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