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Forum: Author Hangout

Chapter Length, Revisited

Crumbly Writer

Switch made the following observation in another thread:

I only brought that one book with me to Italy. There was reading time on the plane and bus and hotel rooms. I would have quit after Chapter 2 if I had brought more books. And the chapters are only 2–3 pages long.

I like short chapters, but he broke into a new chapter for no reason other than to keep his chapters a couple of pages or to leave with a cliffhanger. But why the cliffhanger? The chapters were only a couple of pages.

So, of course, I had to ask. What chapter lengths do you prefer? And of course, since I'm asking on SOL, does it matter whether you're reading a chapter at a time online, or reading a printed book cover-to-cover?

I ask, because some time ago, I started posting the same story to both SOL and SciFiStories (because I couldn't figure out how to 'softpeddle' one chapter's sex scene, I didn't post to FineStories like I normally do). However, the differences in responses intrigued me.

The SOL readers preferred (based on the scores) the newer story, which better reflects my current writing style, has longer chapters, and more character building. The older book (2015 vs. 2018) has more chapters, much shorter chapters, but little character development, since it's essentially a 'race to the finish' type of story. The SF versions, though, were the opposite. While both scored higher, they seemed to prefer the shorter, earlier, less-character-driven story. So of course, that got me wondering.

Now granted, the reader sizes are much smaller on SF than on SOL, and you'd think that regular SciFi fans would be used to longer stories, as Sci-Fi generally has much longer story lengths than other chapters (because of the world-building required), so clearly something significant is happening, though I'll be damned if I can figure out what. To further complicate the issue, while both books sold well, neither has gotten a lot of responses aside from the initial 'atta boy' chatter (i.e. there's little to indicate the reader's preferences, aside from when I asked about it).

It's recognized that SOL readers typically long LONG chapters of anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 words, but that's presumably because they're ONLY reading a chapter of two in that particular story a week.

So which do you prefer, and does the medium matter?

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

So which do you prefer, and does the medium matter?


SOL is a different beast, especially if the story is posted a chapter at a time. The reader only gets to download a few each day. I believe they feel they didn't get their money's worth if it's not a long chapter. Downloading 1K costs them the same as downloading 10k.

I prefer short chapters. I like to stop reading at the end of a chapter and short chapters give me more flexibility to manage my time. If I want to keep reading, I'll just read the next chapter.

I don't believe the chapter length has anything to do with character development or the other things you mentioned.

What I don't like is artificial chapter breaking. In the novel I just read, he changed chapters right in the middle of a scene. He didn't change POV or anything that would require that. He just did it for… I have no idea why.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Keet
PotomacBob

@Crumbly Writer

To CW's post asking if size matters:
If I'm pressed for time, but have a few minutes, I like shorter chapters better. If I have plenty of time, I like longer chapters better - but not too long. I've never tried to figure out exactly where the breaking point is. But if I start looking at the clock during the chapter, you can bet the chapter is too long for me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't believe the chapter length has anything to do with character development or the other things you mentioned.

Chapter lengths don't, as some chapters feature action while others feature character development, but in that particular book, the chapters were short because I wanted a 'frantic' pace which captured the essence of the story. Thus I focused on the primary relationship, and bypassed the character development of most of the secondary characters.

In the second book, since the characters have more time (extensive time spent in confined quarters with a lot of other people), there's a more leisurely pace, which allows for longer chapters. The third, where the characters are among friends, rather than trying to justify their future lives, the chapters are even longer still (almost bordering on my early works story lengths).

What I don't like is artificial chapter breaking. In the novel I just read, he changed chapters right in the middle of a scene. He didn't change POV or anything that would require that. He just did it for… I have no idea why.

Chances are, he either has ADD or is targeting a new generation of ADD-riddled readers!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Which chapter lengths do I prefer?

They don't matter to me as I do not read incomplete stories. I want chapters to be coherent units so the story should drive the divisions into chapters, not anything else. And I want the story to drive how descriptive the writing style is too.

I think you're driving yourself crazy for no good reason with this question. I know you're driving many of us there too.

Replies:   sunkuwan  richardshagrin
Crumbly Writer

I want chapters to be coherent units so the story should drive the divisions into chapters, not anything else. And I want the story to drive how descriptive the writing style is too.

I think you're driving yourself crazy for no good reason with this question. I know you're driving many of us there too.

That may be, but as I was using two different technique, each which fit the particular book, I'm was curious which is more popular. But as you say, since the techniques fit each book, it's likely NOT an objective question. Either the liked the fast paced first story, or they prefer the slower paced second story. But as I like to track literary trends, so I can advise newbie authors on technique, I'm interested in actual empirical evidence (how published authors report the success of specific techniques).

It it's ultimately unknowable (as opposed to simply 'some like this technique and others don't), then it's simply unknowable.

But in the end, I'm simply wondering whether my older writing style was more or less popular than my current styles, so I can start backpedaling if necessary! 'D

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Also, long and short have different meanings to different people.

I like short chapters as a reader and I tend to write short chapters as a writer. But what's short? In my WIP, I finished the first draft of chapters 1 & 2. They are 1,413 and 2,453 words, respectively). I have a lot to go in Chapter 3 and am already at 1,991 words).

I returned the book I read so I don't have it in front of me. But there were 300-something pages and 80-something chapters. That's around 3.5 pages per chapter. 80-plus chapters in a book under 400 pages.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

But as I like to track literary trends, so I can advise newbie authors on technique

I was overly harsh with, "I know you're driving many of us there too."

My honest advice to newbie authors here is to not even consider chapter length until it's time to decide how many chapters must be posted to give readers an acceptable word count in their weekly fix.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I had to ask. What chapter lengths do you prefer?


I have to say that it depends on the story.

Really short chapters in a long story bother me, but short stories should have short (or no) chapters.

Every chapter ending in a cliffhanger bothers me. It says the author is going out of his way to end chapters on cliffhangers.

My latest commercially published read is 19 chapters counting the prologue and epilogue.

In my pc Kindle reader app, it comes to 326 pages, at 22 lines per page and around 82 characters for a full line. That comes to a hair over 17 pages / chapter.

For really long stories (I'm following Three Square Meals on SOL) I think having longer chapters is better than having a bazillion short chapters.

TSM is currently at 108 chapters and the chapters are running around 48K words.

Every chapter doesn't have to be the same length.

I'll define it in terms of percentages and they will vary by story length.

At the bottom end:

Stories at the bottom end of "novel" length or shorter , individual chapters should not be less than 3% of the story.

Chapters under 1% should be reserved for stories over 1M words.

At the high end.

Under 20k words not having chapters (or if you prefer, chapter length by percentage of 100%) is okay.

Over 20K and up to 80K words, chapters should not be over 20%

Over 80K and under 400K, individual chapters should not be longer than 10%

Over 400K chapters should be under 5%.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@PotomacBob

If I'm pressed for time, but have a few minutes, I like shorter chapters better. If I have plenty of time, I like longer chapters better. … But if I start looking at the clock during the chapter, you can bet the chapter is too long for me.

As always, the chapter is as long as it needs to be, thus the old adage, cut your chapters to the bone! (i.e. Murder Your Darlings by cutting out your favorite vignettes in favor of keeping ONLY those which advance the plot.)

I try to follow that adage, but I do love those little darlings! 'D Sometimes cutting a favorite chapter/subplot is like shooting your muse in the face in exchange for a supposed commercial success, with no guarantee of success.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

My honest advice to newbie authors here is to not even consider chapter length until it's time to decide how many chapters must be posted to give readers an acceptable word count in their weekly fix.

And that's decent advice here on SOL, but it should be countered with: "but there are differing theories on chapter length, and ultimately, the chapter length depends on the story you're telling. Thus my emphasis on understanding the dynamics, rather than just massaging my own ego. It's nice that my latest book is doing well, but when I look at the current one doing better in one environment, and worse in a similar environment, I naturally think 'I'm missing something significant here'.

Then again, it may just be that science fiction fans, having read humongous sagas for decades, are simply sick and tired of backstory that goes on and one, and want more action and less damn narration! 'D

Keet

@Switch Blayde

SOL is a different beast, especially if the story is posted a chapter at a time. The reader only gets to download a few each day. I believe they feel they didn't get their money's worth if it's not a long chapter. Downloading 1K costs them the same as downloading 10k.


& @Crumbly Writer

That is most certainly a point for non-premium member. But if you hang around for for a while you learn some sneaky tricks to get the most out of it. At that point the length of chapters don't make a difference anymore.
For me it doesn't matter since I read until I fall asleep and continue the next day. That's often in the middle of a chapter and the next day I pick up a little back to get where I left. But I said it here before, I'm weird, so I guess that for other readers it does make a difference. I think it depends on the type of reader you are, some will read by the chapter while others like to read a complete story before they stop. I don't think there is a general optimal chapter length, maybe just don't make it too long since some readers read by the chapter and in that case a too long chapter might turn them off the story.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I have to say that it depends on the story.

Really short chapters in a long story bother me, but short stories should have short (or no) chapters.

I have an interesting case in my next book. When I first wrote the chapter, it was supposed to be a fast-paced action scene, so I kept it short in a basic 'fog of war' motif where the characters are never quire sure what's going on.

But my content editors ripped into the chapter, pointing out several things which needed embellishing, and once I started looking at it, I realized that the 'good guys' were never in any real danger at all, so there was NO reason for them to 'rush', as their lives, while threatened, weren't really in imminent danger. thus the chapter size went from around 5,000 words (there were multiple scenes, both before and during the battle, to over 9,000 words after I revised it, as it went from a fast-paced action chapter to a more, reflexive, let's let this play out and see if we can minimize the loss of life' scenario. But that illustrates just how much impact the message you're conveying in a given chapter can matter. Essentially the same scene, with most of the same words, is almost half the length as an action scene, and nearly double that with a more relaxed pacing.

At the bottom end:

Stories at the bottom end of "novel" length or shorter, individual chapters should not be less than 3% of the story.



At the high end.

Over 80K and under 400K, individual chapters should not be longer than 10%.

Damn! Now I'm going to have to go back and recalculate ALL of my stories to figure out where my chapters lengths fit in you scheme of things.

By the way, I've never written a short story. The closest I've ever come was a Novellette of only 25,000 words (I just had to run the numbers, as I only had the total book size, rather than the numbers for the actual story—Ernest finally convinced of the need to track chapter lengths across books, but I've yet to count each one), But I've never gone as low as 20,000, and never above 300,000.

But, when I first started, and was aiming to satisfy my readers online-reading hunger, I averaged 4,000 to 14,000 (avg 6,000 to 8,000), cut it WAY back as a technique, to 1,000 to 10,000 (averaging 3,000 to 4,000), and have come around again to 4,000 to 10.000 (averaging 4,000 to 6,000).

While the short, concise chapters were a necessary in my evolution, I prefer longer chapters, but agree my earlier books often suffered from a surfeit of embellishments. :(

sunkuwan

@Ross at Play

Same for me,
I don't care (much) about the chapter length, as long as the scene/content feels neither rushed, drawn out, or has a Cliffhanger to make it to the Authors arbitrary chapter length.

Some Authors are very bad with this, they add unnecessary content to bloat it to their preferred length, they cut content, or they rewrite whole sections because the chapter was "too long"
DUDE! You are on the Internet, there can't be too long. You don't have any space issues!

Some Authors set up a rigid "post schedule" while they write from day to day. They don't want to lose readers because they missed a posting. So if they post normaly in the 5k word range and a scene deeds a 10k word chapter, it is basically double the work for them, so they split the chapter.

Though, I can't stand VERY SHORT chapters, especially on wevnovel pages. Even normal chapters are cut up into several pages so that the user has to click to a new page every few minutes. At that point, it is clear that this is a scheme to reload the advertising.
I couldn't get into an acclaimed Webnovel (according to a ranking site and user reviews) because I had to click "next page" every 2 to 3 minutes! And the advertising on this site was nasty, especially on mobile, where it redirected the page to a scamming site every 3 or 4 times and you couldn't get back to the page because the new site locked your window, your back page didn't work and you had to close the window.
No, thank you.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

Some Authors are very bad with this, they add unnecessary content to bloat it to their preferred length, they cut content, or they rewrite whole sections because the chapter was "too long"
DUDE! You are on the Internet, there can't be too long. You don't have any space issues!

Strangely, that's the thinking on the internet sites like SOL, but in the literary dead-tree world, where the word counts REALLY matter to your bottom line, the rules are all over the place, as authors don't feel any specific restrictions. Thus, I'm guessing here, but it seems more like a 'how much do my customers DEMAND' (online) vs. 'how much do I need to tell the story' (print).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Damn! Now I'm going to have to go back and recalculate ALL of my stories to figure out where my chapters lengths fit in you scheme of things.


You can simplify it a bit. For a novel length (but not epic) story, you should be in the range of 10-20 chapters. Under 10, and they are probably too long. over 20 and they are probably too short.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

You can simplify it a bit. For a novel length (but not epic) story, you should be in the range of 10-20 chapters. Under 10, and they are probably too long. over 20 and they are probably too short.

