Writing web fiction that isn't super hero based?

Page: 12


  1. SovereignofAshes (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Jumping into the topic of beefy chapters and posting schedule...

    The general trend that works the best for web serials is to keep things to 2,000 to 4,000 words a chapter as much as possible. There are some fantasy-themed stories here that get away with around 500 word uploads (like The Zombie Knight Saga) every single day. There are others that can get away with beefier chapters (like the later chapters written by Wildbow) which can average around 6,000 to 10,000 words and usually stick to a once-or-twice-a-week schedule.

    I've written in a neglected sub-genre of fantasy for the last two years with chapters that ran between 2,000 and 22,000 words and it was... Well... A living Hell.

    Also, with the trends going on with release schedules, the faster your schedule the more likely you are to gain and retain readers. Most preferable schedules are at least twice a week. Once a week and you start to lose readers. Once a month and you'll be lucky to retain anyone other than a very devoted core audience (that will need constant updates via a mailing list). Online audiences are fickle and have the attention-span of gnats. When you have so many serials online, plus social media, plus trending topics every five minutes, it's near impossible to retain people's attention unless you're battering them over the head constantly.

    The most important thing is to keep to a schedule that is manageable for you and a word count that you know you can sustain. If you really are dead-set on massive chapters you should get a strong backlog of chapters done before you commit to a publishing schedule online. Have at least a dozen or so chapters before you commit to posting them up. If you write 'by the seat of your pants' you'll get swallowed up and spit out by an audience pretty quickly. All it takes is one hiccup and readers will flit away faster than you knew what hit you.

    I agree with the sensibilities shared above. No matter what, you should write what you want to write. If the audience is there, it's there. If you are devoted enough, there's a decent chance you can grow it. At the same time, if you want perfectly honest advice from someone who writes in sub-genres of fantasy... Don't get your hopes up. Be pragmatic, lower your standards and be willing to go the next two or three years of constant writing hearing nothing more than crickets. I know that sounds dismal, but the point is not to jump into this thinking you'll be the next Wildbow or the next writer of The Martian. Maybe all your wildest dreams will come true and I sincerely hope they do. Realistically though, trying to write in fantasy online is like choosing to play one of the Dark Souls video games. You're asking for punishment and you're choosing the hardest (NIGHTMARE) difficulty level you possibly could.

    The trendy things right now for web serials are the following:

    - Superhero stories. This is because of the popularity behind not just the Marvel and DC franchises that are still going strong, but also because of stories like Worm and Ward.

    - LitRPG stories. It's a whole new genre and people haven't gotten sick of it, yet. A lot of authors I've seen have started out with epic fantasy stories or urban fantasy stories and decided to rewrite in this genre because they weren't seeing any returns. Some go hardcore with LitRPG setting the story in a VRMMO setting, or including RPG elements. Others are more soft using a 'level up' atmosphere with an off-kilter protagonist, or using tired tropes like modern characters transported to a fantasy world.

    - Japanese Light Novels + Xianxia stories. There's a whole website devoted to that and numerous aggregator sites helping those genres thrive.

    - Hard Sci-fi and Space Opera stories. You can still tap into the Bablyon 5 and Star Trek crowds with these. The Star Wars movies are over-saturating the market and people are up for more of that science-fantasy stuff. A lot of readers are crying for hard science fiction, or alternate history science-fantasy.

    - Overt Genre-bent Fantasy stories. Mix high fantasy with westerns and you have a seller. Mix Tolkien fantasy with robots and you have another seller. Do a drama-heavy historical drama mixed with low fantasy and you've got yet another A Song of Ice & Fire clone (which sell like hotcakes on Amazon btw).

    - Absurdist Erotica. Just look into Christine Sims or Chuck Tingle. 'Nuff said.

    - YA Dark Romance Fantasy. Twilight may be dull, but the clones of it are still selling.

    Also, the closest you get to the Young Adult sensibility, the easier the sell to an audience. The more you steer away from that, the more you're going into the wasteland of fiction right now. The more adult you are, the less readers you'll have access to.

    All the best and hopes for the future. We need more fantasy authors on here and elsewhere. When you have your story up, I'd like to drop by and give it a look.

    The advice above from everyone else is good. All I can really add is... Be realistic. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Keep going no matter what.

