The 7 Minute Solution

Today, I was going through David Mamet’s Masterclass, and he came to a part I found fascinating during his discussion of his play American Buffalo.

He talked about how human beings have an “alertness” cycle built into them when they’re doing tasks that causes them to mentally take a moment to casually check their environment every seven minutes. Also, every twenty minutes into doing something, there’s a bigger mental break as humans fully stop what they’re doing to access their situation. These are holdovers from the times of our ancestors, when paying attention to our environment could mean life or death, and are hardwired into human beings.

As a teacher, I already knew about the twenty minute rule – humans seem to have a limit of about twenty minutes to pay attention to a topic or subject before they get restless unless they’re really stimulated or engaged. After twenty minutes (some say 18), getting a class to stay on topic can be like rolling a boulder uphill, and so I follow the best practice of trying not to stay on one topic more than twenty minutes when lecturing. Instead, I will try to turn the lecture into a series of smaller parts, and when possible have activities or videos to add a little variety to things.

But, what I didn’t know was that there’s a standard smaller “unit” of seven minutes before people’s attention does a lighter reset. Mamet himself, who spends a lot of time in theaters, gives the anecdote that if the play starts at 8:00 the audience will quiet down precisely at 8:06 as their attention shifts fully to the most interesting thing happening – the play. He claims you can set your watch by it. I haven’t been able to find many other references to it beyond many business sites claiming it’s true, although the website Medium found something similar. They did a study of their large readership’s reading habits for their blogs, and discovered that seven minutes of attention was where readers’ interest in content seemed to peak. After that it dropped off, and if articles took longer than seven minutes to read the readership was less inclined to keep reading.

So, as a writer always thinking about optimization, these numbers 7 and 20, made me wonder if there might be a hack here for writers as well. Should we as writers be calibrating our content to fit into these attention blocks as a way to achieve maximum readability and keep our audiences hooked?

Fascinating stuff!

So, to keep the reader reading, putting in a natural break paired with a dramatic question like a cliffhanger or a bit of suspense at the seven minute mark sounds like the perfect way to keep your reader on track. That way they can either stop for the moment at a good point to rest, or they can plunge on to another seven minute binge to find out what happens next.

But, how long is seven minutes of reading content?

Well, that depends on the reader and the difficulty/complexity of the content itself. However, according to your average American Adult reader reads roughly 300 words per minute. So, doing some simple math, seven minutes of reading means 2100 words.

So, to answer the question that endless numbers of new writers ask every day – “How long should my chapters be?The answer is 2100 words, or if you want to simplify it a bit, make it 2000 words (since it doesn’t hurt to wait for the slower readers).

Of course, shorter would be fine too, but with shorter chapters (or scenes, since this could also be done with scene length) you’d naturally run into the problem that the seven minute gap would come at a random place in your story instead of a controlled moment when you can give them something that grabs their attention to keep them going.

What about the twenty minute limit?

Well, similarly, 20 minutes of reading is roughly 6000 words. So, if you prefer long chapters, you might think about 6000 being your upper limit before you take a break or insert a dramatic pause. And, even if you’re doing 2000 word chapters, then putting a more major dramatic moment every three chapters might be something worth doing to be ready when the reader hits their major restless moment.

Of course, in the end, you can make your chapters whatever length you like, but there’s no harm in being a little scientific and using a little human psychology to make your writing even more addictive.


Workflow for Creating and Marketing Webfiction

Mcoorlim asked:While I’ve dabbled in serial fiction most of my experience (and my day job) is writing novels. How can I adapt my skills from novelist to web serialist in terms of both creative production and marketing?

My reply:

In terms of creative production, the recommended formula for creating webfiction seems to run on a fairly standard model.

The Creative Phase:

  1. Plan out the first two arcs and final arc of your story. Leave the middle vague and flexible.
  2. Typical arcs are 40,000 – 60,000 words.
  3. Break your first arc down into chapters of 2000-3000 words, with a goal of 20-30 chapters. Each chapter needs to have a strong hook at the end to get readers coming back. For more details, check out my book. If you click on the “look inside” on Amazon, it should let you read the whole first chapter which covers the 10 things popular webnovels have in common.
  4. Write the whole first arc.

Marketing and Release Phase:

  1. Pick the sites that work best for your target demographic. (My very rough list is here, I plan to update it later)
  2. Release your first 10-14 chapters simultaneously on those sites, releasing them daily to get your story high up in the rankings and keep it there on the new release list so people will find it. Edit then release each day, so you can respond to reader feedback.
  3. After you’re blown through half your chapters, drop down to 2-3 chapters/week so you have time to write the second arc with reader feedback in mind and can avoid having to go on a long hiatus.
  4. If your story is successful and finds an audience, keep writing it and growing your audience.


