CHAPTER SIX

READ ALL ABOUT IT—CHAPTER LENGTH & TITLES

This chapter will be short, but I think it's necessary to address this problem. A lot of the time I will see ridiculously short story chapters and, while a chapter can technically be as long as the writer wishes it to be, you have to actually work on the chapters.

People will post chapters saying in their author's notes: "I know it's short, but I haven't updated in a while," or "I'm sorry this chapter's so short, but it's better than nothing, right?" Please, don't rush your chapters because you're worried that you've lost too many readers or that you haven't updated in a while due to a busy schedule or because of similar problems.

Just remember, it's all right to take your time and nobody can blame you for updating "late": when your story updates is up to you. If you procrastinated, be honest with yourself. You simply didn't feel like working on that particular story and, you know what? That's fine. Sometimes when you work hard on something you need a break.

(Tobin Tip: If you don't feel like working on a current project, don't let that stop you from writing something else. Practice makes perfect, and writing a little every day is the best way to cure writing laziness, dubbed "writer's block." You could write in a journal or on a blog, you could write a poem or a little idea or scene floating around in your head; anything! Save everything you write in a folder on your computer or in a safe place if you do most of your writing by hand: old works can become improved new ones and every idea is precious.)

Another bad habit a surprising amount of people get into is the usage of the, "it's just the prologue, prologues are supposed to be short," excuse. I detest this excuse because it has no backbone; it's simply an empty excuse.

Prologues aren't "supposed to be short", despite what some people say. They can be any length, just like any other chapter you write. Most of the time they are shorter than the majority of the chapters in a novel, but this is mostly because they are showing a specific scene that connects with the story in a different way than the other or the majority of the other chapters do, such as in the point of view, scene, characters, time setting, etcetera. Sometimes "Chapter One" can serve as a prologue of sorts, and occasionally you will see a story with a "prologue-like" chapter or chapters in the middle or throughout the book.

To wrap this up, chapters can be as long or as short as you want them to, but don't make them short simply because you don't feel like writing a longer one or because you feel rushed. Even the shortest published chapters are at least one and a third of a page long; this is 550+ words, mind you.

Let's talk about chapter titles now. There are many ways to format your chapter titles. You can use words (e.g. Chapter One, Chapter 1, Chapter I); you can use only numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.); you can use Roman numerals (e.g. I, II, III, IV, etc.); you can write titles describing a or a part of a chapter beneath the numbered titles (e.g. Chapter 1: Sweet and Sour Pickles); if you change the main character perspectives throughout your story, you can write the characters' names beneath the numbered titles (e.g. Chapter One: Rachel, Chapter Two: George, Chapter Three: Rachel, Chapter Four: George, etc.); you can combine the last two options (e.g. Chapter I: Rachel: Sweet and Sour Pickles); in fact, you can format your chapters any way you wish! Just keep the format consistent and always provide a numbered title so that your readers are able to better see where they are in your story, where they left off, etcetera.

(Numbered titles are simply what I call chapter titles with a number or the worded form of a number in them; "Chapter One", "Chapter XI", "34", and "Entry #5" are all numbered titles.)

Though chapter titles inside an actual story document are optional on FictionPress, I think they make your chapters look rather neat and organized, and they also provide some space between all the information provided above your chapters and your actual chapters. I don't know, maybe I'm just fussy.

In any case, providing your readers with neat, easy-to-read chapters of a good length worth reading is what you should try to aim for when writing your story's chapters. Don't be lazy or impatient and take the time out of your day to edit and flesh out your writing, giving it more backbone and some hefty muscles, including a nice little virtual six-pack. Er, what I mean is, if you can add more to your chapter without going overboard, go for it! Five well-written chapters are better than twenty rushed ones, as far as quality goes.

Well, thanks for reading this chapter! As I expected it was horrendously short, but hopefully it helped you guys and gals out a bit. My next update will also focus on chapters, so look out for "Read All About It!—Chapter Content and Paragraphs."