But, as you can tell, I LOVE grinding the numbers, so for me, it's a challenge (just like figuring which chapter lengths work best is). Plus, thanks to Ernest's encouragement, I actually have most of the numbers!

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

To me, what you're asking is two very distinct questions that are only loosely related:

1. How long should a story chapter be?

A. It should be as long as needed to carry the scene or scenes relevant to the events of the core aspect of that chapter. NB: The same is also true of sub-chapters if the events within the chapter are sufficient to warrant breaking it up into sub-chapters.

2. How much of the story should you post to SoL in any one post?

A. While SoL calls this item a chapter I call it a posting segment. I find anything under 4,000 words to be too short and hardly worth the time to read by itself (note: some exceptions when helping an author with their story). So I try to post between 4,000 to 10,000 words in a segment with an aim at the 7,500 to 10,000 words mark simply because those are the most common sizes recognized as for a short story and they're under the SoL limit for a page break requirement. However, I do try to ensure the posting segment breaks are at the end of a chapter or sub-chapter, so sometimes a post will run over that size. Also, there is the odd time when the breaks result in one smaller sized or over sized post, which is usually the last one. I can do this because I always finish the story before posting, so I can easily work out the cut points. If the story has a Foreword I will vary its placement between the cover / table of contents page and the first chapter based on how the rest of it breaks up.

typo edit plus last sentence.

richardshagrin

@Ross at Play

I think you're driving yourself crazy for no good reason with this question. I know you're driving many of us there too.

Fortunately, it is a very short drive.

Replies:   Dominions Son
richardshagrin

Dickens and other authors of his era were paid by the word, mostly by newspapers that printed serials, mostly chapter by chapter, of his work. The more words, the more money. Unless the newspapers that published his stories first had an upper limit on the size of a chapter, he didn't worry about it. I suggest it shouldn't bother you either. There are lots of SOL stories with good scores that have dozens and sometimes hundreds of chapters.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

@Ross at Play

I think you're driving yourself crazy for no good reason with this question. I know you're driving many of us there too.



Fortunately, it is a very short drive.


I can show CW around when he gets here. :)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Two points I wish to make in reply to Richard:

1. More words = more money.
That's OK for people actually being paid by the word and explains while they spend twenty-five words giving the fine detail of the placement of each thorn on a rose being offered to someone, and similar type excessive descriptions.

2. Numbers of chapters.
This should depend on the size of the story itself, a longer story should have more chapters than a short story, it's just natural.

..........................

A word on the detail in a description of something.
When I was given Shiloh to finish there was a description of one room where Mike used over 1,000 words to describe the room and the furniture. I found it very boring, so I cut it back to about 250 words and ask Mike if he minded me changing the description in that way. I gave him both versions and he agreed my cutback version was better than his original, as when he re-read it he also found the original boringly long.

It's extremely hard to find the line between sufficient detail for the job on hand and overlong crap.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

There are lots of SOL stories with good scores that have dozens and sometimes hundreds of chapters.

That said, not every 50+ chapter "serial" is akin to "Days of Our Lives" (DOOL), as most have a very definite story arch, and feature a central conflict which, presumably, will eventually be resolved. Instead of just 'being a jumble of misc. conflicts', probably the main complaint about these stories are that the various mini-threads are never evaluated and purged to clean up the mess, and thus much of it essentially regurgitates over and over. However, that's something a decent (very dedicated editor could help with, once the author finally finishes the damn thing!

Again, that seems to be the main argument against the long-running serial (40+ chapters) and those of us who prefer to write a very focused story, complete it and then clean it up in order to cut through the irrelevant details. But, you've gotta admit, the fans of those long serials don't seem to mind the mini-plots which never seem to go anywhere. In which case, the authors are merely 'playing to their base' by giving them what they want.

Once again, the DOOL analogy doesn't normally hold up. Though, in general, you and I agree on this issue, that these long-running series aren't a problem for readers, so it's really not a major concern for the authors (except in rare circumstances where they have problems in other areas).

Remus2
Updated:

If it fits the story, chapter length is secondary to me. If chapter length interrupts the story flow, then it becomes a primary concern to me. YMMV

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Fortunately, it is a very short drive.

I can show CW around when he gets here.

I think there's a LOT of company here, so we're unlikely to get lonely.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer



I think there's a LOT of company here, so we're unlikely to get lonely.


True, but the fights over who is the current president are a real hoot.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

the fights over who is the current president are a real hoot.

But we all acknowledge you are the King. :-)

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

2. Numbers of chapters.
This should depend on the size of the story itself, a longer story should have more chapters than a short story, it's just natural.

Though, despite it NOT apparently a problem for their readers, I think we can all agree that those long running serials would be much better if they were trimmed to the story basics, as then the authors could clean up the rambling and pointless stray threads. Unfortunately, because most are SO long, it's unlikely they'll ever invest the time cleaning the story up.

In other words, readers don't seem to mind getting 'more of the same', but it affects the quality of the story, regardless of how strong and popular the story is. But again, it's not an unreasonable goal for new authors (assuming they never plan on writing another story ever again!) 'D

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

While discussing the 50 plus chapter stories an effort should be made to differentiate between the serials and the epic length stories. Also, the story size and number of chapters may not compare well, as shown below.

The serials tend to be written and posted as they go while the epics tend to be written and then posted after completion. This isn't always true, but it's so for the majority of them in each category. Then you also get the oddities where Shiloh was started as a serial, but when it was given to me to finish I completed it before re-posting the start and posting the rest of the competed story in my usual manner.

The size to chapter comparison which will vary on where the author cuts the story up. My five largest stories on SoL are (in order):

Shiloh - 1479 MB - 271,500 words - 45 SoL chapters - 45 chapters / sub-chapters in the book

Finding Home - 1458 MB - 277,500 words - 37 SoL chapters - 125 chapters / sub-chapters in the book

Power Tool - 1418 MB - 268,100 words - 5 SoL chapters - 99 chapters / sub-chapters in the book

Mack - 673 MB - 126,200 words - 15 chapters - 70 SoL chapters / sub-chapters in the book

Ed's New Life - 618 MB - 114,900 words - 15 SoL chapters - 130 chapters / sub-chapters in the book

Please note the discrepancies between the word counts and the on SoL story size as well as the discrepancy in the chapter counts. Naturally some of the chapters have multiple pages for them, especially Power Tool.

The number of chapters as posted on SoL is due to decisions on how to post them at the time they were originally posted while the number of chapters in the books is based on the events within the chapters / sub-chapters.

Replies:   Keet
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

(assuming they never plan on writing another story ever again!) 'D


in which case the rambling never ending serial keeps them harmlessly employed and out of the way.

Such stories are also a major part of why i wait for the story to finish before I read it. I don't have to worry about these ones.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Essentially the same scene, with most of the same words, is almost half the length as an action scene, and nearly double that with a more relaxed pacing.

I am in complete agreement with you on the principle that action scenes should be shorter.

I'm paraphrasing here, feel free to clarify if needs be, but you have identified two techniques to produce a faster pace for action scenes:
* less descriptive details
* focusing on advancing the plot rather than development of the characters

I can think of other techniques which could, or should, be employed to produce a faster pace for action scenes:
* choosing $1-words in preference to $10-words more often
* more sentences with only one clause instead of those with multiple clauses joined with conjunctions or formed into lists
* more clauses with the standard order; subject, verb, object(s), and adverbial phrase(s); rather than disjointed sentences with introductory phrases and/or parenthetic asides
* seeking the most succinct form of sentences compared to a more relaxed approach to a 'Minimalist' style of writing.

I wonder? Did Hemingway try to write every scene in the Hemingway style, or did he seek something closer to the norm for selected scenes? As AJ noted, the machinegun style can become exhausting if it never relents.

Keet
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

The number of chapters as posted on SoL is due to decisions on how to post them at the time they were originally posted while the number of chapters in the books is based on the events within the chapters / sub-chapters.

That is one of the very few 'flaws' I found on SOL. Well, it's not really a flaw but a naming discrepancy where each story post is automatically seen as a chapter. I think in many cases that was not what the author intended in the first place but many authors have masterly adapted their chapter length to this 'style'. Perhaps it would have been better if each post was called what it is: a post, an x number of pages. Then the author can decide by using h tags and chapter names where a 'real' (sub-)chapter starts. I do realize that would generate a weird looking index with "pages" instead of chapters.

Ernest Bywater

@Keet



That is one of the very few 'flaws' I found on SOL.


I don't see it as a flaw, so much as a terminology choice. In some of my books I've chapters that are only a few hundred words, because that's all that chapter needs to tell what needs to be told in that chapter. I see it as silly to make that a single post of it's own. That's why I split the stories up into segments the way I do. That way I give the reader a decent slice of story to read in each post. However, I place a Table of contents that lists my book chapters and sub-chapters within their SoL posting Parts so they can relate the two. Over the many years I've been doing this I've not had anyone complain about it, and I've had many compliment me on doing it to allow them to correlate them.

The only complaints I've had about posting at Sol have been on writing style with one exception. In the story Power Tool the story breaks up into 4 weeks of story with each week posted as a SoL Chapter, but each one is so large it means the SoL chapters run from 5 to 9 pages each. I've had a few people complain about how big each SoL chapter was.

Replies:   Keet  Switch Blayde
Keet

@Ernest Bywater

I don't see it as a flaw, so much as a terminology choice.

Well the next line in my comment was:

Well, it's not really a flaw but a naming discrepancy ...


;)

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Lazeez:

My: what keet and I think is desirable

SCRAP EVERYTHING I SAID ABOVE!

After looking at the index of EB's Power Tool, my advice is to contact the webmaster to anyone who cannot figure out how to both make weekly posts of the size they desire and get the eventual layout of index for a story exactly as they want it.

Keet

To Lazeez: Please send me an internal message if you read this thread and cannot figure out what keet and I think is desirable. I'd be happy to describe that to you if asked. I'd rather not promote here any further discussion about the desirability of something you already know is an unproductive use of your efforts.

Although it is desirable I can tell you as a current professional programmer that it would be a hell to get done, I don't think it's possible without a new database design and reformatting current stories (something that would be impossible without the authors input).
One sneaky thing that might be possible for new stories is to reformat the story after it is completed if the author used tags for identifying where 'real' chapters should start. Still a hell of a job since it requires retrieving the stored story, delete it from the database and storing it again with the correct chapters, most likely with multiple pages.
I don't think Lazeez would like to take on that size of a project. So, it's not a feature request but just a remark in connection with the discussion about chapter length and posting. Come to think of it, it would be a fun project but I'm sure Lazeez has many other priorities.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Keet


One sneaky thing that might be possible for new stories is to reformat the story after it is completed if the author used tags for identifying where 'real' chapters should start.


I'm not sure, but I think I'm the clear winner of the Lazeez 'I wish he wouldn't do that so often' award for re-posting stories because every time someone reports an error, or I change my style to be smoother flowing, I revise and re-post the relevant chapter/s or story. It's very simple to do. In the text you mark where you want the new SoL posting chapter to start by having a single line that says:

Chapter XX

or

Chapter XX - Chapter Title

where XX is the chapter number.

Then you submit the file, and it will automatically find those break points. There's a good instruction sheets on how to prepare the file as either tagged text or html for submission. I now submit html files and they usually go through the wizard well.

Of all the stories at Sol Only Ed's New Life and Power Tool have not yet been re-posted with a corrected and revised version, I'm slowly working on them. I also wish to revise Rob Remembers, New Slaves, Debt Collection, Finding Home, Breeder Ships, and the Clan Amir series in the near future. Everything else has been revised and resubmitted since Nov 2017. In the past week I've updated and re-submited Modern Day Witch Hunt as well. So if you find Lazeez is too busy, it's probably because I've kept him busy and he's swearing up a storm about a certain author who's a picky perfectionist.

typo edit, again.

Replies:   Keet  Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Keet

So, it's not a feature request but just a remark

Seriously, Lazeez does not object to receiving feature requests, even vague thoughts about something that might be done better and how that might be possible.

I've sent sent him a LOT in my time here and he always sends me a sensible answer.

He's answered almost all my ideas with explanations of what already exists to provide an adequate solution for the problem I see. I can you tell it battered my ego about a bit ... trying to find something to suggest which had not already been done in some way became a matter of pride for me.

Finally, I had a success. His answer to my latest suggestion was the NEXT release of the internal messaging system will provide the facility I had requested! :-)

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Ernest Bywater

I'm not sure, but I think I'm the clear winner of the Lazeez 'I wish he wouldn't do that so often' award for re-posting stories because every time someone reports an error, or I change my style to be smoother flowing, I revise and re-post the relevant chapter/s or story.

You're also the clear winner in most consistent and structured chapter formatting ;)
Seeing that it is apparently quite simple to resubmit a story structured with 'real' chapters I must wonder why not more authors do this. It clearly enhances the presentation of the story and thus should enhance the appeal to readers.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Keet

@Ross at Play

Seriously, Lazeez does not object to receiving feature requests, even vague thoughts about something that doesn't feel right and what might be possible.

I've sent sent him a LOT in my time here and he always sends me a sensible answer.

Oh I know that. It still dazzles me how fast he responds to any message or request.
The point is mood though since I read Ernest's response. I really should have known seeing as how 'creative' some authors thought out their chapter structures and the system just accepts it ;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Keet

I must wonder why not more authors do this.

