Starting a Webserial - Looking for advice

Hello, I am writing my own online web serial after reading a bunch of stories here and from various other authors that have published novels. I have written plenty so far, but I am only showing the first five chapters. If I go ahead with this, I plan to do one or two chapters every week, with 2000 to 3000 words.

1. What do you think of the story so far?

2. What do you think of my writing style?

3. What do you think of the title and description I've set so far for the story?

4. Is my formatting weird, if so any suggestions to fix it?

5. Suggestions and any other opinions are welcome. Please be hard on me, I wish to improve!

You can read the PUBLIC version, the first five chapters here:

There's a lot to do there, so I'll have to come back to it some more another time.

Hey, been reading the doc, I don't suppose I could get commenting privileges? I spotted a few things I want to bring to your attention.

I'm at [email protected]

@Underwhelming Force: I just went on and started commenting away. I don't think you need commenting privileges, because my comments are still there. Or I'm horribly wrong, and only I can see those comments.

Oh, might just be I couldn't comment from my iPod.

1. What do you think of the story so far?

If I were to review it, I'd probably give it a low-ish review. Two and a half or three stars. I haven't finished reading it, but what I did read suggested it didn't feel it broke a lot of new ground in the originality department, and that's ok, it's alright, but the writing quality wobbled here and there, and there were a fair number of details that took me out of the story, in terms of 'buying' it.

If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that it feels sort of shallow in terms of the description and degree of immersion. More like it was written by someone who had very little experience with what they were writing about, in terms of poverty, being bullied, etc. Too much focus given over to things that should have been matter of fact, a failure to note things that wouldn't. She reads more like someone who's been thrust into poverty very recently, than someone who's been with a drug addict mother for some time. The 'jocks' being bullies was sort of the same way. I was given a hard time by members of my school's hockey team, among some others, and I didn't call them the jocks, the team, or the hockey players or anything like that. I knew them by their names. There was a justification, low-level, where I was just the weird guy, the cuckoolander, the geek, the disabled kid. One of them was always in my class, and things just carried over from being in grade one and them sort of not wanting to associate with me, telling others not to either, carrying over and maturing (evolving?) in a way as we entered middle and high school. There was a story behind it, such as it was.

When another person I know was bullied, again, there was a narrative, a justification - one of them took all of the mushrooms they'd piled funds to buy, and blamed someone else. Blame became bullying, a broken into locker, ostracism, and more. Again, a story. Not just random assaults.

In brief: what I read in Shell felt more like poverty & bullying informed by tv than by experience and research.

I could go into more detail about this, but I'm wanting to move on.

I didn't feel a lot of tension from her struggle to survive, and I have to admit (this is largely personal preference) the fear of being raped and the periodic references to rape feel cheap, and they didn't add much tension, as it was.

I wrote a blog post about this (will link if interested), but the basic idea is that an element of your story only has impact if it actually changes things. If it changes the course of the story or the fundamental behavior of your characters. Saying "I feel bad for stealing" is as fundamentally meaningless as me looking you in the eye and telling you, "I'm sorry I set your cat on fire." - it only has impact if I make amends and change my cat-immolating behavior.

On the other side of that same coin, the victim or potential victim's behavior and the effects of past incidents or close calls show the impact of this potential threat. To the reader, your fear of rape or having your cat set on fire is conveyed by the actions you take to stop that, or the aftermath after it happens. Your character wears black and gray hoodies to avoid being seen at night, and that's the sum total of her preventative measures. It makes it feel cheap, and not like a real threat.

In Worm, I largely avoided the topic altogether. There are some creepy moments with inhuman monsters, a character who is kidnapped and humiliated, but that's largely it. I was/am a novice, and I don't feel I can treat the topic with the gravity it deserves, so I avoid it, in large part. In Pact, my (male) protagonist is still a little gunshy after past assaults, and many readers suspect sexual assault was a part of it, but it's an emotional scar that impacts (rather negatively) his behavior and coping ability in every other confrontation, especially those where he gets pinned or held down. Such is the impact those past events had on him.

What I'm saying, essentially, is that I noted some shortcuts you were taking, and I would strongly recommend you don't make these oblique mentions of rape into foreshadowing for a later event - rape is a story element some turn to for instant (cheap) drama, and it's a hard one to employ right.

2. What do you think of my writing style?

Others have already noted it, I noted it too. Unpredictable tense changes make the story feel less consistent. I feel like there's a lot of places where you could elaborate on stuff and don't, places where you take the lazy option I commented on the story itself about '-ly' adjectives (really, sadly, slowly, weakly, quietly) instead of giving more details. But there are other cases, too, where you just don't give descriptions about people, and you rush through days where nothing really happens.

Bringing me to my next point, there are a few telltale issues in the narrative itself. A story starting with someone waking up is a bad sign. It's a bad sign, primarily, because it suggests that the story's not getting off on the right foot. Take a manuscript to a publisher, and they typically want something to grab them right off the bat. It's the same for a serial audience. Set the tone, show conflict, get the reader engaged right away. Give three-quarters of the details they need and let them wait (in suspense) for those details or figure them out for themselves. Give them blood, or verbal assaults, put the reader off balance.

