Feeling ambivalent or frustrated, not sure which

This week, I spent about 8-10 hours writing Winter Rain. From my logs, it looks like about 80 people have read each of those two installments. 4 bothered to comment (2 on each). It has left me trying to pin down my reasons for writing, because, this weekend, I've got other projects that need my attention, yet I'm feeling guilty about canceling today's installment.

The way I see it, either I'm writing this for myself, or I'm writing it for my readers. If I'm writing it for myself, then clearly, I get to set my priorities, and I shouldn't feel guilty about them. But if I'm writing it for my readers, is 4 comments on 8-10 hours work sufficient reason to bother prioritizing Winter Rain over other projects? I'm honestly not sure it is. Don't get me wrong -- I have some great regulars who frequently comment, and they are definitely the reason I've gotten this far. But the dearth of feedback has me considering dropping my update frequency again, because I really do have other things I'd like to do with my free time.

What do you think? Am I being a whiny little prick, here? Should I be thrilled to be getting the feedback rate I am getting? Or should I be considering some kind of incentive-based update schedule if I want more?


I feel the same way sometimes. I remind myself that there are all kinds of people on the internet: there are introverts (lurkers perhaps) and extroverts (commenters perhaps). A lot of people don't like saying, Loving it! every comment (i'm one of those people). A lot of people just might not feel like commenting at that precise moment in time.

But if You want my honest opinion? Don't write for Your readers. Write for You. Readers will come and go either because they lost interest or real life got in the way or whatever, which makes You the only constant.

So what i think:

No, You're not being a whiny little prick. Yes, You should be thrilled with the feedback rate You are getting.

Incentive-based update schedule thing-gummy? It didn't work out for me but if You want to take a stab at it, then go for it.

But really, You hit the nail on the head here:

"because I really do have other things I'd like to do with my free time."

Then do them.

I feel ambivalent all the time. It was part of the reason I took so long to get back to the grind for as long as I did after my holiday. I know people are reading, I can see that from my hit counter. But comments? There's currently maybe 4 people who comment semi-regularly.

I freely admit I'm a comment addict. I like seeing people taking a few moments ot respond, whether to say that they liked what they read, or to point out mistakes, or whatever. Makes you feel good. I'll be honest, I usually spend about 4-8 hour on each chapter. Considering how long they are (anywhere from 500-1000 words), that's probably a long time, but that's how long it takes me.

I know how you feel. Are you being a whiny little prick? Maybe. But we can be whiny little pricks together.

PS. I wish I had 80 people reading AD. Maybe after I advertise at #25... Ah well.

I've been struggling with the "who do I write for" question recently, mainly because I've been missing a lot of updates due to intrusions in my real life. But you know, my PW stats show me I haven't lost many (if any) readers despite being dormant for nearly two weeks.

I'm still in school, and I'll be starting up on my dissertation full time next Spring. That will be my #1 priority and the serials will go on the back burner for sure. And starting next week, school starts back up. I started writing while in classes, but didn't start the second serial until Summer. So we'll see if I can keep up a 5x a week update schedule. I'm guessing not.

At the end of the day, this ISN'T my job. It's my hobby. I can't let it take over my life. And I think the same is true for all of us. Unless you depend on your writing to pay your bills (like AE), then do your own thing and don't feel guilty about letting real life have first priority.

Of course, it would help if I could follow my own advice as far as the guilt is concerned. :-P

I always look at my stats more than the comments. Towards the end of Mirrorfall, I was getting bunches of comments on almost each chapter, but when [SPOILER: STEF DIES] happened, and MF ended, a lot of those people stopped reading/commenting.

Comment-wise, Mirrorheart has been a lot quieter, but the stats are at least what they were with the latter half (read: better written half) of MF. I have stats to prove people doing archive binges, or reading the chapters via the feeds and I take solace in that.

It's a proven fact that there is a huge difference in the number of people who read something to the number of people who comment on something.

I'm write because I like the story, I like people people reading the story. I'm not writing it for myself. Would I still write if people stopped reading? Yes. Then I'd do another big advertising push and pull in new readers.

Aside from getting Wibbly set up more (one part of which is pending some talented uni students, the other part is pending approval of my loan), there isn't anything I'd rather be doing. I don't have any designs for traditional publishing, so it's not as though I have other projects I'm desperate to work on. (Though getting distracted and writing Grigori dialogue for book #3 is a different issue...).