An old joke comes to mind: You can lead a whore to literature but you can't make her think!

... with my apologies to any female authors here.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Ross at Play

An old joke comes to mind: You can lead a whore to literature but you can't make her think!

I must say I was thinking of the more serious authors but you gave it quite a different twist ;)

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

So, of course, I had to ask. What chapter lengths do you prefer? And of course, since I'm asking on SOL, does it matter whether you're reading a chapter at a time online, or reading a printed book cover-to-cover?


I was recently reading a dead-tree novel by one of my favourite authors. It was late at night and I was feeling tired so I decided to stop at the end of the chapter. After several more pages I still hadn't reached the end of the chapter so I scanned ahead - it was some 30 pages away! Actually, the chapters were so long I'd call them sections instead, and the entire novel only had four or five of them, unnamed and without a TOC.

I'd rather put up with short chapters than suffer gargantuan behemoths like that.

I have no problem with short chapters on SOL either, although I prefer a chapter to occupy most of a SOL page. On the other hand, when I've posted short chapters I've received criticism, presumably from the sixteen-a-day members.

AJ

Replies:   Keet  Crumbly Writer
Keet

@awnlee jawking

presumably from the sixteen-a-day members.

I presume that the 'sixteen-a-day members' are the most likely readers to wait for a story to complete or at least for multiple chapters so they can download/read multiple chapter with just a single tick on the counter.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde

@Keet

That is one of the very few 'flaws' I found on SOL. Well, it's not really a flaw but a naming discrepancy where each story post is automatically seen as a chapter.


I don't see it as an SOL flaw. Authors post chapters to SOL. If the author manipulates the system by posting things that aren't chapters, that's not a flaw in SOL.

I write chapters when I write a story. I post chapters. If a chapter is too short to post, I post the next chapter along with it at the same time.

Replies:   PotomacBob
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

That is one of the very few 'flaws' I found on SOL. Well, it's not really a flaw but a naming discrepancy where each story post is automatically seen as a chapter. I think in many cases that was not what the author intended in the first place but many authors have masterly adapted their chapter length to this 'style'.

Unlike Ernest, who frequently mangles his chapters into distinct SOL-sized posts (combining chapters, or moving portions to fit a pre-determined size), I put a LOT of thought into my chapters, with each one having it's own conflict, build-up and resolution, dealing with it's own issues, so I only post complete chapters as they are. I also don't chop off text or rewrite passages if a few lines are 'orphaned' on a new page. The story is what it is, and if I could have easily rephrased the individual sentences without losing something, I would have.

Now, if I have a couple extremely short chapters (under 1,000 to 3,000 words) I will post multiple chapters, but I like keeping the story 'as is', rather than 'managing it' for SOL fans.

Short chapters are short for a reason. If you combine the fast action scene with the longer 'after-action review', it largely defeats the purpose, as the one gets the reader excited, and the other lets them down. Combining them let's them off too soon. They need a bathroom break, such as many take between chapters in a printed book, before they switch storytelling modes in order to properly process the events in the chapter.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

In some of my books I've chapters that are only a few hundred words, because that's all that chapter needs to tell what needs to be told in that chapter.


Sometimes I handle that with a scene change within the same chapter. In a printed book, a blank line between paragraphs. In an ebook or SOL, something like * * * * with a blank line before and after it.

In "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown does that. He has his regular-size chapter, and at the end of it he has one or two short scenes from other characters' POVs. I did that at the end of the first chapter in my novel "Sexual Awakening."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

One sneaky thing that might be possible for new stories is to reformat the story after it is completed if the author used tags for identifying where 'real' chapters should start. Still a hell of a job since it requires retrieving the stored story, delete it from the database and storing it again with the correct chapters, most likely with multiple pages.

Once again, it's easier on everyone if, rather than merging chapters in odd ways which requires you to color code the chapters to make sense of how it was joined, authors should simply post multiple chapters if they feel any single chapter is too short.

Clicking from one page to a new chapter is generally enough of a break for readers to start fresh on the following chapter, without carrying over the same emotional expectations to the new one.

But 'finagling' chapters in order to 'satisfy assumed online readers expectations is essentially sacrificing your story's integrity on the alter of 'giving readers what they expect', rather than what the story requires.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Then you submit the file, and it will automatically find those break points.

Wait. You change the first line in the chapter (which is what SOL recognizes, rather than searching for "Chapter", and just submit it without specifying the chapter number when you post, assuming the Admins will figure out where it goes on their own?

Have you ever posted to SOL before, or are you still posting as you did back in 1980?

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

The point is mood though since I read Ernest's response.

My posts are all 'mood', as they often invoke such diverse moods as shock, outrage, anger and complete denial! 'D

But seriously, the only time I couldn't keep my chapter formatting on SOL is when I decided to be 'clever' with my published books, and add both text and graphics to my section breaks (so a section title, heralding a direction change in the next several chapters, rather than just being a blank page with a title, will actually have some content so it's not just another page to turn.

Only, SOL only processes section breaks (" { p }" SOL commands as added lines to the Index, offering NO options for treating them as 'mini-chapters'.

Now that I'm doing the same thing with epigraphs for each chapter, I get around the SOL limitation by combining the section break and the next chapter by flagging the section break and it's epigraph at the start of the subsequent chapter.

It's a kludge, but I hope readers can figure out which epigraph goes where. But it makes me feel like I'm 'finagling' chapters sizes to fit 'SOL' the same way that Ernest often does.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

On the other hand, when I've posted short chapters I've received criticism, presumably from the sixteen-a-day members.

Yeah, the 16-page download limit for 'free' members is a consideration when posting which screws up most of my 'a chapter is a chapter' ideals. Some of my chapters have very short sizes, but then, I don't post every day either.

awnlee jawking

@Keet

I believe the temptation for many/most readers is to read new work as soon as possible, as exploited by authors who monetarise their stories via Patreon or publish them as an e-book before releasing them on SOL.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

exploited

exploited?

Surely you can find a more suitable word than that!

Ernest Bywater

Unlike what some people think, I write the story with whole chapters and sub-chapters. However, I usually give them titles and not numbers. To make the different types of chapters easier to identify in the e-pub, print, and html forms I format the text of the chapters and sub-chapters differently by using italics and colors. Once the story is written I look at breaking the story into appropriate sized chunks to post at SoL. I do this by matching the break at the end of a chapter or sub-chapter to have the right size number of words in the part I'm posting. Then I place the accepted code recognized by the SoL Submission Wizard at the top of the segment.

Now, the SoL Wizard recognized code comes in two styles, one is the tagged text partition command of { p } followed by the chapter number or title, while the other is having a line start with the word Chapter. With both systems the SoL Wizard will see that line as the chapter title, regardless of what's there because it's programmed to use the word Chapter as a keyword as well as to use the partition command as a key command. You can confirm this with Lazeez if you don't believe me. Thus the following two lines would be treated the same way by the wizard:

{ p } Chapter xx

Chapter xx

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

You're asking one question about writing with several differences. With the same sequence of words, you can have a totally different set of chapters.

So, short chapters are a problem on SOL. Short stories are an even greater problem. I've been told flat-out that a reader won't read any of my short stories because h e knows that they are formulaic. And, since he doesn't read them, he will never know any different.

Ross at Play

I would like the limit of sixteen pages per day changed to the number of Kb of, say, 80% of the maximum size of sixteen pages.

That would eliminate the reluctance of many readers to "waste" a download on a short story. It would also reduce the temptation for authors to compromise their stories, e.g. make choices where to place chapter breaks, simply to give readers enough value in words for each download.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Ross at Play

That would eliminate the reluctance of many readers to "waste" a download on a short story. It would also reduce the temptation for authors to compromise their stories, e.g. make choices where to place chapter breaks, simply to give readers enough value in words for each download.

I'm not sure that will help very much. First there seems to be a general preference for longer stories which is unrelated to the 16-story limit. I am one of them.
I think there is a great difference between relatively new readers and old hats that cannot afford a premium membership. New readers want to explore what the site has to offer and then the 16 story limit is reached fast. The readers that cannot afford a membership get very inventive in using the limit to the maximum to still be able to read what the want.
What could work is giving new registrations a higher limit in the first month/week and then switch back to 16 stories a day. That way new readers can explore and get a feel for the site. The risk is that someone registers a new account once a month to keep having the expanded limit. I read from a single account and I don't know if the ip address is checked but I bet that even now some readers read from multiple accounts to double or triple their limit.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Keet

I don't know if the ip address is checked


I made a suggestion to Lazeez a while back about checking the IP address of the person who initiated the message. He informed me that he doesn't get that person's IP address in the header of the messages he receives.

Replies:   Keet
Keet
Updated:

@REP

I made a suggestion to Lazeez a while back about checking the IP address of the person who initiated the message. He informed me that he doesn't get that person's IP address in the header of the messages he receives.

For messages I can understand that but when a user logs into to website there are ways to get the IP address. Not easy, and its not always accurate, but there are ways. Of course that doesn't work if a user connects through a VPN service.

edit: what to think about the website WhatIsMyIP.com? They can state your IP so it is possible.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Keet

but when a user logs into to website


You log in by sending a message.

Yes there probably are ways to get an IP address. They are also probably too time consuming to use on every log on request to determine if a user is using multiple log on IDs.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@REP

You log in by sending a message.

Yes there probably are ways to get an IP address. They are also probably too time consuming to use on every log on request to determine if a user is using multiple log on IDs.

Ok, I misinterpreted what you meant with 'message'. And I agree that it probably isn't worth the effort and still not get a consistently accurate address.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

For messages I can understand that but when a user logs into to website there are ways to get the IP address. Not easy, and its not always accurate, but there are ways. Of course that doesn't work if a user connects through a VPN service.

Given the sites origins as a quasi-'Sex stories' site, Lazeez decided early on to not collect user's personal detail, so users wouldn't worry about his selling their personal kinks to whatever advertisers might want to captialize on it. There was also the question of a court order forcing him to turn over readers' private reading lists.

The lack of tracking facilities are a feature of the site, and has allowed readers to trust the site (the same as his not allowing 'outside links', so reader's won't 'distrust' clicking on story links.

Changing that now might very well undermine the site's stability, for very little in exchange.

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

Ok, I misinterpreted what you meant with 'message'. And I agree that it probably isn't worth the effort and still not get a consistently accurate address.

Many sites, given the contentious fights which frequently erupt in their 'comments' sections, have taken to requiring users to sign in with their REAL names (i.e. requiring proof of ID), but again, that flies in the face of SOL's 'your reading secrets are safe here' philosophy.

LinkedIn is a good example of that, Amazon is a HORRENDOUS example of a repeatedly failed attempt at it. While they allowed it to flourish, the LinkedIn Author forums were wonderful, in that you could ask anything, and you'd always get a polite response, since everyone on the site knew that their potential future employees might see their nasty forum fights. However, they curtailed their Forum options, and most of the members fled the site a LONG time ago. It's never been the same since.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

A moral question - do authors, who make their stories available on SOL, have any duty to ensure the readers get 'value for money' by providing long chapters? Personally I think not. I've experimented a little, but I think that doing what's best for the story is more important than worrying about a handful of unhappy free readers. Of course, if authors want to go to Ernestine lengths to ensure consistency of posting lengths, that's entirely up to them.

I don't advocate changing the 16-a-day system for free readers. The more tinkering there is, the more opaque the system, and the greater the development and maintenance overhead for management. I'm unaware of any examples where complexity and opacity have improved overall satisfaction, although I'm aware of plenty where the opposite is true (eg the UK's tax regime, probably the most convoluted and incomprehensible in the world.)

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

A moral question - do authors, who make their stories available on SOL, have any duty to ensure the readers get 'value for money' by providing long chapters?


No they don't, but it's a personal decision each author makes. I decided on one, and others decide on another.

The only time I think posting a chapter is wrong is when someone is in one of those 'post a chapter on a set cycle as they write it' then they throw together some small amount of crap just to meet the cycle despite hot having any of the story ready for posting. It doesn't happen all that often, but often enough to be a problem.

StarFleetCarl

@Crumbly Writer

What chapter lengths do you prefer? And of course, since I'm asking on SOL, does it matter whether you're reading a chapter at a time online, or reading a printed book cover-to-cover?


I've seen James Patterson novels with only 2 or 3 page length chapters. There's a very long work on SOL that also has what I consider to be short chapters that's I'm currently reading for the first time - but that's perfect, because I can pull it up on my phone when I only have a few minutes, read a chapter, and then put it away for later.

Of course, I've read many a dead tree novel with more than 70-90 pages per chapter. That works for them as you can easily put a book down with a bookmark and pick it back up again later. It's a bit tougher with the computer to do that. As for what I write, just looking at my own published and in progress works, I tend to average about 6,500 or so words per chapter. At least what and the way I'm writing right now, that seems to be when the appropriate chapter breaks show up. That could change in the future, obviously, depending upon the story.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

A moral question - do authors, who make their stories available on SOL, have any duty to ensure the readers get 'value for money' by providing long chapters?

