One of the things I’ve talked about in writing serial fiction is length. I have each episode be about 1,000 words. It is long enough people will be satisfied with what happens and short enough they can read it on break, or waiting in line, or whatever.
But what about the actual serial itself? Here is the truth: there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
National Novel Writing Month says that a novel is 50,000 words. With serial fiction though, you’ve got the luxury of making it as long as you want. That said—-if you are writing a fantasy novel that only hits 50 k, chances are you are missing a lot and there’s probably a lot that you need to fix. Half of fantasy is world building, and you just won’t get that in a 50 k novel.
Meg Cabot, the author of the Princess Diaries, has an excellent post on her website about this on her FAQ page. “Publishers go by words, not pages. Most adult books are about 90,000 words, and no longer than 100,000 words.
Teen books are about 55,000 words. *again I think this depends on genre. 55,000 words more so for contemporary works. Teen books that are fantasy tend to be longer. Cassandra Clare books are notoriously long, same for A Court of Thorns and Roses the series, plus this post has been on her website for a while.
She also talks about pages, saying, “How many words are there to a page? It depends on the font you are using, of course, but in general, 250-300 words per page. Therefore, a 55,000 word book should be about 200 manuscript pages. A 100,000 word book would be about 400. Editors like 12 point font.”
But we’re not writing in print. We’re writing DIGITALLY. The game has changed. After by Anna Todd the famed Harry Styles fanfic that got turned first into a book and then a movie by wattpad gained traction I suspect because of how long it was. Wattpad calls each chapter parts and for After there were 102 of them.
On the internet, length actually works in your favor. That said, if you are really putting your characters through the ringer, your readers might begin to lose interest. Especially with romance books. Love triangles tend to be popular and the one comment I get when writing romance is, WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO GET TOGETHER?
So the key here is know your audience. There’s only so long you can jerk people around with drama before they’ll lose interest. And, often times, the story reveals the ending itself to you. You’ll know when its done, is the answer.
And I recommend keeping the longer lengths for things like fantasy and mystery. Usually with romance, the shorter, the sweeter. Although if you are doing a cross genre thing you might get away with it being longer.
2 thoughts on “How long is too long for serial fiction?”
For me, the typical novel length is 80k, with an additional 10-20k if it’s sci-fi/fantasy. Those are traditional publisher figures, because they’d also like to offset printing costs, and having something too short or long wouldn’t be economical. But all those are just guidelines, and you covered the digital medium part nicely. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Yeah, print will always be different. Kindle Vella lets you go up to about 5,000 words but they also charge more per word and so this way you’re not gauging your audience either. Plus most people will be reading these on the phone so it helps make it easier for them. 🙂