What are you doing that you couldn't do if you were writing a book?

I'm wondering if anyone is in anyway incorporating the online aspect of webserials to do things a novel wouldn't support.


I know some people did interactive things.


I really want to incorporate audio and video, but that needs a new website.


In the mean time, I just posted a poll on twitter to see if York or Newcastle is being overrun by pseudozombies.


I have a part of my site for "newspaper articles" and I'll keep those getting updated as important events happen.


I have an interactive role playing game forum and information resource (yes, the name needs work). It's a forum set in the story world, people can join it and role play that they live there, if they want, or just use it as an extra resource for information that isn't in the story but sort of hints at what is happening, or going to happen. Or that expands on something mentioned in the story in passing. Mostly I'm doing this because I'm enjoying being the 8 people currently on that forum.


I know story is what is important - but webfiction can be so much more than a novel, ao I'm wondering if anyone else embraces that concept, and how they embrace it.


So beyond the fact that we can rewrite it and edit at any time, or have comments the whole way through?


I had this one plan for a future serial where one of the narrators - who's reading the story like a report - keeps making notes on everything that happens. My goal was to have links peppered in to images linking to those notes. Chrome has a great image previewer that means people on their desktop can just hover over. The trick is how the hell to pull that off for mobile readers.


Well, before publishing you could rewrite and edit at any time on a novel, too. I'll admit, comments are amazing, probably my favourite part of this so far. But yes, I was meaning beyond that.


That idea sounds really neat. I'm not sure how you'd pull it off for mobile readers, but I suspect it might involve constructing an app just for your story.


Simply put, a serial offers opportunities in structure, pacing and narrative that would be hard - or at least ill-advised - to pull off in a novel.


I'd cite 'getting feedback as I work' as my main advantage. When I submit flash fiction and short stories, I have to wait a long time to hear anything, and then often it's just 'sorry we can't accept this' with no elaboration. For a full book, I'd be doing a lot more work than a short story, and it'd be even longer before I'd hear anything back.


A webserial can help me build connections with readers and get a feel for what I'm doing right and wrong - and I don't have to wait so long to hear it. I also get to see other's works - stories I may not have read if I weren't into writing such things myself. It's a much more personal and engaging experience, I think.


I definitely take advantage of the reader interaction. I post amusing polls each chapter, have running gags in my author's notes (there is a black ink cartel that does away with other colours of pens when I try to write the story with them), and get lots of wonderful questions and suggestions about the story that really help me clarify my story world and plan future events.


The first time I got fanart, I squeed like a fangirl.


I love the direct interaction with readers, you don't usually get that when you publish books. Sure, you get reviews, but those don't remotely compare to getting a 400 word comment on a single chapter...


Can't help but notice that the problem with the "direct interaction" which people are talking about is it's really NOT something you can control.


For me, way back in Series 2 of "Personified Math", I decided to have at least one link-per-update, going somewhere else on the web, either to define a mathematical term, a pop culture reference, to promote someone else's work out there, or simply to have something fun to see. I kept that up for, I'm not sure, at least a year? In one of my low times, I didn't bother, then questioned aloud whether anyone was even following the links, and as the silence continued, ultimately cut back to just doing it occasionally. I've kind of resumed it with the webcomic version of the serial because... yeah, I don't know.


That is something that resurfaced with "Epsilon Project" too, largely because every third sentence Alice says is a pop culture reference of some sort. And it must have been pervasive enough that the person who wrote my "April Fool" entry this year picked up on it, because s/he included the same sorts of links in their entry for me. The downside, of course, is that as the web changes, links die... but I think ChrysKelly has been the only person to actually say anything to me about that. From what I can tell in the WordPress dashboard, the majority don't click.


About Polls: The interactive fiction of "Epsilon" makes polls a necessity (it's vote-for-plot), and since it is by FAR where I get the majority of my comments, it might even be the thing that drives people to comment in the first place. That's partly why I like WordPress, it has the built-in poll feature that I can link into the posts. I've also done a couple Twitter polls related to the personified math, and while the response rate is HUGE by comparison (ie- more than 10 people), I don't think any of them followed me back to the later post.


About Time Travel: I mentioned this in some other thread but forget where. In "Time & Tied" there was a set of 4 episodes where a character was jumping around their timeline. So while the narrative went through linear time, Friday-Saturday-Sunday, I included a set of links that allowed reading from Carrie's perspective instead (more like Fri-Sat-Sun-Fri-Sun-Sun). And both ways of reading it SHOULD work. I also threw in a link from Part 1 to Part 27, allowing throughput on Grade 9 Carrie... maybe 1 person in 30 follows that link? They never stick around though. (Unless they were a heck of a reader, burning through 27+ parts in one day.)


Should I mention my drawings? No, I probably shouldn't. All that to say, yes, I do try to take advantage of the web medium. The newspaper article idea sounds interesting, I'm not really sure how A/V would work, and I wonder if a forum would cause new headaches in moderating. Some webcomics (like "Darths and Droids") have that sort of thing though. Incidentally, ChrysKelly, you probably want to update your .sig here, since you're now live and can link and such. ^_-


Umm, thanks.


Thought I had, like a month ago. Whoops.


I say the webwriting can be a double edged sword. For my first novel, I posted sample chapters on writing.com and managed to establish a steady readership. The feedback was really encouraging and helped me craft the novel. I got fewer and fewer dedicated readers the deeper I posted into the novel, but as a young writer it gave me the positive reinforcement I needed to keep pressing on. I eventually sold that novel and the sequel to it and I developed the sequel in much the same way.


