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Have you ever been reading a book and thought, "dang that must've been a long day?"

I'm writing a YA fiction novel and in my plotting/planning/drafting/whatever you want to call it, I managed to sandwich a good chunk of chapters into one day. I have 6 chapters (approximately 10000 words over 37 pages) all jammed into one day. A few of those chapter breaks are there mostly for point of view changes. I jammed all these chapters together because it's a real turning point to the story where one big event leads pretty much directly into another and following those two events, the main characters (who have two very different experiences and perspectives on the world)have a lot to talk about. A lot of information to exchange between the two different world perspectives. I've looked back through this section of writing trying to find a good spot to break it up and extend the conversation into another day but I just can't find a spot that makes sense. I understand that in real life people get tired but the situation is so tense that I don't think either of the characters would be able to stop asking questions or reflecting on things.

What I don't want is for someone to be reading my book, come to this section and lose their sense of immersion because they think, "these kids couldn't have possibly done all this in one day."

So I ask, How much is too much for one day? Will a long day in the life of the characters wreck the immersion of the story?

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  • James Joyce's "Ulysses" is about 265,000 words long, and it's considered one of the masterpieces of world literature.
    – Alexander
    Mar 10 at 18:28
  • The rough of my YA novel and it's sequel both had the bulk of the story take place over a span of about 12 hours... because of the use of future tech, the heroes began in different time zones but the events begin roughly at 2100 EST and conclude at 0900 EST. The second book did something similar but I don't think I was as cognizant of the clock time of events. The first book is easier to recall because the events were tied in to a specific holiday... and because of that, I had to be aware of the time of day for all characters.
    – hszmv
    Mar 10 at 19:53
  • Although it's a short book, 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' is a complete text. Mar 11 at 22:08
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It depends a lot on the content and detail level. Based just off of the numbers you've given, it definitely seems like a lot of paper for one day. Doing a quick guestimation on some of my works, a day in which stuff happens(ie fighting, working, etc, not sick and in bed all day) will range from 3-6 thousand words, mostly in the same chapter but sometimes split between two. to answer your first question, 10000 definitely sounds like too much to me, I'd try to trim it down to maybe 6-7000 at most.

Now depending on content and detail level, we can start figuring out why this is so long. Fight scenes, although very short time-wise, can take up a lot of room on paper. Same with conversations, although they can easily blow up the page numbers. If you detail your settings a lot, you can quickly add a lot of words, although this would contribute less to overall page length.

Based off a probably inaccurate google search and the assumption of single spacing, your story seems to have a decent amount of dialogue. I'd say that, despite the large word count, talking can effectively be 'a free action' that doesn't really take up much time. Still, 10000 words is a lot, and I'd recommend either splitting the day/chapter somewhere. Since you say you're having trouble deciding where to split, try having one of the character have to go somewhere(work?) in the middle and they can meet up later to continue the conversation.

I'd also like to point out that a mainly dialogue chapter(which sounds like what this is) is probably going to be a bit bland and will need some stuff thrown in to make it less bland and keep readers.

But to answer your second question, I don't think it would wreck the immersion, but the sheer amount of text will leave more room for mistakes to accidentally lose the readers through something. Maybe do a few scene changes to keep it from being too bland(walking through downtown or a mall?).

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Totally Subjective:

I don't think there can be a set amount of time that passes in a story. It completely depends on what and how you are writing. I could easily see an entire novel set inside the course of a single day, or even a stretch of hours.

Imagine a group of people fleeing a disaster. You could switch perspectives so each chapter is from a different person's point of view. If the story is full of heart-pounding action, the hero(ine) could be going from car chase to bombing to gun fight to volcanic eruption to escape from a burning building. This kind of pacing is more common in a movie, but in an action thriller novel, it's certainly possible.

YA readers are often (perhaps unfairly or perhaps not) assumed to have short attention spans. It is likely that people will assume a pretty brisk pace, but action can mean a lot of things. If your characters are having a long conversation and neurotically psychoanalyzing every word that's said with a half page of introspection, you could be in trouble (although to be fair, as a teen I did exactly this out of insecurity). I think you are likely okay, but without actually reading it, I can't say for certain if it will fly or flop. Good luck.

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