AFAIK, there's nothing stopping an author making an SOL post with the title 'Chapters 4-6' to fill up most of one SOL download page.

That might be a caring option which would please some readers while not disturbing others.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


the story is more important than worrying about a handful of unhappy free readers.


*pressing the like button*

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Keet

@awnlee jawking

but I think that doing what's best for the story is more important than worrying about a handful of unhappy free readers.

In the end the readers should be happier because it results in a better story.

PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

If a chapter is too short to post


Is that a limit by the system or a self-imposed limit? I saw a chapter in one story that was only a couple of paragraphs long.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

If a chapter is too short to post


You took that out of context. What I said was:

If a chapter is too short to post, I post the next chapter along with it at the same time.


meaning I'll post multiple chapters at the same time.

Replies:   PotomacBob
PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

I knew what you said and repeating what you said doesn't answer the question I asked. Rephrasing and repeating, if a chapter is too short to post, what makes it too short? Personal preference or some limit from the system?

Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

Rephrasing and repeating, if a chapter is too short to post, what makes it too short? Personal preference or some limit from the system?


The decision is the author's with the exception of the first post as the story posting rules state:

An author's first effort for posting on the site must be at least 750 words.

After that's up there are no site minimum size limits that I can find, beyond zero words making a null post.

Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

if a chapter is too short to post, what makes it too short?


There's no technical reason. I just feel the reader deserves more than a tiny chapter so I post another at the same time.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

In "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown does that. He has his regular-size chapter, and at the end of it he has one or two short scenes from other characters' POVs. I did that at the end of the first chapter in my novel "Sexual Awakening."

Did that technique work? Generally, I'd serve up a new POV as an entirely new chapter, rather than cramming the two together just to save an extra page break. Again, it's easier for readers to process if they've separated, and there's a substantial pause for them to process the POV change. I tend to save section breaks for scene, time or location changes.

If your differing POV only takes a 'short segment', it's probably not worth including at all, as there are other means of conveying the information rather than the 'unsatisfying' short interlude. But I'm interested in whether you think it was a successful strategy, improving the book, or just a 'quick fix' to get you past a temporary difficulty.

Again, I like knowing which literary techniques work, rather than simply sticking to what I'm comfortable with. If something else works well, I'm willing to try it. But only if it helps the overall story.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

the story is more important than worrying about a handful of unhappy free readers.

@Keet

In the end the readers should be happier because it results in a better story.

What I dislike about Ernest's approach, is he feels it's better manipulating the story for SOL readers, rather than letting the chapter speak for itself. Again, that's more reader manipulation than honesty in a story, so I mainly object on moral grounds, as I feel the author is being dishonest with both the reader and the author, even IF he explains the original structure. Essentially, telling him how the original story played out is telling them something once it no longer matters, which again reeks of dishonesty with the reader.

But, if it works for you, and readers are happy with it, I won't complain, but I'd never try that approach. Either the story works as written, or you rewrite the entire chapter/story, you don't manipulate it on the fly. :(

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

There's no technical reason. I just feel the reader deserves more than a tiny chapter so I post another at the same time.

That's my approach too. If I have a short chapter which I thing readers will feel disappointed in (because it was over too soon for their bi-weekly fix), I'll throw in the next chapter. I feel the time required to advance a chapter is sufficient for the reader to 'clear' their mind about the previous chapter (i.e. the chapter break is thus more efficient than a section break, which isn't long enough for the scene/tempo change to completely sink in.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

What I dislike about Ernest's approach, is he feels it's better manipulating the story for SOL readers, rather than letting the chapter speak for itself.


CW, I think you totally misunderstand what I do.

1. I write the story where each chapter or sub-chapter is decided by what is in it.

2. When the story is finished I post it at Lulu as an e-pub and a PDF for the print book version.

3. I create a html version of the story with a CSS.

4. I go through the html version and find where an existing story chapter or sub-chapter break is to allow me to slice the file into chucks of around 8,000 words each and then post those chunks to SoL as a post of it's own so each of the SoL chapters or posting parts is of what I regard as a suitable size.

In no way do I manipulate the story to fit SoL, what I do is select where to break what I'm posting to SoL for each day so the story isn't posted in one lump. I don't change the story, I simply provide slices of a suitable reading size with the slice made at an existing break in the story.

I could post each chapter or sub-chapter as a single post, but I don't want to go about all of the work to upload that many entries into the submission wizard. Using that method Finding Home would have required 125 posts over 250 days instead of the 37 posts over 74 days I actually posted.

I post the story structure because I have a Table of Contents at the start of each book due to it being the normal process.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Keet
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

A moral question - do authors, who make their stories available on SOL, have any duty to ensure the readers get 'value for money' by providing long chapters? Personally I think not. I've experimented a little, but I think that doing what's best for the story is more important than worrying about a handful of unhappy free readers.

We actually agree for a change.

Of course, if authors want to go to Ernestine lengths to ensure consistency of posting lengths, that's entirely up to them.

Unfortunately, that's where the agreement ends, as I view Ernest's 'manipulation' of his own story reviews a lack of confidence in his story to 'speak for itself'. He's playing games, rather than allowing the story to speak for itself. A 'confident' author shouldn't need to play games with it. Either the story works, or it doesn't. Beyond that, nothing else matters.

For me, I end chapters so readers have time to process the events in the chapter. Combining them ruins that effect, jumbling the different story elements meaning they can't process the differing emotions. Thus, I plan when I break my chapters, and it's not an arbitrary decision!

But then, I also disagree with Ernest's rewriting chapter endings so they'll fit correctly on a printed page. That too, seems like he's playing games and ultimately, was never confident in his original choice. Again, it's 'making the break' pretty rather than making the entire story better, thus it's an utterly empty and dishonest effort to please the reader with clever tricks.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

If your differing POV only takes a 'short segment', it's probably not worth including at all, as there are other means of conveying the information rather than the 'unsatisfying' short interlude.


The last scene in the chapter is only 566 words. But it's critical. It belongs there.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I also disagree with Ernest's rewriting chapter endings


which is something I never do for a story to publish it. While I'm still writing the story I will adjust word choice and word order to avoid widows and orphans in the final print version, but that's done writing the writing and editing stage because I write with a format for the print book.

When I slice the story for Sol, I look at where the chapter and sub-chapter ends are and aim for around 8,000 words but will vary between 4,000 and 10,000 words to ensure I get a natural chapter / sub-chapter end break as the end of the post. Although I have once posted over 12,000 words to ensure I got the whole chapter in the post.

I see making the point at the end of the chapter as the same as putting in the bookmark and putting the book down and the end of a chapter.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In no way do I manipulate the story to fit SoL, what I do is select where to break what I'm posting to SoL for each day so the story isn't posted in one lump. I don't change the story, I simply provide slices of a suitable reading size with the slice made at an existing break in the story.

To me, that's a meaningless distinction. I break chapters based, not on the subject matter, but to allow readers to properly decompress so they're prepared to start a new chapter fresh. Playing games, however you describe it, doesn't improve the story or please readers. If readers like 8,000 word chunks, then they've not really interested in the content, only in chapter sizes.

Once again, my chapter breaks are not arbitrary. I choose them for very specific reasons, and to achieve a particular effect. 'Repackaging' the story to please online readers vs. print readers is, essentially, dishonest and only shows a lack of confidence.

If your chapters are SO long they don't FIT on a single page, then you should consider writing shorter friggin' chapters!

But again, my objection is personal. You're free to do whatever you want, but I'd NEVER play the games with readers that you do. I respect both my story and my readers, and don't feel I need to play games with both to 'satisfy' reader demands.

But then, just as I explain to Awnlee, my system works well because I typically restrict my stories to a certain amount of chapters. I don't try to pack as many chapters into a single story as many authors here do. So my 'moral objections' may not work on a much larger story.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

The last scene in the chapter is only 566 words. But it's critical. It belongs there.

Again, it may be critical, but I'd find it unsatisfying, as it's difficult to wrap my mind around a perspective change, as I need to reorient my thinking before switching character POVs. If a segment that short is essential, I'd spend longer finding a alternate way of including it rather than combining the two separate POV segments in the story chapter.

But then, for me the chapters breaks are to give the authors time to process the chapter contents, rather than purely arbitrary breaks which can be shuffled without affecting the story. In the end, I want my reader to start the new chapter with their minds clear and not have them having to juggle different emotions in the two separate chapters. I generally find a chapter break a 'satisfying' time delay, whether online or in print, thus I'm troubled by when you and Ernest rush the emotional impact as if the story emotions are utterly meaningless.

I'm NOT saying that you're wrong, only that I'd NEVER take that approach myself, as it seems, based on my perspective, to be cheating the reader. Again, I'm completely confident in my chapter breaks, and I don't have to 'play games' to either please readers or slip in a few additional details.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

When I slice the story for Sol, I look at where the chapter and sub-chapter ends are and aim for around 8,000 words but will vary between 4,000 and 10,000 words to ensure I get a natural chapter / sub-chapter end break as the end of the post. Although I have once posted over 12,000 words to ensure I got the whole chapter in the post.

I see making the point at the end of the chapter as the same as putting in the bookmark and putting the book down and the end of a chapter.

I guess the difference between us is your chapter lengths. Again, to 'satisfy' SOL authors, it seems like you're padding the story, while I've decided, after playing around with LONG chapters and short chapters, that overly long chapters (over 9,000 words) are essentially a waste of time. It's difficult to keep a reader's attention consistently for long a time, so I avoid including that much non-essential detail just to please arbetrary readers. Either the chapter works as it is or it doesn't. I'm satisfied that my shorter chapters (avg. 3,000 to 9,000) are strong enough to stand on their own, rather than trying for 'satisfying, 'overly long' chapter lengths. Again, I see it more as reader manipulation, or manipulating the story for select readers, than your willing to depend on your natural chapter breaks.

but again, that rests on my typical chapter lengths. I gave up on 14,000 words chapters years ago, and have never tried going there since. Once again, I wrote chapters long when they contained mostly unnecessary details, so the added size didn't help the story, it just saved me the effort of organizing my thoughts. So the effects for you are likely different than they are for me.

You're free to keep on with what you're doing, but I'd never play games in order to 'satisfy' the occasional reader who dislikes short chapters. Again, that seems as if you're NOT confident in your chapter breaks. In short, I avoid that conflict by avoiding the overly long chapters entirely, rather than having to play games. Two different approaches. I just disagree with applying your techniques to my own stories.

Replies:   Keet
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

To me, that's a meaningless distinction. I break chapters based, not on the subject matter, but to allow readers to properly decompress so they're prepared to start a new chapter fresh. Playing games, however you describe it, doesn't improve the story or please readers. If readers like 8,000 word chunks, then they've not really interested in the content, only in chapter sizes.


CW, I see you still don't understand the process.

When I write the length and size of the chapter is decided solely on the content of the chapter and what's happening in it. End of story, no ifs no buts. That does not change when I post the story to SoL.

When I've a finished story I usually have something in the 50,000 word plus range, I choose not to post it all at once. That means I have to make a decision as to how much will be posted to SoL in one go. I could decide to post every individual chapter by itself, or I can choose something else. I chose the something else.

I regard 8,000 words a reasonable read for a single sitting, so I take that as a benchmark target. I then start at the start of the story and I see where that point is in relationship to the existing chapter ends. If that point is in the middle of a short chapter I back up to the end of the previous chapter or I extend it to the end of the chapter, based on how big the chapter is. At no point do I adjust the chapter length or change the wording in the chapter.

A simple way of looking at it is I decide on how many chapters to post at the one time by adding them together to get close to my target instead of posting each chapter as a single chapter. I don't pad the story, nor do I cut it. Because I do not want to post every single chapter by itself I choose how many to post together based on the total word count of a number of chapters together.

As I said in my first post - a chapter should be as long as it takes to tell what it is you're telling in that chapter, be it one scene or a hundred scenes. Each chapter delivers its own part of the story. Thus I never try to write a chapter to a set word count at all, I go by the content of the chapter. Some are told in only a few hundred words, and some take several thousand words - it all depends on what's happening in the chapter. Thus I've no typical chapter length at all, only a typical posting part size to SoL which includes multiple chapters of the story.

Let me reiterate - I do not pander to the readers, nor do I pad the story at any point.

To me, the story is like a multiple toppings pizza pie with all of the chapters as toppings marked on it with clear dividers in places (think of a half and half pizza but bigger with more part pizza topping areas), and I simply decide if I'm slicing it into 6 slices or 8 slices based on where the existing divisions are so some people end up with two toppings on their slice and some end up with 3 topping segments and some end up with four topping segments. The pie isn't changed, just the number of slices it's in.

As to writing chapters to a set word count size, I'd find that extremely restricting as I'd see it as needing to pad shorter event chapters and to cut larger event chapters. To me, it's better to let the events in the chapter decide how long the chapter is.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

it's difficult to wrap my mind around a perspective change, as I need to reorient my thinking before switching character POVs.


I don't understand that. The new scene begins with:

While Elizabeth struggled with her predicament in the porn theater, Pastor Milford Hathaway fretted in his wood paneled church office.


The previous scene was from Elizabeth's POV. Why would it be difficult for the reader to reorient their thinking to the pastor's POV?

