Question for those of you who write

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Question for those of you who write

Postby Mikazo » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:28 pm

Hi! I wanted to ask a few things to any of you who happen to be more seasoned fanfiction writers. First, I'll relay an experience.

Recently I finished a fairly lengthy fanfiction for a very active fan base (not SK-related, this time). I was quite happy with how it turned out, and I posted it to a couple of sites. Naturally I enjoy having an audience, and I noticed that it got some great exposure at first, since new stories start out at the top of the heap. But then in a matter of just a few days, the viewership began to sink like a rock, and very few people saw it anymore.

One thing I did, admittedly, is that I posted all six chapters at once, rather than spacing them out and updating over a period of time. I wondered if I committed a grave error by doing this. Many authors opt to do the latter, as it not only holds the readers' interest, but also keeps the story visible longer. It never occurred to me to do this until after the fact.

I wouldn't want to see the story simply fizzle out in such a short amount of time. I also don't want to use any dirty tricks to try to "boost" it. What starts as an endeavor to simply write and share a story can easily turn into a game of "king of the hill." A lot of fanfiction authors do this. As far as I'm concerned, quality content should be the first and foremost concern of any author, not numbers games.

So my question to any of you who write regularly is - what approach do you have? Are you concerned about having an audience? If so, do you find that your better stories continue to attract readers, long after they have dropped off the front page? Is being front and center the single most important thing to gain viewership, or do people end up finding your writing in other ways? Do you find that in time, your writing disappears regardless of what you do?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby MoDaD » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:01 pm

Mikazo wrote:I also don't want to use any dirty tricks to try to "boost" it. What starts as an endeavor to simply write and share a story can easily turn into a game of "king of the hill." A lot of fanfiction authors do this. As far as I'm concerned, quality content should be the first and foremost concern of any author, not numbers games.

As someone who partakes in dirty tricks for a living I'm almost offended :lol:

But, I understand where you're coming from. The long-and-short of it is if you want something to be read it has to be promoted. In a perfect world something should be able to stand on its own merits alone. But, you have to realize that your writing isn't just an awesome story - It's also a gladiator. It's in the arena competing against a countless horde of fighters with names like YouTube, Viacom, Sony, Microsoft, Marvel Comics, Television, Candy Crush, Facebook, Twitter and millions more. They're all competing for the greatest prize there is that's in such short supply: attention.

The bad news - your story can't win that prize in a fair fight. The other competitors have bigger muscles, better fighting strategies, more experience, and tons of friends that will back them up. Not to mention money.

The good news - your story can win a piece of that prize in increments, especially if the correct arena is chosen and the right fighting strategy is employed. What is the biggest advantage the police have from the criminal that's pursued? It's not weapons, ability or skill. It's the fact that the police have lots of friends backing them up.

In this hastily assembled analogy, the friends of your story are the other fighters. You need to join a gang, a gang consisting of muscle like Twitter and Facebook, but also have the street-level scrappy fighters known as fan fiction writers who will read, like and share what you write if you do the same for them. Your gang needs to work with the mafia bosses, not just the Big Don known as fanfiction.net, but also the guys who run a particular neighborhood or city block (a fan fic archive or site that's run by your fandom of choice).

Your gladiator is now working with the system, and that system (for better or worse) rewards certain behaviors. It's highly unlikely you can win all of the prize all of the time, BUT, you stand a much better chance of winning a piece of the prize some of the time.

With that goal in mind, your gladiator can employ the Formula Fiction Fighting Style and Segmented Promotional Presence Technique perfected by Sensei Dan Brown. Use the side-step-takedown known as the cold open. Throw sand in the other fighters' eyes with the short chapter. Thumb the other guy's eyes with the pseudo-cliff hanger. Wear down your opponents with staggered updates. Sneak in, sucker punch the other guy with a chapter debut, then run away before he's got time to react, then show up again later when he drops his guard with another chapter.

While all of this is going on, other fighters with similar goals (or your pre-established gang) may come to your aid. Or, you can seek the aid of other allies who fight in different arenas all together. Call in an airstrike on the enemy by commissioning an artist to illustrate a scene from your story. Have an offshore submarine launch a torpedo by contacting a website owner or social media personality relevant to your fandom and ask them to read or promote.

