Demons of Doubt & Mistakes Made

4 years ago | SovereignofAshes (Member)

I have some questions I'd like to put to the forum members (or anyone else stopping by) on how any of you deal with writer-ly doubt in your projects and any sources of doubt that have occurred for you thus far.

Since about January of this year, I've been seriously thinking about dropping my current serial and/or walking away from the whole Web Fiction writing gig. I don't want to do so, as I feel that over the last two-to-three years I've learned a lot, grown a bit, and continue to try and get better at this whole thing. Writing has been in my blood since I was a kid and I sincerely want to continue this whole thing with the hopes of continuing to get better. Its always been my desire to meet new people, learn from those who are willing to share, and contribute in some meager or meaningful way to a group of fellow readers/writers.

Have any of you here had any of your own doubts about your work, about the medium (Web Fiction), about achieving any kind of success (self-publishing or what-have-you)? Have you hit any stumbling blocks in your work that made you spend long hours of the night wondering if you should give up? Did you listen to those voices, or if you continued to fight against it all, what made you want to keep going?


I started the serial I'm working on about five years ago. It started when I saw a magazine was taking submissions and I thought I might as well give it a shot. The catch was that the genre for the submissions was an obscure kind of fantasy (at least obscure to me) that I was never really a fan of; Swords & Sorcery. I had written my fair share of horror stories, some literary stories, and some science-fiction before. I dabbled a bit with high fantasy stories but I always felt that a lot of works in the genre borrowed too much from Tolkien. I had to dilute my fantasy with other genres (like Herbert's Dune series, as an example).

I definitely wasn't a fan of the Conan, the Barbarian, kind of stuff. The idea of muscled protagonists in loincloths or red-haired women in chain-mail bikinis always threw me off. Yet, this was precisely what the magazine catered to. Instead of tossing out the submission offer like I had done with so many others that fell outside my comfort zone, I decided to take it all as a challenge. I would force myself to write in a genre I had neglected or didn't really like. I would go back and read the classics, make copious notes about tropes, then do my best to write something new that tried to hearken back to the old pulp stories while turning all of those tropes on their head.

Oddly enough, as I started to get into the whole thing, I started to realize that maybe all these stories about barbarians fighting evil sorcerers wasn't that bad after all. I still preferred my protagonists fully-clothed, but the gonzo post-apocalyptic feel of the stories had a lot of fun to it. It reminded me of being a kid and playing Dungeons & Dragons once more (I still play D&D, but I'm more of a Planescape-type and Ravenloft-type than a Dark Suns-type). I ended up getting really attached to an idea mentioned in the Elric of Melnibone stories by Michael Moorcock; the idea of a world that was destined to be doomed, where segments of the populace knew the world would end, and there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop it.

Anyway, I'll jump past all the boring stuff and get to the point with this section: I wrote up five mini stories and sent them in. Nothing happened; the magazine folded up shortly after my submission. I was disheartened, and threw the printed-out manuscripts in a bin, deleted all my old work, and forgot about the thing for a few years. At work, during down-time or breaks, I started to find myself drawing maps and jotting down notes about the setting of the stories I had written, previously. Something was bubbling out of me and making me want to go back to those stories. I tried to ignore the whole thing for some time until I kept having dreams about the setting.

It wasn't long until I spent my light hours at work and most of my free time writing out new ideas in the stories I had already written. I decided to turn each of the flash fictions into short stories. I submitted the first of the short stories to a contest to see if there was any validity to the idea. It didn't win the contest, but it did get an honorable mention. I got some strong feedback from well-known published authors that said the idea was strong and the reason it didn't win was because it was best served as a ongoing saga rather than a series of short stories.

I'd never written a saga before, and the most I'd ever written for a full-fiction project was novella-sized, so this was going to be a harsh learning experience. I managed to extrapolate the five stories into five books, but there were voices in my head (characters, not a schizoid episode, at least that I'm aware) that demanded to build it further. That's when I became aware of Web Fiction and Web Serials, specifically by checking out this very site. I read the works of Wildbow (Worm, Pact, and early portions of Twig) and realized that maybe I could adapt this idea to a serial format.

No, I didn't ever expect to be the next Wildbow or anything like that. I just wanted to get the ideas out of my head and see if I could actually learn enough discipline to keep going on such a large project. I didn't think of this thing as a magnum opus or anything like that (I still don't). I just wanted to get it done as an experiment, learn new things, get to know new people, and see if this whole thing was viable. I could bring any skills I learned back to writing in my comfort zone of novellas, short stories, game sourcebooks, and the occasional neglected novel manuscript. I wanted to write a story that I hadn't seen before as a reader. I wanted to write a story that I as a reader would enjoy. I wanted to see if anyone else out there wanted the same things, or if I had to learn the hard way that I will always have to write for others sensibilities, no-matter-what. I also had the anarchistic punk desire to go nuts with the project and make it as over-the-top in world-building as I could, to fight against all the restraints I usually had to deal with concerning short story, game sourcebook, and larger work submissions. No one was here telling me to keep things to a set word-count, no one was here telling me to cut whole swaths of a manuscript down, no one was telling me what voice I had to keep things to for a specific audience. This was my play-ground, and I wanted to see if anyone else felt the same.

