When To End Your Web Serial?

7 years ago | MyStoriesAreOn (Member)

Hi All,

So I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on ending a web serial. I've been writing my story Of Vice and Virtue (mystoriesareon.wordpress.com) every weekday for the past 7 months, and I've been really passionate about it. In my mind, I'm pleased that I've been able to maintain the daily goal that I've set for myself. The trouble is, I'm unsure if I want to continue it.

Although I get great satisfaction from creating these stories day after day, it gets a little disheartening when readership just isn't there. I have a lot of ideas for future story arcs that I'm really excited about, but it just seems like I may not have anyone to share them with, as I don't have many readers. Though I really do write this for my own enjoyment, I also write it for others to enjoy as well. Since my readership isn't that high, I'm considering bringing it to an end, letting my future ideas fizzle, simply because my other goal of entertaining others isn't being achieved.

The time element is also weighing on my mind. It takes a lot to write this story daily, which results in sub-par work from time to time. I want to produce "quality" work, and I'm afraid that might also be an issue if I continue at this pace.

I love my story and the characters I've created, and I'd hate to see them go away, but it might be time. Has anyone else had this dilemma? If so, how did you deal with it? I'd really appreciate the counseling!

Thank You,

C.J.

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Responses

  1. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    You're hitting what Seth Godin calls "the dip." It's that hard spot where you have to decide whether to power through or cut your losses. There is no generic answer to that one. (It's easy to say "Only those who power through succeed!" That may be true, but not every one who powers through actually does succeed. It's just a way of saying that if you quit, you won't succeed.)

    My personal thoughts, when I look back at times when I've felt like you describe:

    Getting tired and discouraged can be a sign of burn out. It may not be that you should quit for the story's sake or because you aren't succeeding well enough, but because you're going to crash, so you want to bring this sucker in for a smooth landing rather than putting it off.

    If necessary, don't call it an end, call it a hiatus. Bring current story arcs to a close. Give your audience, no matter how small, some satisfaction. THEN take time to rest and figure out what you want to do. Stopping the serial doesn't mean stopping the story. You may want to go after it a different way.

    But you should also recognize that if you take a break, you may never come back.

    You may also want to think about how you are measuring your audience. Are you looking at your web stats? Or RSS subscriptions? Or comments? Or donations or sales? You may be right about your audience, but sometimes your forms of feedback are deceptive. For instance, since I started my web serial, my blog stats have reached record highs, my RSS feeds have increased slightly, and my commenting and positive feedback disappeared completely.

    Also seven months is not actually a long time in blog maturity time. You can't expect to attract a big audience in that time, unless you have some leverage (another successful blog, someone with a big following sponsoring you, you're a name writer). For blogging from scratch, seven months is just getting your feet wet.

    BUT, it is a heck of a long time in writing time -- and I have to congratulate you for keeping it up so long before considering canning it. I started a bunch of blogs before I started this one, and even with this one, I only started the fiction serial after 2 years of daily non-fic blogging. I really think learning to blog is like getting through college. Sure some people can take 28 credits a semester and blaze through it, but for most of us, we need an on/off cycle to really get through that long haul.

    Because of all that blogging (and other writing) I've done, I have an idea of what I can do, and for now, for my serials, I'm switching back and forth between two different stories -- 6 months for each series, a complete novella per "season" -- and I'm only posting twice a week. (I am still posting other blog material between episodes.)

    That's something you could with yours: do "seasons" and give yourself a break between them. You could also consider taking time off to turn your serial into a novel -- either a newly edited collection as is, or revised and rewriting for a different format.

    There are a lot of options -- from completely quitting and doing something else, to a lighter schedule, to other forms of writing for the same story -- and if you're feeling burnout, it's good to take a break to sort things out.

    Camille

  2. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    @Camille
    How would you define a big audience, Camille? By any of the metrics (web stats, subscriptions, comments, donations?)?

    What number would you call a 'large' audience for a web serial? Elsewhere?

    @C.J:

    I think that if you're writing, then you're doing the most important thing. Just sitting down & producing something is going to hone your craft. I get that it can be discouraging to have a minimal/nonexistent audience.

    So my question is: do you know what you'd want to write next? If you were to start over, what would you do different?

    If you don't have something to move on to, or some other goal to strive towards, I'd say keep writing. Quitting now, when you're feeling discouraged and disappointed, may hurt you as a writer because it'll make it that much harder to get back up on the horse.

