Doc’s Writercraft: Why webfiction?

Webfiction (noun): combination of “Fiction” and “web.”

Fiction (noun): (1) the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. (2) works of this class, as novels or short stories (ie, “detective fiction”)

Web (noun): synonymous with or referring to “Internet.”


Webfiction isn’t exactly a new phenomena, though it seems to be on the rise and on the wane all at once in this rapidly changing, tech-savvy writing world.  For some writers and readers alike, webfiction bears the same stigma as “fan fiction,” which is loosely defined as fiction set in worlds not of the writer’s creation.  Webfiction, however, is markedly different in that it is original fiction published first on the internet, often for free consumption.(1)  For some authors, it’s a method of alpha/beta testing their work before editing and releasing it in self-published formats.  For others, it is the end-all, be-all of their work, simply another medium they work in.

So why do it at all?

For me, it’s a way of getting my work out there and vetting it before a live audience.  A lot of people write in a vacuum and often their work never sees the light of day–it’s the same for many artists, some of whom turn to writing and drawing webcomics to force themselves to hone and share their craft with others.  For some writers of webfiction, the reason they turn to the internet as a medium for their work is twofold:

  1. To force themselves to write to a deadline every day (every week, every month, etc. depending upon update schedules).
  2. To expose their work to the world in the most easily accessible way.

A corollary to this last point deals with self-publishing.  Up until very recently, self-publishing books (prose, comic, or otherwise) was incredibly cost-prohibitive.  While the ebook revolution has caused a paradigm shift in the self-publishing universe(2), webfiction remains one medium that is entirely in the hands of an author.  Anyone can set up a blog through Blogger or WordPress and get to writing–and quickly.  That means your work is out there for anyone to find.(3)

The internet is an almost inherently social medium.  It is this social aspect of the web that is attractive to many authors of webfiction.  It enables writers to glean insights and get opinions from readers–on a work that’s still in progress.  Here’s an example from my own webfiction serial, Awakenings.

I had a reader make the following observations in a comment on Chapter 9, entry 7:

As for Thom’s broken ribs, they’re gonna take at least six weeks to heal. Don’t ask me how I know this, OK? Coughing is a challenge and despite the five plus years since I broke a couple of my ribs, I still wince at the memory of sneezing.  Agony hardly begins to describe it.

I’m a gun owner, BTW, and if you need any technical advice about pistols and/or rifles, feel free to email me. I’m also into flint- and caplock rifles, i.e., muzzleloaders, and making black powder and flintlock rifles are well within the means of someone with access to hand tools and abandoned train rails.

This was incredibly helpful advice (and I’m still indebted to the reader who shared it).  It’s this kind of thing that makes readers for webfiction invaluable, especially if you wouldn’t be able to get test readers for an independant project with that kind of knowledge (I know that odds are for me, I wouldn’t have been able to). Through tapping into the social aspect of the web, I got some really interesting information that will help me not only with Awakenings, but with other projects down the road.

Another useful aspect of putting work out on the internet–if you’re planning to either just leave it online or self-publish, that is–is that you’re able to have folks catch little tics in your work that you wouldn’t ordinary catch (Chris George, who writes the webfiction serial Shadow has been good about this for me).  Readers aren’t always shy.  They’ll tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and they’ll tell you all of this before it ends up in a book review.  In essence, it’s crowdsourcing part of your editorial process (in many cases, the developmental stage of your editing process, though occassionally it’ll be the proofreading segement, too).

Of course, there’s a caveat to all of this: if you’re planning on traditionally publishing your  work at some point, you should be leary of putting any piece you’re planning on shopping to agents or publishers on the web.  Heck, based on this post shared on The Passive Voice blog, you’ll need to be careful about putting anything out there.

So why write webfiction?  For me, it was about getting work out there, writing to a deadline, and getting some feedback on a piece that was in a very difficult to define genre.


You can find Erin on GoodReads these days @ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5211226.Erin_Klitzke
And on Smashwords @ http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/EMBKlitzke

 


1. Some webfiction authors (such as MCA Hogarth) have experimented with paid models, but I don’t have data to show whether or not the model works well or not.
2. For more information on the self-pub revolution, see J.A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as the ebook Be The Monkey by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath.
3.  Of course, this assumes you know some basic SEO or aren’t afraid to market yourself a little bit.  I’ve had pretty good luck with advertising through Project Wonderful for Awakenings.

Getting back into the groove

Today, I cleaned my room.  Then I checked the status of Falling Stars on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, then checked to see if I’d sold any on Smashwords (I hadn’t) while I slept.

Then, I sat down to write.