What was it like when you first started your web fiction or web serial project? What motivated you to start what you're currently working on? Did you anticipate success or were you just happy to get the ideas out into the world? Were you one of those people who got immediate success with your work or did you have to weather a long period of quiet before the readers started flooding in? Are you one of those authors who still struggles to get an audience, and if you are, what keeps you going?

Learning the Hard Way

When I first started translating my project to a Web Serial, I was pretty naive and still trying to figure out how everything worked. Posting work live was overwhelming as I was used to writing behind the scenes and only submitting full, complete, and edited works. I spent a lot of time reading up on the forums here to learn how other people did their stuff. I had talked with some people about what kind of pitfalls might happen concerning audiences. I was also somewhat aware of the drama that can be caused between other writers or strong reader personalities given the social atmosphere of everything.

I had dealt with my fair share of arrogant, drama-hungry, and overbearing personalities online before from having to deal writing submissions, with other forums, and simply existing on social media like Facebook for so long. I had my deal of twitter and FB wars with other writers, especially on anthology projects. It would always start with one arrogant person who thought they were the best, crapping all over the newer writers or those what were unsure of their abilities. I hoped beyond hope that I wouldn't face the same kind of thing with a Web Serial, but I was paranoid just in case something like that happened. Despite my attempts at awareness, I ended up strapping on a red hood, slathered myself in barbecue sauce, and walked right into the open maw of the beast.

I don't want to get into any particulars or dredge up demons I'd rather remain exorcised (they aren't, but I can try and fool myself into thinking they are), but a lot of intense events happened in the first few months of getting my serial published online and then listed. The trolls I could deal with; the directed attacks were a bit more than I could handle at that time. I ended up getting really defensive and seeing everyone as a possible attacker. I didn't trust a single nice thing anyone said about my work because for each decent review, comment, or PM, there were tonnes more that were outright attacks.

All I wanted at this time was to learn from other authors and get a handle on the ropes. I tried reaching out to some people and what I received was either polite dismissal, or outright hostility. I tried to remain as open as I could to constructive criticism from those who were willing to give it, but I soon learned the hard way that even comments that seemed like criticism could be veiled attacks or trolls. I found this out by checking some forums to find that people I thought were posting legitimate criticism were talking with others and enjoying the idea of, "Driving this noob from the community."

There was some good amongst the bad, however. There were some heartfelt comments in the early days from some genuine readers and other writers. People did send me warnings about who was malicious and who wasn't, but a lot weren't willing to commit to help me because they saw me as a 'marked figure' who would be taken out soon. I remember actually having to walk away from my computer crying when I received a comment from a reader telling me that my serial helped him get through a serious depression. He was at his wit's end dealing with a severe illness and was planning to end his life, the simple act of having a story there that he was into, that was updated regularly, gave him to the hope to keep going and eventually start his own serial. It meant a lot, but I often wonder if he would have been better served reading someone else like Wildbow rather than my slop.

Negative events and concerted attacks continued on for an entire year. People were spreading rumors about me here and elsewhere. I knew of only one strong personality I dealt with that was hostile to me, but pretty soon it felt like everyone else was out to get me. The enjoyment of writing stopped. My scheduled releases ended. I soon learned to hate the project I worked on and felt completely alienated from everyone else here or elsewhere online. In that, the jerks I had to deal with had won their own petty victories.

I didn't realize until several months after I got listed here, just how concerted the efforts of a small group of people were and how far their reach was. Some of the events were pretty serious and no one told me about them until way after the fact. I ended up having to hear from third parties on other sites about stuff that was happening here at WFG and on TWF. To this day I'm treated as a pariah on here and my votes for my story on TWF are totally screwed up because of the concerted effort of two malicious individuals who tried to game the system to get me gone. I wasn't even contacted to find out what was going on. I had to learn about all of this months after the fact from someone who was willing to inform me of who they were and how they were getting away with what they were getting away with. When someone tells you point-blank in a PM that they will use their connections and community clout to, "Do everything they can to destroy you. Make everyone hate your online name and your work." Things get pretty serious.

I don't want to get into the whole thing, but it has definitely made me untrusting of other writers on here and elsewhere. It's led me to seeing only the worst in people and watching for constant threats now. It led me to having a row with another writer recently because I thought they were acting in the same way. I was mistaken, and I sincerely wish to put everything behind me, but I still feel like I'm being held to account for things I didn't do. (I'm fine with being held to account for what I did do, and I do seek reparations if I can for those mistakes I make.) I'm still living in the shadow that others have cast for me and no one seems willing to actually talk to me about anything or get to know me for who I actually am.

What do you do when obstacles affect your writing? Are you one who gets bouts of writers block, and if you do how do you get out of them? How open are you to outside criticism from readers or fellow authors? Have any of you had to do full revisions of your work? Did you post any revisions on here in the forums and what kind of advice did you get? What are the benefits and drawbacks of revision or rewrites that you've seen so far?

Trying to Start Over

I did several re-writes and revisions on my project after the first year of writing online. I realized that I don't have control over whatever people might concoct about me or how they react to me in any way. The only thing I have control over is my work and who I am. I decided to use whatever criticism I was given to make the project stronger. I tried to reach out to those few who were willing to give me the time of day, to get input and assistance.

