Writer Shop Talk & Cake

This post is for my serial readers, and it’s something I’ve seen a lot of comments on on mine and other serials. I figured hey, I will peel back the curtain a bit and let you guys see how the sausage gets made!

(and I like to talk author shop, so shoot me)

Did you know that the average (and in fact, recommended “sweet spot” for chapter length) is about 1,500 to 3,000 words? Like if you read a regular book the average chapter will fall into this range? Most publishers & platforms really want you to stick somewhere around this range.

This number isn’t as random as it might seem. The big reason is how our brains tend to interact with chunks of information. Chapters provide cadence to a story. They’re literally a “take a breath” moment. They provide structure, transition points, and for readers, good places to stop.

I can talk more on this (because I have a degree in this stuff) but I’m just gonna go with talking about petit fours.

You can think of a chapter like a petit four (you know, those little pretty square cakes? Google it if you don’t. THEY’RE FREAKING ADORABLE) Petit fours can vary a bit in size, but are generally one or two bites. If a petit four was the size of a Nerd candy, it’d be obnoxious AF to eat. If a petit four was the size of a loaf of bread, then it’s just a cake. And while you might like Nerds, and you might like cake, if you ordered petit fours from the bakery and were planning on serving petit fours at your party, and the bakery ships you not-exactly-petit-fours, you’re gonna be kinda annoyed throughout your party, even if the petit fours are noms. You’re still going to be like “ug, I really liked the cakes and my guests did, but the size just didn’t work!”

And now I have given you the weirdest analogy possible, I think, why chapters in modern storytelling are the way they are.

The most recent Trinket chapter (You Like Me Best, Admit It)  was 2,023 words (as Scrivener counts it–word counts can vary slightly depending on the program doing the counting due to system encoding variations and how the counting functions are coded). The last chapters were 1,701, 2,085, 2,385, 2,661, and 2,135.

I think the reason serial fiction readers say “this chapter was so short!” (when, in fact, it wasn’t by the standards of conventional modern cadence) is because it’s serial fiction, so readers are obligated to take it in small doses when they just want to be like OMM NOM NOM GIVE ME MOARRRRRR. RAWRRRRRRRR /inhales cookies.

Binge culture is real. I confess that these days I don’t bother to watch anything until I can totally binge it. XD And I grew up in the 80s/90s when it was “NEXT WEEK, ON STAR TREK…” and be like OMG NOOOOO, I HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE WEEEEEKKKKKK…..