Starting an Online Serial/Novel

Ok. I want to start my own online serial/novel after reading a couple from here. I've attempted to, but I got lazy each time and it fell through. I've taken the time off to work out a few chapters now and know the general direction of my story, but what next?

How do you start your web serial/novel?

Do you host on your main blog? Sub-domain? New blog?

Do you advertise before posting the actually story?

Basically any tips and advices would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Mine is a story that I've been working on, and just decided to post on a week by week basis. It's too short to be marketable to publishers (whose market sucks anyway), and I like the way I can talk to those that read my story. I'm working on another story, but I don't plan on posting it until I have enough of a buffer to give me a few months worth of writer's block/procrastination time.

I'm hosting on a blog, and I have a few domains I could attach to it. Blogs work great for serialized stories, and they're free and stable (at least is).

I may advertise for my potential new story, but it's a long way away from getting that far. I'd probably do it by posting here, and maybe on a Twitter account. I'd also list it on delicious, Google, etc. The more the better.

I hope that helped. Any idea of what you want to work on? Can you give us a taste of the story?

To be honest, I have three stories in the works and they're all at varying stages. Two are ones that I attempted to serialize online but I failed (gave up) and one is a new one that I just started working on not too long ago.

+ Story 1: Elemental/modern fantasy based (called Fallen E.) is an anti-heroine story.

+ Story 2: Vampire and werewolves simplistically, but I might hold off on this because there are just too many (good and bad) stories of this theme around at the moment.

+ Story 3: Superhero-esque with a splash of fantasy.

I know, not a lot of details, but I don't want to give out too much. I'm weird like that xD

The thing about advertising is that I don't really want to have to spend money on it. I'm not looking to make money or anything, I just want to write and let people read it (and perhaps get comments/feedbacks). But I also want to stop lunging in without a clue about what I'm doing.

As for buffer chapters, I'm one of those people who has to post as they finish a chapter (I've been restraining myself since I want some order and plan before launching my serial(s)).


I've been at the writing out plots for different chapters stage for ages. I have a couple of 2nd drafts of chapters ready, but I got delayed quite a bit because I'm a design nerd. I got entangled with Wordpress, desided I should learn php first, and now am entangled in a forever expanding designing phase. I just can't get the website looking how I want it to be. Though that isn't entirely true. I've got three websites, I just don't know which one to pick, and then I'm coming up with more features and more idea's on how to publish my work and then I have to redesign all three off them and so on and on.

I do however have some advise. If it ever gets online this will be how I'll work:

Submit myself to Stumbleupon, google listings, WFG and other online networks.

Email/facebook ALL the people I know and ask them to spread the word.

Get the entrecard widget. ( And then entecard (as a verb). When I get a fairly amount of viewers/day and have enough updates, submit myself to projectwonderful. Use the money I earn there to advertise via projectwonderful.

The strongest advertisement is the word of mouth. Whatever you do do that first (except for listings, because they take a while to kick in.)

I would get some buffer episodes, at least a month a head of the chapters you post. That was something I learned the hard way.

I wouldn't spend money money on advertising unless you really really want to see that money come back to you.

Have a general idea of where you want the plot to go and let it flow. Don't be mad if if you stray off course.

Try not to edit. It's alright to edit minor mistakes like grammar and spelling, but save the editing for later, like when you finish the story and possibly go to self publishing or traditional publishing. Unless there is something fundamentally wrong that prevents people from enjoying the story, I would try not to edit.

Have fun and don't worry about the naysayers.

Well, I will plan everything, including the characters, setting and the battle system (record them in a book and save them as softcopies so you will have a decent backup) . I put it up as a blog so that I can interact with my readers. To advertise will be a good thing, but be moderate so if there anything unexpected the readers won't get disappointed. Before you post up the chapters, be sure to check everything. Hopefully this will help you.

Mmmmh, I mean, Hmmmm...

My story came about because I was trying to write something different from the novels and shorts stories which I usually fail to spend my time on. It ended up as sort of a... thing... which I then promptly put online because of my desperate, narcissistic desire for acceptance and praise. Naturally, this led me inexorably to questions of advertising. I'm a bit too shy to go with the "Tell everyone you know about it," approach, and I'm a bit too EXTREMELY POOR to spend money on advertising, so I've been exploring other methods.

Stumble, Google and Online Fiction Directories seem to be the best bet, at least for the short term. Forums like this are always nice- as you can see, most of us have a post-signature advertising our story. I don't know about the others, but I tend to keep this signature whenever possible on other forums, too. Just in case, you know, somebody gets curious. However, it is important to be wary of over-pimping ones own story.

I'd also be wary of spending much money on advertising. Unless you're rich, in which case I recommend you spend as much money as possible. And also buy me a boat.

I have a sub-domain on one of those free website designer things. I still maintain that it's a little fugly, because I'm awful at web design- the people here were very helpful in that regard. They can tell you what looks pretty.

We all look pretty.

