Long Chapters

So, I Am the Devil is going on a hiatus after the current volume, as some stupid bitch decided to tell my school's principal it was personally attacking her based on her religion (it wasn't). I was able to pull some strings and get it until the end of this volume, but still, kinda sucks.

Anyway, I started working on a new project (of which I will not say anything, as it is a surprise). Trying something new, I decided upon 5,000 word chapters, which will go out weekly. I already have three written, but it's getting harder to continue. To the people who write longer chapters on a regular basis (Wildbow, I'm looking at you XD), how do you keep up? Does it get easier with time?

I've found that, if I make myself write more per chapter, it helps with my character development (as in, the people have actual personalities and go through actual changes) which is something that I definitely need to work on, like, hardcore. Also, the writing quality is a lot better, and it's more fluent than my previous works.

Ouch, that sucks.

And if you feel like writing longer chapters is the best thing for you, then you should try to do that as much as you can. Do you have a set schedule? I hear those help in pumping out a lot of content rather than just writing whenever you have the time (it's a habit I've been trying to develop lately as well).

When I started, I wrote 1.5-3k word chapters, because that was what people like Jim were doing, and they were models for me. My only rules were that each chapter had to have a start and a finish (no starting halfway and picking it up with the next chapter) and I had to keep to the schedule & keep moving forward. I missed a lot of updates, but I had a backlog, so I drew from that. The backlog ran out around Christmas of 2011.

At that time, for the record, I was in my last year of University, holding my schedule (for the most part) while I was writing the two chapters a week.

It got easier when I was done. I had a more flexible schedule, and I was working intermittently (if you can call it a 'job' - I was helping out a family friend for some cash), and I could start to ease into things. I got more used to writing, and I scaled up.

I liken it to exercise. You don't start running and begin by running a marathon. You get out every day, you push yourself a little harder each time, and you build up that (writing) muscle. You keep to that routine, because you want your body and mind to get used to it, for it to be habit.

I realized I was breaking 4k words most days, a couple of months after I finished University, and I made that my new minimum. I also (after a discussion with my dad about where I wanted to be in life and what I wanted to do) implemented the donation button; a way to draw in income. I mention this because it's when I started to take it more seriously. At the outset, it was an experiment. At that moment, it became something else.

On the topic of running a marathon, for the one year anniversary of my story, I wrote a chapter a day for 8 straight days. It took some preparation, some sketching out of what I was going to do (I think I posted my thoughts on the experiment somewhere in this forum), and I went for it. 47,000 words in a little over a week. (For context, a conventional novel is often 60k words)

Surprising what you can do when you push yourself and refuse to let yourself fail.

Maybe a year and a half in, I noticed I was breaking 6k words most days, and set that as my new minimum. I've veered between 6k and 12,000 word chapters since. I haven't set a new goal, because doing anything more with regularity makes my hands and wrists start aching and my eyes start going fuzzy.

But keep in mind, 6k words takes me the full day, with fits and starts. 12k takes me the full day, going strong all the way through (usually it's a special chapter I've been anticipating for some time, or I screw up and try to cram too much in there and am forced to rush the job to hit every key point). I wake up, eat, and start at 10am, though it's becoming a 11am-noon start point these days as I'm having trouble with insomnia. I finish at midnight, and spend two or so hours unwinding, walking my dog and fixing typos.

My day is punctuated by meals, letting the dog out, making tea, showering and other stuff that gets me up off the couch and moving, so I don't get too stiff, and it gives me a chance to clear my head, step away, and think about future scenes. I usually hit my stride around 7pm, writing just shy of 1k words/hour from that point on, around the climax of the chapter, which works on two levels. I'm in the 'zone' at the most important part, when there's a part like that.

But, I stress, that kind of routine is something I've settled into after years of writing 50-70k words a month.

Life gets harder when other things intrude. Family visiting is a big one. I'm still writing just as much, but I'm forced to start later, and that 7pm 'hitting my stride' bit is interrupted by me needing to be social and look after guests.

Also, it really, really helps if you have no life. Just saying.

According to your specified word count, Alex, I guess I qualify as someone who writes "longer chapters," as well. I don't write in chapters, though. My current pace has me writing 700 words per day, so I'm putting up a minimum of 4900 a week--and occasionally more than that when my readers are incredibly kind and decide to donate.

But if we're talking about actual chapter-lengths, then I actually prefer to keep mine short. As a reader, I generally don't like long chapters. I get impatient and restless, and the words start to drag for me. Shorter chapters give me a greater sense of progress, and I think that also translates to my writing. I like to keep a briskly-paced plot, and I think forcing my chapters to be a certain length would be harmful to that in so far as making me try to drag out scenes with extra descriptions and character developments and so forth. Obviously, those can be helpful in fleshing things out, but they can also be annoying for readers who don't really care what color the tablecloth is or how the wallpaper reminds the protagonist of when she lost first her first baby tooth.

As for how you keep up, well. After ten months of rigid consistency, I started fumbling with my updates a little bit. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did, and there's no point in pretending that it didn't. There's also no point in getting discouraged about it. There's only the decision to press onward or quit. And I sure as hell am not going to quit. So like everybody says: keep to your schedule. But if one day, you fail to do that? Then get over it. And keep going. We're running a marathon here. You don't quit when you trip. You quit when you finish.

It's definitely all about finding a schedule and a pace you can sustain, while producing the kind of story you want to write.

When I first started writing a serial, I aimed for a post a day, with no real limits. I was feeling out the story, the voice, the format, and my own capabilities. Average post lengths went from about 800 words when I started, to around 2,000 words by the time the serial finished (the Apocalypse Blog ran for one year). I wound up having to try to keep posts under 2k, mostly so that I didn't run out of time (and partly because I work full time - Wildbow, I'm so jealous of your writing time!).

Looking back now, I'm still not sure how I managed that pace. My current serial, Starwalker, posts once a week, and that's a struggle most of the time, due to various life influences. I have a rough goal of 2k words per post, with 3k being my upper limit - not long by your standards, but long enough for me. If I find myself running over, I tend to split the material into two (or more!) sections and rework it so that each section still works as a chapter. Cliffhangers are fun (my readers might tell you different, though). I very seldom cut big chunks out to keep the wordcount down.

If you want to try the longer chapters but struggle to write that much in a week, then why not switch to fortnightly posts? (That's one every two weeks, for those of you who don't use 'fortnight'.) Give yourself the time to be happy with it. Your readers will understand. Alternatively, spend some time working up a buffer so you can post weekly (I'm very bad at this, but some people are awesome at it!).