    I'd recommend easing yourself out of it. Get to all the storylines you've been putting off, tie up the loose storylines, work towards a grand climax, and then wrap it up. It'll take a surprisingly long time to do this, but it'll also perhaps refresh you in terms of changing things up some, and invigorating any audience you have. This is the important part, though: Decide what you're going to do next in the meantime. Perhaps you'll start over, having learned from past mistakes & successes, but 10-20 years later, focusing on the kids, with the central characters from the current generation being the older, more bitter and wiser (dangerous, in the soap medium) parents. Or a different genre, perhaps.

    But I wouldn't stop entirely.

  3. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Wildbow:

    I don't define a large audience. I brought that up because C.J. is declaring failure at attracting an audience. And that may be correct, but so often people don't know (or care or understand) about the various metrics that it's also quite possible to declare failure when you're actually doing better than you think you are. On the chance that C.J. is being too pessimistic, I thought I would bring it up.

    As for what constitutes high traffic for a webfiction blog:

    Web traffic varies from literally zero hits up to millions of hits a day. It varies seasonally quite a lot too.

    To me, the first whole year of a blog is just a way of setting a baseline -- and even then you won't know how seasonality affects you because you're learning and improving and getting the hang of serving the audience.

    Furthermore, you've got to be careful who you are comparing yourself to, and what your purpose is. If you want to write about easy weight-loss systems, you can probably drive thousands of hits a day to your site (thought you'll have lots of competition). But for fiction? Not so much. And since we all vary by genre, and style and audience, it's hard to even come up with a relative ballpark estimate of "average."

    So how do you set your standards of "success"?

    Well, that's where that first year blogging comes in handy -- you get an idea of what's possible for you, given what you know and do. But more important, you get an idea of what makes you feel satisfied. How can you know what to expect on an emotional and personal level until you've tried it? You may find elements that make you very happy that you never expected, or you may find that what you thought you'd like isn't so hot.

    I set my expectations first by looking at that first year (and I actually do this quarter by quarter -- but I consider the first year to be the "learning curve." I may compare myself to others, or to other blogs I've done, but not to judge whether I'm a success or not. Just to understand the metrics, and give me clues to what is different about each effort.

    I look at five metrics:

    1.) Server stats:

    Since I use Blogger, I watch Bloggers own internal stats. I also have Google Analytics, but I admit I don't look at them as much. I also have a third party stats tracker, Wundercounter, which measures things a little differently and a little more conservatively. I like Wundercounter because I can see more about individual users and their behavior.

    2.) Subscriptions:

    I do my RSS feeds through Feedburner so I can look at their stats for both subscriptions and for "reach" which is how many people actually look at your site, and how many click through to it. I don't think Feedburner captures every subscription, though. I also watch Google followers, and things like that.

    3.) User responses:

    Comments and interactions tend to give writers a charge... to the extent that writers risk the silent majority of their audience to serve the commenters. One of the reasons I asked "how are you measuring your success?" is because I've seen people who have growing blogs get discouraged because they have no commenters. And for some, that's what's important too -- if you don't get paid for it, then by golly, you want feedback! (NOthing wrong with measuring success that way, as long as you understand that you may be skipping the majority of your readers.)

    4.) Money and sales:

    For some this is the bottom line: are they making money off advertising or sales of their books? For me, it's not the central factor, but it IS one more measure of the effect of your blog.

    5.) "Viral" aspects, like retweets and backlinks:

    This is mostly nebulous, and I don't get a lot of it, but I use Google Alerts, and also watch the "connections" on Twitter, and do vanity searches at Google periodically. This gives me an idea if my work has moved people to take action.

    Then I think about what I did and what I learned, and _then_ I set any goals I have for declaring success or failure. And yeah, it's entirely possible that I might say "You know what, this is a waste of my time, I'd rather be doing X." There's nothing wrong with that. Don't guilt yourself into sticking to something you will end up hating. But don't ever give up on something you'd rather be doing.

    And maybe that's the core question: If you didn't do this, what would you do instead? Would you rather do that other thing or not? If the other thing wouldn't make you happy, then it's a no brainer -- stick with what you're doing.

    Camille

  4. SgL (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    One thing I have to say is that a daily writing pace is tough. You are sacrificing something everyday to write, and I admire that. That said, I know personally that if I went twice a week (which I tried with art alternating with story) I started to feel harried and lost within my thinking. I found that once a week was the most I wanted the pressure of posting such that I could blow a few days in the week after work to just watch tv or read comics/books for myself.

    Some ideas -- you could think about is dropping the pace of updating. If you're writing an episodic tale, go down to 3 times or 2 times a week right away. Give yourself days to play.

    Or take a week or so off as a proper vacation (informing your readers via your site) and go crazy with the rest time - read, go out and see movies, and generally see to your personal self. Sometimes I've found that giving myself that time off helps me come back and plow through subsequent installments.

