Orphans of the Celestial Sea

Heya all, I'm a total newb here, so pardon if these are questions that should go elsewhere (or are answered elsewhere and I just don't know how to find them).

I'm starting a new serial on my blog (www.brassbolts.blogspot.com) in about a week and I'd love to get some advice.


How long should each post be? I had broken my story down into around 2,000 words per fragment, but I see most are shorter than that, will such large portions turn an audience off?

What day of the week works best? I plan to update weekly, but I'd like to hit the day that works best for most readers, I'm assuming it'll be Monday or Friday.

The working title of the series is Orphans of the Celestial Sea, and it will follow the adventures of Tom Cain and his misfit zeppelin crew as they try to unravel the mysteries surrounding their airship Hecate and the plague of psychosis-inducing Mist which is slowly destroying human civilization. Think Steampunk Firefly and you're in the right ballpark.

Advice, comments, criticism, and of course blog visits are all welcomed.

The length of the post should depend on you, your ability, the pace of the story and the schedule. Just speaking for myself, I tend to be most comfortable writing around 4000 words per segment, sometimes double or 2.5 times that, and I update twice a week. What I'd recommend is writing for a week or two to build up a backlog (assuming you haven't finished already). Try to write something every day. Track how much you write and where your limits are. If you find you write ~2000 words over the week, that could be the word count you aim for. Adjust accordingly.

Since your story updates only once a week, you might want to avoid comparing yourself to stories that update several times a week. You'll probably want to adjust your focus to ensure you have some detail or hook to draw people back in, and you may want more substance/volume in work to reward them for the wait.

But ultimately, there's no 'should' for word count (or anything, really).

Day of the week - I can't say for sure. I update Tuesdays and Saturdays (1 minute after midnight) and I get more views on Tuesdays than Saturdays, most of the time. People tend to be busier or have things to do on Saturdays.

Just a suggestion: If you're doing as I've seen others do & just taking a book & putting chunks of the finished (or near-finished) work out on a schedule, I'd recommend giving some extra thought and care to how you wrap up each segment. Cliffhangers, unanswered questions and tension all go a long way towards keeping people interested.

Thanks Wildbow.

I've been writing seriously for several years actually, I have two finished novels and one half-drafted one. I had a good agent for a while on one of my manuscripts, but I did not feel she was doing a good job of representing me (too many other clients tying up her time) so we parted ways. That is to say I have a very good grasp on my writing pace and what I can expect to accomplish. I'm still planning to finish my half-manuscript and dedicate one day a week or so to the blog serial. I know from past experience that 2,000 words a day is eminently doable for me.

I'm currently 7,300 words in to the manuscript, broken up into four segments, which I feel should be a pretty good cushion if there are times when I can't get to it that week.

It's not intended as a novel, I'm writing it as a serial, sort of like a TV show such as Supernatural or Firefly, where many episodes drive an overarching story forward, but many others are simply fun side-stories, using the same characters and have no real long-term impact.

I'll check out your writing, always curious to see how other people do it.

Is this your first time writing a web serial?

That backlog disappears faster than you'd think, and you'll wish for it to come back when it's gone.

It is my first serial, but I'm planning to go on writing it for another week or two before I start to split my attention between the serial and my novel. I'm hoping to have 8-10 episodes ready to go before I let off the pedal, and my schedule is flexible enough that I can ramp up the pace a little if I fall into the danger-zone. Ideally I'd like to have first drafts done over a month before it gets released so I can have some time to develop perspective on my work.

I'm really enjoying Worm by the way, good job there!

What I try to do is not work hard and let up, but rather start working ahead of time at the pace I intend to keep. When I have a couple of weeks in the can, I strive to write at the pace I'm publishing.

What I've found is that writing a serial is very different from writing a book. It's actually more different for the writer than for the reader, really. (A reader, after all, can wait until the serial is done and then read it as they would a regular book.)

The thing that might hang you up is the ebb and flow most novel writers have. Sure, you may train yourself to turn out 2000 words a day -- but because the thing isn't done yet, you have the unconscious freedom of having on-days and off-days. Sometimes the prose is rougher than others. Some days you know where you're going, and some days you feel your way along. Some times you'll write like a demon for weeks, and then you'll crash.

Writing a serial is more like newspaper writing -- or performing. Even when you give yourself a buffer, every day still has to be an "on" day. It is thrilling, it is exciting, it is wonderful... and it's way more exhausting than you think it is.

Which is why I love it.

I'm working harder doing two 600 word episodes a week than I did writing over 1000 words a day. (Of course much of that work is related to the incredible shortness of the episodes.) My buffer rule is to have a good outline for the next 8 episodes or so, and try to have at least 4 drafts in the can -- and then I have to write at the same pace I publish. No slacking off. Also, I didn't start by writing a lot really fast. It's not good to sprint at the beginning of a marathon. I just didn't start publishing it until I had the buffer I wanted.

