The State of the Web Serial: Thoughts on infrastructure and crafting

As we begin the new year, I thought I would reflect a bit on the state of Webfiction and Web Serials.

This year, the most popular page of 2014 was “Where to Read/List Serials” followed by posts comparing places to post fiction.

I’ve now been knee-deep in the original webfiction world for four years.  Companies come , rebrand, and go. Many just never make it big.

Faces come and go in the webfiction world very quickly (as evidenced by how many folks who were past authors on this blog have gone back to writing a book in more traditional manner).

What amazes me is that in spite of failures on part of companies and authors to capitalize on “fiction on the web” that new authors continue to show up to the webfiction/online serial world in search of readers.

Life continues to putter along at several indie hubs for web fiction such as the forums at Webfiction Guide and at Starter Serials.   Wattpad continues to make waves with tens of millions of readers showing up at their door. And Amazon is quietly developing “WriteOn” as a potential rival to Wattpad and other smaller webfiction communities by keeping its Beta phase targeted towards authors who want feedback.

While Wattpad continues to try to find a way to push out their successful stories within their community into the larger digital reading world, I don’t think they’ve quite managed to find respectability yet. Anna Todd’s reworked One Direction meets BDSM fanfic seems to have created a lot of media noise , both good and bad. However, I think I’m still waiting for the last volume of  “Captive Prince” to hit the bookstands before we have another meaningful dialogue on webfiction as a potential source of a credible franchise.

* * *

It’s rare to find blog posts about web serialization from other authors. I do know there are conversations and fora posts in various communities, but sadly not enough!

However, it looks like is ramping up again with more posts. A few weeks ago,  veteran web serial author Claudia Hall Christian , posted the first of a series of posts on crafting serial fiction.  This first column, “Surviving Serial Fiction,” presents the dilemma of someone trying to return to it after some time off.

I think what’s commendable about her approach is her sense of intention and purpose. She treats it as a serious undertaking that should happen with planning and discussion (some part of her already well-defined process, honed from experience I presume.)

But the process she describes comes from a full-time writer and is balanced on top of other writing commitments. It sounds daunting.

I don’t disagree that thought needs to be part of a serial. However, I would like to venture that starting a serial or webfiction is never that hard. Publication platforms are free. Audiences can be found.  It’s maintaining the serial that is much harder.

Some things I would like to clarify for the newcomers:

You are your own team.

Most indie serial authors have no “team” behind an author. None of the folks I interact with have a team. The author themselves is the entire team of content creator, editor, marketer, and publisher.  Do not feel like you need one to get started. In fact, don’t try to sink money into all of these roles until you can prove you can create interesting content on a consistent basis.

There is no minimum outlay of time to invest, no magic formula. 

While she mentions 16 hours a day being committed for a serial, some get by with 30 minutes or less a day or every other day.

In my fourth year of writing, I can commit (at most) 6 hours a week to each 1600-2400 word installment of The Queen of Swans . This often includes 2 hours or so of navel-gazing where I try to take a one sentence “goal” for an installment and flesh it out to a few paragraphs marking each scene. Then there’s henpecking at this hulk of messy text over stolen hours on a weekend before a massive painful rewrite the night of posting.

I know of some folks who are able to simply complete each installment in one sitting because they are capable of writing exactly what they want out the first time.   All this to say — in the realm of webfiction or serials, there is no right way/approach or time commitment to writing.

How many hours, people, installments, revisions, you have — it doesn’t matter as long as your output is interesting and compelling enough to get people to want to come back.At the end of the day, what needs to happen is to have a plan and stick to it.

Looking ahead for this blog. 

In 2015, I hope I’ll be able to spend more time studying the various communities.  In the immediate future, I also plan to come back and talk about Wattpad, three or so years in.

The majority of blogposts about Wattpad are from traditional authors who are invited to the Wattpad author program (and often cut up existing books more than write new exclusive content).  I have had a pretty good time with collecting my own analytics the past few years and am rifling through the new analytics information to draw new conclusions about who my readers are and all that jazz.

2014 in Wattpad ended on a pretty cool note– namely, finding one of my works on a curated list put together by someone in Wattpad HQ.  The impact on my readership is still hard to assess but it looks promising.

In any case, everyone, talk to you later. Happy 2015 and Happy Writing!


One comment

  1. Hi there! Thanks so much for sharing a link to my post at Tuesday Serial! We’re excited to help support all serial fiction authors — and 4 years of writing a serial is nothing to sneeze at! I’ve been writing a chapter a week of the Denver Cereal since 2008, so I know exactly how significant your accomplishment is. Congratulations!

    I’m wondering if you’d like to share your “go to techniques” for getting your serial done when things are tough. I’d love the chance to highlight your successful work in the column. The bigger our community of serial fiction authors the better. You can send me your thoughts or Tweet me. I’d love to hear from you.

    Thanks again!

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