Quality in online blog fiction

10 years ago | acetachyon (Member)

Found the below comment in a post over on Novelr and thought I'd throw it out for discussion:

"...point out a blook that’s a good as a novel by Neal Stephenson. There isn’t one. I’ve yet to read anything that has the quality and sophistication of a relative newcomer like David Louis Edelman."

Is it necessary to write with Stephensonian quality? Is this an expectation when one decides to write blog fiction? Would it hurt or hamper those efforts?

For those who write, I understand that your skills will get better as you progress writing your story. Is it expected (to follow the train of thought of the above quote) that we write quality right off the bat with our first web serial effort?

KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE When the going gets tough, the tough shoot back

Read responses...

Page: 123

Responses

  1. eikasia (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    "Is it expected (to follow the train of thought of the above quote) that we write quality right off the bat with our first web serial effort?"

    I find that notion to be a bit silly. One of the greater appeals in online fiction to me is the connection with readers; the sense that while you are the writer and they the readers, BOTH parties are working to make something great. It makes a community out of it, and less of an egotistical show. For all my life, I will improve my writing, and I hope that there will always be people there to help me cultivate stories for others to enjoy. The day that stops happening will be the day I quit writing. My effort is there, and I think others see that. So long as people know you're genuinely trying, then what more can be asked?

    In regards to whether we should shoot for 'Stephensonian' quality... Well to put it simply, I fart at the term itself. If there is ever to be 'one way' to produce good writing, then it will be to express ourselves as honestly and uniquely as we choose to, at whatever level we choose to. What matters is your connection with readers, that's it. Not to say I hate 'complex' and 'sophisticated' stories or anything--but to say those are the only good stories is to me just ridiculous.

  2. Sonja Nitschke (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    I think that Quality needs to be defined if a discussion is the goal. My definition of Quality is that it is more subjective than objective (e.g, grammar, clarity, that kind of thing) -- though both contribute to Quality.

    As such, to me, Quality is mostly not a straight-laced measurable thing (or else you wouldn't have all the conflict over whether certain books are good and publishers wouldn't have to worry about selling to the common denominator or cutting titles because they're afraid they won't be able to sell them all etc).

    With that in mind, I think your question, "Is it expected that we write quality right off the bat with our first web serial effort" is the wrong question both as a prospective writer and as a reader.

    Should readers expect quality both objectively and subjectively?

    No.

    They are reading something for free on the web. They have the choice to either read it or not to read it. For that moment, the author doesn't owe the virtual masses a thing.

    To me, the word expectations means that a bar has been set or a precedent or that a promise has been made. But why would a casual reader surfing the web think that? Has the author made such promises? Is the author even making you pay to read his story?

    No, he's not.

    Web fiction, if anything, is a modern form of patronage. You have an artist. People like him. People support said artist. If they don't like the artist, they won't support him. If they don't like the artist anymore, then they stop supporting him.

    Should writers expect to write with [published author's name of choice]-ian quality?

    No.

    Again, why should they expect that? Is there a rule? If there's a rule, then why does an art like writing need rules (beyond the basics such as clarity of course). They don't have the voice of whoever, they have their own voice, their own style. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that -- I think that goes back to what your definition of quality is.

    Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand. -- Kurt Vonnegut
  3. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Okay, first of all -- while Stephenson is an excellent writer and has written my favourite novel ever, I need to point out that as quality goes he has some major faults. His inability to write a decent goddamned ending, for one. Or the annoying tendency towards infodumps. I could go on.

    Conversely, I think it's absolutely fine to expect published quality writing in online books. By 'quality' I mean a consistently high standard of grammar, spelling, prose style and, to a lesser extent, that elusive balance of entertainment. I work my arse off to attain it because it's something worth striving for. I'd say, if a book doesn't match up to your standards, look at the next one. Just don't be a snob dismissing them all sight unseen.

    I disagree with the notion that web fiction is anything new, special or worthy of different standards than professional fiction. Just because I -can- find below-par material for free on the web doesn't mean it's worth my time and attention, and the sheer ease of web publication has resulted in serious stigma for online fiction which I've found really difficult to avoid or overcome. This sinks practically any hope of mainstream success for a web project. The 'patronage' analogy falls apart even further when you consider the amount of competition for your no-budget endeavour, particularly from professional writers/publishers. It ends up as a serious uphill struggle to get anyone to even look at your work, let alone patron it.

