Revising Web Fiction into a Book


  1. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I used to read Anita Blake. It was the series (besides Buffy) which introduced me to modern supernatural fiction and in my defense, I was a teenager, but I'm sort of embarrassed in hindsight.

    Yeah. Too much sex. And too much... everything.

    **Spoilers begin**

    Details may be off in specifics - it's been more than ten years now since I read any.

    She's a born necromancer, which means she can raise zombies far more easily than the official employees of 'reanimators incorporated', even accidentally at times. Her affinity for the (un)dead gives her a natural edge in assisting the police with vampire related crimes and serving as official executioner of vampires who go rogue and break the law. Being able to avoid being hypnotized by a vampire's gaze is great when you're aiming to stake them in the heart or empty a silver-pellet loaded shotgun at them.

    She winds up becoming the (accidental) human servant of a major law-abiding vampire, and inherits traces of his abilities, which tie into sex and deriving power from sex. She forms a 'triumvirate' with the vampire and his werewolf servant, which means they're magically linked and derive traits and powers from one another. Then she (over the course of several books) gets infected with multiple strains of lycanthropy (tiger, jaguar, wolf, among others). The strains of the diseases and the power from the triumvirate sort of counterbalance one another and she never officially changes or turns into an animal or anything like that. But anytime one of her fellow lycanthropes or someone in the triumvirate is hurt or a lycanthrope is going to change at an inopportune time or anytime something (be it her own powers or the local pack/pride power structures) is out of balance, she has to draw on the vampire master's ability to draw power from sex to fix it.

    Yeah. It makes more sense in context, but said context is likely to baffle even more.

    Throw in a curse and a bunch of other muju-hoodoo and whatnot over the course of many books, and you eventually get to one book and a third of the book is over before she's done dealing with just the side effects of the various (dozens of) powers and the power struggles/drama between her lovers and whatnot.

    **Spoilers end**

    I got to that point in the series and it wasn't so much the sex as the complexity and overwroughtness of it all that really made me look at it and think, "What the hell am I reading?" I stopped there.

    Just to give you a synopsis.

  2. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Wow. I can see where you might stop reading after that. It makes me wonder who the current audience is.

  3. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Not sure. I'm suspicious it's the same audience that found 50 shades of grey appealing, but I wouldn't want to make assumptions.

    The scary thing is that that synopsis ends around 2001, and there's been at least eight books released in the meantime.

  4. M.C.A. Hogarth (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Modern Anita Blake books are more paranormal soap operas than paranormal crime dramas. I don't think there's anything wrong with either of those flavors; they're both fun when done well. The problems I see with the Anita Blake series have to do with it making a transition from the latter to the former; reader expectations got seriously messed with, and that upset a lot of people.

    There's a useful lesson there.

  5. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Well said, Hogarth.

    I'm sort of guilty of that bait and switch, myself. Maybe not genre-wise, but I've had readers complain and comment regarding the fact that I didn't give them sufficient forewarning, and Worm turned out considerably darker than they expected.

    @ Jim - regarding your last post on the last page, I fear Worm's breakpoints would fall somewhere in the 130,000 word range, which is about as far as you could stretch a regular book without being a fantasy epic like harry potter or game of thrones.

    I'm not going to stress too much about the book just yet, though. I think I'll focus on doing one thing well rather than doing one thing sorta well and one not-immediately-important thing (formatting into a book) okayish.

  6. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    "Sufficient forewarning" -- In chapter 1 of Worm, three bullies gang up on a defenseless kid. In chapter 3, Lung's gang is intending to shoot children. Just how light, warm and fuzzy did they expect the story to be?

    Her first fight with Lung she let insects attack his genitals, and in the second one she cut out his eyes. If they expected less than the Nine they weren't paying attention. I don't see anything that would make me think someone was being lured into a "nice" story -- Worms are blind and in the dark, and your story is pretty dark and there's no telling where that will stop. (Another time the title applies, now that Taylor can't see)

  7. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Wildbow: Ironically, I find the current situation, where the main characters are facing the possible extinction of the human race, easier to read than the earlier school bullying scenes.

    As for the issue of Worm's eventual appearance in ebook format, waiting on worrying about it makes sense. There's time to think about that when Worm's over. Personally I'm doing both simultaneously. I don't have much of a choice, since it could be five years before I'm done with Legion.

  8. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Well Gavin it's not just "light, warm and fuzzy" and "dark." There is an entire spectrum of comfort for readers, and some probably were fine with the level of "dark" at the beginning and not as comfortable with how much more it progressed as the story went on. I think it's accurate to say the beginning of Worm is different from the rest of it. Wildbow does it exceptionally well, and it works thematically because you're watching someone be introduced to the harsh realities of that world and lose her innocence, bit by bit, as she's accepted by the bad guys and screwed over by the good guys and so on and so on. There's no question that the story gets much darker the longer it goes, and I think it's fair to say that some of the plot elements introduced at the beginning of Worm could reasonably make some readers think it was going somewhere else.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  9. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Ubersoft/Gavin: At the beginning Worm felt more like a relatively conventional superhero story, but from the perspective of someone who (through circumstances she couldn't fully anticipate) ended up as a "villain" who's arguably more moral than the "heroes" she fights.

    It has since moved more in the direction of horror due to the various means of inevitable doom that are story elements, and that in one area, it's moved from preventing the end of the world to mitigating the damage.

    So I can see the complaint, but the superhero genre (even in the comics) is wide enough that in many ways, this still fits. It's just something you can't do in comics because comic companies can't kill off their intellectual property forever.

    Fortunately for Wildbow, the audience is growing, not shrinking from what I see. Thus, it works out.

