- Worm was a great serial
- Wildbow was a fucking fantastic writer
As a writer, you will be deluged with competing desires. You'll want it to be good. You'll want the audience to love it. You'll want your peers to be impressed. You'll want lots of reviews. You'll want people commenting enthusiastically on each update. You'll want people talking not just to you, but to other people about every post you make, speculating on what will happen next, maybe even being inspired themselves. You won't want all these things at the same level, and you won't want them to the same degree as everyone else, but I'm pretty sure you'll want them.
And there will be other people who want specific things out of your work. And if they don't get those things, they'll either try to convince you to provide them, or they'll ignore you as someone who isn't giving them what they want, or they'll actively campaign against you because this is the Internet and that's what people on the Internet do.
And all of those things will come together to attack you. You will struggle with each one:
And the worst thing to do is to get to the point where you decide the best course of action is to not write at all. Part of getting good is forcing yourself to risk being bad in public.
So as a writer, the most important thing you have to do is push all those competing desires aside and focus on one question, and one question only. And that question is as follows:
See, there's tension there. Over time, at least in a best-case scenario for writers, you as writer get to choose the story you want to tell, choose the way you want to tell it, and convince the audience you were right, and the tension goes down. Over time is the important part there. But it doesn't happen if you allow yourself to be intimidated out of telling the story you want to tell, because when that happens you start down the path of trying to meet expectations first, and the danger of doing that is that it's a pretty short jump from that to pandering, at which point you will find yourself less and less able to actually take a risk when you tell a story.
It's a risk. It can be minimized if you're willing to put in the work, be self-aware, think through the things you go through, but it will always be a risk, and will probably wind up being a bigger risk the better and more successful you get. But it's also the thing that will make you better.
So: always tell the story you want to tell, even if you're the only one. And the only time you should ever stop telling the story is if you decide you don't want to tell it any more.
(While we're at it, don't confuse the momentary emotions of discouragement and frustration with the belief that you don't want to tell the story any more. Right this very minute, I do not want to finish Issue 24 because I'm very frustrated and it's pissing me off. But the truth is, I actually really DO want to finish Issue 24, I just don't want to feel this frustration, and part of my brain is trying to convince me that if I gave up the story I wouldn't have to feel the frustration any more. You can be your own worst enemy sometimes. Tell yourself to do something rude, either metaphorically or metaphysically, keep calm, and write on.)
OK, sorry for the interruption. Hopefully this helps me write on. If it helps anyone else write on, that's absolutely fantastic.