How long before switching it up?

Today, after 47 uninterrupted weeks of my time travel serial, I'm switching my website back to my choose-our-paths story. It has me wondering - how long do you keep at it before switching things up? And what effect (if any) do you think temporary diversions have on your audience?

To clarify, I don't mean you need to start a completely new story. It could simply be shifting perspectives from one group of people we've seen for a while, over to another group in the same world. Or changing the narrative away from your main character for a bit. And the easy answer is likely "it happens naturally" or "it felt like the right time" - and certainly for me, breaking where I am makes sense (there's about to be a time skip of several months). But is there more thought to it? And might you lose - or gain - readers by doing so? How long would you stay away from one storyline before coming back to it? Just wondering.

Also, brief plug, if anyone wants to vote for my next "Epsilon" story, see by Tuesday (there's a good chance you'll influence things, as a dozen votes would be a new high for me). Related, if you get me in the "Fools" swap, you can decide whether you want to write for the story starting next week, or do bonus content for the one that (temporarily) ended today.

I write in distinct "book" blocks, where the end of the book is just that, the end of a book. I write until the standard climactic end of the story, and then I move on to a new book.

Actually seems to be biting me in the ass right now. I appear to have lost a good chunk of readers in the jump from Book 1 to Book 2, as the new book is a new location with new characters and dealing with a whole different set of concerns.

I feared this might be the case- even Pratchett had that problem- but it's been a bigger hit than I thought it would be (a roughly 10-15% loss of readership... which is rather ouch). Things have finally started turning around again, but when this book finishes in a month or two, I may face another loss like this one.

I think that's something that just comes with the territory TanaNari. Wildbow's talked about it before, if I remember correctly. You're gonna lose some readers as you move on from one popular early work through different new works, but you will slowly gain, retain and grow a core of readers who will stick to anything you write and those are the people who will really help and support you. So long as you got them you're golden.

I intentionally switched from dual protagonists to multiple ones in my second batch of chapters, partially to reinforce the underlying theme that truth requires looking things from a variety of perspectives, but also to let the readers know that, ultimately, it's an ensemble story.

The big test will come summer next year, though, when I diverge into an extended and self-contained flashback... The aim is to strengthen the chapters that follow, while adding depths to those that have already passed, but whether it pans out that way with the audience is another matter entirely XD

"I think that's something that just comes with the territory TanaNari."

Oh, I know. I knew going in. Like I said- it happened to Pratchett. I'd have to be a fucking egocentric moron to believe I'd be an exception. It is still something to stay aware of when making the decision.

I switch things up every arc - I have 3 alternating POVs. I know I lost at least one reader who only liked the first POV character and didn't care to read about the others. :(

The cool thing about web fiction, though... you don't have to write mainstream. It's perfectly fine to experiment.

Fair enough.

I'm going to have to sit down and give you a read and review soon. If I do right tomorrow, I'll have Friday's chapter done by Monday and can do sit down and read your story for review. Call it my apology for having to cancel that game I was running. You were one of the good ones.

If it's not too massive, that is.

@Tana no need to apologize, but I wouldn't mind a review. ;) Ironically, I cancelled the game I was running to write AND to play in yours. I still feel a little bad about that one... my players, not about joining your game. It was a great roleplaying experience.

You'll probably recognize the character I played. She tries harder to be a heroine now, but it's still the same ole gal.


@Mathtans: As you probably noticed, I switch main character viewpoints temporarily after each major (novel length) storyline. One time, I wrote a year worth of short stories and novellas (one of which was written by reader and fellow writer Robert Rodgers) after one particularly long and involved storyline. I know I lost at least one reader from that, and possibly more, but I gained some too.

I suspect I probably lost some readers from the story moving from high school (where normal life was more important) to college (which has been more focused on the superhero end of things).

In addition, I probably lose superhero readers who were attracted to web fiction by Worm for not being as dark as Worm.

The upshot of this is that you might want to think about why you're switching. If you're switching because this is what you're interested in writing right now, then do it and don't worry about losing readers. If your goal is to attract as many readers as possible, you're best off writing one thing till you're finished. That said, writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Whatever keeps you writing is the right thing to do. More people will read you if you're having fun than if you're burning out.

My personal theory about POV switching is that I want to make sure, when I do it, that I can identify what I want the reader to get out of it.

If the reader has been sucked into a story with a specific POV, and you suddenly switch POVs, it can be off-putting. The reader likes Stan The Hero and is invested in learning the outcome of Stan The Hero's predicament, and if all of a sudden they start reading about Julie the Heroine and HER predicament, they're going to be nervous about whether they're ever going to learn about what happened to Stan.

