Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Why Collectives Need A Focus

Dan Holloway is a writer and thinker on e-fiction, and founder of two grassroots ebook initiatives: Free E-Day, and Year Zero Writers. Here he talks about how a manifesto is important for even a loose collective of online fiction writers.

The Internet provides a great opportunity for writers to meet up, and start working together. And the collective format offers some great economies of scale to writers ”“ especially when it comes to marketing, where each person’s efforts benefit everyone (if you focus, as we think of it at Year Zero Writers, on replicable not duplicable activity). But it’s easy to think of collectives as a short cut. Aside from the whole question of how you get large numbers of independent-minded people who’ve never met to pull together, you need to make sure you have a niche.

One of the main points of having a collective is to create a single identity for you all. Rather, to allow you all to be who you are, but to let readers know that if they like one of your books, they will probably like the others as well. Your books need to appeal to the same market. And readers need to know that.

That’s easy when you’re writing non-fiction. If your books are “Orchid-growing in Queensland”, “Orchid Houses of new Zealand”, “1001 Orchids”, readers will soon get the hang of what you’re about.

With fiction it’s harder. You effectively have to create an imprint ”“ something like Mills and Boon or Black Lace.

For the writers of Year Zero this was a real problem. The point about imprints like this is they come with strict rules of style, content, and format. And the thing that had driven us together in the forums of Authonomy and The Book Shed was our frustration at the editorial strictures the publishing industry put on writers. We wanted a place where we could be free of all that.

It was also clear, looking at our books, that there WAS a common thread. Whatever we wrote, we wrote it for an audience that didn’t want to be told what to think, that wasn’t frightened of a challenge, that wanted to look at the world in new ways. If we have a demographic it’s what we’d call “urban indie”.

So we had this anti-establishment readership, and we had a bunch of books we refused to edit to “be commercial” (a very different thing from refusing to edit them ”“ some of our books have been edited to death: the point is we did it the way WE wanted to). And we had an angry, group mentality, and an almost political approach to the publishing industry.

So the answer was obvious. We needed a manifesto. THAT is our “imprint”, our rallying call, and the thing that draws our readers in. And it’s a very simple one ”“ restoring the direct conversation between reader and writer. “Uncut prose” unsullied by arbiters of taste. It’s about a reader-writer relationship that’s mature enough to do without a chaperone.

So for us the manifesto has tied everything together. It’s given us focus; it differentiates our work from the mainstream and lets readers know what to expect; it makes a virtue of what some would see as a defect; and it’s the building block of a very simple strategy.

  1. Attract readers to us with our manifesto
  2. Make our work free in e-format so people can get to know us once we have their attention ”“ from Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair, the sampler featuring original prose from 13 of us to the full versions of our novels
  3. Deliver the best books we possibly can to keep readers once they’re interested

So my advice if you’re looking at starting a collective and you can’t think what your niche is. Ask yourself what it is you all have in common ”“ no matter how obscure or angry or negative that might seem to be. And make it your unifying strength, your rallying call.

Dan Holloway is co-founder of Year Zero Writers, a regular blogger on independent culture, and organiser of the Free-e-day festival. The first three novels form Year Zero Writers are: Benny Platonov by Oli Johns, Glimpses of a Floating World by Larry Harrison, and Songs from the Other Side of the Wall by Dan Holloway.

Wednesday, 30 September, 2009

Why A Reviewer Class Is Important For Online Fiction

MCM is the author of several successful (and extremely addictive) web novels, which he publishes at his site, His latest work is The Vector – which is also a business experiment in a fiction format he calls ‘Serial +’. Here he talks about how a multi-tiered, superstar class of reviewers can help online fiction. This post is part two of a two part series; the first part can be found at Alan Baxter’s blog.

In my previous post over at Alan Baxter’s site, I talked about why a reviewer class is vital to the overall health of the weblit community. But creating that class shouldn’t just be about copying what the Old Publishing industry does. We’ve got more potential, so we should use it.