Buffer chapters are always a good idea. The thing I'm doing is of such a limited size that I've actually been able to finish the first draft before posting individual episodes. I'd say it's definitely important to get at least an outline done, (possibly in your head, if that's not too crammed with other stuff already), with a few burn-ahead chapters ready to go up just in case. Though as Sora says, don't be mad if you stray off course from your plan.

Above all, have patience. Web-series often take a bit of time to establish themselves. Hang in there, and keep writing. With luck, somebody's reading.

At least, that's what I tell myself when I'm sitting all alone at night, dark broken only by my flickering computer screen- with the wolves outside and the cold creeping in... please let somebody be reading... pretty please...


So you want to write a serial.

Good! It's an old form of fiction. Charles Dickens wrote serialized stuff. Loads of the great science fiction novels -- and indeed, plenty of other great books too -- were serialized in magazines and newspapers long before they were assembled by publishers. It's a great form.

And you're getting lots of fantastic advice about ways to get attention, how to make noise, ways to not trip yourself up, places to host a site, and so on and so forth. And my advice is simply this:

You gotta want it.

that's it. You REALLY gotta want it. You have to have a story, a serial story, and you have to want to tell it. You need to want readers, sure, but you need to want the story spelled out and told for your own pleasure and the joy of putting it out there first and foremost. You have to want it bad enough that you can irk yourself through lazy phases. And you need to want it strong enough that, even if no one reads it and no one cares for the first YEAR (or more!), you keep writing. For love of the thing.

Because sometimes, that's the case. And even if it isn't, you have to love the work for the sake of the work.

If you can do that, then even if you choose a lousy place to host and have terrible graphics...the love and passion in the story will show through. And I think you'll do all right.

And that's my two cents, is what. (and they maybe so obvious they're dumb two cents, but what can yer do)

There's some wonderful advice here on this topic. I've recently begun setting up my own serialized online novel and was just starting to wonder if I was all alone when I stumbled on this site and thread.

I agree with Peedee you have to want it and love what you're writing because I think the ratio of readers who just read and readers who actually take the time to comment is something like 50 to 1 maybe more? So you have to love it and be willing to keep going even if you get a few weeks of quiet.

Thanks so much :D

I've discovered something really important for me in the last few day: I know what I want from the story, but I don't know that I know it until I sit down and pound it out. When I start typing, suddenly things I have been struggling with just come together. But it doesn't happen until I work at it. That is to say what other people have said already: WORK FOR IT.

Also, I'm writing stories I want to read, about characters I want to hang out with, and places I'd like to go. I tend to be more productive after going to a book store and not being able to find anything that interests me. That frustration goes a long way.

You have to know the direction you want to take the story well before you start posting chapters. You don't necessarily have to know the ending (though for me, knowing the ending is essential) but with serialization, unless you know where you're taking your tale, you'll get either bored with the generally slow update pace or get bogged down in the possibilities or details. And for me at least, it's easier to sort through when you have some sort of roadmap.

I use Blogger for the ease of posting and because I really suck at designing sites. As for advertising, I just listed the site here and on google and Twitter. If you want to try to make money off of it, there are also a lot of free ad sites like Google Adsense or Project Wonderful.

It's like Field of Dreams -- write it and they will come.

Thanks for all your advise and sorry for suddenly disappearing. Real life (college) caught up with me on exams, projects and papers.

Here's my experience of serializing an online novel. I started mine just over two weeks ago. I had a complete manuscript, which I subnitted to literary agents and eventually got accepted by one. Hodder Headline and Hamish Hamilton then both expressed interest in it. But, eventually they decided it had too many things going on in it and that it wasn't genre-specific enough to market in bookstores.I got dispirited. I tend to give up too easily.

Anyway, after a few years of travelling around the world, I dug it out again and decided to completely re-write it as a tight offbeat thriller. I thought I'd test it out by serialzing it online before going back to the publishers.

My choice of host was between Google's Blogger and Wordpress. I chose Blogger because I liked the look of the blogspots I'd seen. Wordpress blogs looked plainer. It's really easy to upload your text and pictures onto a Blogspot. That part is easy.

So, I posted the first chapter and then surfed around linking like crazy, trying to promote it. A lot of your time is taken up doing that. 'I'll visit your blog if you visit mine' tyrpe of stuff. I post a new chapter each day and have averaged about 30 new readers per day. So far I have had 1,200 page views from 44 different countries. 20 of those have registered as 'followers'.

I keep the 'chapters' short at around 800 words per new post, and make sure that I have a hook at the end of every one. My readers tell me that is an ideal length for online readers.

I've had lots of positive feedback and now I feel a sense of obligation to my loyal readers. fortunately, I've got a completed manuscript to fall back on, but my intention is to only use about 10% of that; the other 90% I'm writing from scratch and loving it. It's now being reviewed by the Web Fiction Guide, so hopefully that review will appear here soon.

It's called The Mongolian Girl. Please take a look at it on my blog and let me know what you think. In return, I'll be happy to read and comment on yours. We are a community of writers and we need each other.

