First of all - Chris, can I get one of those nifty 'complete story' tags? Thanks!
So, I finally did it. A bit more than a week ago, I posted the epilogue for Anathema; the final entry to a web serial that took up 10-15 hours of my time every single week for two and a half years. Towards the end I was so burned out that I had to switch to monthly updates of 2 chapters each, and I had to rush the last chapter before the epilogue or else I might never have finished.
Looking back, I can say I have no regrets, and I'm super glad I wrote this serial. I was steadily in the top 10 / top 15 pretty much since the very beginning, got nearly 350K views to date, and - most importantly - I've grown SO MUCH as a writer over those past 3 years. To illustrate how much of a quantum leap this writing development was, check out the first draft of the first chapter I ever wrote for this story, then the final version of 3 years later:
First version from 2014: https://www.dropbox.com/s/h19dhntcx12zx0f/Radiant%20Intro%20May%202014.docx?dl=0
Final version 2017, post edits: https://www.dropbox.com/s/gaveo0jn42xl4hy/3.1%20Radiant%202017%20version.docx?dl=0
Some of you already know that English isn't my first language, which means that for me, writing is a SLOW process. I think I more or less succeeded in competing with native English speaking web serialists, but I'll never be able to write 800 words an hour. Not even 500. 350 is about my maximum, and often it's more like 250. When writer's block hits me, it hits me hard. It's not that I don't know what to write - the ideas tend to come to me when I need them, but sometimes I just don't know how to string those sentences together in a way that flows well for native speakers, and I have to google every other sentence to check if it's phrased well. I'm so jealous of you native speakers. I remember what it was like to write in German. It was so easy! And fun to boot! But I want to reach a large audience, which means that writing in German isn't an option. Plus by now I've probably forgotten how.
For that reason, I'm one of those authors who don't enjoy writing. It's really, really hard work all that time, but god, do I love having written. Over the years I've gotten so many amazing, insightful, often heartwarming comments from readers that I just couldn't quit, even though I wasn't making more than 10-15 bucks a month from Patreon.
Some thoughts and reflections...
I'm super glad I did this, but in the future I don't think I'll publish weekly serials chapter by chapter anymore. I've figured out that in my case, time to reflect and edit really improves the quality of my storytelling. If I write by the seat of my pants regardless of writer's block, sickness, or super busy weeks, the quality suffers. I want to write the best stories I'm capable of.
So in the future, I'm going to finish and edit entire novels before I serialize them. I've already gotten started on Gifted by Light, a standalone novel in the Anathema setting which follows the same timeline, but with a different cast of characters.
Here's the first paragraph for the new story:
There were weeks - a lot of weeks, actually - where I caught myself updating for the sake of updating. I didn't know where to take the story so I wrote a filler chapter just so I had something to post on Sunday. Sometimes I wrote several filler chapters in a row. Maybe some of you can relate.
For the first 1.5 - 2 years, I was really in love with this story and thought about it often even while doing unrelated things. I thought I could keep going forever because I was full of ideas, had a good amount of readers and loved getting all those awesome comments. I regret not planning to finish sooner. Because when story weariness set in, it made it that much harder to finish. So, here's my advice: don't plan to write millions of words even if right that moment, you think you can. Because that weariness will strike you eventually. I've been there. If I planned to finish sooner, I wouldn't have had to rush that last chapter before the epilogue so much.
Also, I think my autism really helped me out with this serial. I'm not sure a neurotypical person would be masochistic enough to do what I've done. I mean, I never even spent a year overseas or anything like that. Apart from what I learned in school, my English is 100% self taught.
And guess what, people who read the ebooks didn't believe they weren't written by a native speaker! The blog who selected Transition (the first Anathema ebook) as a semifinalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO competition said, I quote, 'the writing was SO SO SO GOOD'. I mean, wow. That's insane.
What really put a damper on my enthusiasm at times were comments from readers who stated they didn't vote for me on TWF because I was only updating once a week instead of 2-3 times. If readers expect me to invest 20-40 hours a week in a free web serial then I don't know what to say. Fortunately those kinds of comments were few and far between.