This is all going to be based on the Long Tail:

Web Fiction's Long Tail

In a nutshell, the head (left) is where the hits are, and the tail (everything else) consists of niches of various shapes and sizes. Mainstream publishing tends to focus on the head, leaving the rest of the graph totally undiscovered. It’s done this way out of necessity: churning the tail would take more resources and split more attentions than anyone can afford. Or, at least in the old system it would.

On the web, we are a massive collection of niches… far more niches than you can possibly put tags to. From a distance, it looks too busy to comprehend, let alone assign a reviewer to. The problem many weblit authors have is that their work doesn’t fit into a genre very cleanly. If you write erotic werewolf scifi mysteries, you probably get ignored by most reviewers, because they have no idea what to do with you. But that’s the old paradigm… on the internet there are as many experts as there are niches. What we need to do is find these connoisseurs and give them the tools they need to be heard and taken seriously, and encourage their authority over their niche.

For this example, we’ll make up a reviewer named Bob. Bob specializes in erotic werewolf scifi mysteries. Don’t judge him. Bob is the one who separates the wheat from the chaff without punishing you for your genre. To the readers and writers in that niche, Bob is the one that you trust for the truth. He becomes a Super User, if only on a limited scale.

Bob's niche

Above him, we have an umbrella niche for werewolf stories, with Jen as one of the top reviewers. Dealing with a larger pool of books than Bob, Jen can’t possibly read everything. Instead, she saves herself time by reading the best-ranked books coming from her sub-niches. Bob loved “The Werewolf’s Wife”, so Jen can safely pick it up, knowing the baseline quality is there. If she thinks it will be a good fit for her larger, more diverse niche, she can review it too.

Jen's niche

Repeat the process up and up the chain, and at each level, we’re treading closer to the head of the tail. If “The Werewolf’s Wife” is a work of true genius, it will float into the realm of the higher-level reviewers… these aren’t reviewers who are BETTER than their lower niche counterparts, they’re just appealing to a broader base, giving them a bigger readership pool and more influence. Not every book will make it up the structure, but there will be more mobility than ever before.

Now let’s say “The Werewolf’s Wife” made it to the upper levels of the “mystery” niche, and had magnificent reviews. The next book by the same author should (theoretically) not need to start from the bottom anymore. It can premiere near the top, thus removing a lot of the clutter waiting to be discovered by the micro-niche reviewers.

The Reviewer Hierarchy in Web Fiction

So how do we create this system? It’s pretty simple: first, we need to have a set of standards for reviewers. It needs to include an attribution clause, so as books travel upwards, the reviewers who discovered them are given credit. The reviewers need to establish themselves in their niches, rather than aspiring to be generic. Sites like the Web Fiction Guide could promote this notion of rockstar reviewers.

Authors need to play a part as well: link back to your reviews, send your readers to check them out. Trust isn’t a finite resource, so don’t be stingy with it. The more you teach your audience to trust your reviewers, the more the more powerful those reviewers will become. By helping Bob become well-respected in his niche, you’re giving yourself a head start with all subsequent books. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and the more work you put into it, the healthier the whole system will be.

Making an efficient and dependable reviewer class in the weblit world will help give everyone more credibility, so that when the rest of the world notices what we’re doing here, they’ll feel like it’s fully developed and ready for use. Otherwise, we’re just a wild west of half-wit writers waiting for the established players to arrive and bring us civilization.

MCM is still heavily invested in the future of online fiction. Read one of his books here, or spar with him in the comments below. (Oh and, I read The Vector. It rocks.)

Tuesday, 21 July, 2009

Making Money From Online Fiction – I’ve Done It, So Can You

Nobody in the online fiction sphere has experimented with business models as much as MCM has. Originally the creator of childrens’ TV series RollBots, he writes (and sometimes illustrates) books for kids like TorrentBoy and The Pig and the Box. His latest work/experiment is an adult novel called The Vector, which runs on a format he calls ‘Serial+’ (continue reading, he’ll explain). Here he talks about how he’s experimented with the medium, and what you can learn from that experience.

Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Also, some are mentally unstable, and actively seek out disaster. That, in a nutshell, is me and publishing.

I’ve been writing fiction online for over three years now, and I’ve tried countless publishing business models, with some great successes and horrible failures. I endeavour to be the guinea pig for authors everywhere, testing the theories others are too scared to try. It takes a lot of patience, but it’s very rewarding. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned

Find Your Niche

This is fairly obvious, but I think it’s greatly overlooked. Possibly the most important thing you can do when starting a project is to know who your audience is, and what they’re looking for. Taken to an extreme, this could be called pandering, but that’s not what you’re trying to do. You know that expression that goes “you can’t break the rules until you know what they are”? Same idea. You can’t push the boundaries of a sub-genre unless you know which sub-genre you’re writing.

But it’s more than substance. Certain niches don’t work in certain media, and can spell disaster for your release plans. One of my series, The SteamDuck Chronicles, sold in amazing volume in e-book format, but bombed badly in print. If I’d taken the time to really understand how my niche audience worked, I would have known they weren’t interested in paper, and saved myself some money. Ignoring that tiny bit of research meant my first 30 sales went to offsetting the Print on Demand set-up costs. You don’t want to do that to yourself.

Free Works

One of my most popular titles is “TorrentBoy: Zombie World!”. It’s available in print and e-book, and just like all my other projects, it’s completely free. You can read from start to finish on my website without any obstacles, and over 250,000 people have already done so. Obviously, I’m losing lots of money on it, right? Wrong.

In the three months since it was released, TorrentBoy has earned over $9,700 in profit, almost entirely from donations. In fact, even though 99.8% of my readers don’t pay a thing for the experience, the ones that do are spending more than I would have earned from royalties under any conventional model. And the only reason they donate is because they can see the whole picture. You can’t count the non-payers as lost income, because in all likelihood, they wouldn’t pay anyway. Worse yet, if you obsess on them too much, you’re going to scare away your true customers. They’re an endangered species, and you can’t afford to mess around with their generosity.

Focus Efforts

When you’re building your website, it’s easy succumb to what developers call “feature creep.” Every new widget or feature or side-issue that you come across gets squeezed into your page design, often at the expense of the content itself. You have to make sure nothing is distracting from the text. Hosting may be expensive, and ads may pave the way to stability, but if you overload the reader’s senses when they’re trying to browse, you’re losing business.

To help test these theories, I created a special Reader site, which lets you read any of my books in whatever languages they’re available in. The design removes everything but the content from immediate view, with chapter navigation and title information one click away. Since the switch, my “rate of completion” (how many people actually finish the book) has jumped from around 40% to 98%, and both donations and sales are up (230% and 180% respectively). As a trial, I create a parallel version of the site, adding a right-hand column with navigation and tombstone information, and made it display for a random subset of visitors. The result? Smaller gains over the traditional model: 10% for donations and 0.3% for sales. The fewer distractions, the better off you’ll be.

Streamline Donations

I’ve tried PayPal buttons in various places around my sites, and this is what I know: a link in the right sidebar gets clicked 0.21% of the time. The same button in the left sidebar gets clicked 0.01% of the time. The link can be “below the fold” (not visible when the page first loads), but too far down and your click rate drops to zero. Putting the link inline almost never works (0.002%), and at the start of the text, it’s utterly useless (0%). Placing a link at the bottom of a chapter or page often works, but you need to be careful that the reader feels a sense of closure when they see that link. Cliffhangers and wrap-ups work nicely (1.1%), but if you’re just arbitrarily cutting the text mid-stream, those links never get clicked. And sometimes you get hate mail.

