If You're a Writer, Consider Bloveling!

A blovel is a novel written on the fly in short daily posts on a blog. Each post is 500 words max, and each post ends with suspense so the reader will want to read the next post. A typical blovel ends up being around 60-100,000 words in length and is usually finished in less than a year. The story becomes addictive to the readers and thus it builds an audience for the author.



http://gordons-ghosts.com


P.S. Is this forum even alive? To quote Steely Dan: "Any man left on the Rio Grande is the king of the world, as far as I know."


The forum has its ups and downs. This is a quiet moment.


Anyway, my plate's kind of full right now with two serials and NaNoWriMo. :-)


Also, I'm not really into writing in such small blocks. I average 2,000-3,000 words per average on update. That's what works for me.


The forum has its ups and downs. This is a quiet moment.


Anyway, my plate's kind of full right now with two serials and NaNoWriMo. :-)


Also, I'm not really into writing in such small blocks. I average 2,000-3,000 words per average on update. That's what works for me.


But no one can read that length on a computer screen.


Absolutes like 'no one' do you no favors, Edward G.


I have hundreds/thousands of readers who have no problem reading two or three times that much.


Simply put, you're wrong. You're very wrong.


But no one can read that length on a computer screen.


I do. Every day.


I read dozens of serials that are at least 2,000 words long, some of them are 8,000 words long and I don't consider it to be a slog in the slightest. As long as the story and the characters are compelling I will read, no matter the length.


One thing about blovels and the supposed length that I don't get is: the word limit assumes, I guess, that every reader has been reading since day one and is current. In order to "catch up" (if, say, the reader started reading your in-progress blovel today) doesn't a reader have to read more than one instalment a day for at least a little while? And if they do put forward the effort to catch up, doesn't that blow to pieces the notion that no one can read X number of words longer than 500 words per day?


Okay that was two things.


And here's a third: since, by your own previous explanation, part of the process of the blovel involves the readers and their potential to influence the story - in some way. If that's true, too, then doesn't that mean that readers *must* be current in order to influence the story? Your own blovel is more than two weeks in. Readers commenting on the first post today about things that happened in the 7th or 8th post aren't going to be getting that interactivity out of the experience that's supposed to be part of the experience.


Unless they catch up.


Which requires reading more than one day's worth of words a day for a while.


And that's where it all goes to pieces for me.


Also, I'm not sure how a blovel can be an honest merger of a blog and a novel and have an end. Blogs do not inherently end. They get abandoned, but they're not usually bookended by deliberate starts and finishes. That seems to go wholly against the grain of the notion of a blog-novel merger to me.


It sounds very, well, serial.


But what do I know? I'm just the audience.


I can't tell if I'm seeing a culture clash or a personality clash here. But since it keeps coming up, I will soon have enough data to tell either way....


But no one can read that length on a computer screen.


Don't tell my readers!


Curveball updates monthly. It's usually laid out in four parts, each part 2,000, 2,500 words each, which makes each instalment anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 words. It seems to do OK. The biggest thing it has going against it is that it comes out monthly.


But no one can read that length on a computer screen.

Don't tell my readers!



And in a couple sentences this interchange pretty much sums up what bothers me about this conversation... I don't have any problem with Edward G trying to attract people to "bloveling." I do find that I get annoyed when someone tells me (with apparent total certainty) that a particular thing is true when I know them to be provably wrong.


I looked at my stats today (around noon) and was surprised to find that I'd already had a thousand page views. This was atypical but not unusual. The thing is, while some of my posts are around 500 words, for the most part they're a little shorter than one thousand words.


On average today, most readers read 7.43 pages (roughly 7000 words). Eight readers read more than twenty pages at a sitting (17,000 words?). One actually read 318 pages in one visit (possibly 300,000 words).


While I'm willing to agree that some readers might be put off by seeing 1000 words on a page, the rest seem to be handling it fairly well.


More to the point, I know authors with more readers, higher pageviews per day, and more words per post.


I don't know everything about writing, but I do know this, I've never heard readers complain that my posts are too long when they're longer than average. I have heard them complain when they're shorter.