It’s been one of those days when it’s been difficult to get something started, despite having ideas percolating in the back of my brain for a couple days.  The characters weren’t feeling chatty, the words didn’t feel like they wanted to flow.  So, after typing some pre-work scribbles from yesterday afternoon and confirming that I did not, in fact, have to show up at the store today, I headed for my local Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte and a change of scenery.

Lo and behold, the Awakenings chapter 11 opener was written.  Here’s a taste.

            I hope that you decided not to go to the city.  Something’s about to happen, something connected to that damn asteroid, and I just feel like it’s better that you’re with everyone at the university.  Something—not someone—tells me that.  I know you stopped believing her and believing yourself, but please, just believe me in this.  The interview isn’t that important.  If you walk away from her—from all of it—now, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life.

However long that’s going to be remains to be seen.

Now, Chapter 10.06 went up today.  Page hits have been down since last weekend for some reason, though I’m not certain why.  Possibly has something to do with folks getting back into the swing of school, possibly the weather, possibly a piss-poor advertising spread the past week–any number of factors could be to blame.  I certainly don’t seem to have the malware problem I was having before, which is amazing (apparently, stripped-down, recustomized versions of the WordPress main themes are helpful in that regard!).  Hopefully, numbers will go back up again soon, but only time will tell.  I know that there’s at least a small following for my little epic post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, and I think I can live with that.

I mentioned at the top of the post that I’d checked various outlets for sales figures on Falling Stars.  For folks not in the know (ie, anyone not privy to my brain or my AIM name), Falling Stars is a novelette set in the same universe as Epsilon: Broken Stars.  The story itself is just shy of 13k words, but the ebook release has the first chapter of Epsilon: Broken Stars attached to it.  I’m actually really excited about all of this, because it’s my first ebook release.

I posted it to Smashwords and Amazon on Friday, then posted it to Barnes and Noble on Saturday (as of this writing, they’re still processing the file for listing in their catalog.  My fingers and toes are crossed that Smashwords will accept Falling Stars for its premium catalog, which is distributed to other e-bookstores such as Kobo, Apple, and a few others.  At 99¢, it’s a fairly affordable little read and I happen to think it’s a decent story to boot.

From the way things have been going the past couple days with Epsilon: Broken Stars, that may well be out in early October.  Fingers and toes crossed–it depends on how much I can plow through in the next week or so and how quickly a couple able volunteers can proof-read the document for me.

I’m building my book portfolio, slowly but surely (and possibly faster than some new indie authors, too)!  Publishing that first ebook was exciting and scary all at once, but I’m fairly pleased at the result so far…even if sales are next to non-existent.  Hopefully, more friends in the facebook crowd will give me a hand with advertising!  A huge shout-out to Erik of Dear God What Have We Wrought?! for his Facebook marketing of my work (I netted one sale out of that so far, thanks!).  For those of you who’d like to give me a hand with that and don’t know how, it’s as easy as heading to the Smashwords or Amazon pages for Falling Stars and hitting the “Share” button for Facebook (in both cases, the button is on the right hand side of the page–on the Amazon page, it’ll be tucked under the “Read on these devices” box, and on Smashwords…well.  Smashwords makes the share button pretty easy to find).

For now, though, it’s time for me to get back to the writing.  Wish me luck!

Awakenings and Epsilon: Broken Stars update

[progpress title=”Epsilon: Broken Stars” goal=”70000″ current=”47107″]

[progpress title=”Awakenings WebSeWriMo” goal=”35″ current=”10″]

 

As you can see, I’ve posted updated goals for Epsilon: Broken Stars and Awakenings.  I’m goaling Broken Stars at 70k because I think that’s probably a bit more acceptable as a piece of prose than the shorter 60K original goal, and it looks like I’ll be adding at least two to three chapters to the piece (and, by extension, more background).  It also looks like we’ll be going with Cover #2.  Most of the people who’ve had a look at it like the darker text on that version, and I think I do as well.  The only thing that may change is that I may remove “Book 1” from the page and just have the title page read “Epsilon Broken Stars.”

The rationale for this is that I don’t know exactly how many books there will be or what order I will decide people should read them in (release date, as we all know, sometimes doesn’t determine these things).