Another thing to consider is not using the PayPal icons at all. If you create your own button, or apply the “email link” code to plain text, those tend to outperform the branded icons 2:1. Again, don’t overwhelm readers with too many options in too many places. My Reader site places a “thanks!” page at the end of each book, with several donation options to choose from. Since it went live, donations have increased to almost 3% across the board. It’s simple, inoffensive, but blunt, and it does far better business than overcrowding ever did.

Consider a Serial, or Serial+

Serializing a novel is a great way to build brand loyalty (where the brand is you). It’s largely psychological, but I’ve found that readers who come back to you regularly for two or three months will tend to convert from “casual observer” to something approaching “fan”. But the interesting thing is, they don’t need to be coming back for new stuff, just more of the same. Serializing creates an artificial need to return to your site, thereby boosting your fan levels. For my serialized novel Fission Chips, I’ve seen a great shift in the profile of my readership over the last month and a half. Of my 10,000+ readers, 814 are now in the category I’d call “dedicated fans”, visiting not just that site, but reading my other titles as well. After the first two weeks, that number was only 12.

Another variation on this theme is what I call Serial+. In it, you release your book on a schedule (new chapters every Monday and Wednesday, for example), but put a footnote after the latest chapter informing the readers that at this rate, it will take them until some distant date to finish the story. If they want to skip ahead, they can donate a reasonable sum, and get the full story unlocked right away. In early testing, this model has an astounding conversion rate of 72%. If your writing is compelling, people will probably “upgrade” when they can’t take waiting anymore.

Be Nimble

The biggest handicap for major publishing companies is their inability to react to subtle shifts in the marketplace. Strangely, most indie authors actively emulate this mindset, even when they have no reason to. Never get stuck in one mode for too long. If you’re seeing resistance to a certain approach, look at ways to change. You’re writing fiction online here: tradition already says you’re the scum of the Earth. Don’t feel beholden to it for any reason. Do what needs to be done, and be prepared to shift your weight when the time comes.

MCM writes at, and he’s also heavily invested in the future of online fiction. See a full collection of his works here.

Wednesday, 11 June, 2008

Why A Publishing Industry Slump Is Good For Us

Money In The EyeGavin Williams writes No Man An Island and The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin. In this guest post he talks about how a traditional publishing industry slump presents a unique opportunity for the growth of online fiction.

The illustrious Alexandra Erin, one of the successful online novelists (and by “successful” I mean it’s her day job) recently wrote that the publishing industry is currently tightening its belt in the face of a possible recession. That means there will likely be less sales, less new books, and less new writers. Because in the face of falling sales, the big companies will be unwilling to take risks on new authors until the crisis is past. And, readers will have less money to spend on unknown writers. They’ll want something they’re sure to find entertaining and worth the money, since we’ll all have less of it.

Now, this is where some news anchor would say “This is a good time to PANIC!”

Now, it kind of is. If the rising price of oil destroys our economy and causes a depressed period, that will pretty much suck. I’m not going to sugarcoat that sad fact. So, what chance does the new art form of Online Novels have against a powerhouse industry like Traditional Publishing? Especially in the face of a crisis of global proportions?

Well, because we have an opportunity here. The Chinese symbol for crisis is the same as the one for opportunity: Crisertunity! (Thank you Homer Simpson) If the common reader is going to have trouble finding disposable income to spend on paper books, we can present a great alternative: free online text. It’s environmentally friendly, takes zero manufacturing time, saves trees, and entertains daily.

The Old Way: Traditional Publishing

You know how it goes. A plucky young writer goes into his or her private sanctuary with a typewriter/laptop and punches out the next great American Novel. (I’m Canadian, but we’re talking myths here) It’s a work of genius, with rich drama and realistic characters. The earnest would-be novelist sends it to agents and publishers, writing query letters, hoping for the best.

Form letters come back, saying the manuscript isn’t “right” for their publishing house or agency. Or that the writing is excellent, but that marketing it would be difficult. Perhaps a rewrite? The writer goes back into seclusion, writing like a madman, until it’s finished. Frank Herbert’s “Dune” was rejected 13 times by publishers. James Joyce’s “Dubliners” was rejected 22 times, and then the first run was bought by one person and burned. They had to try again.