  10. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Oh, I definitely think it fits. Worm is an excellent story. I'm just saying I can understand how someone might go into the story with one expectation and be... um... surprised.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  11. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago


    To get more on topic (sorry to derail) - I'm intrigued by the idea, Jim, that you're treating the conversion to novel as a TV series might to a movie. I've drawn parallels between web serials & TV series before, but I feel almost as though I want to somehow include -more- content, so that the serial readers have incentive to seek out the novel/ebooks.

    Though including more content when I'm liable to break 1,200,000 words before Worm ends is maybe a bit much. I dunno.

  12. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Wildbow: You're not the first person to ask me that. My brother did too. My reply was that the extra would be "editing."

    In some ways, I feel like that's enough. Partially this is because I'll be working hard just to fit things within the 90k words where pricing makes sense for a paperback. Creating an extra item might mean I'd have to cut more (and I don't want to).

    The other piece of it is that I think that serial readers will be interested in buying it just to find out how I changed things. I know that while I read all of Meilin Miranda's "Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom," I was happily surprised to discover that she'd changed things in the novel version. I'd say it's improved with more editing. Anna Harte has said she's had similar comments after turning the first book of "Above Ground" from a serial to novel.

    Beyond that, as I wrote earlier, there's the question of audience. My serial audience is a much smaller group than the potential audience available through online bookstores. Those potential readers won't miss extras. All they'll want is a good book. If I use my time to create the best book possible, I think it'll be more useful than using part of that time to create an extra thing that may or may not entice serial readers to buy it.

    I know that while I've bought products related to web comics I like, extras have always been incidental to whether I purchase it or not.

    So, that's my reasoning, I may or may not be right.

    (That said, I suppose I might be persuaded to include a brief scene after the end of the story where the main characters eat shwarma.)

    Joking aside, has anyone had experience with putting in or not putting in extra stuff? Any effect on sales that you know of?

  13. Kess (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    When I released the Apocalypse Blog, I filled out portions of it and added a few new posts into it. Some of it was to address feedback, some was to improve the readability now that it wasn't restricted by being posted on an actual blog. Some of the changes were just general tidying and improving of things. I'd learned new stuff about (my) writing since I'd started it and applied that, too. I probably wound up adding 10,000 or more words, overall.

    I tried mostly to make the story a better one to read (particularly, to read in one sitting, rather than episodically). It has ended up with extras in it, and I promote it as such (now with new and extended content!). However, I've had no feedback on whether or not anyone has noticed the difference or been encouraged to buy the books as a result.

    I'm going to start editing the first section of Starwalker for ebooking soon, so it's almost time for me to start this process over again. I know there's stuff I want to sharpen up already, I'm hoping not to have to cut anything out, but at this stage, I'm not sure if I'll add much in. My focus is on making it the best story it can be.

  14. purplepooka (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi all - this seems as good a place as any to introduce myself.
    I'm writing and studying blog fiction for a Creative Writing PhD project, which means that after I've finished posting Bad Influences (, I have to create a printable version to submit as a thesis. While I'm not going to be adding or removing actual text, the ordering and formatting of the adaptation is something that concerns me. Thing is, the main focus of the project is how narrative time works differently in blog fiction, especially real-time blog fiction, and the paper thesis is really not going to be anything like the same, despite having all the same words in it. The pre-written version I have now is full of things that won't work until they're posted, like memes and quizzes, extra comments that go on older entries at later points in the story etc. Serialisation and the blog platform are integral parts of the form, as far as I'm concerned.
    What interests me about this discussion is that it almost seems like an ebook version of a completed serial is an expectation. I'd be interested to know why people have chosen to make ebook versions of their serials, especially those originally serialised in real-time. It's interesting to see whether most people edit down to create a novel or add extra material, but aside from the amount of text, what else do you feel your story loses or gains through this format change?

    I'm also interested in blog fiction that remains online when the serial's completed. How does this affect the way you read a serial, especially if there's more than one blog involved? Do you read it in order, or end to beginning, or skip around the text using tags/categories or following your favourite characters? This is especially interesting when there's more than one blog in the story, like with Station 151 ( and Unknown Transmission 2186 (, I thought I'd want to read them side by side, but actually I just get into the one I'm reading and keep on with it, then piece the crossover story together in my head as I go.

    Anyway, sorry to bombard everybody with questions - this is a really interesting discussion and I'm enjoying all your work (though getting through it slowly, because I'm trying to read everything at once). I'll start on some ratings and reviews soon - thanks for maintaining a great site and forum! :-)

    Bad Influences is a real-time, near-future blogfic about the spread of a fatal flu pandemic.
  15. M.C.A. Hogarth (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I made e-book versions of my serials for a few reasons:

    1. I prefer to read e-books over serials myself; I'm not always at my computer and I often forget to keep up with bookmarks, so having a way to read the story in its entirety when I'm not standing at my desk is handy. Most of the serials I've read off WFG, in fact, I read as e-books, not in the original website form. I figure what goes for me will go for a lot of my readers too.

    2. I need income! Serials make money for me while they're running. When they're done, they stop earning (except for occasional surprise donations). Unlike some people here, I don't write an on-going story (one not intended to end, or not intended to end for a long time), and I think more in book-sized plots (or book-sized installations in larger series). So it's easy for me to package them once I'm done (to date, I think I've done six serials? Five complete, one in progress). Putting them up as e-books (and later print and audiobooks) allows them to accrue royalties for me.

    3. It allows me to reach a different audience. In my experience, there are people who read e-books who don't read serials online (and there are people who read print who don't read e-books!). Making my stories available in as many formats as possible gives me the broadest reach.

    Those are the big three, I think, for me. :)

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