Rewriting old chapters

So I have 3 arcs written/posted and the overwhelming consensus since I got listed on WFG has been that they suck. What do you guys think about rewriting them with the criticism I've gotten in mind? I'm pretty new to all this and I don't want to accidentally violate some unwritten rule by changing a whole bunch of stuff.

I took a quick look at your serial, a very quick look, but it's so easy to tell that you borrow very heavily from Worm. But, from the looks of things, it's something your probably more than familiar with.

As far as rewriting goes, it'd be hard if it doesn't mean starting from scratch.

Good news: It is your work, and it is not "officially" published anywhere, so it is yours to do with as you like!

Consider this though: a serial is it's own kind of work deserving of it's own attention separate from novel/novella publishing. A traditional serial, released and published in parts, was ready and edited before publishing. Each installment went through a rough draft and final edit phase before seeing the light of day. A lot of serial writers today (myself included) write serials with the intention of publishing it in some form after it is done. I personally may go back and rewrite some things so that it translates better into novel form, but once it is up on my site in serial form, it stays that way (barring egregious errors).

An installment to your serial should be ready to read, and by posting it you have made a promise to your readers that it will be readable.

Hello. You said that you have three arcs posted. If they're of considerable length and you choose to do a major overhaul of the content, then I would say that you should consider your current readership first. An online serial novel is different than a traditional book in that it's a 'living' story where readers are reading as you write (in the traditional sense). If someone is waiting to read Chapter 10 and then you go and change everything that's happened before, you run the risk of confusing the reader who believes he's going in to Chapter 10 understanding everything he's read before. So, A major rewrite on your part also involves a new commitment from current readers to essentially start over with you.

Of course, what you do with your story is entirely up to you to improve as you see fit. I would just keep your readers informed of major changes so they could go back and reference them if need be. You'll still run the risk of confusing and frustrating readers, perhaps even causing them to give up reading altogether.

You could simply stop where you're at, finish up the existing story line, and then just start a fresh one with the intent of improving the story from here on out. But again, you know best what needs done with your tale. Good luck ;)

The short answer? There's no "unwritten rule" per se, but the danger is you alienate your regular readers while appeasing people who weren't going to return and read anyway. The longer answer?

First, kudos on getting feedback. That itself is non-trivial. Now, bear in mind that it may or may not have come from people you would consider your "audience". Related, you know your story better than the readers do. I've been told that Carrie, my protagonist, is (to quote one reader who didn't get very far) "bitterly unlikeable". There's a reason for that. It doesn't really hit you WHY until, oh, Part 60 or so. That said, I muted her edges through the first six parts. She used to hit people more, she does less of that. Changing a smack upside the head to an "if you don't shut up I'm smacking you upside the head" feels like fair game. But I'm pretty sure those people who didn't like her didn't read on, or know of the change, such that even if I'd had Carrie play with kittens, they were already lost to me. While those reading on anyway wouldn't be affected by less smacking (but would be by suddenly kittens). This could maybe even be extended to, if maybe a secondary character is bothering people with too much screen time, shorten it.

Second, try to decide whether you're bothered by the reader reactions, or bothered by the story itself. I'll try to clarify. The above example was me being bothered by reader reactions, granting they had a point, and paying some lip service to it, but fundamentally Carrie is a jerk. That's why she needs a redemption arc. Being bothered by the story ITSELF is when someone pointed out to me that everyone talked with high class academic language, using unnecessarily complicated verbiage. That made me feel like, yeah, oops, there was actually a flaw within the story, and that ate at me like a reader reaction couldn't. So I did something I'd sworn I would NEVER do when I first started out, and over two years in, I completely retooled the first 46 parts to be less technical (for certain characters, to keep it manageable). Note I didn't change events, just how people were talking about them.

The other thing you CAN do there is put in a little postscript at the bottom, saying "this part was revised to include more/less of x". I didn't bother, but someone (I think it was L.E. Erickson but don't quote me) used that method, after some later world-building allowed modifications of some earlier descriptions. Again, not changing the plot, just adding more about what the setting looked like. As Scott said, you can inform the current readers of such, in case they want to check it out.

Finally, bear in mind that you don't want to end up in "revision hell", constantly trying to improve what's already been written to the point of losing focus on what's coming next. To that end, revfitz's remark of "once it is up on my site in serial form, it stays that way (barring egregious errors)" is good advice. We're never perfectly happy with our own writing, so I use hitting "post" as a sign it is "done", and I'm moving on. The above cases were exceptions, versus my normal writing method. And maybe a "done" sign is not a thing you need, but you don't want to end up stuck in a cycle of "well maybe if I do this to part 4 ... now I'll fix part 2 the same way ... oh wait, that's going to mess up part 5". At some point, it needs to be "DONE". We get better at writing by doing more writing, somewhere there needs to be mental tick of "I'm moving forwards now" to get that writing done too.

Hope that's in some way helpful. All the best going forwards, for both you and Lisa (I glanced at your first part)!

Thank you for the advice guys. I think mathtans really hit the nail on the head regarding being bothered by reader reactions vs the story. I had someone criticize one chapter before, saying it was totally unrealistic and it didn't really bother me because I thought it was reasonably plausible given the context. The worm comparisons though just keep eating at me, I loved worm and so I guess it's not a big surprise that when I write it comes out like that but I don't want to be the shitty worm ripoff, you know?

I think I'm going to go ahead with it but just redo the first two chapters and some of the background stuff so I don't get overwhelmed like mathtans said. Definitely some really good advice all around though, thanks everyone and I think I'll need to remember this thread next time I get negative feedback.