  • Webfiction is all about momentum and consistency- keeping your readers engaged and wanting more, and giving them a regular dose of your stories on a set schedule.
  • Some sites have donation options, make sure you set those up so you can get money from your happy readers.
  • Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the sites you post on, most don’t put any creative or legal limitations on your work, but it’s good to know.
  • Obviously, you can later compile your story arcs into novels to sell on Amazon. Don’t be afraid to encourage your loyal readers to go and leave good reviews. Sadly, that’s likely all they’ll do, since they’ve already read the story for free and most won’t buy it based on what I’ve seen. (Unless maybe you offer some extras in each published book they might want.) However, a lot of good reviews will definitely help to boost sales from your new audience.
  • If your story still isn’t working after the first arc, finish it ASAP and move on to another story that might find a larger audience. From a publishing perspective, writing the second arc and then segueing into the planned final arc gives you a trilogy. Keep in mind that what might fail as webfiction could still find a solid audience as an ebook, or vice versa.

Good luck!

Webfiction Statistics: Ants Creation

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories. is a Taiwanese webfiction site I came across that had some stats available, so I decided to include them in my research. I don’t know a lot about the site, not even how popular it is in Taiwan, but I strongly suspect they are mostly targeting a male audience like Munpia.

These guys really love their Fantasy stories, and the rest is a collection of typically male-oriented genres. It would be great to know exactly what kind of stories these Taiwanese guys (and girls) are reading, and to see what Taiwan’s other major sites look like, but my Chinese is terrible and Google Translate is only so much help.

I do know the site is free to post on, and free to read. I’m not sure if they have a mobile app, though.

Online Games/Scifi1100
Martial Arts Fantasy630

Webfiction Statistics: Korea Combined

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Since I had data from three different Korean webfiction sites of Joara, Naver and Munpia, it only seemed logical to combine them to see what was really popular. I used the percentages from each (since the actual numbers would have skewed things) and created a graph.

In the end, the combined chart isn’t much different than the regular charts, Romance wins by a hair over Fantasy, and everything else trails behind. I suppose if I added Martial Arts and Fusion to Fantasy, then Fantasy would win. However, not by much since then I’d have to add Romance Fantasy, Boys Love, and Girls Love to Romance.

Boys Love8%4%
General Fiction (Unclassified)6%4%
Romance Fantasy4%7%
Literary Works4%
Light Novels3%1%3%
Martial Arts2%8%13%
Girls Love0%

Yes, the percentages don’t quite add up, this is because not all sites have the same genres and I used the Joara genres as the base. It still gives a pretty good sample, I think.

Webfiction Statistics: Munpia

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories. is another major South Korean webfiction site, and like Naver is a curated site where only the top stories are promoted and accepted writers get paid for their work by readers. Unlike Naver, however, Munpia is targeted at a male audience instead of a female one.

Munpia has a lot of smaller categories, which you can see at the bottom of the post, but this chart showing the top ten categories makes things pretty clear what’s popular.

Munpia is the only site where Romance is just 3% of the stories I came across, and there’s no doubt what its readers like! It also has the interesting category of Modern Fantasy, which is basically modern characters who can use magic like Harry Potter or Harry Dresden. Fusion is mixed genre work, but still based around mostly fantasy and sci-fi.

The other interesting stats on there are Martial Arts, which are mostly period dramas and fantasy stories about characters fighting and similar to the Chinese Wuxia genre (Koreans call it “murim”). And, the Game genre, since the Koreans literally invented the litRPG genre of people entering VR video games to have adventures.

GenreNumber of Pages
Modern Fantasy185018%
Martial Arts6006%
Light Novels4004%
Science Fiction2502%
General Fiction2502%
Alternative History2002%
War & Military1501%
Medium and Short1501%
Reasoning (Psychological)1001%
Mystery and Suspense1001%
City Essays1001%
Children’s Novels500%
Boys Love500%

While doing research, I also came across a document that looked at the genres of stories that had been in Munpia’s Top 100 over the past decade (before 2017). So, I turned them into a graph as well!

Very similar, but you can see that in terms of popularity, Modern Fantasy and Martial Arts Fantasy are more popular than there are stories about those genres.