What started as a way to try and turn things around for the better, ended up turning into half a year of being stuck in Revision Hell as I tore through my project and eviscerated it all. The anger and frustration I had at my situation bled into the writing and I ended up destroying whole reams of the story. I got lost, became overly critical, and wasn't content with what I put up. I would post and then pull whole sections of whole stories. Nothing was decent enough to exist online. The worst part of it all was that I was blinded in my own rage towards myself and my work that I didn't pay attention to those who did come by to leave comments, reviews, support, and help.

I was still in the mindset that those who attacked me earlier still were doing so, or if they were gone they would return at any moment. I didn't realize they had already banked on their maliciousness and moved forward with their projects. I was still stuck living in the refuse and rubble they contributed to, but now I was the one causing my own destruction, all the more. Heartfelt comments from readers got removed when I torched whole sections of my story. Reviews were rendered meaningless when I pulled work just as fast as it was posted. Eventually, I did the thing that no writer should ever do, and that was alienate their own readership. The comments and reviews dried up because people thought that they shouldn't even bother. My release schedule became erratic and people gave up. The damage was done.

A lot of fellow writers on here make threads for 'post-mortems' for their serials -- these being a thread to showcase benchmarks in readership, struggles they went through, successes they achieved, and lessons they learned -- do these threads help others or have you posted your own here? What keeps you going at the end of the day with your own projects? Is it your own stubborn drive toward creativity, or is it the readership you have? Do you feel you need support of any kind in your work to keep going and where do you get that kind of support?

The Only Way Out is Through

I remember Neil Gaiman mentioning the title to this section when he was asked a question about hardship in writing or life in general. That's where I'm at so far. For the last ten months I've pulled myself out of Revision Hell and decided to force my way through another iteration of my project.

I can honestly say that I don't get as much enjoyment out of writing as I used to. I still get enjoyment from writing in the more traditional way (non-Web Fiction) as I did so many years ago, but the thought of working on Web Fiction makes me snarl and want to walk away most days. The earlier rush of posting something up and waiting to see what readers think of it is gone. I've become cynical and pessimistic towards any idea of joining a group of fellow writers to get support, input, and to learn new things. I don't have any attachments to my project, to any given website I might contribute to, or to any ideal of success that I might ever achieve.

Honestly, I've given up on any kind of success or accomplishment from this entire endeavor. I see myself more working out of habit and stubbornness than anything else. I do my best to keep my resentments in check as much as I'm able, but I don't hope for anything. I anticipate the worst case scenarios, prepare for maliciousness from others, and am genuinely surprised those rare times people aren't jerks for the sake of being jerks.

Those few that can offer some kind of kindness, I am genuinely humbled and overwhelmed by, now. A supportive review, a single comment, or someone clicking on a button to subscribe to the work (on whatever outlet its on) means the world to me. I honestly try to strive forward with the project just for those rare few who might actually read the damn thing. I feel obligated to them to continue, and some days that's enough to get me to sit down at the computer and hammer out another 10K words. Just as often though, I find the act of writing online to be completely awful. The ideas I have will never stop, and I can say for the last two years I haven't had a single bout of writer's block at all, but the act of sitting at the computer to write for a Web Serial is like grinding gears.

It's a weekly occurrence that I find myself hovering the mouse over the ability to delete all my work and desperately wanting to click that button. I can only see the desire to continue writing as one of obligation to whatever readers I might have rather than of genuine passion to create something meaningful. I feel like the last few years have been wasted and for that I have just as much anger and seething resentment for myself as I do for those less-than-pleasant individuals I've come across in that time. I still get to live in the slander they created for me, without the ability to even apologize or seek reparations for those real mistakes I actually did make.

I know when criticism is real and when it isn't now, at least I've learned that the hard way. I take every bit of criticism I can and try to slowly integrate it into the project I'm working on to -- hopefully -- make it better. Those critical reviews I get, I appreciate. Those supportive reviews I get, I treasure. Some days, that's enough to get through, and others it simply isn't.

I don't see a light at the end of this tunnel. Every hard-won step forward I seem to push toward, all it takes is one face-less person somewhere else to wipe it all way and set me back at the start-line. No one I try to reach out to seems interested in either a new acquaintance, a new friend, or someone to talk the shit with. I send messages asking for guidance and they manage to find their way into the delete bin despite their neglect.

The journey on this project now feels like walking through an open field that is filled with invisible brick walls every few inches. I'm tired of smacking my head on brick walls. I don't even know if I've covered any distance or if I'm still stuck in the same place as I started.

Would it be better just to give up? Would you in my position? Have you given up on projects before and what did it take for you to do so?

I'm interested in knowing what kind of hardships everyone else faces here and what you all do to get through them. If you have any advice for myself or anyone else here, please share it if you have the time or in the desire to do so. We all have our hardships, our doubts, and our own problems.

At the same time, please feel free to share your successes as well and if you're able to show how you came by them. What kinds of changes you did with your project and how it benefited your work or your own frame of mind.

All that I ask is that you don't mention names of specific people, groups, or sites. It would be best that we can all learn from each other constructively and not bring any kind of drama to this thread.

Thank you for giving this a read if you did, and for participating below if you have the inclination to do so.

I have stuff on here too! The Vorrgistadt Saga.

Read responses...