If what you've written is good no one will care how he or she found out about it. What's important is that once you have that attention, take advantage of it and use it to fuel your works.

Now, with that in mind, what's more useful? A large bomb that explodes next to the target and does absolutely no damage, or several smaller laser-guided missiles that do less damage but hit the target over time? ;)

And, this whole entire topic is reminding me how far behind I am with reading and reviewing. I'm horribly behind on Kooshmeister's scripts, I'm still re-reading Mr. Goodkat's technology inspired-story so I can make intelligible reviews, Sage has her new chapters and there's that new guy who posted the other day.

I wish there was a thread to post this kind of stuff to...
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby Mr. Goodkat » Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:23 pm

Although I'm not a seasoned fan fiction writer I think I can add a few thoughts to this.
Mikazo wrote:I was quite happy with how it turned out, and I posted it to a couple of sites. Naturally I enjoy having an audience, and I noticed that it got some great exposure at first, since new stories start out at the top of the heap. But then in a matter of just a few days, the viewership began to sink like a rock, and very few people saw it anymore.

I've experienced something similar when I released War Games on FanFiction.net in November 2015 in order to reach readers which haven't visited swatkats.info. In the first four days I had about 20 readers. After that, the attention faded away rather rapidly such that I had about 40 readers in total that month. In December I didn't even get 5 readers. In January it went up to 9 readers. So I guess this isn't something unusual for a one-shot story.
Mikazo wrote:One thing I did, admittedly, is that I posted all six chapters at once, rather than spacing them out and updating over a period of time. I wondered if I committed a grave error by doing this. Many authors opt to do the latter, as it not only holds the readers' interest, but also keeps the story visible longer. It never occurred to me to do this until after the fact.

I came to the same conclusion a while ago when I compared my readers' behavior with those readers who are reading stories that are released chapter-wise. I think these are the advantages of the chapter-wise-release-strategy:
  • You can periodically reinforce the readers' interest (as you've mentioned already)
  • You keep your story on top of the list of the fan fiction stories in the same category (as you've mentioned already)
  • You can constantly announce (or ask people to announce) these updates in the social media related to the fandom (assuming that this fandom takes advantage of social media)
  • As long as your story hasn't been released completely the readers can digest the portions you're serving more easily (I think most people are rather willing to read 4.000 words than 15.000 words in one go, especially when it is "just" a fan fiction and not the real thing).
Although it's a comic I have the feeling that this strategy worked out very well for The Descent. Every time Betaruga had finished a new page she had the possibility to announce/promote it on Facebook, Twitter, Thumblr, etc. This way people were regularly reminded of the existence of the comic. When War Games was released in one shot on swatkats.info it was naturally announced only once throughout the SK related social media and so people weren't constantly reminded of it. Furthermore I have the feeling that many people are overwhelmed when they notice that it has 15 chapters with more than 40.000 words. ;)
Mikazo wrote:I wouldn't want to see the story simply fizzle out in such a short amount of time. I also don't want to use any dirty tricks to try to "boost" it. What starts as an endeavor to simply write and share a story can easily turn into a game of "king of the hill." A lot of fanfiction authors do this. As far as I'm concerned, quality content should be the first and foremost concern of any author, not numbers games.

What kind of dirty tricks are you referring to?

I totally agree that the quality should be the foremost concern of an author and I think that fan fiction writing should never be a competition like "My story is better than yours", "I have more readers than you" or "I get the better reviews".
Still, it can be very depressing when you get way less feedback than you've expected or you realize that the readers are paying attention to your story for less than 2 minutes on average or only read the first two chapters and then jump right to the epilogue, missing the best parts of it that way.

Concerning your questions I'm gonna anticipate a few things here that I have planned to write about more thoroughly in my retrospection tread (is linking this a dirty trick? :lol:).
Mikazo wrote:So my question to any of you who write regularly is - what approach do you have?