But if you can tie Julie the Heroine's story to Stan's in a way that gives the reader more perspective on the meta-story that they didn't originally have, then it's sort of like getting juicy spoilers--they have information Stan doesn't.

Curveball is a superhero-themed murder mystery that segues into a global conspiracy story, and while CB is the primary antagonist of the piece, Year One had a few POV switches. Each POV switch allowed me to either give the reader information about the global conspiracy that CB didn't have, or give the reader a different perspective on the world that CB wouldn't have. The Issue "Heroes and Villains" had each of four parts focus on a different set of heroes and villains: a normal human forced into early retirement from a state-sponsored superhero program due to a debilitating injury, a former villain henchman who had retired from villainous life, his supervillain boss, and your classic "Vigilante working outside the law" dark hero group. Each character was intended to be part of the larger story, but the POV change allowed me show the reader a different piece of the world.

Year Two introduced even more POV characters, to the point where while CB was still the primary protagonist, there were a lot more POV switches simply because the story was too big for just one person to uncover it all. Different characters learned different bits of the plot, and plus there was magic. With Year Three, CB has so far mostly lurked in the background, though that's slated for change. It is called "Curveball" after all.

So far I haven't received any complaints about the POV changes. The target I'm trying to hit is "by introducing other POVs in-story I'm allowing the reader to see parts of the picture CB hasn't discovered yet" and my hope is that the reader likes those glimpses. There's no guarantee that'll be the case. My daughter wants macaroni and cheese: it doesn't matter how good a steak it is, if you put it on her plate she'll ask for mac and cheese instead. People can be the same way about stories, too.

Yeah, I do PoV switch chapters as well. It's something I've discovered I love as a writing style. But I tend to write with a level of realism as a goal, and realistically only so much can happen in one person's life.

I'd rather just end a book with "and then he lived a relatively normal life for a while."

And then start the next book with "Let's see what this other poor sap's going through."

My goal for the POV switches is to tell a deeper, more cause-and-consequence linked story than I otherwise could. Events and decisions from one POV often influence another, poor decisions can set off chain reactions or change the setting for everyone, and sometimes one POV answers questions that another POV character asked but couldn't figure out (with the resources, connections, and opportunities they had available to them).

Ubersoft, I can relate to your growing POVs. My list is verging on never-ending at this point. My entire story is deeply predicated on POV switches and multiple POVs, since it's a big war story and I want to show the roles of several different kinds of soldiers (and the different kinds of people they are with different problems and approaches to things) and kind of have a "big world," you know? I've not really heard any complaints about this, readers do have characters they prefer, but there seems to be something for everyone in any particular story arc. However, it's probably self-selecting at this point. People who don't like POV switches would probably quit immediately since my first chapter has several different POVs already. Those who don't care or enjoy the POV switching would stay and maybe eventually give me feedback along the lines of "I like POV switches/POV switches don't bother me."

@Jim: You were one of a few people I had in mind when I started the thread. (I also recall Billy talking about switching the focus away from his protagonist for a couple of entries.) I think part of the reason for the major switch in my case is because I can't take the silence any more. I need to take a mental step back before taking another run, but I still want to be putting something out there in the interim. Also, it sets a precedent of two books, then interlude. Which I like. I'm not so worried about losing audience... the 3 people reading have all indicated they'll stay with me...

That said, I also wondered if my tendency to end a book, then switch things up, is a bad habit. Regarding what TataNari said, seems like that simply comes with the territory. (Although my jumping from "Personified Math" to "Epsilon Project" in 2014 was likely a bad move.) Bonus, the commentary here is also a nice heads up regarding issues when shifting from high school to college, and from one cast to a different one... as that's effectively what will happen in T&T Book 5! (Coming some time in 2017...)

Regards POV, I was mostly broadening the topic field, but "Epsilon Project" in particular has a habit of switching back and forth between protagonists each part. So I may keep that up. I certainly don't stick with the same POV through T&T... where based on what ubersoft was saying, I suspect my issue is people being put off by "Carrie the Protagonist" and never reading on to find "Chartreuse the Mystic" or anyone else. But what do I know? Anyway, thanks all!

I'm not exactly speaking from experience here but I'm planning on finishing Delvers LLC, maybe working on my original book for a few weeks, then working on the sequel to Delvers. I've noticed my writing getting better by leaps and bounds and the first, honest to God,"I'm going to finish this" book I started posting online is a bit too demanding of my current abilities. I'm benefiting a lot from what I've been doing.

I personally like when writers I read do large blocks of switching off at a time. There are writers out there who have 4+ stories they are simultaneously writing and that can feel maddening as a reader.