Got a question about length.

Ok, and just to get it out of the way... penis.

I have a short story of 7100 words that is essentially a pilot for the next serial I may write after the strange. I'm putting my pilots out there with the idea that the currently non-existent readers of the site can take a look at the projects and let me know which one I should continue to write.

So there is this and another that I'm editing that will be a continuation of the other pilot that is around 6K which would bump that project up to around 15K all told.

Yeah, I write long. Anyway, strongI'm wondering in light of dwindling numbers, how long an individual posting should be./strong The Strange has episodes that are around 3K, usually erring on the short side. I figure that's about as much content as a 22 page comic book and a reasonable thing to read. 7 or 8K gets to be pretty hefty, though.

At the same time, having a gazillion little pages is a hassle both for me and for the readers. Yeah, I think posting frequently might actually help with those blind listing things and maybe even make the site look more interesting to google, but it seems kinda ... I don't know ... cheap.

So what do you all think? And while I'm talking about it, I might as well give you a link to my Liquid Wax page so you can see what I'm doing.

Thanks and Stay Weird


It's a very bewildering thing to tackle, some will say that short chapters are golden, others will call you lazy for it. I don't think there's a right answer.

I'd just have each instalment end where it seems natural. Whether you cut it off now or two hundred words later should (in my opinion) depend on how the piece feels rather than some arbitrary rule.

I did really short posts for one of my serials, usually less than 500 words. I liked it artistically for a lot of reasons. There were a couple readers who thought it was cool, but the majority wanted longer posts, and I probably wouldn't do it again. And I wouldn't worry about making your site "interesting for Google." Web serials are in this weird/interesting area where I'd say directories are one of the most important sources of traffic, whereas most SEO is in a different place entirely. Don't see much value to getting random searchers to find your serial, since I don't think many people are turning to Google when looking for serials.

(There's one exception to my, "SEO doesn't impact serials" theory: Scott Scherr, whose URL is I'm jealous of that. Would love to see his stats and hear how many readers he's gotten from organic search.)

I'd be curious what ClearMadness had to say. He's the only other guy here who I know does SEO.

As far as word count goes, I don't know if we've seen an upper limit on what people are willing to read? There are a lot of people who like their posts LONG. I probably wouldn't go much longer than Wildbow, but I'm not sure there's a large enough sample size of webfic authors writing that long for us to make hard and fast judgements either way. (Patrick Rochefort discussed Bow's chapter sizes on Reddit here.)

First off, I'm glad you got the penis out of the way. Nobody wants to speak up with that right out in front, like an elephant trunk in the room.

My handy rule of thumb is that your length should only reach around as much as you can pull off on a regular, recurring basis. You don't want it too hard to keep it updated. Itain't going to get any easier when you realize you're on a timer and you desperately need to beat it, especially with some sort of holiday coming at you. And if you ever need to stretch it out for a special time, it gives you plenty of wiggle room to finish going the distance.

I personally find my chapters end up being between 2-4k words in length, but it really depends on your story and writing style. Some people can get through a lot of plot in a few words, while some people take more word count. It's about the chapter feeling like an organic whole.

My updates are 2.5k words. I can't recall why I decided on that though.

Chapters should be as long as they need to be.

PG hit the nail pretty well on the head: its less about the entry length in itself than it is about sustainability. When I did my first serial, I had a 700 word count minimum and was posting 3 days a week (while working a demanding day job) and I felt myself burning out pretty quick. I took it down to two updates a week and found life a lot more enjoyable.

If you want to do long ones, be sure you have them spaced out far enough in between that its a manageable amount to write. If you do shorter ones you can ideally manage more frequent updates, although even that can load up on you after a year or so. Make certain you're picking a schedule that you can keep up indefinitely, and if you're going to use a buffer plan to write at least one more entry per week than you use to keep that buffer built and stable. Ultimately only you know what the right length for your story's chapters should be, so once you find a length that feels right its just about careful scheduling from there.

PG, i stand in awe, in awe, of the extended (for her pleasure) penis metaphor while STILL giving useful information.

All I had was, its less about the length, and more about the width, which is to say, how much content you can pack into that length, before it starts getting uncomfortably snug.

I personally have always liked the 1-2 k mark. posting once a week, that makes a 55-60 k novel in a year.

I appreciate all the input. And I also appreciate the sage advice (which I've heard before but it bears repeating) that it's all about being able to sustain the pace. Personally I started "The Strange" twice a week because I had a huge backlog but have since throttled back.

What I was looking for was the length of the things that are already done, but long - essentially long short stories. The consensus seems to be that no one has any good or solid answer to that question. I think what I'm going to do is to borrow from my structure for The Strange and break a really long story into parts that are about 2-3K long. From my pov as a reader anything longer than that is wandering into TL;DR territory, even if the story is good.

Thanks again for the advice. And yes, PG clearly has his finger on the pulse of... you know, I should really learn not to mix metaphors.