The critical part of the scene is the letter the pastor is reading:

I know who you are. I know where you live.
You will pay for what you did.
Keep looking over your shoulder, you motherfucker.
I've waited 15 years. Revenge will be mine.
You don't have much longer to live!


Super critical.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

The critical part of the scene is the letter the pastor is reading

A question about plausibility ... Sending any letter like that is a serious criminal offence in real life. I cannot imagine someone writing, "I've waited 15 years." I expect most would write, "I've waited a long time," to avoid giving police information that may identify them.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

When I've a finished story I usually have something in the 50,000 word plus range, I choose not to post it all at once. That means I have to make a decision as to how much will be posted to SoL in one go. I could decide to post every individual chapter by itself, or I can choose something else. I chose the something else.

I think that's another difference between us, which helps account for your approach. Since you like to post a chapter a day, it can easily become overwhelming, especially talking about the chapter lengths you're describing.

In my case, I'm generally working from a relatively set number of chapters (high teen to mid-twenties), and I only post either once or twice a week, so it's not difficult to schedule the next chapter as each poster posts, thus there IS no rush to post ALL of my chapters at once (and hence no need to combine them).

The other thing we seem to differ on is the point of chapter breaks. I see it as the culmination of the issues in the chapter, and thus I see the actual break as an opportunity for the reader to clear their mind of that chapters events, as the short time it takes to click to the next chapter is generally sufficient for them to process what happened, so they start with next chapter with a clean slate, not expecting the pace to be the same.

That's what I mean by "I plan my chapter breaks. To me, it's getting my reader into the proper mindset for the following chapter, which is why I often end with a comment by the characters about what they're facing in the next.

But I was keying off your comment that you 'change your chapters, but include a note about the original chapter layout in my books, which implies that the chapters are physically different on SOL than they are in your books. If that's not the case, then you can see where I went astray.

As for those orphaned paragraphs, some time ago, following your suggestion, I tried to implement it, but I didn't find it a workable alternative. I had trouble shortening or padding paragraph to achieve a particular page break. Again, paperback page breaks are a completely arbitrary point, and my stories aren't as easily manipulated to fit those arbitrary points. Again, often my last paragraph sets the stage for the next chapter, allowing the reader to prepare themselves. By shortening that lead-in, I'm making it less efficient. Again, my closing paragraphs aren't an arbitrary length which is easily manipulated. I included the words necessary to make my point, and any words which aren't needed get cut during the revision process (in general, I cut during revisions, while my editors pack on additional words). But again, that's just me and how I write, so if your chapters are more easily customized, then more power to you. As I say, go with what works, rather than focusing on procedure. But in my case, my paragraphs set their own lengths, and while I work to cut out any repetitive or unnecessary words, I'm not as able to shorten or expand then based on random page breaks.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


The previous scene was from Elizabeth's POV. Why would it be difficult for the reader to reorient their thinking to the pastor's POV?


Again, we seem to have different perceptions of the meaning of chapter breaks. While we both 'wrap up' the chapters in a similar fashion, I see the breaks as a transition from fast action chapters, to slower reviews and analysis by the characters. You don't want the reader, revved by one chapter, to expect the same in the next, so you ease them into the new chapter by setting their expectations, so they can properly process the events of the past chapter, and then clear their minds as they anticipate the next.

Now, that processing doesn't take a lot of time, and IF the reader needs a little more, that's when readers often take bathroom or drink breaks. But the chapter breaks allows then to transition from the one chapter to the next, and TAKE those breaks if needed.

However, unlike you, I don't see listing names in the first paragraph (of an attached section) as a sufficient transition. It announces a perspective change, but the reader is still focused on the previous character, who's perspective they've immersed themselves in.

Again, I see section and chapter breaks as taking different amounts of time. Section breaks are excellent for continuing the same themes to a new locale, or later in the day, but the reader expectations are the same. In short, they're prepared for the next section. But with a perspective change, a reader needs to not only know someone else is the focus, but they need to change their perspective to match the new character.

But again, that's mainly me and how I choose to tell stories. If your method works for you, more power to you. But I've just found, in my own stories, that I need those short breaks between each to achieve different results. In short, the different breaks serve completely different purposes. One continues the same expectations, holding them over to the next segment, while the other says 'that issue is now done', consider what happened, and when you are ready, here's what the next chapter is going to focus on.

Again, I'm more focused on the reader transition than I am in where the action stops and starts. But again, my styles fit my stories, while you and Ernest's styles fit yours. I'm not saying that either is wrong, just that I have a difficult time getting your styles to work in my stories, for the reasons listed. Once more, we're discussing techniques. I'm not denouncing the technique, just pointing out where the technique
may run into trouble, so other authors can properly evaluate when to use it if they decide to try it.

As I've said: your techniques work for your stories, but that doesn't mean they'll work equally well for other stories. Knowing when they fit is part of evaluating how to apply the techniques.

Just as I'll often sit on a story for months before writing anything, I'll often wait to start a particular chapter until I decide the best way to apply any techniques I'm planning in the chapter, to ensure the transition from one moment to the next is as seamless as possible. I'm guessing I'm more obsessed with those transitions than either of you are, or more likely, my stories fit those smooth transitions better than you rapid breaks and sudden surprises (ex: "Guess what, Pastor, you've got an enemy who wants to kill you!"). In my case, I have just as many plot twists, but I work harder to prepare my readers for those surprises, so that when they come, they're not completely out of the blue, but fit into a particular context so the reader can properly process them.

Thus my criticisms, such as they are, aren't attacks, they're just fodder for other authors to use in evaluating those techniques, pointing our when they work, and when they may fall apart. My objections are more informational, and less directed at either you or Ernest, than anyone else listening to the discussion, as I have no doubt that those techniques works perfectly in your stories. But I've wrestled with those same techniques in my own stories, and I've found I prefer slightly modified versions of them myself.

To each their own, but it's better being aware of potential risks, then charging into minefields unaware of any risks. If you're at least aware of them, you can often circumvent those risks by knowing what to expect.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

A question about plausibility ... Sending any letter like that is a serious criminal offence in real life. I cannot imagine someone writing, "I've waited 15 years." I expect most would write, "I've waited a long time," to avoid giving police information that may identify them.


The story's theme is revenge. How it consumes the person's life and makes them do stuff they wouldn't do. We're not talking rational behavior. We're talking about hate eating up a person until he gets his revenge.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer


The other thing we seem to differ on is the point of chapter breaks. I see it as the culmination of the issues in the chapter,


Actually, CW, I think we agree on this, but just word it differently. When the action happening within the chapter is over, you end the chapter and move onto a new chapter with a new action sequence for that chapter. What the action is will vary with the story. For example, if the story is about life at a restaurant, then the lunch period will be a chapter that ends when the lunch service is over.

As to the widows and orphans, I don't always manage to get a page with no widows orphans, but I do try. I often find changing a single word will have repercussion through the entire paragraph to the point it can add or remove a line. If the justified line has the characters widely spaced and you change the word 'while' for 'as' you often find the re-justification of the line pulls a word back from the next line, thus dropping three characters out of line 01 may see a five or six character word moved from line 02, and by the time this flows down to line 08 the line that was 09 no longer exists. This sort of change of the paragraph look by simple word choice is all I do. If I can't fix it that way, then it can't be fixed and it has to stay. However, none of that affects how the html or e-pub versions look.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

We're not talking rational behavior.

Okay, Switch, that answers my concern about plausibility. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

In my case, the first chapter has 3 scenes. I'm introducing 3 POV characters and the scenes are taking place at the same time. They logically fit together.

I'm reading an article on scenes vs chapters right now that, if I think it's worthy, will post the link here. For now, I'll give you one quote from the article:

In short, scenes are logical decisions; chapters are creative decisions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The article was too structured/academic for me, but I'll provide the link anyway. https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/5-questions-scenes-vs-chapters/#

It does explain something I didn't like about the novel I just read and bad-mouthed. It was a thriller and I guess thriller authors (like James Petersen and this author) have scenes span multiple short chapters for pace. As I said, I found that annoying.

From the article:

So what is the difference between scenes vs. chapters?

Scenes are very specific structural building blocks within your story. Each scene is made up of six distinct parts (see below), all of which are necessary in order for each scene to build into the following one to create a seamless narrative. Scene divisions are non-negotiable.

Chapters, on the other hand, are completely arbitrary divisions within a book. It's true they do impose order upon a novel—and, as a result, a certain sense of structure. But, on the story level, they actually have nothing whatsoever to do with structure.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

The article was too structured/academic for me, but I'll provide the link anyway. https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/5-questions-scenes-vs-chapters/#


Chrome won't let me read the article because it can't provide a secure connection. A proxy server failed because it doesn't support captcha, and Google's cached copy returns 404.

The universe is trying to tell me something :(

AJ

Keet

@Ernest Bywater

I could post each chapter or sub-chapter as a single post, but I don't want to go about all of the work to upload that many entries into the submission wizard. Using that method Finding Home would have required 125 posts over 250 days instead of the 37 posts over 74 days I actually posted.

I think what Crumbly meant is that the story is not divided into 'natural' chapters but in 'SOL' chapters for posting on SOL.
For Finding Home natural chapters would mean (if I counted the red headers right) 42 chapters instead of the 37 on SOL but some would be really short so I get why you separated differently.
An alternative could have been to post 2 chapters if the natural split turned out to be very short chapters. The upside of that approach wold be that a new posting always starts with a natural chapter and not sometimes with a sub-chapter. If you read the complete story that is not a problem but if you have to wait for the next posting to finish the last chapter that might read a little strange. Another plus for that approach would be that the SOL index is identical to the natural chapters.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

that overly long chapters (over 9,000 words) are essentially a waste of time. It's difficult to keep a reader's attention consistently for long a time, so I avoid including that much non-essential detail just to please arbetrary readers. Either the chapter works as it is or it doesn't. I'm satisfied that my shorter chapters (avg. 3,000 to 9,000) are strong enough to stand on their own, rather than trying for 'satisfying, 'overly long' chapter lengths. Again, I see it more as reader manipulation, or manipulating the story for select readers, than your willing to depend on your natural chapter breaks.

What makes you think a reader can't keep up attention longer then a single chapter? Because that is essentially what you are saying. I don't think I have ever read just a single chapter. more likely a read a complete book in one sitting if possible.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Chrome won't let me read the article


Here's the article. I did my best to delete advertisements within the article, like for novels. And I'm not sure the formatting carried over in all cases. But here it is:


7 Questions You Have About Scenes vs. Chapters

Scenes vs. Chapters

A chapter is a chapter and a scene is a scene. Or are they? What's the differences between scenes vs. chapters? Are they ever the same thing? Must a chapter always be a complete scene? Or must a scene always be a chapter? What about scene breaks and chapter breaks? Is there a difference?

These are all questions I receive regularly from writers, and they're all good questions with surprisingly simple answers.

The shortest and simplest answer to all of these questions is: yes, scenes and chapters are different, with very different structural roles to play within your story.

Let's take a look at five important questions about scenes vs. chapters, which will help you better understand and control your narrative.

1. Why Do Authors Have Trouble Differentiating Scenes vs. Chapters?

First of all, let's consider why scenes vs. chapters is even a big question at all.

Mostly, it's because chapters are obvious and scenes aren't. As writers, we all start out as readers, and to readers, the concept of chapters is very obvious, very visual. On its surface, a book seems to be divided into chapters, right? Scenes, then, are just smaller structural integers within the chapters.

But then, when you start learning about scene structure, you realize there's actually a whole lot more to scenes than you thought—and a whole lot less to chapters. Nobody ever talks about "chapter structure" after all.

Turns out it's the comparatively invisible scene that is the far more important structural unit within a story than is the obvious chapter. At first glance, that seems counter-intuitive, and that's what trips writers up in understanding the unequal importance of scenes vs. chapters.

2. What's the Difference Between Scenes vs. Chapters?

So what is the difference between scenes vs. chapters?

Scenes are very specific structural building blocks within your story. Each scene is made up of six distinct parts (see below), all of which are necessary in order for each scene to build into the following one to create a seamless narrative. Scene divisions are non-negotiable.

Chapters, on the other hand, are completely arbitrary divisions within a book. It's true they do impose order upon a novel—and, as a result, a certain sense of structure. But, on the story level, they actually have nothing whatsoever to do with structure.

Chapter divisions are more about pacing than anything else. You might write a book with no chapter divisions (such as Marilynne Robinson's Gilead) or a humongous fantasy novel with only nine chapters (such as Sergei and Marina Dyachenko's The Scar) or one with chapters of only a single sentence (such as the notorious "Rinse" in Stephen King's authorial nightmare Misery).

In short, scenes are logical decisions; chapters are creative decisions.

3.What Must a Good Scene Accomplish?

For the moment, let us consider scenes and chapters separately to understand what each is responsible for accomplishing within your story.

Because scenes are ultimately much more complicated and much more important than chapters, they can be the more difficult of the two for writers to initially get their heads around. I've written extensively about scene structure in this series and in my book Structuring Your Novel, but here's a crash course in good scene structure.