Finally, the young writer (probably no longer young) gets an agent and gets published. And then waits for a year while the manuscript is edited and printed, cover art finalized, marketing planned… Until finally, one day there is their book, on a shelf in a store, for the world to find and love.

Readers will spend fifteen, twenty, twenty-five dollars for a paperback. And from there to the neighbourhood of fifty bucks for a hardcover. And that plucky young writer? Well, after the publisher pays the corporate owners, the editors, the publicists, the artists, the printer and the agent, not much is left.

And if a recession closes the publishing world’s doors to everyone but the big names, the bestsellers? You get zero.

The Alternative: Faster, Leaner, Cooler

A new economic model is emerging thanks to the Internet. The Music Industry has already proven it works, and that the culture needs to adapt. Downloads. Why buy a CD with two good songs and ten bad ones, when you can download the two songs you like? Ipods and MP3 players make digital music more convenient than CDs. Some bands are taking this to heart: Radiohead offered some of its music online for free, and fans could leave donations. The whole industry is trying to recreate itself.

Bands are getting fans to help them publish music, instead of turning to big studios. Fans get to feel like part of a community, vote on favourites, comment on albums, and decide who’s worthy of funding. These are exciting times.

Tuesday, 3 June, 2008

Before You Begin Writing Online Fiction (An Introduction)

In this guest post Gavin Williams covers the basics of online fiction for beginners to the medium. Read on to find out more about him.

Coloured Pens In a RowHey, have you heard? Online fiction is the future!

Okay, maybe not. Online publishing is a non-traditional route for writers, and an emerging art form. Novelr’s creator, Eli, has asked me to share some of my experience as an online writer and reader with the Novelr community, in the interests of helping others who are hoping to start writing, and to facilitate the growth of the online book community.

Who am I? Glad you asked. My name is Gavin Williams, and I currently write “No Man an Island” and “The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin.” I read a lot of online fiction, and have a background in literature. A lifelong reader, I have a lot of interest in the future of the medium, and I think online writing will be a big part of that. It’s not the whole future, but it’s an intriguing facet.

Traditional publishing and online publishing are two very different mediums, even though their core material is the same: text. The written word. However, the way their text is presented, and the way their audiences interact with these two mediums, make them very different. We’re going to walk through those differences, in the interest of highlighting the strengths of online publishing, and educating writers in how to use these strengths to their benefit.

Part One: The Delivery

Traditional fiction comes to us in paperback and hardcover editions, on paper, usually in a bookstore. I love buying a new book (or getting an old favourite from a library) and then curling up in a chair and reading for hours. It’s a unique experience, as you get comfortable and let your imagination interact with the words on the page to create a world. It’s irreplaceable.

So, why should you read online then? Well, it’s got advantages too. A traditional writer might publish one or two books a year. You wait and wait for it to come, and that’s if you know about it ahead of time. Stephen King spent thirty years on the Dark Tower series, beginning it in college and ending it as a grandfather. J.K. Rowling started her seven book Harry Potter series in 1995, so it took about a decade to write seven novels.

But online fiction can be published every day, you don’t have to wait years or decades. It doles out its story one chapter at a time, but it’s immediate. This immediacy gives readers new material to look forward to, and can connect them deeply with a story while they wait for the next day’s instalment.

Charles Dickens wrote serial fiction, published in newspapers. It was greatly anticipated by the British audience, and connected people as they all eagerly awaited his continuing story. It gave them something to talk about and look forward to.

Online writers can create that same kind of excitement, by having a new chapter up for their waiting audience on a frequent basis. This suits online audiences quite well, as they will read episodes of their favourite stories during work breaks, or in-between checking their email. Short, intriguing chapters are ideal for the casual reader.