Page: 12


  1. unice5656 (Moderator)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Well. I also started the webserial thing about five years ago, but I believe that is the only commonality between your journey and mine.

    I never dreamed about being a writer as a child; I still don't, in fact. I spent my formative years devouring every fantasy and animal-related fiction I could get my hands on. It wasn't really until I ran of out new books to read that the idea of writing ever crossed my mind.

    I started Fantasia after reading a couple of stories set in virtual reality video games. What I really wanted to do was play one, but since they don't exist (and the current AR stuff is completely lame compared to the immersion you get in the story versions), I started writing about what I would do if I could play one. As a bonus, I got to design the funnest, most-suited-to-my-weird-sense-of-humour game I could imagine. It was basically a one-player version of tabletop role playing.

    On a whim, when a site I frequented opened itself up for fanfictions, I posted what I'd written. I received a positive response. I kept posting. I kept receiving positive responses. The website converted entirely to hosting webfictions, and due 70% to luck, I have a fairly popular webfiction that garners a lot of traffic despite minimal effort on my part.

    I write for myself. I love exploring the worlds I've made, growing my characters, and writing unbelievably outrageous and cute things. Despite the fact that I poll my readers extensively, the story goes the way that feels right to me and is not influenced whatsoever by what others think it should be. I post because others seem to enjoy it, but when people don't, I just dismiss it as "not my target audience" and move on.

    I have had a fairly drama-free journey (except for what was self-inflicted when I volunteered to be a mod for a while). I have gotten negative reviews and what I feel are unfair criticisms, but they are drowned out more than 10:1 by glowing recommendations and profuse thanks for my work. I certainly do get hit by downvotes on a regular basis, but these are periodically caught and cleaned up by the site.

    Negative comments on my chapters? I delete them. Why? Because I can. Because they annoy me and don't do anyone any good by being there. The right of free speech just means you can't be arrested for your views, not that anyone has to publish them.

    In your position, I would definitely stop posting in the webfiction format if I didn't get any enjoyment out of it. I write for me, and I basically also post for me, because I enjoy seeing what parts of my writing the readers relate to the most. If posting gives you nothing but stress and dread, I really see no reason to continue on. Do what you find enjoyable. If you end up writing a novel, many traditional publishing companies will only look at stuff that hasn't already been published online, anyways.

    Would I ever give up on a project? Well, kind of. I have a large idea folder of things that will probably never get written. However, once I commit to publishing something, even if it's free and online, I want to see it through to the end out of fairness to the readers and pride in myself as "someone who finishes things". Would I persevere even in the face of harassment and lack of enjoyment in the process? Absolutely not. My standards are flexible like that.

    I have no doubts whatsoever about my writing abilities. (I have very few doubts about anything. I'm kind of narcissistic.) I am a technically competent grammar enthusiast with a large vocabulary and fondness for puns. I have a way of looking at the world that's at once simpleminded and complex. Some people find me absolutely wonderful, others absolutely irritating. I have zero aspirations to become a writer as a means of earning a living, and in fact, the training for my chosen vocation often exhausts me to the point that I have trouble keeping up even with my monthly updates. Writing is a huge amount of work that I could do without, given that a lot of the fun I get from it is in the imagination of new worlds, characters, and scenes, which I can just enjoy in my head. If people didn't continually express interest in those imaginings, I wouldn't bother writing them down or posting them anywhere.

  2. Docmars (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I away think about this when I think when I get like that (

  3. Hejin57 (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I'll be honest with y'all, I never intended to be sitting here talking about writing like this.

    For the longest time, I was strictly the draw it/comics guy, but I began to realize in the last two years that doing comics by yourself is almost impossible to make a significant progress in if you're not doing it for at least a decade.

    Which is why I switched to writing and supporting illustrations, which I can do much faster and I can edit a lot easier. Getting into the whole web serial scene has only been icing on the cake.

    I would say it's tough, and every day I wanted to give up, but honestly, that's not the case. I've actually felt like since I've been seriously working, I've been getting tons of support and it's been really enlightening to continue.

    I have spent years not writing these things, not sharing these ideas, and they've remained as blurbs in my head that only make sense and are known to me. They existed in the songs I listened to as mental music videos that no one could see but me.

    But not anymore. That changed since last December, and honestly, I've never felt more inspired to do more and to show more.

    It sounds corny, but I'm not sure what other advice to give.

    Just do it. Don't think about it, don't stress over it, and don't let discouragement and others bring you down. There's an audience out there for everyone, you just have to be willing to find it.

  4. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I'm really just scattershotting here and hoping you can pull something from it.

    I'm constantly doubting. I speak to published authors with great books who seem to be constantly doubting. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and just say "How can YOU doubt? Your work is incredible!" But it was what made me realize that doubt is a part of the creative process. Writing is intimate and it is lonely.

    I've said before that there are days where my brain insists that I'm uploading chapters, throwing them into a void that no one reads or cares about. But, when I do see comments and stuff, my brain immediately switches to track to: is it worth the energy you're spending on it?

    I write because I write. If I wasn't writing a serial, I'd be writing thousands of words for my friends. Or fanfiction, which is what I started with. I wrote so much fanfiction, like training wheels to get used to spinning sentences. And, checking TVTropes, a lot of it is still listed as being particularly good, to the extent that people are trying to hunt down copies after I took them all offline in the lead-up to starting to upload NAH.