As for whether 2000 words is too long? There is no rule book. We're inventing this thing as we go.

My advice is that you have to find your length. It may be a negotiation between the goal you set and what the story wants, but after you've got a number of episodes under your belt, you'll find that your imagination starts building the story in "episodes" with the appropriate amount of story in each. It becomes the voice of the story, and IMHO, at that point, you can freely let the story rule how long the episode is -- some will be a little longer, some may be shorter.

I'm writing short specifically because I'm aiming at the idle browsing audience. I want mine to be more like a comic strip than a novel. Not so immersive. But that same idle browser could as easily be attracted by a spiffy headline or a great opening paragraph, or artwork or any number of other things. People read long things on the internet all the time.


I think 2000 words a week (if you can maintain a high level of quality) is perfectly fine. I know others post far more on a weekly basis, but at the end of the day, you need to choose a size that works for you and your writing style and lifestyle. (My weekly average is 1300 with an upper range to 2600 if I get particularly sadistic. As I do a lot of drafts, I try to avoid having too many weeks at the high end. It's probably not optimal for my readers as I'm sure they'd like more pages, but for my sanity, I keep my bar set at 1300.)

In hindsight though, I wish I had posted a few more installments more quickly. I think I'd like to have what would have amounted to 10-12 pages available almost off the bat. (Not at all dissimilar to how new webcomics often post a first chapter or a chunk of pages rather than just "One page" starting off.) This is really about allowing the visitor to form a strong impression and a decision of whether to stay.

Whatever you do, keep up the consistency and train your readers to expect whatever bar you set.

I'll add your blog to my RSS. I'm not sure I understand what current steampunk is but I've always liked alternate English type settings.

If I could make a recommendation about your current page. Would you try switching your story font to the font you're using in the sidebar? IT's hard to read Courier. I almost prefer one of the other serif fonts for reading since courier tends to be very light...

Best of luck with the posting. I'll try to keep up when I can :)

Thanks, the font has been changed to Verdana, and I upped the size a little.

I certainly could write more than 2000 words a week, but I plan on spending four days a week on my novel and only one on the webfic.

I am tempted to post a whole bunch at once so I can register here and build an audience, but then my backlog would disappear. I think it's probably best to just pace myself, register here in a few weeks, and start advertising lightly around social media in a month or so.

Thanks for all the great advice everyone!

I must be a freak because a lot of the time I write the episode I'm supposed to be posting that day. -_-

I'm still trying to finish the chapter I'd intended to post at the beginning of this month... o_O

... which is my way of saying "Yes. You are a freak." ;-)

Ow! Thank you Chris. -_-

I've definitely written a few episodes with only three hours to go before deadline. (AND done the illo.)

That's the great thing about deadlines -- when they are nigh, you've just got to do it.

But I think that is the real trip wire for people making the transition from novel/book writing to serials. If you're not used to final, open, public deadlines for every chapter, a buffer is critical.

At the same time, I suppose, you really don't really kick in to full "serial" mode until you've hit a couple of times when you look at the clock, thinking you might go to bed, and then remembered "Oh, sh*t, I haven't done the episode yet!"


I don't know. I guess for me after years of "do your 1000+ words a day", only having to produce writing 2-3 times a week felt leisurely. It still feels leisurely. :)

I couldn't have done it when I first started writing novels, though. I had to have a lot of practice finishing them before I got to this point.

I couldn't do that. Every time I re-read something I've written I spot cringe-worthy mistakes. The only way to avoid that is several readings over several different days.

I've put together some (too many) chapters the day before they're supposed to go up (~4.5k words).

Hate doing it, though - I much prefer to take a break after I'm done, come back & review it for errors. I'm a speed reader (I finish a typical sized novel in roughly 2-4 hours), so I'll often slip into speed-mode when I'm editing my stuff, and miss some dumb, dumb errors. To do a proper edit, I usually have to read it backwards, last sentence to first, and/or just review it, take a break, review it, take a break, rinse, repeat (and still miss some stuff).

mfenger: it's funny how deadlines (especially frequent deadlines) get you over that.

When you don't have to have it done in an hour, you can obsess and cringe over things that really don't matter, along with the things that do. When you've got only 15 minutes to rewrite, you have to zero in on the most important stuff. (And you learn quickly what the most important stuff really is.)

As for how I prefer to work: I like to have the draft done ahead of time, usually too long by a couple of hundred words. Then I go in an tighten it up to bring it into my 700 word max, and that makes me look at it more critically. I often find that the best work is in that last polish, if only because it forces me to LOOK at the episode and see what the essence really is.


Thanks all for your input. Orphans of the Celestial Sea is now live on my blog if anyone wants to read it.