Wednesday, 5 March, 2008

Four Rules For Community

This guest post is written by M. Alan Thomas II (call him Alan) a.k.a CrazyDreamer of Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a blog that focuses on the advancement of quality in webfiction. It rocks. Alan also has a public first draft of fantasy webfiction called Wet Hero. In this guest post he outlines and details four principles of community.

Rule #1: Acknowledge your membership.A Crowded Train Station

If you are reading this, then you are probably part of the blooking community or a closely-related one. A community is made up of a lot of things, but one of the most important is simply a recognition by its membership they belong to it. If enough people say “I am part of the X community,” then the X community exists. What’s more, not only is there strength in numbers, but the more people who acknowledge their membership in the community, the more visibility the community has and the more likely it is that someone who is involved around the edges will realize that the community is one of their interests and will want to become more involved.

Rule #1 is fairly simple, but it enhances everything that follows.

Rule #2: Be involved.

Membership in a community is more than filling out a form; it means paying your dues. Not monetary dues, but involvement. It’s like being in a social relationship: According to some sociologists, a relationship begins when there is an awareness of being observed. In other words, it begins when you and the other person are both able to be affected by the other (because you both observe the other) and acknowledge that fact (Rule #1). In the case of an online community, this requires that you do something for another member of the community to notice.

Eli will have stuck some sort of answer to the question “Who is this strange person writing on Novelr?” at the top of this post. I presume that it mentions my own blog on the subject of webfiction[1], Critical Mass. Hopefully other members of the webfiction community notice my contributions there, particularly after reading this post. (Hey, guest posts are good, free advertising. I never said that being part of a community had to be altruistic!) If you don’t want to run your own blog—and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t—a guest post can add a new topic to the core conversation or develop an argument at length with far more prominence and ease of commenting than a comment to someone else’s post can. Whether or not you have the time or desire to write a guest post, you can and should write public comments, e-mail other members of the community, and/or otherwise make a nuisance of yourself add your thoughts to the mix.

Friday, 28 December, 2007

Filter Shmilter

Alexandra Erin is a full time blooker who makes her living off the medium. She’s been doing it for 7 years. She blogs at Refresh Monkeys and Usual Nuts, and her main works can be found here, here and here.
Standing Out From The Dross

“Look, I’m a busy person. I don’t have time to read through a chapter of every story on the net just on the off-chance that it might be good. I need some kind of filter. If it’s not a publisher and a team of editors who screen out the worst of the worst, then at least I need a review site that will give me an overview of multiple stories so I can have some idea if they’ll be worth my time.

Who has time to sort through the dross?

That’s a very good question. I’ve heard it posed by people who are within the traditional publishing industry, as a reason why internet self-publishing is a bad idea that will never work. I’ve heard it posed by people who are within the self-publishing community as an expression of a serious problem which must be addressed if our good idea will ever work.

I’ve had it put to me in particular a great many times since I became a vocal proponent of self-publishing both for people who have the talent, dedication, and all-around “chops” that another path might be available to them… and for people who are simply writing for fun, people for whom it might not be a worthwhile goal to pursue a traditional publishing career.

The argument goes that the vast majority of everything is likely to be “crap”, so with no filter – no central reviewers and no barriers to entry – the amount of crap available vastly outnumbers the number of gems. The fact that the creators of the gems may have other options available to them while the crap has no other natural home only exacerbates this disparity.

The result – supposedly – is that anybody with a “gem” to offer the public who goes the self-publishing route is more or less doomed to see their work lost in the shuffle.

So… what do we do about this horrible, inescapable, and seemingly insurmountable problem which besets the world of internet self-publishing?

A Solution

Some have suggested that, in the absence of any kind of central authority, what we need is authoritative reviewers… trusted sites which can highlight the best of the best, point people towards stuff that’s worth reading, and generally serve as the much-needed filter.

Well, I admit that such sites have their uses… and would like to see more of them… but I don’t think they’re really the best solution to this particular problem. No, I have a different solution in mind. Would you like to know what it is?

Well, in a word…


Wednesday, 19 December, 2007

Character Blogs? Blah.

