May 4, 2019
Think you’re ready to start your own web fiction series? Make sure you know these four web fiction writing guidelines before you start and save yourself some headaches.
I learned these the hard way by starting a series an realizing that I had serious foundational issues. That story is on hold now, and I plan to go back and fix things before I move any further with my story. But for now, here’s what I’ve learned:
Whether it’s ancient China, Middle Earth, an alternate universe, or Kansas City, you’ll be spending a lot of your time in the world you create, so make sure you like the place.
The same goes for your characters. You might have a hot idea for a certain main lead, but are you certain you’ll be interested in writing about him or her for potentially several years? Is there personality and backstory that will keep you interested enough to watch them evolve as your story progresses?
As an author, you don’t only need to keep your readers interested, you need to keep yourself interested.
One of the biggest pet peeves of any web fiction reader is when the rules change later in the story without rhyme or reason. This might be how the magic works, or someone’s reputation, or even a character’s personalities.
Don’t write yourself into a paradox that you can’t get out of.
Know the rules that govern your world inside out before you start writing. You don’t need to reveal the rules from the get-go (or ever, necessarily), but they need to be set in stone.
For example, if you’re writing a wuxia story and a certain martial arts move took years for a smart and capable character to learn early in the series, it shouldn’t be a cakewalk for some idiot 300 chapters in. Readers will pick up even on small details like this, and it’ll rip the veil of your story’s reality.
No one wants to spend twenty hours reading an epic masterpiece only to find out that you had no idea how to bring it all together in the final act.
Many popular stories have suffered from this. Think of the TV show Lost or some of Stephen King’s novels. Hell, look at George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and even the Game of Thrones TV show.
The reason the midsections of these stories are better than the endings is because they didn’t have an overarching plan going in.
Sure, sometimes the writer(s) get lucky and it all works out in the end, but why take the risk?
This is your baby, you don’t want it to grow up to be a failure.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to know the details of their stories before they write them, you should at least have a direction you want to go in.
Eiichiro Oda’s manga One Piece is a great example of how to do this properly. There is an ending planned, and we, the readers, generally have an idea of what it will be about–Luffy finding the One Piece treasure–but in between Oda can take as many detours as he likes doing story arcs related to the overarching plot or just one-offs.
When he’s good and ready, he can return to an ending that ties everything together.
Writing a web fiction serial is an endurance test.
Worm, arguably the most well-known English web serial, is 1,682,400 words long. That’s roughly equivalent to 25 full-length novels.
If you manage to build up a following, you’ll have meet deadlines and the expectations of excited fans. Don’t promise too much, and don’t overextend yourself.
You’re running a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. So don’t burn your creative juices to the last drop each and every day, save some for the next day and the next.