A Simple Explanation

Imagine this: you’re a web fiction writer, and you’re approaching a publisher, or an editor, or a reader – a person who does not understand this thing that you do. You want to explain web fiction to him. You do not want to be associated with fan fiction (admittedly the bastard-child of the publishing world) but you know that there is this risk of association, especially so when you’re publishing to the web. What do you do? How do you explain this, simply and quickly?

Today I’ve gone and done up a simple definition site for web fiction. My hope is this: if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to explain your work – repeatedly, say – fear not the ignorant man. Point him to the site, instead. I hope that this would save you the bit of time needed to explain your work; the same way it should prevent publishers from rejecting you as ‘fan-fiction’ material.

What Is Web Fiction?

Two more things.

First, I’ve asked a number of people about the definition, and most of them think that it’s fair. If it isn’t, or if there’s something that you think it lacks – feel free to start a discussion in the comments below. (Note: you may want to read Jan Oda’s excellent primer on web fiction definitions before you do so). My position, however, is simple. I believe that if a work is published to the web, it should be considered web fiction. There are two additional clauses in the definition:

  1. The work must be original. This clause was added to differentiate the field from fan-fiction, something that I think most of us would agree with. Web fiction is not derivative; it should be always original (in the copyright sense of the term, that is).
  2. The work must be written for the web. A tad puzzling, but we must remember that not all fiction found online may be considered ‘web fiction’. Take Google Books, for example. Google will soon upload a large number of books – some of them novels – formerly published under copyright law. These books cannot be properly considered web fiction, simply because they were not meant for the web. However, if an author takes a previously published work and takes pain to put it online, make it presentable for long periods of on-screen reading, etc; then the work may be considered web fiction (though, I have to admit – this is a loose interpretation of the above clause). I realize that I’m quickly approaching a thin grey line here – when is web fiction … web fiction? When is it an everyday novel? I do not know; and I do not presume to know at all times. I’m not sure if this definition will ever be all-comprehensive. I do know, however, that I recognize web fiction when I see it, and I expect that with enough time a reasonably bright reader would, too.

The second thing I would like to mention is how odd it may seem, to a reader several years down the road, that someone had actually taken the time to create this site. I certainly hope that this would soon be true: that in the near future, people won’t need a definition site like this one – that they’d know what web fiction is the same way you and I know what a movie is, or an EP, or a picture book.

Till then, pass this link to people who don’t yet know what Web Fiction’s all about. I hope this helps, and – lest I forget – Merry Christmas, everyone! Consider this Novelr’s gift to the community. Now off you go, and have yourself a very happy new year.

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