If I would release another fan fiction story I would write it from start to finish before I would release anything (like I did with War Games). This way I'm avoiding pressuring myself or being pressured by others to hold a deadline.
But this time I would release it chapter-wise and periodically (e.g. one chapter each two weeks or one chapter each month) taking advantage of the points I've listed above.
Moreover I would limit the scale of the story to 15.000 - 20.000 words as more seems to be too much for most readers once it's available completely. Since such a story isn't canon most people don't want to or cannot spend so much time on it.
Mikazo wrote:Are you concerned about having an audience?

Yes, I do! I admit it! :lol:
As fun, exciting and educational it was writing War Games, I wouldn't want to go through that again knowing that no one except me would care about it. Fortunately, there seem to be enough people caring about it now, although I had my doubts shortly after the release for quite some time.
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby MoDaD » Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:50 pm

Mr. Goodkat wrote:Still, it can be very depressing when you get way less feedback than you've expected or you realize that the readers are paying attention to your story for less than 2 minutes on average or only read the first two chapters and then jump right to the epilogue, missing the best parts of it that way.

That's a very good point, and I think there's something to be done about that. I'm leaning toward a "Today's Featured Story" element on that secret project you and I are working on. Involving excerpts (one or two paragraphs) of fan fics with corresponding links to the full story - similar to what I did for Kris on the homepage of skfanfic.com. Of course, I'd need a list of stories + excerpts... would any of you authors be willing to submit your stories for that?
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby Mikazo » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:53 pm

MoDaD wrote:It's in the arena competing against a countless horde of fighters with names like YouTube, Viacom, Sony, Microsoft, Marvel Comics, Television, Candy Crush, Facebook, Twitter and millions more. They're all competing for the greatest prize there is that's in such short supply: attention.


Thanks for the feedback. Who knew self-promotion could be so brutal. :lol:

That reminds me too of a quote from someone who said that entertainment is a bubble waiting to burst. We only have two eyes, two ears, and 24 hours in a day. We simply cannot consume all of the entertainment out there. Interesting perspective. Besides, there is an opportunity cost involved in anything you do - time spent reading through a story is time that could be spent doing a thousand different things, so the story has to be worth your time.

But anyway, it's true - you can be the greatest plumber/painter/mechanic in the world. That fact alone does you no good if nobody knows you exist.

Mr. Goodkat wrote:What kind of dirty tricks are you referring to?


Well, at least in the particular case I am dealing with, I was thinking things like reposting chapters or reuploading the story to "bump" it. After already having posted the whole thing, it would seem kind of cheap. However, some people advised me to do just that, so I will.

The thing is that surprisingly, most of the people who clicked on that first chapter actually read through the whole thing. That's awesome. How many of those people will notice my "bumping" too? Will I get called out on it? Chances are, nobody will care. But I would also be sacrificing some of the really great reviews I got too. So reposting the story in this manner feels kind of like amputating a limb to save a patient.

But perfect is the enemy of good as they say, and I really think the story should have a bigger audience, at least in the short run. Maybe it will be necessary to take a harder approach. I guess it's like that saying - sometimes you have to break some eggs to put toothpaste back in a tube, or something like that. XD

Mr. Goodkat wrote:I've experienced something similar when I released War Games on FanFiction.net in November 2015 in order to reach readers which haven't visited swatkats.info. In the first four days I had about 20 readers. After that, the attention faded away rather rapidly such that I had about 40 readers in total that month. In December I didn't even get 5 readers. In January it went up to 9 readers. So I guess this isn't something unusual for a one-shot story.


Yeah, I've posted stories for the Swat Kats universe that only got a handful of views and virtually no feedback, even though I was quite happy with them. I think the fact of the matter is that the Swat Kats fandom in particular just doesn't have the readership that it used to. Many years ago it seemed to be much more active. Maybe with a revival in the works, that will change. Who knows? But you hate to see your hard work wither away and die in such a short time.

MoDaD wrote:Of course, I'd need a list of stories + excerpts... would any of you authors be willing to submit your stories for that?


Are you asking for story submissions? I have a few I could throw in the hat.
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby MoDaD » Fri Feb 05, 2016 12:18 am

Mikazo wrote:Are you asking for story submissions? I have a few I could throw in the hat.

