No Time? Don’t Even Try

Eating LettersIn early 2007 I closed down the last blook I was working on. Deleted it, made it private, archived the posts. Ironically enough it was the same blook that had driven me to start writing Novelr, but it was a failure. I never had enough time to update it consistently, and I lost readers as easily as I gained them. When I closed Janus I had zero. They had all lost faith in me.

Reader Expectations

We all know that posting consistency is the hallmark of a good blog. Blogs that update sporadically are bad ones, and they can never fulfill their potential as far as this trend continues. Novelr is a bad blog. I’m not saying this in jest – it’s the truth and there’s not much I can do about it as long as the academic year continues. I decided long ago that it was better to publish erratic but quality content rather than yell at my schedule and let Novelr die. It’s a horrible choice to make, and Novelr is not growing as fast as it used to. But life’s like that.

Novelr is, however, a blog, not a blook. Reader expectations of blogs are nothing compared to the expectation generated from a blog novel. I followed a few blooks before my academic year started, and I’m familiar with the strong feeling of murder whenever an author misses a scheduled episode (and doesn’t explain). Blook writers know it too – a lot of them apologize when reality pushes back an update, and readers are usually forgiving enough to tolerate that. But two or three times – a month – and the readership dips for the said writer. And once you prove you’re consistently inconsistent? Well. You’ve got suicide on your hands.

So the question you should ask yourself before you start writing a blook is this: do I have the time to handle my obligation to my readers? Blooks are divided many ways: some are split into arcs, others into volumes. The trick is to consistently plow through one arc – where the story’s somewhat completed – and then you can allow yourself a rest. If you can do that, carry on. If you can’t, don’t bother. It’ll save you and your fans a lot of heartache in the process.

But I Still Want To Blook!

Yeah, well, so do I. And there is a way around time constraints, though it’ll be a little tricky.

Your first option is to complete the story, edit it, and type it out in WordPress. Then what you’ve got to do is to future post them one by one – set it so that it automatically publishes at consistent time intervals – every Thursday, for instance. WordPress allows this through a feature called timestamps, which basically allows you to set the date and time you want a post to be published. Nifty feature, but it’s a lot of work.

The second option you do have is to post up a complete story in its entirety. I have opted for this route, and there are several things it allows you to do. The first is that you can edit your manuscript until you’re sick of the whole thing. The second is that you have plenty of time to tweak it presentation-wise, and the feedback process before you publish is tremendous – you can watch other people using the site and make note of what works and what doesn’t. I am in fact using this method as an experiment on blook design, but I’ll talk about that on a later date.

There are a few drawbacks of opting for the completed story route: the first of which it’s not as fun. Writing a story organically – sometimes with reader feedback and always with support – is a wonderful experience. It’s also quite attractive to the reader – the tension as you wait for the next update and the interaction with the author as the story folds out is incomparable to any other medium, save probably the Dickens newspaper serials.

But time constraints are time constraints, and I have to make do with what I have. My manuscript’s nearly finished now – it’s only a matter of time for editing and design to be over and done with, before I can release it to the wild. Am I envious of other blook authors who can create ongoing works? Yes, definitely. But till I have enough time I can only watch from the sidelines, read ongoing masterpieces, and maybe, just maybe, murder an author who’s forgotten to update.

Note: illustration taken from Vladstudios.

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Category: Writing Web Fiction
  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    Putting things up on time is a challenge and I”ve been less consistent than I want to be. My ideal is to have things available 12:01 am or so, but I’m okay with 8:00 am (giving me the time to look things over one more time…).

    What’s happened a lot lately though is putting things up the day that they’re supposed to appear (sometimes near the end of the day). Which sucks.

    Amusingly, I started out the serial I’m currently writing with a three or four week buffer deliberately to avoid just such a situation. Somehow, I’d like to recreate the buffer, but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • http://www.wibblypress.net Stormy

    I started off on an everyday schedule – I couldn’t keep up, so I dropped back down to three days a week and writing longer episodes – this has worked out, except for the hiatus I’m on at the moment (real life, etc).

    I love writing organically, there are so many scenes and twists that I’ve done with Mirrorfall that wouldn’t have happened if I was writing it as one big piece.

    I may explore the “write it all, upload it later” format sometime in the future (it was what I was going to do with a project that fell through), but I’m happy flying by the seat of my pants for the moment.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    @jz: 12:01 am!? You don’t sleep, do you? My brain’s mostly fried at that time – can’t for the life of me write one decent paragraph at midnight.

    @Stormy: And so, I suspect, are your readers. I’m going to start reading Mirrorfall extensively after my exams are over – I’ve already covered 3 episodes and I like the idea behind it.

  • http://thebookaholic.blogpsot.com bibliobibuli

    failed? ah well, as billy lim would say, you have to dare to fail.

    you learned from the experience and that is in itself valuable.

    anyway, as publisher david davidar told me, every author should have a failed novel in a drawer some where, even if that drawer is a virtual drawer.

    this blog is not at all a failure. i love your content and the way you present it.

    personally i think blogs should be updated regularly, so readers know when to expect a new post, but that does not mean that you need to update everyday or even once a week.

    life happens, and readers know that. i think a short explanation about what’s happening in your life really helps.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Thanks, Sharon. I do wish I’ve more time to come online, though. There’s still plenty of stuff to post up and dissect and talk about.

    And you know how I feel about your blog – it’s done so much already for Malaysian reading. =) Thank you thank you thank you.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    I’ve always stayed up late. But for me at least, it’s easier to write when everyone else in the house is asleep.

  • http://unicornbait.blogspot.com Windvein

    Psst…Blogger lets you schedule future posts too. It’s pretty new for Blogger.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Serious? That’s good news, then. Been waiting so long for them to implement future posting.

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  • flyelephant

    cool

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