    The web serial world is rough. Before even uploading NAH, I put some work into looking at other serials, wandering through fandoms, and trying to get a feel for the atmosphere. There are a lot of people who are happy to promote and talk and relax -- and a lot of people who are particularly zealous and wary of any supposed challenge to the serial they like, who think that helping someone up might lead to them stomping on you as they climb higher further down the line. Just about every web serial author I've interacted with has been lovely. But the fans? Not so much.

    It's kind of the problem. Just about every web serial author stands at an awkward crossroads of fan, author, reader and reviewer. You can't be all four equally. I'm the latter especially because I do believe it's better to learn what you're doing wrong earlier than later, when it's compounded.

    But it'd probably be so much easier to stick to the first three. I've had one person email me and say that they won't read NAH because I left a less than perfect review of Worm on WFG. I've spoken to people who believe that, once you're writing a serial, you can't express a view of any other serial that is anything other than glowing and positive (of which, I'm sure, Sir Thomas More would have something to say about it).

    I don't think the serial ecosystem is strictly competitive, as much as some might like to make it so, but I do think the reader base has little tolerance for stuff they dislike. This is why, in so many reviews, I note down things that readers are going to go 'this is sloppy' and maybe alt-F4 out immediately.

    I'm open to criticism. I have an extremely diligent reader who literally goes line-for-line down every update and sends me what works and what doesn't. I'm so thankful for that. When I'm done, I'd love to get a full revision (even though I'd probably do a full re-write because this story is a first draft).

    I write a web serial for the following reasons.

    1. It forces me to write, and write consistently.
    2. It forces to finish what I write.
    3. It forces me out of 'Revision Hell'.
    4. It forces me to present my work for critique, as opposed to hiding it away.
    5. Lastly, it lets me get positive feedback. But I do this for me, and to improve my own abilities.

    I have three other projects I hope to do in a serial form after NAH.

    I don't think you should give up, but it's understandable if you do. Drama rots the soul. In all honesty, outside of this forum and one other, I don't bother discussing things. It takes time away from the work and I have enough distractions already.

    It's nothing more than faith, really. If writing a web serial is like walking into a long, dark tunnel, then you can't enter it thinking or knowing that you'll even see light on the other end. If you think there should be light, and don't see it, then you obviously assume the light cannot exist. It's there... just further away. It'll take time. And frankly, to see the light, I think you need a finished web serial. Not one that has been running for x years, not one that has x amount of positive feedback, not one of however many words, but one that is conclusively finished.

    And then, in all honesty, you're going to want to start another. To prove it wasn't a fluke.

    What keeps me going is that I take my work seriously. I finish what I set out to do and people can follow along if they want. But it is tough and it can be draining and it is often lonely. But if I don't finish it, then I'm proving that it wasn't that serious to me. To me, there's nothing more to it than that. To borrow a line from Sabra's ethos: I can play the fucking game or I can get off the court.

    But you need fortitude and a certain brand of arrogance. The fact of the matter is, until you're proven, people are going to expect you to fail. And certain people are going to take joy in telling you that you'll fail.

    But, as the guy you had the row with, and truly has no hard feelings about, I don't think you should give up.

  5. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    And you could have a huge, huge, huge topic about why some web serials do well, why some explode, and some never spark. I think this is something a lot of serial authors have never looked into or considered. It's something I've wanted to talk about for ages but haven't because people would probably assume I'm being an imperious dictat.

  6. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Self doubt is something that I just live with at this point. That voice that along with the whole, "there isn't a soul who will read this" to the loudest one "I'm a stupid writer."

    The first one is a little easier to shrug off. I mean there was a group of people on RoyalRoad willing to read fantasy-not-fantasy even if that group was tiny, they were there. And since I'm truly just write for myself, not having this huge audience doesn't really matter to me. I'm happy I do have one and I feel bad for because I've been stuck in re-writing limbo for nearly a year.

    However, that second voice is a lot more insidious. That one, that one caused me to not write for a span of 6-8 months. And on some level, that time was necessary for me to get re-centered and re-learn the reason why I write. That was a question that I couldn't answer when that particular spiral started. Writing was becoming less of an enjoyment and there was nothing I saw that I could write was what I wanted to write on top of suddenly feeling like I couldn't. That I wasn't even a good storytelling just I wasn't a good writer in general.

    In fact, even now, I often think I'm no better than the stereotypical fan-fic writer who uses chatspeech to write their story and doesn't care about grammar but only the incredibly paring that they are writing. That I'm just that illegible.So not only do I have that annoying voice,I've the inferiority complex that makes me dismiss compliments. No reason other than I've a part of me the believes so strongly that I can't do anything good enough. And this thing is so embedded in me at this point that I'm not sure how to get rid of it. I mean, telling me to get over myself doesn't work when I've felt this way from kindergarten all the way up to an adult. The constant, "well, she just isn't trying" I remember wearing on me in probably near middle school age. I think I was in 5th grade when I stopped trying a lot of the time because it was just that frustrating not understanding math or reading walls of text.