Here is the raw stats for stories that hit the top 100…

Modern Fantasy1531
Martial Arts Fantasy950
Fusion Fiction695
General Fiction252
Light Novel186
Science Fiction 151
Sports 144
Alternative History109
Short Works81
Mystery 70
City: Essay56
War and Military26
Fairy Tales16
Boys Love11

Webfiction Statistics: Naver

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories. is the South Korean equivalent to a giant portal to the internet which offers news, shopping, entertainment, and everything a user could ask for. They also offer webfiction and webtoons, and have begun to bring these to an English market as well.

As far as fiction goes, Naver is much more popular with women than men, as is evidenced by the stories by category listed on their site:

As you can see, Naver doesn’t offer a wide variety of genres, but focus on a few profitable ones they know will be popular with audiences. There is a male-oriented component, which would be the Fantasy, Martial Arts, and Sports categories, but women’s fiction is around 67% of the site, so it’s not even a competition.

In Korea, webfiction has a broader audience, and is read and written by older writers as well as young ones. Naver seems to be a popular site with Korean housewives who want to make a little extra money writing romance in their spare time. Did you know that 51% of webfiction writers in Korea make money from their writing? That provides a pretty good incentive to write!

The numbers for these stats are curated and accepted stories which have been approved by the site, which is why they’re so low.

Marital Arts32718%
Romantic Fantasy29687%
Boys Love15654%
Light Novels5241%

Webfiction Statistics: Joara

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories. is South Korea’s oldest webfiction site, having started around the turn of the century. It has millions of users, and a large variety of stories because of its age. I sampled it in July 2019, since that’s when I found a way to scrape data from it.

This chart is based on the number of stories in each of the major categories on the site. Given the number of users and age of the site, I suspect these numbers have been pruned to only include “real” stories as opposed to random fragments and other pieces which would make up the bulk of many sites.

Interestingly enough, this looks like a site where Romance doesn’t rule the roost, however there is a bit of an illusion on this site. While Fantasy is indeed the number one category, if you add Romance, Boys Love and Romantic Fantasy together (since on most sites they’d all be grouped as simply Romance) they combine to 21%, which makes them the second largest category on the site.

Overall, however, I suspect Joara’s membership is more male than female looking at the categories. The dominance of Fantasy is a clue, but so is the popularity of Parody/Humor (which you don’t see on female-majority sites) and Fusion is a mixed genre category that’s mostly other types of Fantasy, so fantasy is really closer to 34%. (Or 40% if you assume most Game stories are LitRPG fantasy stories.)

Not a lot to say about Joara,it seems to follow the fairly typical patterns you’ll see in most webfiction sites. Although, I do note that it’s lacking a mystery/thriller/suspense category, which is also one that tends to be more popular with young female audiences than male ones.

GenreNumber of StoriesPercentage
Boys Love162938%
General Fiction (Unclassified)124596%
Romance Fantasy88294%
Literary Works70334%
Light Novels65623%
Martial Arts36192%
Girls Love6000%

Webfiction Statistics: Shosetsuka ni Narou! (Let’s Become a Novelist!)

Shosetsuka ni Narou! (Let’s Become a Novelist) is Japan’s oldest and most popular webfiction site, and continues to be a place where publishers find their next hot new novelist. Many light novels, including Rising of the Shield Hero, That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime, Kobosuba, RE:Zero, Overlord and a huge list of other titles all started on Narou.

Narou isn’t shy with their genre tag numbers, so it was fairly easy to find out what people were writing on the site.

Narou Genre Tag Pie Chart

Of all the sites I’ve looked it, Narou has perhaps the most balanced and honest selection. By that I mean I can look at those categories and numbers and see the tastes of many ages, sexes, backgrounds, and interests all being combined there, not just a bunch of teen and college age writers.

Narou is still dominated by the big two of Fantasy and Romance, which would be Fantasy 27% and Romance 29% if you combine the sub-genres together, but it does have a bunch of other categories like Poetry, Essays and Pure Literature, which are rare on most webfiction sites.

One thing that does strike me about Narou was that what we would call Science Fiction is broken up into Science Fantasy (2%) and Space (>1%) which shows that harder science fiction doesn’t seem to fly on Narou. I have a theory that youth are intimidated by science fiction, and so they don’t really feel comfortable writing it. Fantasy is so much easier, and requires less research or chances of getting things wrong.

Detailed GenresNumbers
High Fantasy80578
Real World Love46320
Human Drama43796
Low Fantasy34612
Alternate World Love30482
Pure Literature14750
Science Fantasy10168
Fairy Tales8820
Mystery (reasoning)5435
VR Game4247
Post Apocalyptic (panic)1611
Game Playthroughs (replay)346

I should note that I have removed the category of Unclassified stories from the list for clarity, which were 253,774 of the stories listed on the site.