First off, remember scene structure has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with chapter divisions. (More on that in a bit.) The scene is always a complete unit unto itself, regardless how long or short it turns out to be. What's important in designing or identifying a scene is making sure the following six parts are all present.

We start by dividing each scene into two parts: scene (action) and sequel (reaction). We then further divide each of those halves into three more pieces each:

SCENE

1. Goal (the protagonist or POV character sets out to accomplish or gain something).

2. Conflict (en route to his goal, his efforts are blocked by an obstacle of some type).

3. Disaster (the character's attempt to gain his goal is at least partially stymied, forcing him to move forward on the diagonal, instead of rushing straight ahead through the plot).

SEQUEL

4. Reaction (the character must then react, however briefly or lengthily, to the previous disaster—this is where the vast majority of character development will take place).

5. Dilemma (as the result of the disaster, the character is confronted with a new complication or dilemma in his attempt to reach his main story goal).

6. Decision (the character comes to a decision about how best to act, prompting a new goal in the next scene).

And then the cycle endlessly repeats throughout the story.

Each scene is a domino. When set up correctly, scenes create a seamless line of cause and effect that almost effortlessly powers your entire plot.

4. What Must a Good Chapter Accomplish?

Good book chapters have two primary roles:

1. CHAPTERS CONTROL PACING

Chapters create a sense of rhythm within the story. Depending on the length of each chapter, this rhythm will either speed or slow the pacing.

Shorter chapters create faster pacing—which is why thriller authors such as James Patterson often opt for hundreds of chapters, some of which are no longer than a page.

Longer chapters, in turn, slow the pacing. Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series recreates the leisurely, often charmingly indulgent style of early 19th-century literature. One of O'Brian's more obvious techniques in achieving this pacing is his employment of very long chapters, some of which require an hour or more to read.

Shorter chapters are often used in thrillers to achieve faster pacing, while more leisurely books implement longer chapters to slow the pacing.

It's true scene length also plays a role in pacing, but not to nearly the same extent as chapter length. Because chapters are much more obvious to readers (rather like commercial breaks in a TV show), they exercise much more blatant control over the reading experience.

2. CHAPTERS KEEP READERS READING

The second role of the chapter is to create an experience that convinces readers to keep reading. Even to dedicated readers, books are undeniably a large time commitment. There's never any guarantee readers will actually make it through your entire book—which means it falls to you to convince them to keep reading.

Chapters are the key to influencing readers into the proper mindset to continue turning pages. The control chapters exercise over pacing plays a role in this. Even more importantly, however, is the opportunity each chapter ending and beginning offers to hook readers back into the story.

Just as you have to hook readers with the beginning of the book, you have to re-hook them throughout the book. You'll do this through reveals, scene disasters, and plot twists. But you'll also do it twice within every chapter—at the beginning and at the end. Done skillfully enough, you might even convince readers to read straight through without ever putting the book down.

5. Does Every Scene Have to Be a Chapter?

Now that you understand the important differences between scenes vs. chapters, how do you fit the two of them together within the overall scheme of the narrative? Stephen King and James Patterson aside, is it ideal to divide the story into chapters based upon each scene's structure? Should each complete scene be a chapter unto itself?

There is no "right" answer to this. Can a scene be a full chapter? Definitely. Does it have to be? Not at all.

Once again, the defining attributes of a scene have nothing to do with how many chapter breaks break it up. Depending on the needs of your story, the length of your scene, and your goals for the pacing, you may write a scene/sequel that spans multiple chapters.

6. Does Every Chapter Have to Be a Scene?

By the same token, not every chapter has to contain a whole scene. A chapter might contain nothing more than a single thought, as does William Faulkner's one-sentence chapter in As I Lay Dying.

As I Lay Dying Vardaman William Faulkner — "My Mother Is a Fish"

Or it might contain only a single part of a scene's overall structure, such as, say, the character's reaction to a previous disaster.

That said, my personal favorite approach to dividing scenes into chapters is to actually use the chapter break to divide the scene in half. I like to end chapters with the Scene Disaster, since it usually provides an excellent what's-gonna-happen hook to keep readers reading.

This then allows me to open the following chapter with the Sequel Reaction, in which the characters respond to whatever just happened. I finish out that scene's structure, then begin the next scene halfway through the chapter and end with another Scene Disaster.

The pattern I create looks like this:

CHAPTER

Sequel Reaction

Sequel Dilemma

Sequel Decision

[scene break]

Scene Goal

Scene Conflict

Scene Disaster

[chapter break]

This isn't, of course, a hard-and-fast pattern. I'll abandon it wherever necessary (such as when any part of the scene structure grows too long to be contained within the chapter length I've chosen for my story's pacing). But it's a good guideline for creating chapters that harmonize well with your scene structure and are primed to perform their most important job of hooking and re-hooking readers.

7. Are There Different Rules for Scene Breaks vs. Chapter Breaks?

Finally, let's consider the difference between scene breaks and chapter breaks.

A chapter break indicates the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

A scene breaks indicates a shift of some sort within the middle of a chapter.

There are two types of scene breaks: hard and soft.

What Are Hard Scene Breaks?

Hard breaks are used to indicate a distinct shift within the story. This might include:

The beginning of a new structural scene unit.

The characters' moving to a new setting.

A large jump forward in time.

A new POV narrator.

Hard breaks are usually indicated by a centered triplicate of asterisks or a short line in the middle of the page, between the paragraphs that needing splitting.

Hard Scene Break in Storming by K.M. Weiland

In my historical dieselpunk novel Storming, I used a hard scene break here to indicate a change in time and setting as the protagonist Hitch goes to visit his estranged brother.

What are Soft Scene Breaks?

Soft breaks are often as much as pacing trick as anything else. They serve to indicate a much smaller or less distinct shift within the story. This might include:

A minor or inconsequential shift in setting while the main action of the scene continues (e.g., the characters move from an office to the street, where they resume the same conversation).

A minor or inconsequential shift in time (e.g., "After they finished eating…")

Soft breaks are usually indicated by only an extra space between the paragraphs that need splitting.

Soft Scene Break in Storming by K.M. Weiland

I used a soft scene break to skip a small amount of time as my barnstorming pilot protagonist figures out where to land his biplane after his engine dies.

What Are the Rules for Good Scene and Chapter Breaks?

As you can see, scene breaks occur at very specific moments within the story, while chapter breaks can occur just about anywhere you want them to. But the rules for executing both are the same.

Whenever you create a break of any type within your story, you must be aware of the potential for losing your readers' focus. You combat this by creating solid hooks at each scene or chapter break.

The best way to think of a hook is simply as something that piques readers' curiosity. Phrase the end of each chapter or scene in a way that creates even the smallest bit of dichotomy. Get readers to wrinkle their brows a little and ask themselves, What does that mean…? And, bang, you've got 'em! They'll keep right on reading, regardless what kind of break they're looking at.

***

My bet is you're already instinctively using your chapters and scenes correctly. Don't let the technical differences confuse you. Master them and claim them, so you can use and harmonize your scenes and chapters to create a seamless and hypnotizing reading experience.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Thank you, I hope you don't get into trouble for posting that since the site went to lengths to protect it.

I take issue with its claim that chapters are more obvious than scenes - I find the opposite, although that may be due to an imperfect understanding of what a scene should be.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I take issue with its claim that chapters are more obvious than scenes


The reader sees chapters. They don't see scenes. I believe that's what he meant.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

As to the widows and orphans, I don't always manage to get a page with no widows orphans, but I do try.

Again, it's not an uncommon issue, and I'm very conscious of it, but I'm largely uncomfortable with modifying the chapter to 'fit'. So I've taken a different tact. I've got different Style Definitions. I use "Chapter Titles", my version of Heading 1, but I also have "Chapter Title", which is slightly smaller (it has a smaller black space above it, typically giving me an extra 2 to 3 extra lines. When I encounter an orphan situation, rather than trying to 'fix' the text', since my chapter length keeps changing during the revision and editing phase, I can simply use the smaller chapter heading. It doesn't eliminate the orphans entirely, but very often, it'll buy me an extra 2 to 4 mostly empty pages in a printed book.

Again, it's the exact same issue, you try to take care of it upfront, while I leave it open, knowing my chapter length is going to continue evolving—even after I publish, so using the Styles provides a greater flexibility to make changes on the fly.

This is information of no interest to everyone else, but my Chapter Titles has a header of 77.35pt, while my Chapter Tittle has a header of 56.35pt. Both have no footer (trailing blank space), since my chapter graphic header handles the spacing to best control the decorative font and the image. (Don't ask about the .35pt offset. It simply evolved overtime, and just seemed the best fit, but wasn't chosen for any particular reason.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Okay, Switch, that answers my concern about plausibility. :-)

That's a recurring theme in Switch's stories. He doesn't exactly write 'revenge' stories (where a dumped spouse gets back at their ex), but he likes the 'individual taking the law into their own hands and punishing the criminals hurting everyone' (ex: "The Punisher" motif). But he's got several variations on the same basic theme.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

In short, scenes are logical decisions; chapters are creative decisions.

I agree wholeheartedly with that. In my case, the scene (section break) is determined by a time, location or perspective change, while the chapter change denotes that the previous chapters conflicts are largely resolved, though a few issues remains, and the break gives the reader the chance to reset their expectations of what's to follow. Again, I'm more interested in a clean break, rather than an opening to introduce a new story element (though I have played around with variations on that theme, including adding a couple (typewritten) pages of text for my book sections, providing the context for the next set of chapters). Though as I've said, although that technique works well for my published books, it completely failed on SOL, which doesn't support non-chapter specific text. :(

Again, it's like my discussion with Ernest: same dilemma, different strategies for addressing it. Because of the way I craft my stories, I find that a particular approach best fits my tales. My point wasn't to pick an ongoing fight, but simply to discuss the 'fudge factor' in applying these techniques.

As always, while many authors here like their current techniques, I like discussing new techniques, while focusing on what works for some authors, and what doesn't work for others so I'm better equipped to apply it in my own cases.

richardshagrin

Another, almost random thought. POV (point of view) is the first three letters of poverty. Lets not worry too much about POV. Stories and posts about running out of money are boring.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It does explain something I didn't like about the novel I just read and bad-mouthed. It was a thriller and I guess thriller authors (like James Petersen and this author) have scenes span multiple short chapters for pace. As I said, I found that annoying.

I can understand that. As I've said, I prefer controlling my pace for each individual chapter, while thriller authors often like to crank up the tension is leave it at a boiling point for several chapters without easing the pressure.

However, for many of us, that riles us as it doesn't alter the pace of the story, never provides a breather, and tends to blur story details. I also find that actions scenes are, almost by definition, overly short with few descriptions and NO explanations or analysis. So I prefer offsetting my fast-paced actions scenes with a slower 'catch your breath' chapter where those involved pause to reflect, figure out WTH just happened, and where they go from there.

That non-stop pace works with certain books (think of psycho killers killing one teen partier after another, or zombies catching and eating a series of random individuals) but it fails entirely when you're trying to build up to something specific and you prefer varying the pace to match what's happening.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Chrome won't let me read the article because it can't provide a secure connection. A proxy server failed because it doesn't support captcha, and Google's cached copy returns 404.

The universe is trying to tell me something

That's why I've set my browser up so I can selectively disable all those 'protections' so they DON'T protect me from what I need to do! I also typically disable the 'automatic' security detections in most anti-virus programs, as I find they limit me more than they protect me. I still get infected on occasion, so their protections really aren't effective anyway, but hose 'big-brother' protection are merely to make you feel more protection rather than really achieving anything. It only amounts to a 'we're watching out for you', even when your antivirus doesn't give a shit about whether you get infected or not!

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

An alternative could have been to post 2 chapters if the natural split turned out to be very short chapters. The upside of that approach wold be that a new posting always starts with a natural chapter and not sometimes with a sub-chapter.

That was exactly my point, but with the additional twist of my 'chapter break' idea. Instead of combining chapters (which Ernest handles by including the chapter breaks within his posted files), I like giving readers a chance to break between chapters. I still provide a 'decent read' for a weekly post, but I preserve the 'take a breather' break (though Ernest is providing that too with his { p } commands.

We're all dealing with the exact same issues, but we apply different terms to each, and we take different approaches to resolve them. Hence the protracted discussion about which works for each author.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

That's a recurring theme in Switch's stories. He doesn't exactly write 'revenge' stories (where a dumped spouse gets back at their ex), but he likes the 'individual taking the law into their own hands and punishing the criminals hurting everyone' (ex: "The Punisher" motif). But he's got several variations on the same basic theme.

That reminds me of something. There's a site where viewers can submit reviews of movies with a maximum of four words. They can be surprisingly insightful. IIRC, someone once submitted this as a review:

Chuck Norris enough said

I'm not saying, Switch. It just reminded me. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

What makes you think a reader can't keep up attention longer then a single chapter?

It's not a concentration issue, but a pacing issue. It's hard to maintain that level of pacing for a protracted period without including segments which spoil the entire effect (i.e. a fast action chapter, if kept too long, with invariably contain a few protracted SLOW segments).

I prefer adjusting the pacing. With fast-paced chapters, I drop most details, so I save ALL the essential details for the slower chapters. The faster paced chapters are for surprises and traumatic chapters, while the slower ones are for analysis and planning. (There are, of course, a LOT more than those two, but the two are prime examples of the differences between different chapters.)