This guest post is written by Bradley (or Sebastianky) of An Obtrusive Reader. He is one of those rare kinds: an actual blook reader. Here he talks about some of the things that irk him as he reads the web’s fiction.

Character blogs aren't the only possible form of blog fiction.If you keep up with web fiction blogs, I’m sure you’ve run across a little tidbit that’s fast becoming an adage: “Don’t write a traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end ”“ write a blog for a fictional character.”

Pay this no heed.

I am not an author, so I won’t condescend to tell the writers how to write. However, I am an avid reader, especially of web fiction and blooks, and I can tell you what I want to read ”“ and what I want is something engaging. Regardless of your chosen medium, you cannot be a successful writer unless your readers want to keep reading. To a certain extent, then, any author is trying to write a page-turner (page-scroller?).

Does that goal require you to write in any particular way? No. Nor are you limited by your medium; we can look at successful writers from the age of print to prove it. Hemmingway and Cummings, Joyce and Asimov, Poe and Shakespeare ”“ they wrote on many subjects, in many ways, in many formats ”“ short stories, poems, novels, crazy-stream-of-consciousness-novels, plays ”“ but all in the same medium: slabs of dead tree bound together.

Should, then, digital media be somehow more limiting? Ought web writers have to react to traditional media by refusing to write anything resembling a novel? What about serials? They’re nothing new ”“ Charles Dickens was famous for his serials.

What I’m getting at is that format is less important than it’s made out to be. Writing for the net opens up some possibilities that wouldn’t be very practical in print, but it doesn’t restrict you much as an author. Don’t believe me? Check out Dirty Red Kiss ”“ an online novel with a beginning, middle, and end. And it’s excellent. I read the whole thing in one sitting. Better yet, check out Wowio ”“ they’re publishing online serials and webcomics, but the majority of their offerings appear to be public domain and small press books ”“ prose originally written for the print media. And they seem to be doing pretty well.

To sum up, write what you want, write what you like to read, but don’t write what other people tell you to. Go ahead, take advantage of the new things that the internet makes feasable: short fiction, microfiction, fictional blogs, etc.

Just don’t forget that lots of people want to read lots of different things ”“ and there’s plenty of room for everybody on the internet.

Bradley reviews all kinds of online fiction at his blog, An Obtrusive Reader. He reads like a man starved (of books) and in the process has created a wonderful repository of the best fiction the web has to offer.

Tuesday, 16 October, 2007

On Editing

A few months back I asked Lee, author of Mortal Ghost, about her stance on breaking free from editorial constraints, and turning to blooking for that freedom. Her opinion interested me and I wanted to see what comments her stance would gather. Over to Lee:

The usual rationale for professional editing is to make your work into ”˜the best book possible’. This reminds me of taste tests to find the best chocolate ice cream: some like it sweet, some creamy, some filled with rough chunks of chocolate, some with a hint of bitter mocha. And what about the chef who decides to add a dash of hot pepper? Every editor will find something to ”˜fix’ in your work, but I prefer to do the fixing myself. And no work is ever finished, just set aside. If I weren’t involved in a new novel, I’d be very tempted to tear Mortal Ghost apart and rewrite it from the foundations up.

I suppose you could say I’m not interested in producing a book, but in writing one: learning all that I can learn of technique ”“ how the very best writers use the fundamentals ”“ in order simultaneously to exploit and break free of their mastery. The questions which interest me are all about exploration. In effect, the only authentic editing is self-editing. I don’t care to be bound by the expectations of the marketplace, nor the conventions of a particular readership. How can I doubt that my work is flawed? It will always be flawed, for the job of the artist is to set themself ever newer, harder, more complex challenges.

Does this mean that I pay no attention to criticism? Not at all. I listen very carefully, even obsess about suggestions, and welcome incisive analysis. In the end, though, there is only learning by doing: in fact, learning by failing. And publishing online affords me that wonderful and absolutely essential freedom to fail.