    As a means of practice for unknown beginners, it's not much different than getting some opinions on your book while you're writing it. You're certainly not going to build a massive rabid fanbase with a little online novel. Plus, any work you put online is rendered virtually unpublishable as a result. There are serious drawbacks to doing it, and it may not be worth it for professionally-minded people. It's put my aim of mainstream publication back a few years, simply because of how busy I am writing Street.

    My main point of advice for writers is always to stay pragmatic. Think long and hard about where you really want to publish, why you're thinking of publishing online, where you want to end up in five years, and how much time and money you're prepared to invest. Do away with any rose-tinted spectacles. They're no substitute for reality.

    Regards,
    Ryan

  4. Morgan O'Friel (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Is it necessary to write with Stephensonian quality?

    Wow, okay, to expose my inability to know every writer out there, I'll admit that I have no clue who Neal Stephenson is. Do I want to write like somebody who's name I don't recognize? Nope. ^^;;

    Is this an expectation when one decides to write blog fiction? Would it hurt or hamper those efforts?

    Okay, setting aside the issue of not knowing the writer you guys are talking about (though Wiki says he's won two science fiction related awards), I think I get your point. You're asking if web writers should be expected to push out work that's equal quality to what people view as the best of the dead tree noveling world.

    My answer to that is 'well, in as realistic of a way that we can, yes.'

    In terms of catching every SPaG error, etc, then no, I don't think that we should berret ourselves for not being dead tree quality. Most publishers worth their beans have several editors around (the major houses have two or three look over each book), which many web writers simply can't afford to have due to both time constraints and finances.

    Another issue is that many writers work years on a single book, whereas most web writers work a few days on a chapter. The amount of output, dedication, and inability to succumb to writers block and epic rewrites means that we have to have on-the-spot quality, and the lack of editors means that we don't get that safety net despite having high demands from readers and financial supporters.

    That said, good writing is good writing. We should all aim to be the best writers that we can be, within limits -- I don't think we should let our hopes of being great paralyze us. But we should always aspire to greatness, even if 'greatness' differs for each of us.

    For instance, for me, I first wanted to be 'great' in the terms of telling a story that entertained. Later, the definition of 'greatness' changed for me, switching to being able to follow the characters without flinching. Etc.

    Essentially, I think we should each have a reason to write, know it, and aim towards it. Should we expect to have the same quality that it takes hundreds to thousands of dollars for dead tree authors to get? Not really, it's just not practical.

    Morgan's Fiction Website - LGBT urban fantasy web serials, shorts, and more.
  5. Edje (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Great writing stems from more than just talent and experience (which we try to build by making these serials) it comes from great ideas. We write these serials to foster our talents and become better writers, the fans are not the goal but a tool to help us achieve it. And who knows a select few of us many move on to be acclaimed writers, and our fans will then be able to look back and see how their dear storytellers began their journey.

    also with above points the web publication does not prevent it from being being published, ie: Asiliad, no man is an island, Johnny dies in the end. Its similar to watching a show on tv for free and buying the dvd box set

    Being only 17 myself I am not expecting the creation of a giant fanbase around Breaker. its not impossible, I'm learing more and more about the failings of other web writers and unlike a great number of them have a tremendous grasp of Literature as a whole as well as "writing theory" along with talent (which most of them do have).
    I'm just saying if something as "Relatively" contrived as tales of MU (NOT SAYING ITS BAD JUST REALLY SEEN IT BEFORE) can make it big what does that say about any of our novels. We just need to make our stories as compelling and deep as possible. And shamelessly promote them till you have a bloody keyboard and have exausted favors from every person you ever made eye contact with in you entire life.

    Many of us are young, do you think Melvile, Hawthron, Dickens, Swift, Orwell, or Lewis had the mitus touch from the instant they picked up their fist writing implement?!
    The whole argument that "blooks" suck because they are "blooks" is ridiculous, 90% or more of us are young writers not even out of college. Thats not to say there will never be any good "blooks", as our talents grow (for those of us serous about writing more than a hobby)and we will begin to make serials/blooks of higher and higher quality until we get picked up by publishing companies. The web serialization movement should not be looked at with the same scrutiny as the works of established writers but as a marker for the potential for the next generation of writers, a sort of training ground for the young writers who's names may very well be remembered for centuries to come.