Hey Sonja,

It's not that I'm looking for "loving it". That's actually not really helpful to me. I'm still learning to write -- I need to know how what I've written affected my readers, so I can see if I achieved my goals, so I can learn to recognize my mistakes. Yeah, I can assume that, overall, it's mostly working, from the fact that people keep showing up to read. But on the specifics -- which is where I have to work -- I really need more information than that.

Thinking about what I just wrote, I guess one of the big paybacks I want for posting stuff online -- other than just the social pressure to write -- is to improve my writing. Crit groups just never did the job. I don't know, maybe I'm having unreasonable expectations here, too.

Your point about doing it for myself and setting my own priorities is well taken.

Thanks for your thoughts.


Street gets a decent amount of readers according to the stats, but no feedback whatsoever on either the old forum or the new one. I figure, if people don't like what they're reading, they'd be more keen to comment on it. It's something I've learned from my PC game projects -- tens of thousands of people can download and play something, and you're still lucky to get a handful of responses out of the lot.

However, random reader comments are not a good way to get feedback, and an especially bad way of getting critiques. It's never ever going to happen. If you want feedback, get some friends that you can trust not to stroke your ego. If you want to work on your writing, join a good writing group. I know a few if you want suggestions.



Well, this conversation is picking up. Better answer a few together -- I need sleep, at some point. :-)

Spotty: Yeah, I think I've got about the same number of regular commenters. And, yes, when you shout out to the universe "I am here", it is nice if the universe acknowledges it. :-) When you are up and running again, do send in a What's Happening blurb -- most of the WFG visitors seem to leave again from the home page, so I'm guessing people are making use of the links there.

Allan: I didn't notice a drop in readership when I went from 6-7 days a week to 3, so I think you'll probably be able to pare back without too much loss. And, yeah, it is a hobby for me, too. I guess part of the problem is what I said to Sonja -- I'm relying on the social pressure of my readers to keep me writing, to some extent, because I always have way more things to do than I have time for. But that same social pressure is what makes me feel guilty for missing updates. Double-edged sword, eh?

Grace: Yeah, I didn't expect everybody to comment. Some of my non-fiction stuff has been read 400+ times and has yet to receive a comment -- though some of the trackbacks I got indicate the articles were well-received. Perhaps part of my problem is I usually go out of my way to give feedback to the authors of creative stuff I "consume" online. Golden Rule, and all that. Plus, I guess I figure it is simply polite to thank someone who is giving you free stuff on a regular basis. Might have set up deep-seated unreasonable expectations, eh? :-) Still, I'm wondering if making my email address more conspicuous might help -- encourage private feedback from those people who don't feel comfortable leaving comments in public.


Hi Winter,

No, no -- I'm not expecting my readers to supply critiques. I've just been hoping for honest feedback about how the writing affected them -- you know, real readers. It's not the "why" I want to know -- it's the "what", the "how".

I've found crit groups to be of very limited use, to be honest. Pretty much everything I ever learned from them was from *writing* the critiques for other people. And it wasn't long before I'd exhausted that supply of insight -- you can only diagnose the same things so many times before you stop learning from it. ;-) These days, when I want a good critique, I pay somebody with a lot more skill than I have to dissect something for me. Painful, but very helpful.

I think the problem with crit groups is they tend to self-organize into a uniform skill level. And once they do that, they lose their value. The only way to learn is to be around people who write a lot better than you do, and those people have very little incentive to stay in a group -- you hit the top, it's time to leave. That's what I've found, anyway.



I know what you mean but I don't think you're completely correct in your conclusions. I never used writing groups because I agree that 99.9% of them are useless. Finally I ended up starting one myself for my publisher's forum, run the way I think it ought to be run, which is fairly draconian. It hasn't fallen prey to these sorts of avoidable pitfalls and it's not going to if I can help it. There's another one I've heard of that's supposed to be good, although more horror-oriented.

Not gonna hold a gun to your head or anything, just wanted to offer some advice for improving your writing. Unfortunately I've only got time to crit work posted on the group, or I'd be happy to read through it.