The funny thing is that aside from post length (1000 words) and update schedule (twice a week), my writing probably fits the characteristics of a blovel that Edward's defined.


I don't think a set of defined rules decides whether a piece of web fiction will work though--especially when, as in this case, it's based on no data whatsoever.


Thus, promoting "blovels" as the form of fiction that will ultimately dominate the web strikes me as somewhat premature.


For now, it's an option, and that's all you can accurately say about it.


Yeah. I'm just a little annoyed/frustrated with the 'blovel' topic for a few reasons:


1) The 'blovel' isn't really a thing. It doesn't stand out enough to have a name of its own. Pretty much every characteristic can be found in other serials.


2) The core assumptions that Edward G is making are wrong:

2a) - that people don't want to read longer posts - many of us here can prove that by our numbers alone.

2b) - that this is something new or innovative (see point #1)


3) That he's creating innumerable new threads to flood this forum with the 'blovel' concept in apparent hopes of it catching on. The last major discussion died because neither Edward G nor the rest of us were really convincing the other, so why have a fresh topic on the subject to rehash all the same points?


In the end, what will really sell the "blovel" concept won't be anything Edward writes here. It will be his story.


I've read part of his story. What I've seen looks interesting. Personally, I'm not really into zombies, but he's taking a step back and not doing the modern zombie plague thing. Instead he's making use of zombies that were created by magic.


I may read it when it's further along.


Edward: You might think about different ways of using Web Fiction Guide than simply promoting the concept of blovels. I think that it's reasonable to assume that everyone here knows about them by now.


You might make more of an effort to cross promote with people writing zombie or supernatural fiction, for example.


Influence over whether others decide to "blovel" will probably come more slowly than you'd like, but it's more likely to happen as a result of finding things you have in common with other writers (challenges, interests, whatever...) than it will by attempting to convince people to drop what they're doing and follow your lead.


The notion of writing a story on the fly and posting it every day isn't new. I did this 4 years ago when I started the Apocalypse Blog, and I wouldn't claim to be the first. The idea of serialising novels is pretty ancient, so I'm not sure where the 'new art form' idea is coming from. It sounds pretty much the same as other serials, but with a new name?


It's good for the reasons that Edward G states. It builds readership and can be addictive - I had many emails from readers saying they'd just found the blog and caught up, and were now itching because they wait a day for each instalment. (These are awesome, huggable messages for me!) It's also a really fun way to write if you're inclined towards pantsing/discovery writing.


When it comes to post length, you're not as restricted as you think. The Apocalypse Blog averaged about 1,800 words per post, and varied between 800 and 2,500. My personal goal was to keep each one under 2,000 words (and still is, but I'm spammy and fail a lot). My readers tell me not to worry about it; they'll read whatever I put up. Also worth bearing in mind that RSS readers usually have a different interface than your blog portal, and I have readers who view it on their smartphones; you can't control how your readers will view your work, so tailoring it heavily for one interface can be wasted effort. It's always better to write the length that suits your story. In short: you're only as restricted as you want to be.


Also, just because you post every day, doesn't mean people will read it that way. I had many readers who would catch up on a weekly basis.


I adored doing the Apocalypse Blog. It was an awesome adventure that took up a whole year, and by the end of it, I had a trilogy of novels. I couldn't keep up that kind of pace now, though. I'm happy with my once a week posting considering all of my other commitments now!


Good luck with the blovel thing!


Oh, I forgot to mention: Edward G noted that he hadn't found any examples of successful blovels. If you're searching for 'blovel', that's probably why. However, there are lots of examples around. My Apocalypse Blog is one (it's now released as e-books and selling well!).


One other notable example I can think of off the top of my head is Max Barry's 'Machine Man'. This was originally posted a page a day, probably makes your wordcount limit, and is now a pretty successful (paper) novel.


Keep looking, there's lots out there!


I think the biggest problem is that Edward's trying to define things too tightly. It's easy to prove your point if you can simply discount anything to the contrary by saying it doesn't meet some arbitrary criterion. If you're interested in defining something as a movement, though, you've got to be a lumper, not a splitter.


