Sad face...

So, I just posted a notice on Umbra: I am currently on hiatus. I really don't like doing this, but I simply cannot write quality work and deal with my other stuff (graduation, prom, etc.). That coupled with the fact that Avengers just came out and I work at a movie theater, I have literally no time for anything, at all.

So, as the topic says, sad face.

Reality happens.

That said, when reality happens a half dozen times, you might want to rethink that reality and the commitments you're making.

You've started a lot of projects and as far as I recall, finished two; one of which was apparently rushed to an abrupt conclusion. This makes it hard to respond to an announcement like this, because as much as I get real life being troublesome, serials are struggling against a reputation, and I know I've lost potential fans to the perception that serials/serialists are flaky and unreliable, that people don't want to invest in something that might never finish.

And for every long-running serial that I work to finish, another two people's serials might not, and that means the public perception doesn't quite change. The struggle becomes an uphill one.

So yeah, it sucks. Again, I get that real life happens. My own desires for what I want serials to be aren't your obligation, for sure. But it does make it hard for me to give you a pat on the back and say, 'there there'.

Some advice, instead: knowing that real life happens and your own attention wanes or shifts, perhaps adjust your process accordingly, and write something complete, then parcel out the finished product online?

I know that if I write a serial again, either it will be a series of shorter stories, or I will write most of it in advance. Two reasons:

2) The lack of planning at the start was a serious problem for me later on. I'm never going to be a "know everything first" kind of writer. Which means I need to expect dead ends and have a plan to deal with them.

Knowing what I know now, I will definitely do things differently next time.


As much as I agree with your sentiment, bow, you're herding cats. The fact that there isn't a barrier to entry for serial writing means you're always going to get people making bad or unfinished products.

No herding is happening here. I have no authority, I am one of the cats (I consider myself more a dog or pig person, honestly, but for the sake of the metaphor I'm a cat).

This is a community, and in this community (especially here on the forums) we have a number of people who are taking this fairly seriously. Not necessarily making-a-living seriously, but producing and selling books and jumping through the requisite hoops, getting commissioned art and paying for advertising. Investing something meaninful

And in the midst of that, all I'm saying is it's hard to respond to Alex's announcement, knowing that I and others are (to varying degrees) trying hard, taking precautions against interruptions in the writing, and working past those tough patches.

Fair enough. I apologize for picking on you.

Alex, good effort on trying to get it out, and I hope you're able to wrap things up one day. Given that you're planning for prom, I assume you're young, and honestly commend you for undertaking such a big task. Fuck yes, be hungry and ambitious. Hopefully at the end of this one, or when you start the next, you have a better idea of how to make it work, but there is no shame in having things not work out. We all learn from failure and setbacks; personally I commend you on having the gumption to try. A lot of people never ever get that far. Shit happens, but you owned it with an announcement instead of vanishing into the mist, and that took courage. Best of luck on this, or your next, effort. Take as many shots as you need until you make it work!

I came on here to say the same thing, Drew Hayes. I think you said it much better than I could. Good luck in the future, Alex! I think you'll probably learn a lot from this experience. :)

But, Wildbow, I think you bring up a really good point. You got me thinking if there's a way to cut down on the abandoned stories. I know when I was part of a fanfic community, we used to do adopt-a-fic when someone abandoned a work. Could something like that work here? Maybe someone posts to the forum when they aren't going to finish a story, and someone else can take it on?

I know taking on someone else's story would be a significant amount of work, but even if it updated once a month (after transfer of ownership) maybe that be better than the story disappearing into the mist? (I like that turn of phrase, Drew!) I don't know. I'm a fixer by nature. Feel free to tell me how stupid this idea is.

It's not a bad idea, and it might even be fun.

That said, it requires more than you'd think.

1. An original author who's willing to share the creation of canon.

2. People who know canon well enough to step in.

3. People who the fans trust.

These are in shorter supply outside fan fiction, I think.

I've had a variety of experiences with people writing my characters or wanting to. They range from:

1. People who wanted me to write their characters into my serial so they could spin them off into their own (I didn't).

2. Mathtans and Gavin who wrote credible versions of my characters.

3. Robert Rodgers who brought out aspects of my characters that I'd had in the background and made them more visible than I did.

I'd be comfortable with some people writing Legion, excited about a few, and absolutely pissed about others.

I'd either want to direct the story or make it non-canon. Also, for those of us who turn web fiction into ebooks, there's the matter of intellectual property. It's not unsolvable, but it's fraught with potential pain.