Stay Weird


If we're talking about something pre-written, being split up into pieces, I'll offer this insight. My T&T entries were about 3,000 words for the first 58 parts, posted weekly. After Part 58, I started posting 1,500 words twice weekly, because I'd received a comment wondering whether a "Previously On" segment could be incorporated, to help with plot elements that might not have been dealt with in a couple weeks. I'd figured doing more frequent posts would help elements to stick, seeing them more often than once per week (though I also started doing a 'previously'). It also didn't hurt that I knew the parts were getting longer (closer to 3,500) and as a slow reader myself, I don't like really lengthy parts. I'm also pretty good at finding cliff-hanger-esque moments.

The fringe benefit, or so I thought, was that double the number of posts would double the monthly view count. Making me feel better about the writing. Wow did THAT not happen. Within a month of doubling my output, I had 100 fewer views. Within two months, I had the worst month for views in over half a year, barely eking out 200 page views for two years worth of material. And I never heard back on whether people liked the change. All that to say, split it up as you see fit... it's kind of impossible to predict preferences.

PG's and Drew's perspective is pretty much mine. It doesn't matter in the end if you have the perfect length for readers figured out, if you can't in turn keep up with that pace. Fortunately, it sounds like you're going to go with a pace that works for you.

I'd really love to know if there is such a thing as a perfect length for serial readers. I suspect however, that it's probably a range (below X number of words is not enough and above Y number of words is too much). Also, there's probably an element of personal preference as well as personal expectations. For example, readers of fan fiction and Royal Road appear to be comfortable with longer pieces.

Not knowing where the range is (and having seen many standards that work), I'm inclined to think that the ideal length for readers isn't the main issue. The main issue is what's the best length for the writer.

@Jim Zoetewey Well, unfortunately (for the readers) I continue to go and have consciously decided at this time not to sweat my deadlines. The reason for this is that I'm BARELY having people creep into my last entry by the time wednesday rolls around, so I'm posting for posterity at this point. I do furnish my own pressure in that regard, but it has to compete with job and active family responsibilities AND the other projects that I allow myself to write on lest I go mad. :)

The way I see it, between 2500 and 3000 words is the three minute pop song of serial content. I notice that some people hit a half or a quarter of that, which must have some place in the gestalt, but I digress. It seems like that size is like a 44 minute (hour with commercials) TV show length or a 22 page comic or a two hour movie. And while I'm ranting and digressing, it seems really unfair to sell you a bathtub full of soda and then expect you to make it through a two hour movie without an intermission. Just sayin'...

Here's where I was when I came in. I have a story that is longer than 3K by a lot and was wondering if I should cut it up. Over the last two days, I've put up the first two parts and have gotten what for me is good feedback - a couple of likes and a wordpress follow. This is likely due to the fact that it's a ghost story and not superheroes, but that's another form of feedback. Anyway, the point is that cutting it up to that extent doesn't appear to be annoying the readers and much like you write the book you want to read, *I* appreciate it when the story clearly breaks from time to time on that 3K mark.

To wrap - "Roundabout" was a hell of a song at 8 minutes plus. "Deacon Blues" is my personal loser spirit guide at a surprising 7 and a half minutes. Not everything fits the format or the 3 minute pop song. BUT, for us aspiring geniuses working out by grinding on the craft, having an eye for the size of the can is helpful for judging how much input a reader can withstand. Because I write long and simply can't help myself with describing details, 3k seems to be the size of my can.

Er... Um ... Never mind my phrasing in that last bit. Later!

Stay Weird


I lament that you used "3 minutes" instead of "4 minutes" so that my superhero lyrics reference "We only got 4 minutes to save the world" is not fitting.

Well, the three minute thing is a technical limitation that shaped the way people listened to music but stuck because it resonated with the meat-brain. Being interested in the workings of the meat brain, I find the whole thing fascinating in theory and something to either use or not use with purpose and understanding.

As far as quotes go, here's one of my favorites along those lines:

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses."

Stay Weird


From Gamma Unchained: "Initialization complete. System activation in 3.02 minutes." 3.02 minutes later in the song... "All systems online!



Admittedly, that quote goes in the opposite direction, but I like the attention to detail.


Just to wrap up with this, the results were... mixed. I think that cutting the two stories, which were


for a shameless plug, into three parts a piece hit a mechanic in the wordpress reader that essentially gave me more bites at the apple for picking up rando's. It did have the side effect of having a new piece out every day over a number of days which seemed to help slightly, but at this point I have exactly zero reputation so my numbers are tiny and any blip shows up.

Still, This month seems to be going better than the month before, if only by degrees. I think that for my next serial, I won't structure it so that a weekly schedule of a big block is what is required. Having smaller parts more frequently maybe better given the way people tend to find me, which seems to be overwhelmingly through the wordpress reader.

So... mixed. Still no equivalent measure to the 3:05 pop song.

Stay weird.


PS: couldn't get the links to work. Sorry for the mess.