I’ve been working on a new Chapter 5 for Broken Stars, which expands on Aaron’s first run off-world with Mac and Sam.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

            I left the cockpit and headed for my cabin, confident that Desantis could handle the Scarlet.  He’d done well enough at that when we’d run into a sticky spot at Alanis, where we’d almost gotten crushed between a heavy cruiser and a luxury passenger transport thanks to some damn sloppy traffic control on the part of Alanis System Operations.  We’d come out of that close call mostly intact, though we’d have to make some repairs to our secondary communications system.  We’d sheared off one of the antennas.  I had to grudgingly admit that he certainly wasas good a pilot as Caren, if not better.  Thinking that maybe he was better than her hurt something inside of me—maybe it was my pride.  I wasn’t sure.Inside my cabin, I sank down on the bunk and thought about my mother, something I hadn’t done since Caren and I had been prepping for Carmiline.My mother, Madeline Terrel, been a filmmaker—documentaries, mostly—and had met my father out here in the Borderworlds, on Cantrell.  He’d been working at the university, some sort of post-graduate work there.  She was from Epsilon, out to make a film, and met him, fell in love with him, and when they talked about a life together, it was always back on her homeworld.  She’d been proud to tell me growing up that her family had been on Epsilon for over a hundred years by the time I was born.  That had been a point of pride for her, and it was her deep connection to the Alliance capital that made she and my father go there, for him to start over and her to pick up where life left off.
            She’d loved Daniel Taylor and kept loving him until the day he died, despite everything.  Despite him leaving when I was eight.  Despite him joining the Imperium military, getting assigned to Special Projects with the father he’d always told me he hated, and then continuing to work for the Imperium with Special Projects even after Adonis Taylor was dead.  If it was some kind of fear of his father that had driven him to Special Projects, I could’ve understood that while he was still alive.  But not after he stayed with the division after Adonis was dead.  Something about that scanned wrong to me.
Then again, a lot of things about my father had scanned wrong to me in the years he’d been gone.  That had never mattered to Mom.
            Nothing I’d ever said, no evidence I could ever martial, could shake her faith in or love for the man who’d abandoned and betrayed us both.  I just couldn’t understand it.  She’d accepted that lack of understanding on my part, but I knew it hurt her.  She never stopped reminded me that in her estimation and viewpoint, he’d never stopped loving either of us.  I still couldn’t understand how she could believe that and probably never would.  It’s hard to believe someone shooting at you to kill actually still loves you.
            I rubbed the scar tissue on my left side, dead center between my lowest rib and my hipbone.  Daniel Taylor had been the cause of that a little more than six months ago, before Carmiline and before this assignment.  The medics had told me it was almost a miracle that I’d survived.  The way this year was shaping up, I was trading in lives faster than an accident-prone cat.
            No.  Daniel Taylor didn’t love me.  I was the enemy, and that made me a target.

 Copyright 2011, Erin M. Klitzke.  All rights reserved.

 

As for Awakenings, I’m not doing so hot at WebSeWriMo, but at least Chapter 9’s finished now, with the last post of the chapter set to debut on Labor Day.  I’m also going to be featured on Episode 6(?) of Webfiction World, which is supposed to record (and livecast? I’ve never actually been home at the right time to listen to any livecasts!) on August 28.  Pretty awesome stuff if you ask me!

For better or worse, Awakenings suffered a lack of attention because I made decisions about Epsilon.  At the same time, Epsilon is going to end up suffering a bit due to my need to create an Awakenings buffer.  And the E-557 trilogy, still without an overarching name for the set, suffers from my inattention due to a need to work on both!

There is, of course, the fact that I’m reading again, which doesn’t help matters (beyond helping me decompress and allowing me to be in touch with the craft as a consumer rather than a writer).  I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the latest Black London book by Caitlin Kittredge, Devil’s Business.  T-minus eight days and counting!  I just finished Storm Front by Jim Butcher, the first book of the Dresden Files.  It was not quite long enough to get me through until the release of Devil’s Business.  I may read some non-fiction until it comes out.  No decisions yet.

 

Today, more writing, then work at the store.  Joy.  Oh well…at least it pays the bills.

At least until I start releasing ebooks, it does.

Projects update for 22 July 2011 – Awakenings and UoC/Epsilon book 1

[progpress title=”Epsilon” goal=”90000″ current=”57410″]

 

You know that you’ve made it with your webfiction, I guess, when the spambots start to leave comments for you along with the real people leaving actual comments for you.  Thank god for Akismet.

Awakenings has gotten surprisingly long already, and I’m sort of shocked at its length!  I’d originally planned to release the whole first year as one ebook, but if I wait and do that, it’s going to be one monster ebook, so I’m starting to reassess my thought process on that one.  To give you an idea of what I’m talking about…Awakenings is already over 60k words, and I’m still in week 2 in story time.  Of course, things will be a little more spread out (no one day is going to take more than two chapters now, I don’t think, unlike Day Zero, which took five and a prologue), but there’s still a lot of time to cover, and a lot of time equals a lot of words.