I suppose that I am, now that I think about it. I'd like get 31 total SWAT Kats fan fics that people like or recommend. I'd like to incorporate it into a feature that changes on a daily basis (31 for every possible day of the month), which is similar to the SKFAA, but this would include SWAT Kats fan fics posted from any source that's viewable online (skfanfic.com, fanfiction.net, etc.). They can go on that thread I already started so as not to detract from this current topic.
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby EricoBard » Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:57 pm

With 15+ years of writing under my belt, I might be able to offer some help:

1) Don't write just for the acclaim of others. Fanfiction writing is a hobby. You should enjoy it just for the sheer act of doing it. Sure, positive reviews and a TV Tropes Page http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/FanFic/LegacyOfMetal are great and everything, but if you're not doing it for your own enjoyment at the end of the day, you'll never be satisfied.

2) Don't worry about writing what's popular, or what other stories look like. Write what you feel like. You might end up being a trendsetter just because you wanted a different spin. Since I've started, I moved from outright Novelizations and pure adventure 'Fics, to stories which explored interspecies relationships and the likelihood of conflict, to examinations of the soul. I've done flashbacks, flash-forwards, mysteries, romances, saving the world bits...Over time, my personal taste has fluctuated. It hasn't made me any better or worse in any particular genre, it just meant I expanded my options. Admittedly, I've stuck to third person narrative throughout my career, because that's my comfort zone. First person is a tricky beast to pull off, and I've only seen it done well less than a dozen times. My style and genre changes, the narrative format hasn't. And the people who read my stuff, they respond to it. Why? Because they can sense that it's genuine.

3) Neil Gaiman is Not Your -Insert-. The title's taken from a Blog post, but it boils down to this: You update when you update. While fans may clamor, yell, and scream for updates, you're the one writing it. We have lives, and this is just a hobby. We don't get paid to do this, we do this because we like it. (See Point 1.)

4) Don't Start Something You Can't Finish. The internet is full of stories left abandoned. I keep a graveyard of really great stories and ideas that others had, but never finished, in my bookmarks folder. They're there not only because of how good they are, but as a constant reminder of something I never want to have happen with myself. The net is messy enough. Don't leave another abandoned story to die on the vine before it's ripe.

5) Quality, not Quantity. The approach I've taken in the past to writing is that, in summation. Take your time. Read it over before you upload it. Get an editor, if you find you need one, or become better at being your own editor. With so much chaff in the fields, try not to make more. Create something you can be proud of, and readers will follow. You don't need fancy tricks or a specific uploading pattern. If you're doing it right, people will find your work even if it is buried in the archives. I STILL get reviews on stories I finished up 10 years ago. They crave a good story. Give them a good one, and they'll reward the effort.

6) Sometimes the Middle of the Story Writes Itself. Essentially, when you set out, have a solid beginning and end in mind. Know where you're beginning and where you're going. Like life, the journey is the adventure, and strange and marvelous things will sometimes just pop into your head, and make you go, "Hey, that could work!" This layering, the building of an intricate web of experiences, character development, and the like, is so much fun. You can't plan out everything and you shouldn't try. As John Lennon sang, "Life's what happens when you're busy making other plans." A good outline is a must, but don't feel pressured to flesh it out completely from the beginning. If you leave some room for adjustment, tweaks, and development as you go along, the story will become more organic. Let the published authors worry about relying on formulaic, soul-sucking development. You're a free agent. Go where the wind blows you, and enjoy the ride.

Hope those suggestions help.

-Erico
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby Ty-Chou » Fri May 13, 2016 11:25 am

As a seasoned fanfic writer who has played the game for many, many years.... I'd have to say you answered your own question. Yes, if better exposure was your goal, you went about it the wrong way. Especially with a busy fandom like Undertale which has only been out for a short time and already has a fanfiction count in the thousands. There is a flood of fiction going on and it is easy to get buried in it.

It's different for a fandom like Swat Kats where new stories are being posted very slowly. A story will stay on the front page for quite a while without the author having to do anything.

