Fiona Gregory: "And that leads us back to that question I wonder about: why don't more readers comment? Most serials get very few comments, even popular ones, and then it's usually the same frequent commenters."
I have been thinking about this for a long since I started Web Serializing in January. It stems from this comment I received in Chapter 17 of Arcana Magi.
"You have a very imaginative storyline, along with interesting characters. I can't say I understand all that's going on yet but I just wanted to let you know I'm working on it and I like your style of writing and topics."
And this comment to another web serialist on Fictionaut
"Veronica, your story flows smoothly with graphic description, your characters are well developed and come alive in your story with believable thoughts and dialogue. I don't know where you're going with this story so I can't comment on whether it's worth continuing the journey or not. But whatever you write will be interesting to read because you are a good writer."
I believe the problem is not the Readers, but us, the Writers. We are asking A LOT of any reader to come back every week to read one chapter of our story at OUR pace, whereas said readers are accustomed to having a fully completed novel or story in their hands that they can read at THEIR own pace. When we write, we are going through a marathon each week and we want readers to do the same thing. The problem with commenting on our stories, is that our stories are not Completed, it's ongoing and the Readers do not know what direction we are taking them through or the direction our stories are taking them.
So readers cannot comment so easily, because if they comment on how great our stories are in the early chapters, then later on we go South on our storytelling or writing style, those readers are going to feel cheated, angry, and may not even hesitate to run to a Community Board and spread the word about how bad the story is. And we writers would feel ego bruised after sucking in all the praises, and would develop the nerve to attack those reader for doing so, when we are the ones who failed as writer on our end.
It's not a matter of whether we write a chapter that one week before posting, or having the entire story completed beforehand, we are asking readers to tune into reading one chapter a week, or whatever your timetable is, and expect them to give some commentary to something they don't know what's going to happen next chapter. We are asking and expecting TOO MUCH of our readers.
If the reader is willing to read one chapter a week, from Chapter 1 to whenever you wish your story to end, and not comment on it, it is best not to bite that hand that is feeding us. Because they are willing to go through the weekly marathon we writer's are subjecting them to, and we should be grateful they are willing to do so.