Epsilon
book 1, in the meantime, clicks along rather well, though the second and third chapters of Part 2 have been giving me some minor issues with pacing and what I want to have happen.  It’s a major rewrite from previous drafts, especially with regards to how a certain narrator regains her memory (again, linked to a major metaplot about a certain other narrator’s father).  This, coupled with the murdering of a few darlings (sorry about the writer’s terminology, if anyone’s unfamiliar–basically, it’s getting rid of story elements that you as an author may have liked but don’t really push the story forwards in effective or beneficial ways) means that it’s a very, very careful rewrite.  I’m feeling really good about the draft, though, in general, and it’s going well.

Book 1 may actually only end up being two parts, the first with Aaron narrating and the second with Caren narrating — time and story flow will tell, though I think it will end up around the 90k word mark.  After I’m done writing this update, I’ll be returning to it to start writing Chapter 15, in which Caren will probably be reacquainting herself with an old friend (or three).

Some other writers at Critique Circle have impressed upon me the need to have a Dramatis Persona, especially considering the number of secret agents with aliases that I’m working with.  Here’s a preview of the work in progress.


 

Dramatis Personae

 Epsilon Alliance SpecOps field officers

Aaron Taylor (Avatar), alias Wil Terrel – Class of 2257
Caren Flannery (Renegade) – Class of 2257
Haley Brink (Star), alias Trey Connelly – Class of 2257
Marc Carter (Avenger) – Class of 2257
Melissa Cordare (Ice), aliasTabitha Lane– Class of 2257
John Kathe (Shiner), alias Harmin Rise – Class of 2257
Omar Krishna (Ash) – Class of 2257
Matthew Lawless (Doom), alias Kyle Rezek – Class of 2257
Michael Reale (Fire) – Class of 2257
Hannah Smoke (Raven) – Class of 2257

Epsilon Alliance SpecOps Command Staff

Jackson Hunter (Longshot), Commander of SpecOps – Class of 2232
Cornelius Traverse (Jaguar) – Class of 2244

ESF Officers

Lieutenant Commander Casey Flannery, fleet operations
Lieutenant Mackenzie Desantis, flight operations
Dr. Benjamin Mowry, Medical Corps
Lieutenant Allyn Cyne, Intelligence division

Civilians

Dr. Lucas Ross, regional lead for the Resistance
Samantha Cooper, member of the Resistance, later regional lead for the Resistance
Jack Mallek, retired Alliance Marine and member of the Resistance

Drilin Imperium personnel

General Adonis Taylor, Special Projects (deceased)
General Daniel Taylor, Special Projects

 


And now it’s back to the writing salt mines before I head off to the actual salt mines for an evening shift followed by tomorrow morning’s open. Joy.

A new webfiction podcast goes live!

So right now I’m listening to the first episode of the Webfiction podcast put out by the folks at Webcast Beacon, who’re the same people that brought us the Webcomic Beacon podcast.  I’ve read some stuff by one of the hosts, A.M. Harte (specifically, I’ve read her serial DarkSight and I’m awaiting the next installment), but not anything by MCM, who’s the other host.

I’m listening to it right now as I’m writing this post, and it’s pretty good.  I don’t listen to many podcasts (this, Made of Fail, and a couple on medieval and British history) but I think this one is addressing something in publishing that’s kind of important to address.  They make a very good point of stressing the fact that just because the entry level for webfiction is pretty low, that doesn’t mean the quality of work is low.  There’s some very good fiction out there–one of my current favorites is A Traveller’s Guide to Jovan by Ellipsis (it’s the one that I currently load up every weekend, eagerly awaiting the next entry into the story–I think it’s also the only story I’ve given five stars on the Webfiction guide, and I think I gave it a 9 or a 10 on Muse-Success).  Part of what’s neat about web fiction is that people are able to take risks.  There’s a lot of stuff out there that traditional publishing houses might not take a chance on, but is no less good than any book I’ve read from Tor or Orbit (and better than some that I’ve read from the even bigger houses, like DelRey, Random House, St. Martin’s, et cetera).

Some of what’s coming up in the webfiction circles I’m exploring actually dovetails a bit with what I’ve been reading at Stormwolf.com, which is Michael Stackpole’s website.  He’s been advocating electronic publishing, electronic self-publishing at that, for a while now.  The industry is clearly changing, and much faster than a lot of outlets seem to be able to keep up with.

It’s a glimmer of hope, though.  I no longer have to stress out about an agent wanting to buy my work or that my work fits into traditional niches.  The world of publishing is a lot different now, and it’s kind of interesting.

On this note, the trilogy that begins with The Last Colony may be released in ebook format when I get finished with the first book and get deeper into Ashes to Ashes, which is the second book of the series.  That’s still a little ways off, though.  Stay tuned for updates!

Work on Awakenings is going in fits and starts, better now than it was a few days ago.  Chapters will be getting longer from here on out.  As always, the link for the Awakenings site is http://awakenings.embklitzke.com.

Happy reading (and listening)!