Simple Rules for Writing Fulfilling Web Fiction

Looking back on the history of ideas covered at Novelr, I’ve come to realize that there’re only a few simple principles that you need to know to be able to write fulfilling web fiction. The trick is to distill through the majority of these ideas, so that you’re left with a small, useful core. Here are the most important ones.

Why Web Fiction?

There are two good reasons to write web fiction. The first is for the writing. You’re a writer, and it’s likely that you’re already scribbling in little notebooks on the side. Putting that on the web provides for you an external force to keep you writing.

The second reason is more visceral: write web fiction to find and talk to readers. The best online writing gets comments within the first few hours of a new chapter going live. It’s an amazing thing to have readers debating over characters – your characters – not too long after you’ve finished writing.

These are the two most important reasons to write web fiction. All the others will fade in comparison as time goes by. Getting noticed through web fiction is an untested model. Making money works for some people (who have to be just as good as building great web-reading experiences as they are at writing) and may not work for all.

These extras are nice bonuses to have, but will certainly not be true for everyone.

Writing Web Fiction

Stick to a regular posting schedule. Find a comfortable chapter length and use that. This isn’t too hard to do – you’ll figure this out, naturally, as you go along.

Some people recommend keeping a buffer of chapters so you have time to think ahead. This is fine, but there’s a better alternative: keep a loose plot skeleton in a separate document, and write once a week with the pressure of a waiting audience to keep you going. Things will be more fun that way.

Talking to Readers

Web fiction is only truly fulfilling when you have an audience to keep you going. Creating that audience is important if you truly want to enjoy all the medium has to offer.

The single most important principle to remember if you want to create a community around your work is to: respond to each and every single comment. I want to repeat that, because it’s so important: respond to each and every single comment.

The majority of your readers will never comment on your work. If and when they do, why not do the one thing that would keep them commenting? A quick response tells them that they’re valued. It keeps them coming back. Given enough time, they’ll begin debating with each other, and that’s the best metric possible for the quality of your community.

Keep a personal writing blog. Talk to readers on Twitter. Point to both on your web fiction site. The blog helps you talk to readers even when you’re not posting fiction. And blogs are much less work than a well curated forum, for the same benefits.

Don’t worry too much about finding readers (at least – not at the beginning). Keep writing good stories and the readers will find you.

Presenting web fiction

Good presentation in web fiction isn’t as important as the first three ideas. A beautifully designed site with bad writing habits and no audience is worth nothing to a web fiction author. And if you have unmanaged expectations for your online writing, you aren’t likely to have as much fun.

That said, if you’ve got the first three ideas down, you may find the general principles listed here useful.

Design matters. Designing for web fiction is simple: keep things readable. Stay away from electric-pink text.

Design affects how readers view your work. Colours set the mood and tone for your stories. It doesn’t hurt to hire a designer to do an identity for your site. But if you can’t afford to do that, read these Novelr articles here, here, and here.

I think this pretty much covers the core of what we’ve found out about web fiction, at Novelr. Probably these ideas work as a framework on which you may hang all the other ideas that you’ll find at this site. And that’s all there is to it – it’s that simple. Good luck.

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Category: Writing Web Fiction