I can relate to everything Chris Poirier said.

Winter Rain, though "unfinished", works for me.

I engaged with Winter Rain at the time Chris was writing it. I grew to love the characters and to this day have a passion to learn what happens next. The story never disappointed me unlike others who started on a high and unfortunately ended on a low.

Imo, the unfinished serial is just as much a positive as a negative. I have the pleasure of anticipating what happens next, playing it through my mind and writing the next part in my head if I want to. I never would, for if another word is ever written, I would want it to be by the original writer.

It has been a long time since I updated Refuge of Delayed Souls even though I hold the complete story in my head. Some days I think it is best to move along, write something new. Some days I think about posting again. One of the great things about web fiction is whilst I am thinking and consistently changing my mind someone else is reading my unfinished serial online and it continues to live on.

Good luck Alex. Ditch the sad face and keep smiling. Whatever happens you dared and won :)

There's that pesky c word. Im in a similar boat. I have three writing projects in which I owe or work with someone else, and yet... I'm still restarting Phoenix. Sigh. Yes, overcommitted, but...

That said, Im editing what I had, which is a lot easier, so I basically have a 30 chapter buffer!

OtherAlex, I would think about what Wildbow said, and perhaps when you restart, wait till you already have a month in the can at least?

I buffered the hell out of ML. When I first posted I had ten chapters. By the time I finished posting those ten, I had 17 chapters. My schedule allowed me to to take my time and not feel overly pressured.

It worked out that I had finished the main work 8 months before the serial caught up. I still have the epilogue to post but it is complete.

Alex, while I commend the effort to write, you are basically making promises with a serial that you should keep. If you say you are posting on X day, you should do it. The number of projects I have seen you mention is staggering at times.

Time and disaster management are going to be areas you need to look into. If you know you have RL commitments that interfere, or even upcoming commitments, you have to plan around them. Or make the decision that serial writing may not be for you.

On unfinished projects: they harm us. Every single one that remains unfinished, while having potential, as said above, is a broken promise. How many promises can you break before no one trusts you to keep your word?

We, rightly or wrongly, are judged on those who have gone before. And there are far more incomplete/abandoned serials out there than complete ones.

"while I commend the effort to write, you are basically making promises with a serial that you should keep"

Really Tempest? Is that the way web fiction has evolved? Or the way it is evolving? I hope not.

I never made anyone a promise when I started writing my serial. I shared my writing online and everyone was free to read it. When I read a web fiction serial I demand nothing from the writer. If the serial is not to my liking or there is nothing new to read I move on.

What I love about web fiction is the freedom of it all. There is no publisher deciding what should or should not be available for myself or others to read or which story is profitable for them and which is not.

Writers have the freedom to post if they want to and take a break from posting when they want to and return to it if they ever want to just the same as readers have the freedom to abandon the story whenever they want to. There are no rules in my opinion. No promises to be made or broken. No hoops to jump through except the ones you volunteer to jump.

Anyone venturing into web fiction should not be doing so bound by other peoples fears of being judged. What happened to freedom of expression and the joy (hopefully mutual)gained from someone reading your writing whether or not you manage to reach a perceived ending?

I could commit to working a 9 to 5 for five days a week, work a few months to a year and then quit with no warning. I have the freedom and the right to do that. It's also the right of everyone related, be they customers or fellows working in the same business, to be disappointed and a little bit annoyed.

I would love for web fiction to be treated more seriously. I've paid a great deal of attention to what people are saying, their successes and projects, and the vast majority of the web fiction authors I've talked to have expressed desires and hopes along similar lines.

I've been following what our potential audience has been saying, and I've been a member of the audience myself, and I've studied other serial works, in terms of manga, anime, television series, and webcomics. As a rule, people don't want stuff to end prematurely. People don't look back on Firefly and say 'that was good while it lasted'. They say 'man, that was great' and they feel genuinely upset that they didn't get more, and that plot threads and character and everything else were cut short.

And those same viewers express on blogs and webcomics and everything else that they don't want to commit to another science fiction TV show because 'science fiction TV shows always get cut short'. Which makes the views decline, which makes less studios willing to produce or commit to a science fiction show... and we get less. Writers of such get less opportunities, smaller audiences, and less money.

With serials, it is much the same dynamic. Yes, studios have a much higher entry cost, but we have a bigger hurdle to climb in garnering an audience (and I haven't talked to a serial author who doesn't hope for more readers), as we are far less established.