    The whole thing of, "well if you put in the effort, then you get results," didn't work. Doesn't work for a dyslexic. And that was the thing, I was never diagnosed as a dyslexic when I was in public school. I don't know if it was my parents doing or if my teachers just weren't aware because I pretended nothing was wrong with me when half the time I did feel as if there was. I guess it was because it was the 90's where dyslexia equated with reading backwards or mostly just an excuse. I think knowing then would just teach me how to handle it all now because mostly it just frustrated me is that's the one thing that makes me a terrible writer. That I have this mountain I have to cross ever times I write something. That a person can get something reader ready in just a handful of hours takes me days to prep and even then it might read as if I didn't even proofread it.

    And yet I keep writing.

    I get discouraged and I keep writing. I feel like an idiot, and I keep writing. I mean, web fiction was truly never a thing I felt I would get much out of other than had someone read something I wrote. I never written anything that I felt that was truly publishable that would garner me even a decent attention. I mean, that requires me to not write fantasy not fantasy and I can't say I'm compelled to give it up. Next think I'm posting is still fantasy-not-fantasy. I really need to find a better self created sub-genre label for what I do.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  7. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I probably don't have enough 'skin in the game' to fully weigh in on this type of subject, but it would seem writing is much like any other creative process. There's inherent risk in creating something from scratch...something intimate, founded in your own personal experiences...and sharing it for all to behold (and criticize). But that's the risk/reward of the creative have the ability to touch people on a very personal level, yet you leave yourself out there.

    Two months into my writing 'career', I decided to be bold and cast aside that self-doubt, inviting anyone willing to read my story and critique it for me. The result...TanaNari writing several paragraphs-worth of reasons why you should never read my story...ever :). So I can relate to your plight. (I'm teasing...his criticism was very helpful).

    I guess what I've told myself reflects similarly to what Hejin57 said...I have this epic story in my mind, a story that has evolved over the past 5 years into something that excites and energizes me. I'm not sure if I have the writing ability to make it work, but I know I've got a story worth I write :)

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
  8. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    The place you are describing, I know that place. I call it "shouting in an empty well."

    You're at the bottom of the well, and you want to get out, so you decide to fill it and float to the top. Only no matter how much you add to the well, it drains out the bottom. You call for help, but nobody comes -- and all you can see is one little patch of sky at the top of the well, so you don't even know if anyone's around. So it feels like you're just shouting at nobody, and all you hear is yourself.

    I don't claim that this is a universal experience, but I think a lot of writers go through this. I have gone through it multiple times. I recently fought through a patch of it that coincided with a particularly nasty case of writer's block. It took me ten months to finish an update. Ten freaking months.

    It is a struggle to muddle through. It doesn't help that whenever this happens, my perceptions warp to minimize anything good anyone says about anything I do, and to magnify all the bad things I see. This includes not only bad/negative reviews, but the response of "Nothing." That's the "empty well" part, where feel like your shouting and nobody answers. There could be many different reasons why nobody answers -- it could be that there's nobody there, for one thing. The web is a big place, after all. But the reason my brain eventually settles on is that people are there, they're just apathetic. The idea that there are literally thousands of people looking at my work and not saying a damn thing about it because it simply doesn't rate grows into a demon I spend as much time wrestling with as the writing itself. "What's the point," I hear myself saying. "Why work on this if people are just shrugging their shoulders and saying 'meh'?"

    This viewpoint is profoundly irrational, because I can look at comments posted in my stories and some that were emailed directly to me. I know that there are people -- not huge numbers, but they exist -- who absolutely like my work and are engaged in it. But at the same time the viewpoint is especially damaging because, irrational as it is, it's not entirely wrong. The internet is a huge place, and the people who like my work are, comparatively, a statistical anomaly. In the vast realm of people talking excitedly about fiction they love, nothing I've created has made an imprint.

    It's a sad fact that we can't all grow readership at a steady pace over time, and we'll have to learn to deal with the struggle of getting the work done and moving on to the next work, with only ourselves and perhaps a very few supporters moving it along. The good news, at least from my experience, is that shouting in an empty well isn't a permanent condition. There are days, weeks, months when I'm not afflicted by it at all, even though my circumstances may not have changed. The bad news is that it seems to come back, and then I'm fighting through it again, and it's pretty much all on me.

    The danger, I think, is that when you're in the well the temptation to just give up is huge. I just spent ten months trying to write a little over 8,000 words, and progress was made in inches. Ten months is not, I should add, the recommended space between updates in the web fiction world. :D But that's what it took, and I fought for every goddamn inch of progress I made during that time. And during that time I absolutely hated writing. I hated every aspect of it. Now... not so much. I'm looking forward to the next bit.

    I don't know how useful this is. What I want to say is "don't give up, be stubborn, dig in, and keep inching forward" but I don't know how helpful that is. It's an objectively satisfying comment to make, but my own experience has shown me that it can be misery to do. All I can say to that is that, in hindsight, I've always been thankful I was stubborn about this. I haven't regretted it yet.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  9. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Your post speaks to me on a number of levels, perhaps more specifically than it has to some of the others who have weighed in so far, but perhaps not. At any rate, I’ll offer up my perspective with the same scaffolding that you provided, in the hopes that it’s helpful, then return to the original question of doubts.


    I started “Time & Tied” in 2000 (when it was called “Time Trippers”). It was a natural progression from the fanfic I’d been writing, and I wrote it in an episodic format because TV shows like “Buffy” and “Babylon 5” were influences. I chipped away at the story, off and on, until 2009. I never posted it anywhere, only tossing it by a friend/beta reader.