Webfiction Statistics:

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here. The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories. is one of the oldest English-language webfiction sites, being a sister site to, which is the oldest and largest collection of fanfiction in the world. While nowhere near as large as its older sister, or Wattpad, Fictionpress does have almost 600,000 stories on the site.

Fictionpress makes its numbers public, so they were easy to get. Interestingly enough, the site splits itself into Fiction and Poetry, and the Poetry section is much larger than the Fiction section. This makes Fictionpress one of the web’s more popular poetry sites.

The Fictionpress graph data below was gathered in December, 2017, and omits a number of micro categories to make the chart readable. Those categories can be found in the raw data at the bottom. The General Fiction category is the default on the site, and is where anything un-categorized goes, so I have included versions of the chart with and without it.

With the General Fiction Category
Without the General Fiction Category

As you can see, if we eliminate the General Fiction category, we end up with a chart that looks pretty similar to Wattpad and most of the other sites. These numbers show the teen focus of the site, with Young Adult being the third most popular specific category

What is interesting about Fictionpress is how Horror and Supernatural both get their own categories, and how Humor and Science Fiction are both pretty prominent. Fictionpress is an older site, so it’s gone through more than one wave of popularity for Science Fiction, and I think that’s why it’s got a higher percentage here than it does on most sites.

Fictionpress and Wattpad have similar profiles, and here are their percentages in their top categories. You can see where Wattpad’s focus on Romance really sticks out, and how Fantasy is still a fairly popular Fictionpress genre.

General Fiction11700020.09%
Fantasy 9600016.48%
Young Adult573009.84%

Overall, Fictionpress is another site where mostly young writers share their stories. Since it doesn’t have a mobile presence like Wattpad and Webnovel, it is slowly fading into history as young people tend to like using their phones for reading and writing these days.

Webfiction Statistics: Wattpad

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Toronto-based is the largest English language webfiction site in the world, with over 80 million users. Those users are primarily female, with 70% of Wattpad users identifying as female, about 15% male, and 15% preferring not to say. Most of Wattpad’s users are also young,

Here is the breakdown for Wattpad’s 7.04 million genre tags collected on December, 2017 using Wattpad’s search function and searching for broad genre categories and recording the numbers. Wattpad claims to have had more than 400 million story uploads, but many of those will be fragments, and that counts each part or chapter as a separate story uploads.

Thus the data below is incomplete since it’s based on genre tags and stories can have more than one tag, although it does tend to match the data for other webfiction sites in terms of percentages. Wattpad has since changed their search display numbers to only show the top stories in each category, so it’s hard to get more current data. Also, I omitted Fanfiction and Unsorted, which would be the largest categories at the time, and didn’t record the data for them.

Romance naturally rules the roost on a female dominated site, and likely a lot of the Teen stories are also romance as well. Action being so high seems a bit odd, and might be a statistical anomaly created by stories having more than one genre tag. Some writers might classify any story which has action elements in it as action.

Fantasy is smaller than you might expect, being a pretty universally popular genre, but I strongly suspect that Action and Adventure could be grouped together into a single group with Fantasy. Not that there won’t be pure adventure and action stories on a female-dominated site, since girls like those too, but it would make Wattpad match most of the other sites out there.

Mystery is an interesting one, since Wattpad seems to have the highest percentage of mystery stories out there of any site I looked at. Then again, women do seem drawn to mystery stories more than men, so that might make sense. Humor and Horror are also higher on Wattpad than most of the other sites I looked at, but that depends on the readership.

Thriller falling closely behind horror is not a surprise, and Science Fiction is about where it is on many sites. Historical, Middle Grade and Post-Apocalyptic round out the chart. Smaller genres on most sites as well.

Here are the actual numbers:

Science Fiction154000
Middle Grade9100
Post Apocalyptic6900

Now, Wattpad also had clubs (they’ve replaced these since) at the time which had membership numbers for how many people were a member of each club available. Being curious, I grabbed those as well, and they chart out as below.

These are a bit different from the tag stats, but they show where the interest in the Wattpad readership was. People who joined a club were dedicated fans of those genres, and may have been readers more than writers.

Teen Fiction9491513.87%
Short Story305564.47%
Science Fiction219263.20%
General Fiction193022.82%
Historical Fiction129091.89%

Since I took these, Wattpad has reorganized it’s categories and revamped the site in many ways. They’ve now put a big emphasis on diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion, and in fact those are major story categories on the site. Unfortunately, I can’t say how major because they’ve buried their real numbers too deep for me to find and don’t seem to want to share.