I do (and I feel the need to reaffirm this, so my message or intent aren't taken the wrong way) understand that these things happen, I get it. But I'd rather give what little advice I can (re: backlogs or changing one's writing process) than cheer and celebrate the sudden cancellation/hiatus of a series.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again to support Wildbow's point -- I feel that if someone is really serious about writing, they won't publish it until they have one complete arc, book or story, so that there's a reliable schedule right off the bat for readers, and the writer has proven to themself that they can write. I wrote NMAI to its conclusion before I ever put it online, and being consistent and finished let me add new chapters to fulfil audience needs, while beginning my next story and already having an audience who knew I was reliable.

A reader is investing time in a story, and if you want them to respect your work you have to have a work worth respecting. A "I'm just trying this out for fun" attitude will run out when you realize it's often not fun, and then the audience runs out, and sometimes they take their expectations for online writing from your example. Being a good example is just the right thing to do -- regardless of how easy it is to enter and leave the medium.

I agree with many of the things that G.S. and Wildbow are saying, though I have one caveat. Does it matter when someone who doesn't have a huge audience drops their serial? (No offense, Alex. I'm mostly thinking of people like Hayes, Wildbow, and Zoetewey.)

I hear what Wildbow is saying: dropping a serial makes web serials look bad. But I'm sure the same thing happens with webcomics and fanfic a lot. Even if they do have ways of ameliorating the problem, it's still there.

When you start reading a web serial by a new author who has just posted their story here, there's a decent chance it's not going to finish. If that really bothers you, there are two options: only read serials that have already finished, or read serials from authors who have established a track record of completing quality serials.

The big problem seems to be when established web authors with decent-sized audiences drop their serials. That's when a lot of people who are new to web serials notice.

Someone who's only got fifty readers probs got most of them from here. Those readers are therefore more likely to know what they're getting themselves into. So, in that case, is it such a big deal?

To get at the specifics of the situation, I agree with Hayes and E-Foster. It's pretty cool that you started writing so young, Alex. Keep up with it, and who knows where you'll be in five years!

Life happens; good luck, don't let it get you discouraged.

Most mediums have an established core, "mainstream" audience, and then important genres, niches, and fringes. So you have "pop" music, and categories -- rock (with subgenres), country, R&B(with subgenres) etc. etc. Or literary fiction, with romantic, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, etc. Or studio movies, and then independents. People who like the fringe, and experiments, and don't mind the risk will try out garage bands and student film-makers, to see if they have what it takes. If those garage indie kids are great, they build an audience -- and if they are lucky, they catch on in the mainstream.

We are the fringe. We are the garage. We are the experiment. People won't take any of it seriously until there are more people like AE and Wildbow who make it their serious livelihood. Is it a big deal? It is to the people who want to take the medium seriously. There will always be kids who pick up the guitar and play in a band for a summer, because it's cool. The internet makes it possible for anyone to start a story. But the more of us who try to be serious writers and take our writing to larger audiences the more it will be regarded as a serious place for real writing, instead of just goofing around.

Those writers don't just want the fifty people they get on WFG who know that sometimes serials fail. Those readers are already investigating our fringe garage. The serious writers are trying to find ways to make serials seem like a legitimate artform to all the people who DON'T know what they're getting into. If the only examples that can be pointed to are goof-ups, then people will stop looking. Quality product builds audiences. The more quality the better.

There is a need for the fifteen year old kids who pick up guitars and keyboards to play or write -- once that kid puts in 10 000 hours they end up being Eric Clapton or Stephen King. But those kids are what, one in a thousand? One in a million? The fringe is a great place to play -- but I think there's a genuine need to find the gems in the crowd and elevate them above the rest, so that it stops being just a fringe to play around in.

None of that is exactly relevant to alex going on hiatus -- I was just following up on Wildbow's comment because I think people need to be reminded that trying something is fine -- but expecting an audience for something you're "trying" is naive. Being serious and dedicated builds a process and momentum. I know from experience because I lost my process and momentum because of life -- but before that I had five good years of learning that other people can use as an example. I'm clawing my way back to a writing routine -- it's way better to build one and keep one.

This is why I really appreciate RSS feeds being enabled for everyone. The added update information will help readers find the still active serials with regular updates more easily. Yay!

And Alex, you shouldn't apologize to us, you should apologize to your readers. Your post here probably won't achieve anything beyond sparking discussion.

Aside to @Chrysalis: My current thinking on any new listings order would be that RSS feed will drive it, so dead stuff will simply fall out from lack of anything keeping it there.