    What motivated me to put my writing online was instead personified math, because I thought that at last I had an idea worthy of sharing, something that might showcase math in a good light. That was 2011. It wasn’t until 2013 that I realized that my style of writing was a “serial”, and I found the WFG community via someone on Twitter.

    I never had immediate success. I call myself the “anti-Wildbow” (tongue in cheek) because we’re both Canadians from the same area, but my incredibly consistent updates and decent reviews have failed at getting me much of an audience. I gave up PMath in 2014. But I couldn’t stop writing. I started a new serial blog later that year. I ran it for two years, even resurrecting “Time & Tied” after copious edits, feeling like it was now or never. I gave up in 2016. I went back to personified math as a web comic instead. It still never took off. I resurrected “Time & Tied”. I now jump back and forth.

    What keeps me going? Sometimes it’s just sheer stubbornness, I HATE leaving things unfinished. (In 2017 I finished a fanfic I started in 1996.) Sometimes it’s those few comments I have received, which I keep accessible to revisit, either on posts or emails authors here have sent me. Sometimes, it’s so that I can be the outlier person saying “yeah, you can do ALL that publicity stuff and still NOT get an audience” because I feel others need to hear that. Sometimes, I don’t know what keeps me going.


    Our paths diverge here. I never had any of that negativity (or none I’ve ever found out about). I’m sorry you had to face that, I can’t even imagine what that’s done to your writing career. Similarly though, I’ve never had “writers block” per se, with me it’s more an issue of finding the time to write. I’ve cut back updates to every two weeks this year, in part for my own mental health (work stress).

    I like to think I’m open to criticism. When Tartra posted her review for “Time & Tied” last year, remarking on the academic language used, I made an effort to go back and tweak a lot of the previously published parts to fix that. Which was probably the fourth time I made edits to the damn thing. Has it made any difference? Beats me. Seems not.


    I did post a ‘post-mortem’ for “Time & Tied” here. I classified it as a failure. Almost no one read Books 1 & 2 the first time around, and although they later got a number of comments as I continued with Books 3 & 4, the Final Episode has less than 20 views, even today. Posting on alternate sites, I got complete radio silence; no one even voted on my final polls in one place.

    I *think* I learned from it? I’ve been poking away at the sequel, “Time Untied”, for months now; it’s got a snappier opening, introduces the universe a lot faster, and hopefully has a reason for people to not give up halfway through. (It’s still offline, time travel weirds continuity.) Meanwhile, personified math is still limping along like a sick bird, I’ve also put it to an alternate site where I have 9 subscribers after 6+ months.

    I’ve never pulled down parts of my stories though. Revised parts, yes, sparingly, but I’m a packrat and never throw anything out, online or offline. And I still respond to every comment, at least initially. It may take me a week, and it isn’t hard when you only get one per month, but I force myself, because that’s usually all the support I have, and I want to acknowledge that it’s there.


    Here’s the thing about my working through habit and stubbornness - it doesn’t necessarily need to be on the same project. In retrospect, part of what may be helping me is that when one serial inevitably flops, I can toggle over to another... that flops. Then go back for the first one to see how it flops differently.

    I tend to be a cynic towards myself and an optimist towards others (which can help given my profession as a high school teacher), again maybe because I haven’t faced the negativity. Treasure the rare times, and try to hold them up as the rule, rather than the exception. The writing, it should still be fun... if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, try to make your own light? Whatever that means to you.

    In other words, I wouldn’t give up, but I might change the parameters, or the rules of the game. Though as I said, I’m stubborn, and I’m not you.

    As to the doubts... curiously enough, I don’t doubt my ability to write. I used to place highly in fanfic contests in the late 1990s. I submitted a work to a writing contest and placed in the top 10 (out of 150), successfully convincing at least one judge that I was a teenaged lesbian. What I doubt instead is my ability to leave a lasting impression. I doubt my ability to make my words resonate emotionally with anyone other than me. And I doubt my ability to see the forest around the individual trees.

    I’m also not a fast writer, that took an hour, so I’ll leave it there. ^_^ Thanks for posting, and those who read, thanks for reading.

    Writing a Time Travel serial:
    Writer of the personification of math serial:
  10. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    To comment on something Ubersoft said, it might not even be apathy as to why people don't leave comments. I can think of many things I read, videos I watch, music I listen to, where I just don't comment.

  11. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    There could be any number of non-apathetic reasons for it. I was describing a non-rational interpretation of events. :-)

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  12. DrewHayes (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Wow, that is quite a journey. One of the parts that I think is most universal is the self-doubt. Its something a lot of people have echoed above me, and it really does seem to be among the most ubiquitous parts of being a writer. I wish there was a neat trick to overcome it, but the method most people I talk to (self-included) use is simply learning to live with it. One thing that does give me some comfort, and I hope will do the same for you, is the realization that pretty All authors have felt/still feel it. Prime example: this weekend I was at a con with a panel about Imposter Syndrome with several authors, two of which were extremely highly accomplished (NYT Best-seller and Hugo-winner). Hearing those two talk about how even now, with their accomplishments behind them, they could lose entire weeks spiraling in doubt, really drove home that it is something virtually all of us are carrying. For me, that makes it seem a bit less insurmountable, knowing so many others are fighting the same fight day in and day out.