Put simply, if you're starting off with someone waking up, that's a strong hint that the opening is going to be slow. You can get away with this in a chapter opening (ie. starting chapter four), but even then it's a bit weak. I've done it, but I've primarily done it when I thought I could carry over momentum from previous chapters and if there's something readers are looking forward to.

Your opening is slow. Things take about seventeen pages (6.5k words?) to get to events of real substance. That's, in a typical book, one tenth of the actual book. There's too much emphasis on day-to-day. I admit I've fallen into this trap myself, but openings (and endings) are hard in their own way.

Kurt Vonnegut suggests, "Every part of your story should do one of two things. Tell the reader something new about the character, or move the story forward." In practice, you want to balance these elements. Keep in mind, also, that you want something 'new' to be new. If your character is born into poverty, showing aspects of their life and struggle to survive means absolutely nothing to me as a reader if it's stuff I could guess or infer. What you can do is show facets of the character. If you're showing them trying to survive, you can show what emotions are left when everything else is stripped away. What does the character hold on to, when they have so little? Dignity? Anger, because anger keeps them going? What tools do they employ? Wits? Savagery? Instinct? Inventiveness?

In terms of flow, moving the story forward, the idea is simple - know where the story starts and where it ends. Every time you're moving things forward, you should be pushing things towards that endpoint. If your story meanders, then readers will too - they'll leave and come back to see if you've decided to get to the point. Failing that, they'll just leave, period. If I told you to cut out 30% of the text you have so far, are there scenes you could remove without really losing anything from the overarching story?

I feel like there are quite a few extra scenes you could remove.

3. What do you think of the title and description I've set so far for the story?

Feels a little flat, to be honest. I don't think titles matter too much, so long as you can sell what you've got, but as an elevator pitch (ie. you're in an elevator with a publisher/editor/tv studio exec, and they give you until the door opens to explain your story's concept; what do you say?), your description doesn't grab me.

Words that don't have a lot of emphasis/power to them: accidentally, a few bullies, Perhaps, maybe. They're limp words, wishy washy. They don't show a lot of confidence in the story, and they're useless words. (Again, -ly adjective) - you want to use as few words as possible to get the reader as excited as you can.

You end the description with an open ended question. This is lazy, and it suggests, again, that you don't know where the story is going, that you don't have conviction in what you're writing. I can't remember where I read it, but generally speaking, if you ask a potential reader, "What will happen?" they're going to answer, "I don't care!"

As I've gone through it, I've tried to comment on the tense changes as well as the wording and other typoes, but I haven't done the entire thing yet.

My own comment about the story's pace was Resolved away or something, but I said something very similar to Wildbow in that regard. There's a lot of focus on the minutia. Riding an elevator, cleaning clothes, all that, but there hadn't been anything all that significant happen two chapters in. It's obvious that the author takes a lot of inspiration from Worm, which may be why some of it seems rather familiar to Wildbow. Thing is, by the end of Worm's first chapter, the main character had her powers, you knew her goal, and you knew some of the conflict that would arise in her attaining that goal.

Also, the issue of internal dialogue has to be figured out. The reason we keep suggesting italics is to help differentiate from the narration.

Thank you for your honesty guys, I find it refreshing. I will take everything you've guys have suggested so far and reorganize the whole story. I will leave the link up for another day or two.

I will present this topic again in a few months, when I've found a better foundation and have a more refined story to tell. You have no idea how grateful I am.

Glad you take it for the help it's meant to be. Whenever people find typos in my stuff, I try to thank them for the notice. I'd rather have my errors pointed out to me where I can correct them.

Besides, it looks like you're on the right track as far as not just correcting things, but also using those errors to improve your writing so that you don't make them again.

I found writing the beginning very easy. Starting all those threads. If you write like me, then you plonk shells of characters into a shell of a world and see what happens to them, and fill them out in the way everything seems to react to everything else. I cant (at least, I can't now) build a story like scaffolding and fill it in. I hope I will one day when I've learnt a lot more.

So yes, writing a beginning is a key part for me and it defines how the MC is shaped, and everything that comes after it.

That beginning, however, is terrible. It writes easy, but reads badly. Because I don't know the character I build it up by going through some of the motions to get a feel for it. Same with the setting. It's pages of me building world and characters for the future story, not particularly for the *reader*.

I'd love to be able to go back and re-write that first part like you've decided to. Think of it as an opportunity.

Basically: It's never wasted work, just part of building something. (Also, mine really was terrible when I started. My knowledge of basic grammar was... not complete)

The early chapters, oh dear.

The less said about them, the better.

I've just noticed how that could read.

I mean my early chapters.

Good! take the comments, learn, and be better! Just remember, its a NEVER ENDING cycle. the best of us can still always improve.