It's now been a few years since I've returned to writing and it feels like the net has changed a lot and writing with it. Maybe I was spoiled by my initial experience but now I feel like the online validation is missing. At least before, I had the confirmation of being published that it was a half way decent story. As I'm not looking to go that route this time, getting those comments has become more important.


So in short. Getting the interaction is great. But when you don't get it, it's worse because you just don't know what is wrong. I've got a handful of beta readers and the feedback has been fairly positive, but it's not translating to a larger audience. Going to web serial route is my next step toward eventually going for ebooks. So if this doesn't pan out, I'll probably have to move to a new project.


As for more levels of interactivity, I'm not sure I'm at that level of tech savvy-ness yet, but my dream would be to establish a strong IP that other could eventually write for. Like guest novellas and fan art, etc.


I know we talked about this in the Discord channel, but I'll retread here! Every intermission in between chapters of Antlers is a Twine game hosted on itch.io that lets the readers click through the story and sometimes take branching paths, rather than have to read huge, sometimes infodump-y blocks of text. Formatting the Twines is a lot of fun, and they're pretty looked forward to and well-received among my readers, especially because they're usually written from the perspective of people who aren't the two main POV characters.


Other than that...audience interaction is definitely a plus. I have an Antlers group chat on Discord, and I've become friends with a pretty decent handful of my readers. And the ability to share fun stuff like bonus stories, character illustrations, and playlists is a plus, too.


I've never really been able to write long form before anyway, but one thing I like about web writing is the immediacy of it, particularly for things like flash fiction. I can write something, give it a quick proofread, and throw it up on the blog/forum before I have a chance to think better of it, and end up misgiving it into oblivion.


I've tried to run RPs a couple of times - I always end up not having enough time to do so.


I do have a couple of regular features though that I've been trialling this year - Chat Logs - ie, faked text messages (eg: http://requirecookie.com/04-agency-chat-logs/chat-log-11/) and a weekly question thread - which encourages people to think about some aspect of the world, or how they'd act in a situation, etc. (I've also made site accounts for all the main characters, and they'll occasionally pop in and participate in the threads.


Let's see...


Pretty much my whole serial. My narrative structures are normally tight with everything figured out ahead of time. Redwood Crossing's not like that. I'm figuring things out week-by-week, maybe two weeks ahead if I'm lucky. I let the story move how it wants to. I've got an ideas document of things that would be cool to see happen, but we'll get there if we get there. It's a relaxed storytelling style. I keep it loose without forcing anything.


I think it turned out this way because it's interactive. Like "Epsilon Project" mentioned above, it's a vote-for-plot story (ooh, I like that phrase, thanks mathtans). I don't want to inadvertently steer my readers in certain directions, so I don't put energy into planning way ahead. It's been an interesting process so far.


I haven't done one in a while, but I also do Interlude chapters where I reveal events that may have been happening at the same time as a main story chapter, flashbacks, or expansions on parts of the story mentioned off-hand. I link to them from the main entries.


I like that idea with the forum Chrys, do you get much user interaction with it? My understanding of forums is that you need either a large starting audience or to put in a heap of time yourself to get the initial momentum rolling.


My story is more like an online news service, so it would be quite hard to port into a print structure I think (although I do have an idea for how that could work). I do take advantage of linking to refer back to older posts in case people need reminding why (for example) an old lady's handbag is a pretty big deal. I've also been responding to comments in character where possible, which is a fun little way to work the imagination muscles.


I like that my web serial can reach lengths that no publisher would conceivably approach for a first time novelist. Because of that, I don't have to worry about mercilessly cutting pages to fit within an arbitrary guideline. If I need to write twenty-four chapters about stealing something, I can do that (as long as I'm not just spinning my wheels in the writing).


And if I had comments on my story, I'd appreciate those, as well.


Wow, so many replies :D


@unice - your author notes thing intrigued me, so I jumped over to your story and had a look around. It looks awesome, seems like it would be really funny. I'm planning to get around to reading it once I've read the other ones I'm planning to get around to reading.


@Chrysalis - the best it can be compared to is a beta reader, but even then it isn't the same, because you might get a commentor saying "I think" and then along pops a second to say "well, actually, I disagree..." It's fantastic. I had no idea the feedback would be so much fun.


@Mathtans there's a google float thing you can do where hovering over a link gives a description of what you'd be clicking through to. If you integrated that, it would work really well and people wouldn't need to click. About Time Travel - those links confused me; I had to use breadcrumb comments. How was I expected to know it went 1 2 3 and not 1 6 4? Lmao.


I have no idea how the video would work, but the audio... I thought like an ebook version? Like a podcast? Is that weird? I dunno, it's a long term plan, it seems complicated and probably expensive. Clearly I haven't looked into it all (full disclosure: I've never once listened to an ebook).


@Team Contract you'd probably get more readers going straight to ebooks, and I'd say it's easier to monetise, but there's more competition over there, and you're still going to be desperate for reviews (and, yes, validation).


@marn I have no idea what a twine is, or itchio, but I'll probably find out when I read your series for the book club :D


@stormy your link doesn't work


@kaleidofish that sounds cool, but I know I couldn't do it. That lack of control and direction would drive me nuts :)


@stable I get zilch. I'm not even sure if anyone bothers to read it. Responding to comments in character sounds AWESOME. I wish I'd thought of that, and started doing it from the start :)


@gloomybear I just wrote 25600 words in a Prologue, so I know exactly what you mean. And you'll get comments; I'll leave some when I come by for the book club :)