    Super Powereds & Corpies
  13. Walter (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago


    I had a very similar start to you, in terms of inspiration. I'd always had a story in my mind, but never thought I'd be allowed to post it up. Then one day I stumbled across Worm and I was like "Wait, you can just write your thing on the web? You don't need permission or anything?".

    So I registered a web site, and no one stopped me. I started posting chapters and no one appeared and threw me in jail, so I kept doing it.

    Learning the Hard Way:

    This is almost an incomprehensible experience to me. The idea that people would devote such time and energy to sabotaging you is infuriating and heartbreaking. What on earth did they get out of it? Why on earth would anyone bother attacking another author's output?

    Asking those questions makes it sound like I don't know the answer, but of course it was just jealousy, right? More readers for them if they trash the competition. Despicable.

    I didn't have any similar experience. I credit that to always having few enough readers that it wasn't worth it for these internet villains to spit on me. My impression of the online author community is of a void rather than a lynch mob. 'They' aren't out to get me, but they certainly aren't supporting me. We all toil separately at our keyboards, carefully burnishing out work and reading each others'.

    Trying to Start Over:

    I've never gotten the impression that readers give second changes. I figure everyone who reads a page of my work and bails is someone I'll never get back. That's not to trash your work on your rewrites, just that it doesn't match my impression of how stuff works.

    I think the best thing you (or I, or Mathtans) with an unpopular serial can do to get more folks to read it is to write another one that the fickle finger of the internet stops on, and then people will go on the 'what else have they written' kick.

    More bluntly, I think if you want more readers you want to do more advertising or other marketing. Rewrites might make more people be inclined to stick with your story, but if they've already looked and left I doubt it will draw them back.

    The Only Way Out Is Through:

    I feel like an important thing to note here is that there isn't really a destination, per se. Like Drew says, even mad famous authors are still dealing with the tyranny of the blank page and the loathing that comes from having to hit your deadlines.

    Like, 'this', the experience you are having right now, is the 'out', not the 'through'. You might make more money or get more praise if you get better at it, but we are all still singing for our supper. You are already an author, there is no where to get.

    I don't really have any advice for you. I am suffering from the same stuff. It feels like nobody reads my work, it is hard to force myself to hit updates, etc. But, you know, I can always quit if I feel like it. Like, that's comforting to me. Nobody is depending on this. If I stopped updating the web would have one less superhero story, and the world would spin on.

    I like talking to other web serial authors on the wfg discord. I read and comment on other people's web serials, rate or review as I see fit. I'm still a reader, whatever my writing may be up to. I think that helps.

  14. Dary (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Re: origins. I first attempted to write a webserial in my late teens, and it ran from around mid-2000 to early 2002. The community was very different back then, as were the sites it produced. I'd go so far as to say that this is probably why my current site stands out, at least visually: that's how things were back in the old days, before blog templates became the norm.

    Coincidentally, I've recently been looking at back at what I wrote (I'd ignored it out of embarrassment for near fifteen years XD) and it's bolstered my motivation big time. Obviously it's helped me realise just how much I've improved as a writer, but it's also reminded me of the things I wrote about and the themes that have prevailed in my work since I was a kid (celebrating diversity, female empowerment, the right to decide your own identity). I need to keep writing for the sake of that kid. I have to finish the work they started, so very awkwardly, back in notepad all those years ago.

    Re: toxicity. I've been fortunate enough to avoid it. Maybe such people don't take an interest in my work, or maybe they're put off because I don't have a form for reader comments until the end of my first chapter, ten pages (~6,000 words) into the story. To be fair, my work has always flown under the radar in webfiction circles (for some reason, it appeals more to webcomic readers). Make of that what you will!

    Re: doubt. Just remember Dunning-Kruger: people with skill/talent/knowledge underestimate their abilities, those without it overestimate them. The usual adage is something along the lines of "if a writer thinks their work is any good, it probably isn't". See also: writers who declare they don't need an editor are always the ones who need an editor most.

    Doubting your work/talent is a good thing, just don't let it take over.

    Re: revisions and starting over. Depending on how long it takes you, it will probably lose you readers, but then you have to ask yourself what it is you really value. My serial is a complete revision of one I ran from 2009-11, and I lost a huge amount of traction in the four years it took to get things together - but I don't regret it. The problem I had before (which also doomed my original serial) was that I didn't take myself seriously as a writer when I started out: I'd begin with posting some rough chapters for fun, and end up eighteen months later chastising myself for being so lax and not taking my work seriously. The second time (09-11) was especially stressful since I'd somehow built up a fairly decent audience (enough that my Project Wonderful standing was catching up on Tales of MU, though I doubt I had anywhere near its audience) and felt an enormous amount of pressure to both up the quality of my writing and revise those early, half-arsed instalments to bring them up to standard.

    In the end, it go so bad - and the revisions so big - that I decided to just start over.

    Unfortunately, the webcomic scene imploded in the meantime, depriving me of my key source of advertising/readership. But them's the breaks. I'm telling now the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it. Maybe I'll will find some ounce of success one day, maybe I won't. But I have to keep going, because:

    Re: walls. My go-to metaphor for writing, mental health, life:

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