(⚠ Rant alert!)
The reviewer’s comment on the initial chapters of my story left me shaking my head:
Keep doing what you’re doing in terms of world building and magic because that’s definitely awesome… but make your chapters shorter with smaller, more easily readable sentences otherwise it’s too straining and slow-paced.
Before Wattpad pulled the plug on the community writers forum (that’ll be a rant for another day), one of the most common thread questions posted was “What should the word count of my novel’s chapters be?”
Time and time again, between 800 to 1200 words was the sweet zone most recommended by Wattpad. The reason given? The majority of readers are on mobile phones and cannot handle / follow / make sense of anything longer in one go. So what does that mean for writers wanting to share novels with an audience online?
When I refer to the death of the long read, that’s what I’m talking about, book-length novels; full blown multi-chapter stories where ‘smaller, more easily readable sentences’ could never build the foundation of a descriptive paragraph –let alone build a magical fantasy world.
Yes, I often compose long sentences (see right above). I’ve never met a semi-colon or em-dash I didn’t like. But I write prose, not data bytes. My fantasy story chapters range anywhere from 2500-5000 words on average. The mere thought of constraining myself to an 800 word “chapter” just so it can be screen-swiped through fast and easy makes me shudder, if not weep.
Is anyone reading this blog on a phone screen right now feeling insulted by Wattpad’s assumption? Am I being a dinosaur here? Or is it true fewer people read “long-chaptered” novels on their platform because of an inability to read anything except in short, rapid bursts when on a mobile phone? Say it isn’t so.
Perhaps the fundamental question is whether a mobile phone screen lends itself to reading books at all. I think it can. Why not? Reading off a mobile phone screen needn’t mean traditional story writing is doomed to R.I.P (in this case “rest in pieces”), does it?
What I am certain of is that I want to craft stories, not dispense them. And if it means people won’t read my works because they contain too many long sentences and lengthy chapters, so be it. I write as I think and I’m not going to change now. Am I being stubborn? Probably. Do I need to get with the times? No, because I trust the earnest reader to embrace the story and adapt to the medium of their choice, not the other way around.
Any writers or readers care to weigh in? Please comment below.