  6. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    "also with above points the web publication does not prevent it from being being published, ie: Asiliad, no man is an island, Johnny dies in the end. Its similar to watching a show on tv for free and buying the dvd box set"

    Mate, I -am- one of the guys who got published out of web fiction. It's not a realistic hope because the only publishers who will touch unprinted online fiction are micropress. John Dies for example was picked up by Permuted, who -- cool as they are, I hang out there too -- are most certainly not a big house. And that's the only one in your list that I'd even heard of before joining the WFG.

    Regards,
    Ryan

  7. acetachyon (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Mind you, I posed this question because I'm curious about what to expect when I launch my web serial. I wanted to see what you veterans out there thought of that blog comment in the original post.

    I'm nowhere near Stephenson. Or even Shakespeare for that matter.

    But I like to think I hover near a Mack Bolan novel. (Although I had one editor describe a story as "Goulart-esque.")

    Onward...

    KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE When the going gets tough, the tough shoot back
  8. acetachyon (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Morgan said it best: "work that's equal quality to what people view as the best of the dead tree noveling world."

    Yes. I mean that.

    Morgan--you write: "Should we expect to have the same quality that it takes hundreds to thousands of dollars for dead tree authors to get? Not really, it's just not practical."

    Can you elaborate more on the impraticalities? Is it simply a matter of time spent, years vs. a few days, or are there other things involved? Don't other writers also have that same amount of "output, dedication, and inability to succumb to writers block" ?

    KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE When the going gets tough, the tough shoot back
  9. acetachyon (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    @snitschke:
    "With that in mind, I think your question, "Is it expected that we write quality right off the bat with our first web serial effort" is the wrong question both as a prospective writer and as a reader. Should readers expect quality both objectively and subjectively? No. They are reading something for free on the web. They have the choice to either read it or not to read it. For that moment, the author doesn't owe the virtual masses a thing. "

    So because it's free, it can be sloppy? I don't think that's what you mean, do you? I'm probably misreading. Can you elaborate on this point?

    KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE When the going gets tough, the tough shoot back
  10. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 10 years ago

    acetachyon: I think Morgan was referring to having the services of professional editors, proofreaders, and typesetters. For-profit publishers, the kind you are referring to, have an entire team of staff they apply to each novel, to make sure it is the best that it can be. Working alone -- unless you are willing to pay for those professional services yourself -- you may find yourself hard-pressed to get the same results. Even if all other things are equal.

    And, no, that doesn't mean you can be sloppy.

    Finally, do remember that doing something serialized is fundamentally different from something all-in-one-go (regardless of the medium in which you are publishing it). You are trying to create repeat readers -- people who will come back week after week to find out what happens next. That requires a somewhat different focus from people writing something that is primarily meant to be read once, over a few days.

  11. Sonja Nitschke (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    "So because it's free, it can be sloppy?"

    Yes.

    Did the reader pay the author in the expectation that he would receive something of equal value?

    No, he did not.

    Expect: to look for with reason or justification

    What logical reason does a random reader have to expect Quality? What justification is there? Have promises been made, contracts been signed?

    No.

    That's what web fiction is all about.

    Expectations come from precedences. It's why major publishing companies will take on titles that are similar to big name sellers because they expect that it will sell. But it doesn't work like that online. You don't know the writer, you've probably never read any other book by him so you don't know how he writes or if he's any good. To top it off, there is no publishing company which has made the writer's story look pretty because they want you to buy it because they know that you'll have expectations for it just from the mere fact that it was published at all.

    There is none of that on online publishing. The only thing is the text on the page and it stands on that alone.

    Publishing on the web, a writer can write whatever he wants to write. He hasn't made a promise to publishing companies or to readers. He doesn't have to make the quota, doesn't have to make a profit. No precedences have been set. There is no justifiable reason to look for any kind of quality. In short, there are no expectations because there is nothing to base those expectations on.

    Why should web fiction authors try to meet the expectations of the people without even the guarantee of being paid for it? That's what publishing companies are for.

    So yes they can be sloppy if they want to. If they want to be read, if they want donations, if they want to create a fan base, they won't write sloppily, but that is a different matter entirely.

    ETA -- I'm looking at this from more of an economical perspective. Also because I'd hate for people to expect Shakespeare or Meyer or Vonnegut or what have you when I've never made any such claims.