These days, when I want a good critique, I pay somebody with a lot more skill than I have to dissect something for me.

Thankfully, for me these people aren't hard to find; they include most of the halfway decent writers out there (in my personal estimation anyway.

Your thoughts on writing groups do seem to make sense; learning from others in only helpful in so much as they have something you don't know to learn. After a while, this may not be true any more.

As for sending in a blurb for what's happening... I've already got back into writing, and posting, I was going to send something in for #25, but since that's still a few weeks off, maybe I will anyway...


You just need to keep pimping your story. I probably pimp mine too much by some folks' lights, but not my own--because I want to be read, and I'm the only pimp I have. The more I do it, the more readers I get. Advertising helps, but the readers don't stick around as much as when I make sure people who already know me via forums etc know about the story. Your story is good, and I really enjoy reading it myself. I've got it on my storyroll. I don't comment, though, and I should. I'll start being better about that.

You will get your readers, just have faith and keep working on it. If that's not what you want to do--work on getting the word out about your story--that's fine, but then be clear that you are writing for yourself, not an audience. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it will help your frame of mind if you decide whether your audience is an audience of one or many.

Don't be discouraged. You have ability.

Hi MeiLin,

Having slept on it, I think it really was frustration, last night. The two installments I wrote this week -- I wasn't sure about either of them. I've recently had some (very reasonable) criticism about my characterization abilities and the first installment introduced two characters. And the second installment went for something atmospheric and moody -- which has gotten me in (a lot of) trouble in the past. I like writing such stuff, but it doesn't generally seem to work for other people.

So, yeah, I think -- this week, more than most -- I just really needed to know if the writing worked, because I did stuff I know I'm bad at. That, and I really did have another project that needed my time. :-)

I'll mull all this over some more -- see if I can pin down exactly what it is I want from this project, and how to get it.


Your very ambivalence may be what leads to a lackluster response or your whiny prickery. It's all very well and good to write for your readers, and it's all very well and good to write for yourself, but if you're not sure what you're doing, you won't be able to go well either way. If you really want satisfaction from reader response, then the way you design or talk to your readers will reflect that and possibly garner more response. If you're writing just for yourself, then you won't care about that and you won't fish for it as much and there will thus be less response. (Except in the rare case where you become an unexpected hit oh my gosh I never EXPECTED this wow all these readers I totally didn't see coming but kind of hoped I'd see deep down so I could act surprised like this.)

In other words, it's a case of shit or get on the fence, and various other old aphorisms with incredibly confusing meanings. I mean, jesus, what kind of choice is that? When did that become a set of choices? Hold on, I'm going to google this. Oh. Oh, it's "shit or get OFF the POT." Okay, that makes more sense. Yeah, shit or get off the pot. Forget the bit about the fence. Don't let me hear reports of a writer found dead impaled on baroque iron railing clutching a roll of toilet paper and wearing a confused expression. I'd feel bad.

I went into this deal expecting no response. My site design is cold and impartial, more meant as a place to prop my words up so I at least feel something's being done with them. I have no ads beyond my listing here and no easily commentated blog format beyond a hastily tossed up livejournal that leads off-site like an unwelcome detour. At some point I'll do more with it when I think there's enough material to merit such, and at that point I'll start looking for reader response, but for now it's enough to see a few hits and know that it's being seen and its existence is being confirmed beyond my own hallucinations (though the site hits may also be a hallucination).

Wanting both is okay, just make sure in your mind that you do want both, and go for them. Having a complete work online that is a satisfying read is the bit for yourself, having people say stuff about it is the bit for your want for attention- which is not a bad thing, as much as various people try to claim in order to try and keep attention to themselves.

Don't let me hear reports of a writer found dead impaled on baroque iron railing clutching a roll of toilet paper and wearing a confused expression. I'd feel bad.

*sporfle* hehehehehe

Don't let me hear reports of a writer found dead impaled on baroque iron railing clutching a roll of toilet paper and wearing a confused expression. I'd feel bad.

And, depending what you're into -- it might even be a good way to go out . . . .

*gasp* Quick! Somebody find a moderator!

*zooms in wearing mod-squad cape*


I'm shocked and appalled.

But then it's a topic started by Chris, it was bound to degenerate. :-P

Yes, but usually it is me causing the degeneration. ;-)