Again, if you're sitting down and reading the entire book at once, those breaks aren't overly long (i.e. a solid week), but I've found that only the few moments it takes to click a link is typically enough for you to reorient your focus and prepare for a new chapter. But for section breaks, which are determined largely by setting changes, readers rarely 'reset' their expectations. That's where I have problems with POV changes, as it's difficult for readers to get OUT OF one character's head, while having enough time to climb INTO the other character's head.

Thus they all boil down to pacing issues rather than actual content issues.

Replies:   Keet
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Sorry, Switch, or not sorry, since you seem to agree with me, but I think the 'academic's distinctions are largely meaningless. Virtually all the 'advanced planning' he lays out for scenes I apply to chapters, where scenes typically maintain the same pacing, while changing either the physical location, time or characters involved.

I'd also throw in an additional block, as I prefer to add sections, which are logical grouping of chapters. The section breaks inform the readers what the next 'block' of chapters will deal with, and once those issues are dealt with, the story moved onto the next 'block'/section. In my case, while the chapter breaks are fairly obvious, the section breaks are actually more informative (i.e. the characters have resolved THOSE issues, and they're now moving onto the next set of issues).

This is yet another example of a non-fiction academic over-analyzing a fairly natural distinction, making it far more complex, and difficult to understand, than it actually needs to be. :(

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

So I've taken a different tact.


You mean "tack."

I bring it up because I hate tact/tack more than lie/lay. Tact is not short for tactic. Tact is discretion. Tack is course of action.

Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Thus they all boil down to pacing issues rather than actual content issues.

I have to disagree here, at least partially. It hugely depends on the story, or better: the complexity of the story. It's the difference between reading while chapters are posted or reading the whole book. There are stories that I just couldn't keep following by the posting schedule but had to wait for the book to complete so I could read it without losing what the heck it was all about in the chapters before. And that was NOT because the book was badly written, it was because the contents required you to keep at it or you would loose the train of thought. Sometimes a small detail in a previous chapter was important in the next and you would miss that if that previous chapter was posted and read a week before.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I take issue with its claim that chapters are more obvious than scenes - I find the opposite, although that may be due to an imperfect understanding of what a scene should be.

Nope, I agree with you. If anything, I'd postulate that the author doesn't get the actual distinction, actually conflating the distinctions of chapters onto the largely meaningless section distinctions.

In my case, chapters need a certain delay for readers to properly process the events, while a scene, while often covering substantial time periods, merely continues the current issues to a new setting, which don't affect the pacing at all (i.e. there is nothing to 'reset', so they take a LOT less work to manage.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

You mean "tack."

Quick, before Richard comes back ... That's kind of tact-less of you. :-)

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

The reader sees chapters. They don't see scenes. I believe that's what he meant.

He's saying the exact opposite, though. He's claiming that the chapter breaks are essentially meaningless, and the section breaks are what makes or breaks the entire story, which I find utterly ridiculous.

For me, the section breaks are more clear cut, requiring less thought and foresight, while the chapters involved the vast majority of planning and prepping.

Again, I don't think the 'author' knows how fiction works. It seems another case of 'those who can't do, lecture others on how to ruin a perfectly good story'.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Another, almost random thought. POV (point of view) is the first three letters of poverty. Lets not worry too much about POV. Stories and posts about running out of money are boring.

Your analogy, while written in jest, isn't that far off the mark. While stories about poverty aren't as captivating, details about poverty are much more transitional (i.e. moving from one story element to another). Thus it's NEVER about being poor, but about moving from wealth to desperation, or from struggling to finding success, which brings the brings the tools to accomplish much more.

It's the transition that's important, rather than the details of being poor. Thus it's similar to the whole 'every story starts with an event which changes the ordinary into the extraordinary, from mundane to crisis, and provides the driving force for the story. No one really care just how ordinary life used to be, what we're interested in are the conflicts the change in circumstances introduces.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'm not saying, Switch. It just reminded me. :-)

Both of which are four words themselves. Though it would have been more powerful if you'd doubled down and includes another two sets of four! 'D

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You mean "tack."

I bring it up because I hate tact/tack more than lie/lay. Tact is not short for tactic. Tact is discretion. Tack is course of action.

Yeah, my editors continually give me grief about that. While I should know the difference, for some odd reason, I keep conflating the two.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Though it would have been more powerful if you'd doubled down and includes another two sets of four!

I'll write my jokes. Shove it up your

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

There are stories that I just couldn't keep following by the posting schedule but had to wait for the book to complete so I could read it without losing what the heck it was all about in the chapters before. And that was NOT because the book was badly written, it was because the contents required you to keep at it or you would loose the train of thought. Sometimes a small detail in a previous chapter was important in the next and you would miss that if that previous chapter was posted and read a week before.

And again, my analogy works here. In the 'fast chapter'/'slow chapter' scenario, the fast chapter has fewer answers, which are needed to understand the story, but the fast chapters introduce a LOT of random elements, which only come into play in the next chapter, after many have forgotten them entirely.

So yeah, I get your point entirely. That's also why I like 'bundling' chapters. If my 'action chapter' have fewer answers, but introduce more questions, then you really need to read them together rather than 3 to 5 days apart.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The reader sees chapters. They don't see scenes. I believe that's what he meant.
He's saying the exact opposite, though.


When a reader looks at the table of contents, he sees chapters. When he reaches the end of a chapter and is tired, he puts the book down. When he doesn't have a lot of time left, he checks to see how many pages are in the next chapter. The reader sees the book organized into chapters.

The non-author (that is, the typical reader), doesn't dissect a novel into it's scenes. They don't even know what a scene is. Not technically.

Replies:   Keet  Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I keep conflating the two


Me too.

Keet

@Switch Blayde

When he doesn't have a lot of time left, he checks to see how many pages are in the next chapter.

I can honestly say that I have NEVER done that. And I read a lot, a whole lot. But then again, and I mentioned this before, I'm weird ;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

If anything, I'd postulate that the author doesn't get the actual distinction, actually conflating the distinctions of chapters onto the largely meaningless section distinctions.


I've never heard a parent tell candyciding offspring, "Don't make a chapter." ;)

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Tack is course of action.


You've nailed it! ;)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Tack is course of action.

You've nailed it! ;)


My thumbs up.

Keet

@awnlee jawking

Tack is course of action.

You've nailed it! ;)


Damn, I always thought tack was the outfit for a horse and now I read here that is has something to do with course and nails ;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

have scenes span multiple short chapters for pace.


I find that idea so wrong it's not funny. Not only would I find it annoying, I'd find it a damn good reason to put the author on the never read list.

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Chrome won't let me read the article


You got lucky. I wasn't asked for captcha, but I found it to be more of a fluffy justification piece than reasonable advice.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

largely uncomfortable with modifying the chapter to 'fit'.


I think a part of the misunderstanding is I don't look to kill widows and orphans as a way of having a clean chapter ending, but as a way of keeping all of a paragraph on the same page because I hate reading a story where a single line is on one page with the rest on another.

I'll often have a chapter end with the last page of it having a single paragraph on it, sometimes as small as 3 or 4 lines. This is because I let the chapter content decide the chapter length.

As for chapter headings, I write in a 6 x 9 inch print book layout with margins where the top and bottom margins eat up 1.5 inches of the page to leave 7.5 inches for story text. The chapter title is in the heading 1 style using 18 point font with a space of 1.6 inches above it and 0.4 inches below plus a blank text line before the text starts. This has the effect of placing the chapter title about a third of the way down the page instead of the traditional halfway down the page, and it puts a good clear space around it to make it stand out. However, this is only visible in the print book and pdf versions of the story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

have scenes span multiple short chapters for pace.

I find that idea so wrong it's not funny. Not only would I find it annoying


It annoyed me too. I haven't read James Patersen, but I guess he does it also. I remember reading "Killing Lincoln" where it was done as well.

PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

I was reading Bill Offutt's "Seth II - Caroline" the other day and came upon Chapter 13, which is very short. I was startled at its length, but found it neither annoying nor distracting. My conclusion would be that I probably don't care about the length of a chapter as long as it completed whatever thought or episode it started.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

My conclusion would be that I probably don't care about the length of a chapter as long as it completed whatever thought or episode it started.


which means it's exactly the right length.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

The non-author (that is, the typical reader), doesn't dissect a novel into it's scenes. They don't even know what a scene is. Not technically.

Thanks. That was my point, but yours was clearer. Scene transitions are governed entirely by technical details (time or location changes), while chapter transitions are entirely author driven.

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

When he doesn't have a lot of time left, he checks to see how many pages are in the next chapter.

I can honestly say that I have NEVER done that. And I read a lot, a whole lot.

I've done it often, especially if the author is 'wordy' and writes very long chapters. Basically, I check to see whether it's worth staying up to finish a new chapter, if not, I'll quit early and head to bed. That's a decision which has frequently kept me from staying up ALL night until I finish the entire novel! However, if you're reading "Dick and Jane" books, it's not an important distinction! 'D

Replies:   Keet
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Tack is course of action.

You've nailed it! ;)

That's actually a useful reminder for those of us who frequently conflate the two. Just remember that 'tacking' is a physical action, while tact is purely a decision.

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

Damn, I always thought tack was the outfit for a horse and now I read here that is has something to do with course and nails ;)

If the horse can sail downwind, then more power to him! 'D He can tack all the tack he wants.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

have scenes span multiple short chapters for pace.

I find that idea so wrong it's not funny. Not only would I find it annoying, I'd find it a damn good reason to put the author on the never read list.

I agree. To get that to work, you'd have to artificially create an artificial stopping point (a short break in time, a lunch break or moving to a new location). But you don't just STOP a chapter and continue a new chapter midstream.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

You got lucky. I wasn't asked for captcha, but I found it to be more of a fluffy justification piece than reasonable advice.

That was my impression too, as it seemed to be yet another writing professor showing off what he knows when he's never managed to craft a single successful piece of fiction himself.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I'll often have a chapter end with the last page of it having a single paragraph on it, sometimes as small as 3 or 4 lines. This is because I let the chapter content decide the chapter length.

Exactly. My use of alternating Heading 1 styles allows me to avoid the 2 or 3 line orphans, but if the single paragraph orphan ends up being 8 or 12 lines, I let it overflow as it will.

The key is avoiding the obnoxious orphans, not the unavoidable ones (kinda like my kids!). If I coulda pulled the plug on the loud-mouthed one, I mighta considered it! 'D

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It annoyed me too. I haven't read James Patersen, but I guess he does it also. I remember reading "Killing Lincoln" where it was done as well.

I find his telling history in the present tense even MORE annoying, but Killing Lincoln's author wasn't Patterson, but Bill O'Reilly, who's nowhere near as good an author!

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

My conclusion would be that I probably don't care about the length of a chapter as long as it completed whatever thought or episode it started.

which means it's exactly the right length.

In that sense, even a SINGLE word chapter might succeed, in that it's more shocking than informative. But it at least finishes with the chapter's themes! 'D

Ex:

Chapter 5:

FUCK!

Replies:   Keet  Ross at Play
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Basically, I check to see whether it's worth staying up to finish a new chapter, if not, I'll quit early and head to bed. That's a decision which has frequently kept me from staying up ALL night until I finish the entire novel!

I don't have to bother with checking time, I read when I want and how long I want. One of the few 'advantages' of having a partial income on disability and the rest with my own small company. And I don't have to stay up to read, I read a lot laying down in bed. Sometimes even during the day when my back has given up again. I understand the 'problem' you have about staying up late to finish a novel. It happens too me frequently that I get to sleep at 5 in the morning ;)

Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Chapter 5:

FUCK!

Could you post the preceding chapter for context?
;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

He can tack all the tack he wants.


Now shouldn't that line have been:

He can tack all the tack he can hack.

so you get a good alliteration in it?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

The key is avoiding the obnoxious orphans, not the unavoidable ones (kinda like my kids!).


Exactly.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

In that sense, even a SINGLE word chapter might succeed

I had this vague recollection of reading a book in which a quite famous author did that. For some reason I thought the author might be Kurt Vonnegut and the word he used was 'Fish.' Go figure.

So I went searching and found that Vonnegut had done something similar. In one story a character said they had read an entire book in one sitting. The title of the book was something like, and I'm paraphrasing here, 'What Can a Reasonable Man Expect from Life Based On the Last Million Years of History?' The body of that book consisted of the word 'Nothing' and a period.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

To get that to work, you'd have to artificially create an artificial stopping point (a short break in time, a lunch break or moving to a new location). But you don't just STOP a chapter and continue a new chapter midstream.


He did not. He changed chapters right in the heat of the scene. Why? I don't know. I read that thriller authors like James Petersen do it. As I said, the author of "Killing Lincoln" also did it. You could put the first line of the new chapter right after the last line of the previous chapter and it would be perfect.

That's why the article I read on scenes and chapters said chapters are arbitrary whereas scenes follow a structure.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

The body of that book consisted of the word 'Nothing' and a period.