Wow, there's some really good advice here.

I especially agree with Peedee. If you do decide to start a serial novel, it's guaranteed you'll run into at least a few stumbling blocks, but if you really care about what you're writing, you'll get past it all with ease.

Starting an online novel was easy for me.

Step One: Write a 97,000 word historical novel.

Step Two: Attempt to sell said novel.

Step Three: Discover that it's really hard to sell a debut 97,000 word historical novel

Step Four: Pick a central character from the unsold novel and write about his early life.

Step Five: (in progress) Discover that websites have taken a long leap since I learned HTML... learn about style sheets... oh yeah, and write the novel sometimes!

You can see how I'm doing at !

the link isn't working for me :((

Looks like a typo D: works!

LMAOS, Richard. That was way too amusing, even though it probably shouldn't have been. ^^

As for advice, I might not be the best person to give it. I tend to get ditsy a lot. But maybe you can learn from my mistakes. ^^;;

Like others have said, you have to want it. You need to be willing to write regularly, no matter what happens in your life. I've had weeks where I've been in the hospital, and still had to punch something out the next day. Wanting it means being willing to do whatever it takes to post, to share, and to tell that story. If that means staying up until midnight every week, so you can post exactly as the clock strikes midnight, so be it (I had to do that for a few years, since I didn't have fancy technology). If it means writing on every break from work that you have, so be it. Etc.

Wanting it means sharing that dream and ambition with your family and friends, and getting their help wherever possible. If that means that they tackle some chores for you, because you have a deadline in two hours that you need to meet, great. If they can help by proofreading, designing graphics, or what-have-you, you'll already be a step ahead. And with friends and family, usually you can weasel something out of them, even if it's just a refill on your coffee when you're mid-chapter. ;)

Another big thing for serial writing is to know yourself, and how you work best. Do you handle pressure well? How do you handle criticism? Are you able to commit and devote yourself to something? How much are you willing to give up to pursue your web fiction dreams? These are all things that we each need to know and consider when deciding our update schedule, our level of critique before posting, how 'epic' the series should be, etc. But remember, it's okay for these things to change as you go on -- I know they have for me. ^^

With serial fiction, all of the advertising falls onto you. Decide when you're ready for a larger audience, and then look at your options. Networking helps, as well as being able to put aside some spare cash for ads.

Most of my advice was general, but there are plenty of good places to find some specifics. Eli has an interesting essay on the topic of getting started here. Epiguide has an article on the more technical side over here.

As for your last two questions, here's my experience: I've always used someplace like Weebly/Freewebs/Livejournal/etc to initially host my stories. That way I can be sure that I've got an audience before I spend the money on getting a devoted URL. The downside is moving all of the content, but it can definitely help save money if the project falls through early-on. I also don't advertise before the story's up - I'm on a tight budget, and would prefer to get visitors when I actually have work up. I also know that I, personally, get annoyed at ads that lead to a "coming soon" page. ^^;;

Regarding some of your early questions, the first decision is basically whether or not you want to spring for your own hosted domain. Figure it will run you under a hundred US dollars a year, using good, solid hosts and domain registrars. (Yes, you can register a domain with GoDaddy for four bucks or whatever blue light special they're running...but you could end up paying for it later)

If you do that, your best bet is to ask other hosted bloggers what hosts they use. Big issue: do they have Fantastico or some other form of pre-installed blog software (preferably Wordpress) or do you have to figure out how to install a blog yourself (technically known as "tearing your hair out") acenet bluehost are good ones there are many others.

The other option would be to use a blog site, such as the free Wordpress blog site.

We keep mentioning Wordpress because I've used others and wish we hadn't. We're mavericks who disdain the places with lines out front, but there is a REASON people go with wordpress. They are just so much easier to work and have so much more cool goodies.

Much of what we're doing on our blog serial at Mayan Calendar Girls wouldn't be possible on Nucleus (we tried it) or other blog software.

Beyond that, it's pretty much a matter of following the instructions.

One recommendation, have a "Page" (quotes mean, "Page" in the sense that Wordpress uses the word) stickied (you can do this in the "page edit" area) so that people who come in don't immediately see your last chapter. Fine if they're fans, but what if they're new. You can easily have links on the page to First Chapter and Latest Chapter.

Advise establshing a "back log". Two levels of backlog, actually. Several chapters (three, six, whatever) in place before inviting attention to the blog. Not a bad idea to put them up weekly or whatever schedule you've decided on.

AND have a number of chapters ready to go in case you get sick or lose the urge or break your fingers or something. You can write more, adding to the backlog, while publishing the previously written work.

So, I stumbled across this when just doing a search via Google, and I'm glad I did. Seeing I'm not the only one doing one makes me feel a bit less...odd, heh. So thanks, all. And I will echo everyone else's advice to make a backlog. Yeesh... ;)

Feel free to check out mine at

Or through Facebook fan page at