    I have stuff on here too! The Vorrgistadt Saga.
  2. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Remember, 2000-4000 words is about average chapter length for a lot of published novels.

    I'm yet to read a web serial where it feels like going regularly over that is beneficial to the pacing and general narrative. There is, however, a meme in serial audiences that bigger updates = better. Some serial readers don't seem to put that thought together with some criticisms of certain updates I see which can be described as 'Wow, ten thousand words and nothing happened'. While it's not a great thing to see in an established serial, that kind of comment is a death knell to a fledgling serial. People will say that and persist because they already like the author, have been following them for a while, or been told it's worth it. If you're just starting, you don't have that capital/good will to burn.

    If you're going to go beyond 3000-4000 updates then, as a reader, I'm going to want to see why. I read a lot of serials where it feels like a chapter hits a nice ending point... and then it keeps going. And then it goes from enjoyment to exhaustion.

    Even if you write a 15k chapter, the best thing to do would be to split it into 3-4 updates. Then you can update more than once a month which helps with readership but also with how to structure beginnings and endings. I've found twice a week to be a good standard and I'd say it's the bare minimum you'd want to update.

    Additionally, I think readers are more likely to come back to a story if they can read to the end of a shorter update, instead of needing to pause halfway through a longer one.

  3. unice5656 (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    While superhero serials tend to dominate TopWebFiction, I don't think they're the most popular genre in webserials right now. Royal Road does a brisk business in Asian light novel-inspired LitRPG, reincarnation, and cultivation stories, while WattPad caters towards the romance-loving group.

    I don't see anything that would prevent a more classic fantasy from becoming a successful webserial. You should, however, be aware of the subtle but significant differences between a webfiction and a novel. People can and do publish the same story in both formats, but this doesn't fully take advantage of either medium. Novels are designed to be read in large chunks or straight through, while webserials should be designed for long time intervals in between chapters. The level of detail a reader will recall from earlier chapters is significantly reduced, and chapters tend to be of a more standardized length, with a good mix of the elements that appeal to the target audience rather than following plot events.

    In terms of update length and frequency, I belong to the very small minority of writers who posts 2-3k words once a month and still manages to have readers. That being said, as long as readers really like the story and have some kind of notification when a chapter is updated (i.e. a subscription for updates), you can get away with updates less frequent than once a week. Even if you like to write really long chapters, consider breaking them up into smaller chunks for posting (you can even post them on the same day if you feel that it really should all be read together). Scrolling through a 15k word chapter on your phone is absolutely not fun, and a lot of people do like to read on their phones.

  4. LambentTyto (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Thanks for this really detailed response. I appreciate it!

    I think I could settle for chapters around five thousand words. The thing is if I'm cutting off at 2-3K most of my chapters will have cliffhangers. The way I like to structure a story is to have a lot going on, and then at the end of these beefy chapters actually have a downtrend, almost like it's own little arc with a beginning, middle, and end. Each of these chapters tells a "chunk" of the overall story and doesn't end on some huge cliffhanger to drag the reader into the next part as frantically as possible. That's my thinking, a reader would get an update and think, "Okay, another big chunk of the story." After they read that, they will be okay with waiting two weeks or so for another chunk.

    At least, that's how I'd like to do it, but like you say, readers on the internet are fickle and will jump ship if their interests aren't stolen from them at all times. I suppose I could structure something differently, but then we're heading out of the realm of "tweaking" toward a certain direction and then full on restructuring my stories to fit the web novel mold. Gah!

    I tend to like to write with a lot of characters, so I don't know if that'll be off putting. As an adult novel, I can still feature younger POV characters too. Best of both worlds as I've always seen it. Assuming readers aren't off put by large casts. YA type stuff tends to follow very central main characters, though.

  5. LambentTyto (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    I can certainly understand a "Wow, ten thousand words and nothing happened," disappointment. I tend to write short scenes of around a thousand to fifteen hundred words and I group those together into larger narrative chunks. My big chapters would be more like short stories with a full beginning middle end arc, rather then little bits of nothingness going on all conglomerated together. I want to write short novels at about fifty K words, and if my chapters are ten thousand words, we're talking about a serial that's five chapters long for each volume of the series.