I had a Philosophy professor who gave us an assignment to write an essay with the title "Why?" He said a student once wrote a two-word essay for the assignment: "Why not." He said he gave that student an A, but we'd get an F if we did it.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I think the idea that a story can be developed in a neat, hierarchical way is as flawed as the concept of hierarchical databases. Take book -> chapters -> scenes -> paragraphs -> sentences.

I seem to recall you mentioning scenes that occupied more than a single chapter before, and you've noted James Patterson as a famous exponent. I was looking for a place to make a chapter split in one of my stories and eventually concluded the best place to do it was in the middle of a sentence! However I tidied things up so the old chapter finished and the new chapter started with complete sentences.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

is as flawed as the concept of hierarchical databases.


I spent a good part of my career responsible for hierarchical databases (IBM's IMS). When you have huge volumes and the need for high transaction speeds, it's the way to go. The only DBMS faster was TPF (used by the airlines and American Express's authorization system) which is part of the operating system.

Hardware is faster now so things have changed, but back then you couldn't beat hierarchical databases.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I've never seen a production hierarchical database design that didn't involve considerable compromise to the concept of a nice, clean data hierarchy - real data just isn't like that, even before you get to the compromises implemented to accelerate crucial queries.

AJ

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

I have another take than some of the people here, so I'll go with it.

What I want from a chapter when I'm writing is that it be a block. I also prefer that a paragraph be a block, a different sized block, of course.

I prefer that the blocks be consistent story-style within the story. That is to say that breaking from one paragraph to the next will be at a change which I don't run across in writing a later -- or even an earlier -- paragraph.

Then, each chapter should convey an equal part of the story to another chapter. I did that with Heart Ball, then the site software broke some of the chapters into "pages" because they were more than 55 kb long.

One of these days, I'm going to go back to that story and break it into chapters none of which are more than 55 kb long.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

I had a Philosophy professor who gave us an assignment to write an essay with the title "Why?" He said a student once wrote a two-word essay for the assignment: "Why not." He said he gave that student an A, but we'd get an F if we did it.

I'd venture "Z", in the alphabet it follows "Y".

Keet

@Switch Blayde

I had a Philosophy professor who gave us an assignment to write an essay with the title "Why?" He said a student once wrote a two-word essay for the assignment: "Why not." He said he gave that student an A, but we'd get an F if we did it.

I would have taken that challenge and wrote "42" ;)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

Chapter 5:

FUCK!

Could you post the preceding chapter for context?

Sure:

Chapter 4:

Oops!

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

He can tack all the tack he can hack.

so you get a good alliteration in it?

He can tack all the tack he wants … at Alice's Restaurant (how tacky)!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

He said he gave that student an A, but we'd get an F if we did it.

Of course! That would be plagarism, which the academic world hates! (it violates the 10% rule of copyright, since it constitutes 100% of the student's report.)

Replies:   PotomacBob
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I was looking for a place to make a chapter split in one of my stories and eventually concluded the best place to do it was in the middle of a sentence! However I tidied things up so the old chapter finished and the new chapter started with complete sentences.

Very often, it is those impulsive, dramatic ideas which produce the best resolutions and stories, though, upon reflection, they generally get 'cleaned up' before releasing them to the public. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Uther_Pendragon

One of these days, I'm going to go back to that story and break it into chapters none of which are more than 55 kb long.

It's tough guessing how many words go into 55 kb, especially if, like you, you insist on using 2 or 4 character symbols, like publishing marks and 'smart quotes'. Then all bets are off. But I've found, if you stay under 14,000 words, you're generally safe (though I typically stop long before that before several obvious mistakes in my early days before I knew any better).

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

I would have taken that challenge and wrote "42"

That would constitute plagiarism too, though you're safely within the 10% threshold. 'D

PotomacBob

@Crumbly Writer

(it violates the 10% rule of copyright,


What IS the 10 percent rule of copyright. Surely you aren't saying you can safely use 10 percent of a published book and you haven't violated copyright law - right?

Replies:   paliden  Ernest Bywater
paliden

@PotomacBob

The 'Fair Use' Rule: When Use of Copyrighted Material Is Acceptable

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-rule-copyright-material-30100.html

There is much more. Start searching.

Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

What IS the 10 percent rule of copyright. Surely you aren't saying you can safely use 10 percent of a published book and you haven't violated copyright law - right?


Under the Berne Convention, which is now also a part of most country copyright laws you were allowed to use part of a copyrighted text for various legal purposes - reporting and educational being the most common (check your national laws for exact options) as long as you did not use more than ten percent of any single chapter nor more than ten percent of the whole text.

The wording means you can only get a maximum of ten percent of any part.

If a book was 200 pages in 4 chapter of 50 pages each the maximum you could have from the whole book would be 20 pages and no more than 5 pages from each chapter. However, if the book was 200 pages with 3 chapters as 40 pages, 140 pages, and 20 pages you were still limited to a total of 20 pages from the book, but with a maximum of 4 pages from chapter 1, 14 pages from chapter 2, and 2 pages from chapter 3.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Under the Berne Convention, which is now also a part of most country copyright laws you were allowed to use part of a copyrighted text for various legal purposes - reporting and educational being the most common (check your national laws for exact options) as long as you did not use more than ten percent of any single chapter nor more than ten percent of the whole text.

The wording means you can only get a maximum of ten percent of any part.

@PotomacBob, that was a specific exception to the normal copyright rules to allow for literary reviews to include excerpts of the story. However, it doesn't protect authors from 'lifting' and passing off someone else's work as their own.

However, one beneficial byproduct is you can generally get away with using most famous quotations (epigraphs). Unfortunately, it likewise means you can't quote many modern 'blog poets', as often their entire poem only consists of a couple lines of text released as images of their typewritten pages. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Unfortunately, it likewise means you can't quote many modern 'blog poets', as often their entire poem only consists of a couple lines of text released as images of their typewritten pages. :(


Not under the Berne Convention anyway.

Under US law it's more complicated.

Under US law, as long as the use isn't commercial (read for profit) you probably can get away with quoting the entirety of a very short work.

How much of a work you can use under "fair use" under US law requires a multi-factor analysis including

1. The nature of the work
2. The size of the work
3. The nature of the use
4. This does not purport to be a complete list of the factors involved in an actual legal analysis.

As an epigraph included in a novel published for sale, probably not fair use. On the other hand, if it's from an active 'blog poet', how hard would it be to ask for a license to use it? What do you lose by asking?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dominions Son


As an epigraph included in a novel published for sale, probably not fair use. On the other hand, if it's from an active 'blog poet', how hard would it be to ask for a license to use it? What do you lose by asking?


So far, when I research the original source, when I see it's a typical 'blog poet', I immediately throw away the quote entirely, so it's nice to know it is allowable.

Generally, in these types of cases, the "for profit" line refers to selling the other persons work, rather than simply reciting it. As long as I don't pass it off as my own, or use it to sell my own books, it's typically fair game.

I encountered the same thing with a NASA image. NASA has a long standing policy of allowing their government funded materials to be freely accessible, but his one NASA page had specific restrictions on 'commercial uses'. But when I contacted them, mentioning I wouldn't use the image as my cover (where I'd be using the NASA image to sell my book), but would instead include it within the story, they had no problem with it.

The problem, though, with 'asking the author's permission', is frequently, just like with many SOL authors, they'll flat out refuse to answer any messages, so I'd prefer knowing upfront what I can and can't use. (Although, I've had many instances where a simple question gets an immediate and friendly response from well-known authors.) Generally, quoting someone else helps both books, as readers will see the reference, and look up the quoted material, thus its a way to access an entirely new generation of readers.

In general, I've learned, over time, that it's fair to ask authors about the correct wording of their quotes, but if you can't authenticate the quote yourself, it simply isn't worth asking in the first place.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, in these types of cases, the "for profit" line refers to selling the other persons work

I'm pretty sure that, legally, "for profit" means you selling anything which includes others' work.

I don't think that NASA's decision that your for-profit activity did not bother them is relevant to the fact that it is the copyright holder's option whether or not they will provide their consent.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I don't think that NASA's decision that your for-profit activity did not bother them is relevant to the fact that it is the copyright holder's


The NASA situation is far more complicated than CW states. By US law, NASA can't hold a US copyright on any of it's work product. However, much of the data NASA publishes is not the work product of NASA employees, but is the work product of outside contractors and/or University Professors, and those entities can hold copyright in the data.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

The NASA situation is far more complicated than CW states. By US law, NASA can't hold a US copyright on any of it's work product. However, much of the data NASA publishes is not the work product of NASA employees, but is the work product of outside contractors and/or University Professors, and those entities can hold copyright in the data.

Both your and Ross's points are vital. Mine was merely that, if the author/organization responsible's main focus is making their efforts freely available, then typically their primary concern is simply that you don't use their work to SELL your own work.

But I wasn't coming to the issue from the standpoint of 'will I ask or not', but rather 'will I even bother consider using the work in question. As I'd stated, I'd already decided to forgo using 'blog poets' work entirely. That decision hasn't and isn't likely to change, mostly because it's so rarely that these people get back to you. I'll ask for permission, once I've decided to use an author's work. But if the author's work is inherently problematic to begin with (such as a blog poets's work being too short for the 10% rule to apply), it's just not worth even considering in the first place.

Thus, my comments were directed at others who may want to use their work (i.e. they're likely to approve it, as long as you aren't using it to sell something, but that wasn't a broad "there's no need to ask in the first place" declaration.

Once again, I kinda conflated my 'this one exception won't change my initial decision not to bother with' with my separate 'if I was to, the author probably wouldn't have a problem with it if asked' message. But I completely mungled my phrasing (which is what comes from replying to forum posts late, late at night when you're exhausted).

In the end, I always ask before using another author's work (outside of the normal 20% exception for epigraphs).

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

While Elizabeth struggled with her predicament in the porn theater, Pastor Milford Hathaway fretted in his wood paneled church office.


I would have hyphenated wood-panelled (UK spelling), although I didn't think it worth mentioning at the time. Then, lo and behold, the term 'wood-panelled' appeared in a UK newspaper article about politicians abusing their expenses.

Doesn't Michael Loucks have a copyright on nutjob Milford pastors, or is that some sort of affectionate tribute? ;)

AJ

Replies:   joyR  Switch Blayde
joyR
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Then, lo and behold, the term 'wood-panelled' appeared in a UK newspaper article about politicians abusing their expenses.


Reading it in the newspaper makes it true ??

Too many people buying laptops and having no idea how to set the dictionary to British English, which results in their spell checker throwing up quaint language errors beloved of our colonial cousins.

Exits stage left, tongue in cheek

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@joyR


Too many people buying laptops and having no idea how to set the dictionary to British English,


That's not the issue, the issue they've no idea there is a dictionary to use.

Replies:   joyR
awnlee jawking

@joyR

Reading it in the newspaper makes it true ??


Given the number of howlers I've seen in newspapers recently, not definitively. Still, a single occurrence in a newspaper (and IMO one of the better proofread ones) is stronger corroboration than a single occurrence of 'wood panel(l)ed' without the hyphen.

I've been trying to think of a good example where 'wood panel(l)ed', without the hyphen, could lead to ambiguity. So far I haven't been able to think of a realistic one :(

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I've been trying to think of a good example where 'wood panel(l)ed', without the hyphen, could lead to ambiguity. So far I haven't been able to think of a realistic one

Doesn't need to be ambiguous in BrE. According to Harts Rules, in BrE all compound adjectives including a verb participle should be hyphenated, both before and after nouns. I have never noticed an example in the OxD where that is not so.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I would have hyphenated wood-panelled


I would today also. But that was written a long time ago before I knew about hyphenating adjectives before the noun.

It's not worth changing it. And that novel was the one I hand-coded the HTML so I'm hesitant to make changes to it anyway. The source is no longer in a Word docx file.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

It's not worth changing it.


Agreed. And I still haven't thought of a good example :(

AJ

joyR

@Ernest Bywater

That's not the issue, the issue they've no idea there is a dictionary to use.


True, however it also affects the auto correct, if it's turned on, though some now seem to be on by default.

Ernest Bywater

@joyR

True, however it also affects the auto correct, if it's turned on, though some now seem to be on by default.


I thought they all were now. I've just about given up replying to messages on my tablet because it has an auto correct option I've not yet found and it screws up about 75% of posts because it thinks it knows what I want to say.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Doesn't need to be ambiguous in BrE. According to Harts Rules, in BrE all compound adjectives including a verb participle should be hyphenated, both before and after nouns. I have never noticed an example in the OxD where that is not so.

That's what I generally follow (the 'consistency' model, where you always handle something the same way so readers know what to expect). The 'you only include the hyphen if the sentence is ambiguous was Ernest's pet theory (i.e. it's not really based on any established style of writing, but is sometimes suggested by sources like Grammar Girl who doesn't want to deal with authors arguing with her over always doing something).

In practice, both approaches work, it's just a question of which you're comfortable with.

Crumbly Writer

@joyR

True, however it also affects the auto correct, if it's turned on, though some now seem to be on by default.

I leave my auto-correct on, so it flags misspelled words, but turn off the associated grammar check, as I get more false positives (complaints you can't say something when they're nothing wrong with it, or where they tell you to change something, and as soon as you do, they tell you to change it back!)

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