    Echoing what was said above -- I think if you are discouraged or contemplating whether to pull out of this particular story, then bringing the story to an end could be good for you in several different respects. First, at least you have something with a conclusion that becomes possibly useful/viable in the ebook market. You can put it out to pasture and choose to promote or not, but the ebook market plays differently and you may find a second life for your serial there.

    More importantly, closing properly means you have a track record as someone who can complete a work and reward the readers that you may have lurking quietly out there for sticking with you. It also will give you the confidence to set out again if/when you find a new concept you want to play with that you can carry it out again.

  5. MyStoriesAreOn (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    @ Camille: I'm thinking of perhaps placing my story on hiatus, as you suggested. I'm definitely feeling that I'm burned out, rather than my story. As I said, it's a daily serial, so sometimes the story just consumes me that I feel like it's all I've got going on. However, if I do take a hiatus, it feels as if I may be weaning myself off a drug, silly as that may sound. I know where I want the characters to go, but it's just a matter of my stamina. I think that once I hit post 175 (which is coming up soon), I may call it quits for a bit. Thanks for the input, it's truly appreciated.

    @ Wildbow: I do have another project that I would like to start. The serial started as an experiment to see how a soap opera/serial works and evolves. It's a lot lighter and fluffier than what I want to write. I really want to start on a full length novel that I've been playing around with for a while, however, this serial is taking up a lot of my free time that I could devote to something I've been wanting to write for some time now. I think I may end it tentatively, as Camille also suggested. Thanks for all the help!

    @ SgL:Your point about bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion got me thinking. Although I may not get to write future plot lines I've been mulling around, I can still right a "great" conclusion to what I've already got. If I can pull that off, then it would not only be satisfying to my (limited) audience, but to myself as well. With the nature of my story, it's entirely possible to pick it up again, so thanks for reminding me of that.

    Thanks for all the suggestions guys! You've been a huge help!

    Very Truly,

    C.J.

  6. Kess (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    All good advice here! C.J., I just wanted to say that I was in a similar position a couple of years ago. I was posting the Apocalypse Blog every day, and it was draining at times! But for me, it was time-limited: I knew I only wanted the story to run for a year, so there was an ending to aim for. That made all the difference to me.

    Now, my current web serial posts once a week and that's much better for me. I couldn't have kept up the daily posting indefinitely! I think having a solid goal in mind is important if you're going to push yourself that way. For more ongoing stories, finding a sustainable pace for yourself is crucial for avoiding burnout.

    Good luck with the ending you've got in mind. I'm sure your audience will love it!

  7. MyStoriesAreOn (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi Kess,

    Thanks so much for the response. I'm glad to know you understand the strength it takes for daily posts! As you said, having the story run for a specific amount of time probably makes all the difference. When I created Of Vice and Virtue, I didn't think about ending it, since it's a soap opera! Those things just go on forever! I initially thought that would be a lot of fun...but it's also a lot of work.

    As you and the others suggested, I may tie up all the current story lines and take a break. I'd love to come back to it, but for now the pace is just getting to hectic. I may try posting less frequently in the future, though that might compromise the "soap opera" affect I'm going for with the daily posts. I'll have to think on that.

    I really appreciate the encouragement, thanks!

    -- C.J.

  8. A. M. Harte (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    We've all been there!

    I took a LOONG hiatus from Above Ground / webfiction. I burned out, the story wasn't going where I wanted it to, I cringed when looking back at previous chapter... in sum, I hit the story's midlife crisis.

    I took a hiatus and started up another serial, carving out time for non-webfiction-writing, and just reorganinsing my schedule and priorities. Sometimes you get so caught up in a story, you need to take a break to gain perspective.

    Re: schedules

    Find a schedule you can _comfortably_ meet. Don't be tempted to push yourself too much -- you need to think ahead. What if you're sick for a week? What if your plant dies? Life is unpredictable. Giving yourself more time will also mean you'll be better able to avoid "subpar" posts.

    I stick to weekly updates. I take off my hat to anyone who can do daily!

    Re: readership/stats

    I was a pageview-addict. My advice would be to ignore it as much as possible. Despite Camille's solid list of how to measure readership, stats are often unreliable, and it's so easy to get addicted to refreshing manically, looking at page views... That only 1/10 (or less!) readers even leave a comment doesn't help either!

    Focus on the writing. Readers will come. The more time you waste worrying about readership, the less you're focusing on making your story super-awesome.

    Qazyfiction: fantasy fiction with a sinister edge.

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