    2nd ETA -- The premise of my argument is based on first time readers stumbling across a web novel. With recurring readers and author relationships, there are expectations, but I think that's a different subject unless I'm totally misunderstanding your own post.

    Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand. -- Kurt Vonnegut
  12. Sarah Suleski (Aspiring Mudpie)

    Posted 10 years ago

    To me, personally, the whole comparison issue is a moot point. I try to write to the best of my ability. If readers out there don't think that my writing is as good as [insert published author's name here] well, really, I'm not going to cry. Or whine, or argue. I'm just going to point out that I don't consider myself in direct competition with those authors and I don't actively measure myself against them. This doesn't mean I want to write sloppy and bad but also want everyone to love me and donate lots of money to me, regardless of how bad my writing is. It just means I'm not making any claims to greatness or saying, "Why read Neil Gaiman's latest when there's my stuff?!" and so when the "criticism" of online fiction comes up I tend to wonder why no one writes blogs about how the guy standing on the corner with an acoustic guitar and his case laying open at his feet is no Jimmy Page so why should he bother? You know, how dare an amateur try to be heard?

    I am a writer, a writer of fictions... and I've written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones
    (lyric from The Engine Driver by The Decemberists)
  13. Morgan O'Friel (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    Can you elaborate more on the impraticalities? Is it simply a matter of time spent, years vs. a few days, or are there other things involved?

    I think Chris reiterated my point wonderfully. In terms of mere financial backing, it's rediculous to expect a web writer to have the same amount of resources as a multi-national, big name publishing company. Most individuals don't even come close to earning in a year what Tor does in a month. As such, we simply don't have the staffing that dead tree authors do. This includes, but is not limited to: editors (freelance novel editors run into the thousands, for instance), promotion staff (think of the people who do the ads, talk to bookstores to get the book on shelves, book tours, etc) and illustrate our works (which can range in the hundreds for book covers, more for a fully illustrated piece).

    I'll try to elaborate a bit more below, in terms of the other issues.

    Don't other writers also have that same amount of "output, dedication, and inability to succumb to writers block" ?

    Not in the same sense, no. Are dead-tree authors dedicated? Sure, but in a different sense. Their process requires a different sort of dedication than that of a web writer who has to make sure to their daily output is postable. Dead tree authors can have an off-day or two without it setting back the whole process in the same way that it would with web writing (hiatus/missed post versus just working extra-hard the next day).

    Also, with dead tree authors, it's more like dedication to their job -- they're getting paid for their efforts. Web writers can expect no income from their pursuit, so they have to be extrememly dedicated to take the time away from other activities (including possible jobs) to work on their stories. On the other hand, web writers don't have to worry about upsetting the people signing their paycheck (unless, like Alexandra Erin, they do this as a full-time job). So it's a trade-up.

    The processes are just too different to properly compare, IMHO.

    As for the output-time ratio:

    Sure, it's been said that Stephan King writes around 1,300 words per day. But he doesn't have to promptly post those. He has a long and elaborate process to catch mistakes, to relax and re-edit, etc. Many dead-tree authors write and rewrite for months. Then they have a content editor to look over the general work for consistency, and then a copy editor to examine it further for typing and SPaG errors. During this process the manuscript is then sent back to the author for revisions at least twice before moving it on, generally giving the author at least a week to make the revisions and send it back each time. Around this time the cover art is done, a preview copy is examined, and any other errors are pointed out -- another process that takes at least a week (during which, writer's block could feasibly claim the author for several days without it neccesarily spelling doom). Finally, the finished copy is taken by the publishing company and held over for awhile until it's release date (which can be anywhere from a few days to a few months to a few years).

    Now, compare this to a web writer, who has to write 1,300 words each day. They then get a few hours to examine them, edit them, illustrate (if neccesary) and then re-post. It's much more stream-lined; it expects the author to also be an editor, illustrator, publicist, etc. There's very little room to maneuver when they have to find a way to use almost every day's output. It's also not fair to expect the author as an individual to be as good as a highly specialized, well-paid, team that has weeks to months to examine a single piece.

    Morgan's Fiction Website - LGBT urban fantasy web serials, shorts, and more.
  14. acetachyon (Member)

    Posted 10 years ago

    @morgan:
    So a web writer is closer to a newspaper reporter/columnist with respect to workload (i.e., daily deadline with limited time for research, writing, and editing.)

    KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE When the going gets tough, the tough shoot back

Reply »

You must log in to post.