, your schedule, and the shape/needs of your story.

    If your friend is finding it very scroll-heavy, maybe it's worth looking at the format/layout of the website (assuming he's reading it on the website and not in an RSS reader)? On my screen, the text is on the large side (compared to other websites), so you could try a smaller font size and see if that helps with the perception of it being a lot of text/scrolling?

  6. t4nky (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    @Kess: that point about my text being a bit large might be worth checking out. I'll try seeing if I can adjust it.

    "An uneducated man may rob a rail car. An educated man can steal the railway."
  7. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I tend to go with 800-1500 word updates.

    My guideline is to make your update a size that you can realistically keep up consistently in the time you have to write it. Beyond that it's personal taste.

  8. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Your entry looks about the length of most of my updates these days (I tend to hit just over 2,000 words per week with alarming consistency - about half of that to deal with the previous ramifications, then the other half to set up the next choice).

    If part of your concern is that people might not read longer entries - when I wrote personified math, a 500 word update would have been long. That thing ran for over 2 years, and by the end there were still less than 50 hits most weeks and only 2 people saying anything to me about it. So while length may be a consideration, I don't think it's a deal breaker.

    Writing a Time Travel serial:
    Writer of the personification of math serial:
  9. DrewHayes (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I'm going to second what Jim said. Everyone's idea of what constitutes enough for a post will be different, and how much the reader's tolerate will often depend on how often you updates. I do a minimum of 1,000 words per update, but I'm usually around 1200-1500. Consistency and sustainability are the most important factors in determining what to do. I've seen many come in with huge, sprawling updates, only to peter out because they were maintaining a pace that they couldn't sustain. Think of the times when life will get in the way, or the dreaded writer's block descends. You either have to push through or have enough buffer built up to ride it out, and either requires that you set your minimums to be manageable in the long term.

    I'm not against long updates, btw. They're just hard to do consistently for the years a serial can run. It has certainly been proven to be doable, and if it works for you then more power to you. Just find the right fit for what you can keep up over time.

    Super Powereds & Corpies
  10. t4nky (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    So it isn't about length, it's about consistency. That's a good thing to know.

    Also, my friend suggested putting forward and back links at the top as well. Is that a good idea?

    "An uneducated man may rob a rail car. An educated man can steal the railway."
  11. Nina Santucci (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I think I run about 2000 words per update - a few are more like 1600, and actually this week's and next week's will be longer so as not to disturb the action. I thought yours was a fine length. Personally, I'm not crazy about ultra-long updates because my interest begins to wane. I find I need to read updates in one sitting, because I am less likely to return to a post to finish it later, which means I am less likely to finish the story as a whole.

    Fooled - Never underestimate the Jester!
  12. Billy Higgins Peery (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Yeah, as the others have already said, consistency is by far the most important element of a serial's update schedule.

    But I've been kind of surprised about how long certain segments of the serial audience want chapter to be. Before I found this place, I always assumed people would want something short. Back when I was doing nonfiction blogging (It feels strange having to specify that a blog is nonfiction, but that's another topic for another day), the rule was to make a post as short as possible while still conveying some level of value.

    That's actually changed in the past couple years, with blogging platforms like Medium encouraging longer posts, and sites like Buzzfeed creating quick-to-read but still somewhat lengthier posts (24 GOT Gifs That Show How I Feel About Mid-Terms, or whatever).

    Still, the length web serial readers want can be loooong. I don't remember the specific numbers, but a while back I was doing word counts for some of Wildbow's posts to get an idea of what a successful web serial's posts looked like, and the word counts were like six or eight thousand words?

    Thing is, no one in his audience complains about it! And then they pay money to have him write a third six-to-eight thousand word chapter some weeks! Feels kind of like smart Hyperpulp -- Walter Gibson on crack, or something. (Not that I'm saying Wildbow smokes crack. I'm just saying it would make a lot of sense.)

    Post lengths seem to be getting longer here. We've moved from the less-than-one-thousand-word posts of Superguy (which I enjoyed in an ironic but nonetheless joy-filled way -- thanks for the link Jim Zoetewey!) to the many-thousand-word posts of Wildbow.

    We have yet to reach the upper limits of what a web serial audience is willing to read, which fascinates me. I think you might have to have multiple people writing the same serial before you burned the audience out content-wise? Which I'm not saying should happen. I'm just kind of theorizing here.

    Anyway, I'm not exactly someone you want to model yourself off of, but my posts tend to run 2,500-3,500 words. I'm happy with the schedule.

    Of course, the length OR consistency of the posts doesn't really matter unless you bring a minimum level of quality to bear. I'm not even talking about writing -- I'm talking about storytelling. If you're able to write interesting characters, and you're able to have them do interesting things?

    I think the audience will follow you anywhere, no matter how long or short your posts are.

    "Any number of hitlers, are still not my problem." -Tempest
  13. Fiona Gregory (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Though nobody wanted to ask Wildbow to write less, I bet I'm not the only reader that found his output hard to keep up with at times, and his chapters a bit too long to take in at one sitting. There's quite a few late nights I nodded off over my laptop reading a Worm chapter, which of course is no comment on the riveting story. With so much to take in at once, you may rush through (if you have limited time) or drift off in places (if late and sleepy) and so miss some of the potential impact of certain parts of the chapter.

    On the other hand, chapters that are too short, say less than a conventional page, are too brief to have anything of substance happen in them, and so break up the story too much and make it choppy and harder to follow. So while great writing is enticing in any format, the length of serial entries can really help or hinder the readers' experience.

    I'd say D.D.Webb's The Gods are Bastards are at the outer limits of what I'd consider a good chapter length, while Gavin Williams' Diggory Franklin episodes were verging on the short side. Anything in between works for me. Eren Reverie (Midnight Moonlight) has a nice length.

  14. D. D. Webb (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    My rough goal is 5,000 words a chapter. Most of mine are within a thousand of that in either direction; I didn't realize I was one of the outliers here.

    As has been said, though, there are no rules. What you should do is what your story demands. I always recommend putting what feels right to you above any arbitrary standards when it comes to the creative aspects of your work.

    The Gods are Bastards Cowboys! Demons! Elves!

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