L. Lee Lowe’s YA Fantasy Novel Mortal Ghost can be found here. She also blogs about writing at lowebrow.

Saturday, 4 August, 2007

I’ll Look at Yours If You’ll Look at Mine

The following guest post has been written by Gloria Hildebrandt from Orchard House Communications. Stonyfields, her novel in blog form, can be found here.
We would all benefit from a greater sense of community among fiction bloggers, or to put it more elegantly, online fiction writers. It’s difficult for newcomers to find other writers who are currently active on line, and even wilder finding well-crafted blooks (ugh) or e-fiction. (An aside: I’m not fond of the new terminology and wish we had lovelier words.)

My Work Over Yours

It’s a labyrinth out there, and you have to be diligent about searching out e-fiction. I’m grateful to the fiction bloggers who have blogrolls listing other sites of note. I realize that I should add one to my blog. I have lots to learn about this new medium. An active community of e-fiction writers could offer dialogue, information sharing, learning and the promotion of our own work.

I think that last point is key.

Here’s one problem: I am more interested in my work than I am in yours. So I’m not too keen on reading your fiction. It might be bad or boring and a chore. It could be better than my writing, which could be hugely depressing. I want ME to become rich and famous or at least published by a traditional publisher so my father can finally see a book of mine in a bookstore and feel that what I’ve been spending my life at is finally showing results he can be proud of.

Not that I care what my father thinks.

I can also sense people agreeing with me that the time I spend on your work is time I’m not spending on my work.

Another problem is that writing is an introverted activity. Fiction writers probably tend to be more introverted than non-fiction writers. Supporting a community is an extroverted activity.

We have to get over this. We have to make the time and effort or we’re writing, posting blogs and publishing our work in isolation.

Thursday, 19 July, 2007

Beginning, Middle and End

The following guest post has been written by Scott Mckenzie from Rebirth.

soda_row.jpgYou’re a writer. Something inside you is tugging at your creative strings, telling you that publishing fiction on the internet is the way to go for you. Maybe you’ll even publish it in paperback via Lulu and dish some copies out to friends and family and offer it up for sale on Amazon. There are many reasons to blog your creative output:

  1. Get it out there
  2. Following on from 1, hopefully someone will read it
  3. Following on from 2, hopefully someone will like it and want to read more
  4. Feedback
  5. Standard publishing routes haven’t worked for you
  6. An experiment

As the writer who decided to blog my first novel, all six points are true for me to a certain degree, but I’ve realised the most important thing about being an online writer is: you have to write! It may seem obvious but if you’re going to blog your work and offer up subscription services (e.g. then you’d better have a beginning, middle and end of your novel.

Searching the internet for online novels, blooks, blog novels or whatever they’re called this week reveals a raft of half-finished tales. Blog posts come thick and fast up to a point and they stop without warning, leaving the readers hanging. Online fiction is a niche market with potential but if it’s going to grow, the readers out there need to be able to trust the writers to get them from the beginning to the end of the story.

(Reader) Trust Matters

As an online writer, how can you guarantee you’ll be able to go this and retain the trust of readers that the next chapter will be published? There are two ways:

1. Set yourself a strict writing and publishing timetable and stick to it
2. Write the whole damn thing before publishing chapter 1

open_book.jpgHere’s the bad news: neither approach is easy and will take away a lot of your time. Setting yourself a writing/publishing timetable means that you have to manage it around the rest of your life. If you have to write a chapter before you can publish it, your readers may have to wait for your writer’s block to go away before they get their latest instalment and you know what? They’re only going to wait so long

Writing the whole novel first is a major investment of time in advance of publishing. There’s a good chance your finished work will be more polished but you’re effectively ”˜off the grid’ for the whole time.

Coming Clean

There is, however, a third approach: come clean from day one and tell your readers your writing is an experiment. If they know you’re making it up as you go along then they can feel like they’re part of the experiment. If not, they’re only going to wait so long for the next chapter