Words and Divisions

I've got a question. One which, I'm pretty sure, most serial writers can relate to. And that is, how to allocate your words, into chapter lengths and chapter frequency.

Currently, I'm writing at a pace double to my goals. My backlog is experiencing too much growth. Ideally, I'd like to have it stay the same, at around five to eight chapters, which suits my needs. But in being careful, I set goals beneath my output. Right now my chapters are averaging 2k words, which I feel is slightly stifling. And they are being posted on Saturdays.

Since my weekly output is almost exactly double, at 4k+, I have an option. Two 2k+ updates, or one 4k? Is it better for a writer to have more frequency, or more length? And to what degree is it important? I know some would say post as often as possible, and some would say not to sacrifice that to chapters so short. I could try a biweekly 3k update, but that might be stretching it for me. Would probably be fine.

What would you do, with your serial, were your weekly output fixed at 4-6k words, hypothetically?

I'd say consistency in posting is more important than either frequency or length, and chapters should only really be as long as they need to be.

My own output is around 4-5k a week, and my chapters tend to be around 3,500-5,500 in length. I post one chapter per week with a break every couple of months (so I put out around 40 chapters a year, which is about 180,000 words, or 700 pages in traditional terms). Do what's most comfortable for you and try your best to stick to it.

My output is consistent. I'm wondering what everyone believes is the best allocation of that output. Into more shorter, or one longer chapter.

I can only answer this on my preference as a reader as I am new to writing serials myself, but I would prefer two shorter chapters vs one really long chapter. I am way to busy to sit and read for very long at one time, but if I sit twice a week for a short time, then I am able to enjoy the story as it comes. Hope that Helps.

As someone who reads on their phone, shorter chapters, please.

Legion of Nothing, The Gods are Bastards, and Twisted Cogs are 3 of the top 5 web serials in WFG's overall ranking (NOT Top Web Fiction's ranking), and they all post twice weekly. If you're looking for standard, I'd go with 2 times a week.

Of course you can do whatever you want, as the other two serials in the top 5 show. One posts once a week, the other posts daily.

I do alright with weekly updates and long chapters. I don't miss updates ever, so maybe that helps.

Very useful information! I hadn't thought to check the top listings. Stupid me. Thanks everyone.

I'd go with the two updates, it provides more choice. If a reader wants to visit once per week, and read two parts at that time, they can. But if someone (like J.E. Hixon) wants to enjoy the story as it comes, twice in a week, they can do that too. (Honestly, if I had to do it over, I'd craft my time travel stuff with shorter parts and consider it, but the breaks and cliffhangers would become problematic that way.) Glad to see you back, by the way!

I started off trying to match my word count & pacing to other serials I was aware of: LoN, ToMU, etc. By the time I was about six months in, I'd broken from that pattern. I continued posting twice a week, but I found myself writing 3-5k words per update. I noticed that the 3k word update was rare and was primarily when I was being lazy about it, so I set a minimum wordcount for myself of 4k words.

3/4 of the way through Worm I set a minimum wordcount of 6k words in very much the same way - I was only going below 6k words when I was being lazy.

Toward the end of Pact, about a year later, I realized I was padding for the sake of wordcount, and relaxed the amount.

Only you know what works for you, so experiment and find your ideal stride. If I did what Jim does, I would find it difficult to work in twists and interesting details, and would struggle to find good points to end a chapter at. If Jim did what I did, then he might find it to be a chore, that it was all padding, because he's far stronger than I at writing in the realm of 2k word chapters.

The key notes to hit are to write just enough that it requires mindful effort on your part, and to not set the bar so high that you miss chapters, because you don't want to do that to your dear readers.

Sound advice. This definitely puts me on the track to do biweekly posting. I've already written to the end of the first arc though, and I'm in the queue for WFG. So, I'll wait until that arc is posted to start. That way I don't have to revamp my schedule.

Looking back, what I did for my first unpublished novella was to write 2.5k chapters each, and then when I was ready for people to read that, I ended up combining those into one 5k chapter. They went together fairly seamlessly. I think though, I just need to remember not to rush individual moments, out of what is probably laziness. It steals impact, majorly. As long as the pacing itself is healthy, I think you may be able to break it up somewhat abruptly without issue.

That being said, I'd like to write longer chapters in the future, and I'll definitely be doubling the number of chapters in a given arc, just for starters. Twelve and 26k felt short. Lacking in any subplots or character tangents.

As I move along, I'm excited to say that chapters seem to be getting organically easier to write, for longer. I guess it's familiarity. And thank you, Mathtans, I'm glad to be back. Writing is a joy.

Writing ahead of what you can actually do is a good thing. It means that you have the option of posting extra chapters as a result of donation.

Yeah. I don't know that I'll officially move to biweekly, and need to change my WFG submission/site info. Instead I can just do double posts, weeks that I write double.