As for short episodes: I use short episodes for my blog fiction, but the reason is not because people won't read more than that. That's a fallacy -- people will read any and every length available. The reason I do it, is that people won't BROWSE more than that. I'm not looking for the audience who is already hooked on serials and web fiction. I am looking to hook people who aren't hooked on serials.


Camille


One of my areas of interest is web usability and so that naturally leads to reading studies about how people read online.


Jakob Nielsen has an article that says that there's a gigantic drop off after about 100-200 words. 90% of people will read that far. After that, less than 50% will stick around. However, people will stick around if the topic is of interest. Thus most of the articles on his site are about 1000 words.


I'm not arguing that's the best length though.


I suspect his article assumes non-fiction and people coming to the article cold to learn something. People with a relationship with the site or a continuing story will (in my experience) put up with longer amounts of text.


Also most of Nielsen's usability research was back in the days when you were using CRT monitors and had to deal with monitor flicker, which could cause eye fatigue must faster than LCD's do today. This was the same time when usability people were pointing out the impracticality of ebooks and ereaders.


Ubersoft: A good point. Monitor types make a big difference in terms of ease of reading. I've read about methods of displaying things that promise to have a higher resolution than the current standard. Plus, of course, "E-ink," the technology that was used in the original Kindle and the Nook Touch is near to paper already.


You know what sort of research I'd like to see? Research on the optimal length of a post for an archive trawl of an established serial vs. the optimal length of a daily post. I don't know if there's a difference, but it'd be interesting to know if there were.


I know that personally I've often gone to a news site, and found that they've broken up a story into multiple pages, and found it irritating that I have to click 3 times to read the entire story. I'm assuming that they did that in an attempt to increase page views. It'd be interesting to know if they did for usability reasons. For example, people might be more likely to finish a story at a certain page length.


At the same time, I get the impression that people's best experience when reading my serial is the initial archive trawl where they read as many pages as they want at a time, and don't have to wait.


Hitting the point where it's slightly less than 1000 words per post is not as fun. Some people actually do what Kess mentioned, and wait and read a month's worth (or more) posts at a time.


I don't really have a problem with it, but the reason I do bi-weekly updates is to keep it in the readers' minds. Waiting for a month would tend to make it easier to forget.


Ugh I hate that "split it into pages" thing. -_-


I operate under similar conditions/assumptions as Jim. Many a reader will finish Worm's 733,000-word archive trawl and clamor for more the instant they're done. I maintain two updates a week of 4000 words each, minimum. I'll often go above that; this past week's chapters totaled 4935 words and 5958 words, respectively. I release two chapters a week (with a third if donation goals are met) because, like Jim, I want to keep the story fresh in the reader's minds. If they're checking in on my story as a matter of routine, readers may continue to check in on my story even during periods where the actual story doesn't enthrall them, because it has become a habit.


Jim mentions the annoyance of news articles with short/separated pages. I think this is important. I suspect there's a happy medium between two extremes - I think 500 words is too few and will lose someone readers over time as people are fatigued by the repetitive page loads. I've experienced it reading manga online; even with a fast browser and above-par machine, it takes a half second minimum to load the page and another quarter-second to scroll down to the top of the image. That gets tiresome when you're reading a longer work with 21 pages per chapter, 6 chapters per volume and 10 or more volumes. I've already (in the other thread) discussed my feelings on how 500 word chapters doesn't allow for overly complex storytelling. I won't restate my position there.


The opposite is true, of course. Readers will have their own individual limits to their patience when it comes to reading a longer work. I think by now we all know and accept the validity and value of having a small cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. I don't think I've read a successful work on WFG that doesn't do this in some form. Longer chapters make for longer delays between those valuable cliffhangers. I've written chapters as long as 10,000 words and readers haven't stopped reading Worm. That said, those are the exception rather than the rule. Things might be different if every chapter was that long.


There's a middle ground. Every reader will have a preference. I'd rather release two 4,000 word chapters a week than one 8,000 word chapter, and I'd rather release two 4,000 word chapters a week than two 500 word chapters.


Two updates a week at...


!


Dude. I hate you so much. :-D