  6. LambentTyto (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Oh, of course! I think an email mailing list is essential. If I upload in smaller chapters I'll have to reformat for the serialized version as apposed to the structure of the novel. Technically they're different mediums in a way, but I don't know.

  7. Dary (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Focus on telling the best story you can, the way you want to tell it. Don't force it to become something it doesn't want to be just to cater to some fickle, attention-deficit internet strangers.

    Personally, every time I've serialised something, my readers will binge read a bulk of content every few weeks/months, no matter what the release schedule. These days, I pace my writing accordingly.

    Webfiction is still a relatively young medium. Don't let some vague "rules" constrain you.

  8. DrewHayes (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    Regardless of the schedule or genre you decide upon, I would say there is one universal rule that can applied to web-serials: it pays to be consistent. Whatever you decide on, be sure you deliver it as promised. People have talked about the fickleness of readers, and while there is obviously some truth to readers peeling off through a story, inconsistency will definitely make the problem worse. To steal from the business plan of coffee shops: you want to become a habit, part of people's routine. MWF (or whatever your individual schedule is), the reader knows they can click the bookmark and find new content awaiting. When its not there, they may remember to check back, or may not, and the more often it happens the less likely they'll bother to click. Its certainly not impossible to grow or succeed without consistency, but having it makes the process easier.

    Super Powereds & Corpies
  9. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    I guess one thing you should also consider is...what’s your measure of success?

    Are you looking for financial independence through writing? A strong base of followers? Recognition? A publishing deal?

    I think your definition of success depends largely upon the litmus with which you feel your story ‘worked.’

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
  10. Teowi (Member)

    Posted 8 months ago

    I think fantasy will work. If you look at the Top Web Fiction listings, some of the top serials are more fantasy-based than superhero. If the writing is high quality, and the characters interesting, people will generally be open to more than one genre.

  11. nippoten (Member)

    Posted 7 months ago

    You could also try wrapping a different genre of story into a 'superhero' or 'fantasy' setting.

    A crime noir story in a fantasy world? Sounds super interesting to me.

    A road trip movie with superheros as the lead? Logan was pretty popular.

    Definitely more interesting that just playing any of those settings straight, at least for me. Mix things up, remix them. You'll find something dope, I bet.

    Also, to touch on schedules. 'Ideally' if you want to build an audience relatively quickly, you'll have a better chance updating twice, three times a week if you're crazy. But doing weekly updates work too. If you can keep that up, that does work too.

  12. revfitz (Member)

    Posted 7 months ago

    I wrote a serial about a man who goes through unreasonable panic attacks, breakfast, and VERY little else. If I found an audience with THAT mess, anybody can.

    Good luck, and I would seriously consider smatthews65's question on success. Existential Terror and Breakfast helped me build a platform with a vocal (and weird) readership, but I have made no money off of it.

    Existential Terror and Breakfast--A serial with cereal.
    Updates Wednesdays at: revfitz.com
  13. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 7 months ago

    For what it’s worth, I wrote a short history of the web serial community. Superheroes have been around throughout its history, but haven’t dominated it for very long and won’t in the future. It’s a cyclical thing. Follow the link for more:


    You can write anything. If you write something you care about, other people are more likely to care and you’re more likely to finish.

  14. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 7 months ago

    You don't have to write YA or superhero fiction. There are plenty of writers who don't. You don't want to find yourself writing in trends because trends change. Superhero fiction really honestly is just a corner of the internet. Personally I don't write superhero fiction and have no plans of writing it. I would love to say my current project is YA but, it does a lot of things that YA doesn't or fantasy for that matter.

    I'm really just a big supporter of writing what you want and making that the best story it can be.

    A cross-genre fantasy stories about elves-->http://brotherhoodarchive.com
  15. Dary (Member)

    Posted 7 months ago

    Jim's history of webfiction is prompting wistful memories of the EpiGuide days. That site did a lot of good work promoting serials, even those that didn't fit in with the trends. In particular, they ran a monthly article/newsletter where authors would submit previews of their upcoming chapters. I'm sure they highlighted stand-out scenes, too? It really helped to highlight lesser-known serials. These days, everything feels a lot more insular-which is strange when you consider that we live in the age of Social Media!


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