So when posting a fic and attempting to make it stand out above the rest, it's really good to know the fandom and how busy it is so you can act accordingly. Me, personally, I can't think of any tips I would consider "dirty" when it comes to promoting your fanfic.

I always post my stories one chapter at a time. This is usually because I post chapters as I finish them. But in actuality, playing the "king of the hill" game is smart. Releasing your story one piece at a time and waiting until the fic is no longer on the first page before releasing another is a good game plan. It keeps your story right in front of the eyes of curious readers. Unfortunately, once the story is over, there's no way to get it back on page one for FF.Net. They don't even have a way to search for fics with the most faves or comments. (They totally should!)

It's not to say that your story can't survive on merit alone. If your story was good and people enjoyed it, they'll add it to their favorites. Looking through people's favorites is a way that myself and other fans try to locate stories. Especially in a busy fandom where there's a ton to wade through. Fans will let other fans filter through the crap fics and then check out people's favorites for the good ones. And in my experience, if your story is good and has something interesting and unique to say, people will keep finding it.

Other things you can do to promote your fic now that it's off the front page:
1-Review other author's fics. Give them a real, intelligent review. Something that makes other people read your comments and want to check out who you are and what you've done.
2- Post it on other fan sites one at a time. And take your time. If you've posted it on FF.Net, let it simmer there for a while. Then post it on another archive like AO3 or message boards.
3- Fanart is a BIG way to advertise your story. If you can't draw, and you are willing to spend money to promote your fic, then commission someone and be smart about which scene from the story you want them to portray. Pick something that will entice people to check out the story when they see the picture.

These were all great questions. I'm actually doing a lecture this year about improving fanfiction quality and readership so these questions were great to help me plan what to talk about. Good luck with promoting your story!
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby Ty-Chou » Fri May 13, 2016 11:41 am

Mikazo wrote:I was quite happy with how it turned out, and I posted it to a couple of sites. Naturally I enjoy having an audience, and I noticed that it got some great exposure at first, since new stories start out at the top of the heap. But then in a matter of just a few days, the viewership began to sink like a rock, and very few people saw it anymore.


Mr. Goodkat wrote:I've experienced something similar when I released War Games on FanFiction.net in November 2015 in order to reach readers which haven't visited swatkats.info. In the first four days I had about 20 readers. After that, the attention faded away rather rapidly such that I had about 40 readers in total that month. In December I didn't even get 5 readers. In January it went up to 9 readers. So I guess this isn't something unusual for a one-shot story.


This is very common. You are never going to get a bigger rush of readership than when you post your story for the first time. When you post it, it's brand-spanking new and, unless the title and teaser are so bad they repel curious readers, they're going to at least check out your first few paragraphs. That's where that rush of numbers comes in.

After perusing your first scene, they will decide if they want to read more or move on. If they decide on the latter, even posting a new chapter won't bring that reader back. They have already decided your story does not interest them. Posting a second chapter isn't going to change their minds. MAYBE down the line, if your story keeps coming up with updates and said reader notices this story is getting a lot of reviews and favorites, they might give it another shot, but that is rare.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. That very first chapter is going to get the most eyes on it. You need to make sure it grips from the beginning so the readers will keep coming back.
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Re: Question for those of you who write

Postby AkaneKitty » Fri May 13, 2016 11:47 am

Adding on to Ty, another thing to remember is to know your audience.

I write romance and like to flesh out character backstories. This typically limits my audience because not everyone likes this or they want a typical SK episode type of fic. Going further, I write the Feral and Callie pairing (also Razor and Felina). This shrinks my potential audience down even more. So I know my audience is narrow in scope.

Would I like to grow my audience and have more looks? Sure. But I always write to what my current audience expects out of me. They know when I being posting something it's going to be something regarding Feral, or Feral and Callie. Or it could Felina and Razor or even my new one of Steele and Ann Gora. My audience enjoys it and I continue trucking along taking their comments regarding my work into consideration.

And sometimes funny things happen. More than once I have gotten people who wouldn't typically read what I've written, or like one of my pairings to say they like the way I did and wrote it. Makes my day. Speaking of which, I need to start back on my own fics...
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