February 10, 2020
The web fiction space is rapidly expanding. Compiled below are 10 of the best websites to read web novels and fiction online.
I’ve also recommended a web series from each site.
(The list is not in any particular order other than my personal preference.)
Royal Road offers free web fiction uploaded by its community of writers. No need to pay to get access to chapters, although there is a subscription option if you want to remove ads. Easy signup for reading and writing. Several long, ongoing series here that can’t be found elsewhere.
Good for: Entry point into reading and writing web fiction.
Recommended Story: The Wandering Inn (Fantasy)
Owned by a big Chinese corp, webnovel.com offers both English originals and translated Chinese stories and comics. They have a cumbersome power stone and spirit system that ultimately tries to get you to spend money to get access to the latest chapters of their premium stories.
Good for: Translations of popular Chinese web fiction. Reading on your phone through their app.
Recommended Story: Reincarnation of The Strongest Sword God (Video Game, Reincarnation)
Wattpad was the undisputed leader of web fiction for a while. They’re a bit heavier on the teen romance stories. The reading experience can get a bit annoying with ads if you aren’t a paid subscriber.
Good for: Massive library of English web fiction (especially for teens). Reading on your phone through their app.
Recommended Story: Confessions About Colton (Mystery)
Gravity Tales does translations of Chinese and Korean light novels and web fiction, plus it hosts a handful of English originals. A lot of cultivation stuff here.
Good for: Translations of popular Chinese and Korean franchises.
Recommended Story: King of Gods (Martial Arts, Cultivation)
Wuxia World is another hosting and translation site, mostly focused on Chinese xianxia stories, though they do also have a few Korean translations and English originals.
Good for: Translations of popular Chinese xianxia franchises.
Recommended Story: Against the Gods (Fantasy, Action)
Fiction Press is one of the older repositories of web fiction, now running for two decades. The site seems to be a bit less active than some of the others in this list, but some of their long-running entries are still going.
Good for: English fiction and poetry.
Recommended Story: Mother of Learning (Fantasy)
Web Fiction Guide doesn’t actually host web fiction but acts as a directory for authors across the internet. Good spot to find fiction by authors who only host on their own websites. They also run topwebfiction.com, which does a ranking of ongoing series.
Good for: Updates and reviews of original web fiction.
Recommended Story: Worm (Superhero)
Inkitt is actually a boutique publisher, but they also host web fiction. They seem to offer publishing contracts to the popular stories that get submitted to their site. Often it’s an ebook deal published through Amazon Kindle.
Good for: A community of writers that read and review each other’s work.
Recommended Story: Human (Scifi, Romance)
Tapas is a digital publishing company that publishes user-created (and owned) comics and web novels. They are more widely known as a mobile-publishing platform, but they also run a website.
Good for: Reading comics and fiction novels on your phone.
Recommended Story: Immortal Soul (Comedy)
Scribble Hub is a fast-growing site for original web fiction. The stories here are entirely free and they have a setup similar to Royal Road. Quite a bit of harem and fantasy trending here.
Good for: Reading web fiction without ads.
Recommended Story: The Villainess’s Redemption (Fantasy)
If you see a site you think should be on this list, please let me know in the comments below!
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Even a Hero Needs a Vacation Every Now and Then is my web fiction novel.
It tells the story of Archibold Stormblood, the greatest hero in the world of Visseria. He’s spent his 221-year life training and fighting, and now that the Mad King is dead and the Demon Lord is defeated, all he wants is a well-deserved vacation living as a humble tavern keeper and brewmaster in his 19-year-old body.
But despite his best efforts to avoid conflict, trouble keeps finding its way back into his life.
Will Arch be able to hide his true identity as The Stormblood and maintain his peaceful existence running the Tipsy Pelican Tavern with his growing staff of beautiful barmaids? Or will he be sucked into the new troubles brewing around him?
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi, Fantasy, Slice of Life
You can read the story for free here.
November 26, 2019
A few months ago, I started a web novel series. It began just fine. The first seven chapters came easily. But then things started getting more and more difficult. I couldn’t sustain the pace I started with, meanwhile other writers were pushing out new chapters every day.
Eventually, I gave up.
But I learned an important lesson. That style of daily writing and publishing wasn’t for me.
Most web novel writers discover their characters, worlds, and stories as they write. Most don’t outline in advance and they don’t go back to do revisions (partly because they can’t–the story’s already published). Some can pull it off amazingly well, with their stories reading as if they’d spent years perfecting backstories, plots, and subplots.
I can’t. And that’s okay. I just have a different writing process.
Recently I started writing a new series. This one I outlined and revised again and again. It’s turned out well. This is the process that works for me. I like to vomit out a first draft, then go back and edit until it becomes something readable. I now have the first volume finished, it’s like a book… the first I’ve ever written. It feels great and I plan to put it out soon.
But there’s a slight problem. How do I make my process (that takes a couple of months to produce a finished volume) work for web novel writing?
I believe the way to do it is to have chapters written in advance and to do most of the world-building BEFORE publishing anything. I don’t any novels written beyond the first one, but I now have a solid foundation of the world’s history, magic system, geography, and more. (I should probably note here that I’m writing fantasy.)
My hope is I can write the second volume as I’m publishing the first volume. But I might need more time. That’s the thing about my style of writing. I can’t show anything until I’m done revising and making sure everything connects and lines up in the story.
And hopefully that’s okay too. Hopefully my readers will wait for me after they finish the first volume if the second isn’t ready yet.
If I’ve written a worthy story, my guess is that they will.
(Check back soon for my new web novel!)
August 9, 2019
I don’t know what it is about first-person perspective, but it just flows out of me. For the past several days I struggled to write even a thousand words of third-person perspective. Then today, I managed to write 4500 words of first-person.
That’s just crazy.
Part of that might be because I started a new story and a new story is often easier to write. But I think it’s mostly because of the perspective. Apparently, it’s just far easier for me to first-person, and I assume the opposite is true for other writers.
This proves that writing is really about finding the right story and the right voice. For the past three days when I couldn’t produce anything, I was certain I would become a writing failure. Then today, after producing 4500 words, there’s suddenly light at the end of the typewriter. I might be okay at this writing thing after all.
Web novels require a constant and continuous output, so a writer’s daily word count is crucial to their success. I’m starting to think I should have experimented a bit more to see what type of story and what type of narrative would have worked best for me before I began releasing CAPS. I still like the concept of the story, but I’m finding some difficulty in getting through it. The good news is I’m learning to write third-person perspective, which at the end of the day, is the most popular perspective for fiction. On top of that, third-person perspective lets tell multiple perspectives beyond the main character.
Some writers do first-person then switch to third-person, but I’ve always found that very strange. I’ve read a couple of web novels that do this, and I don’t think they work. If I’m reading first person, I want to stick with that character in that perspective to the end. Otherwise, what’s the point?
The other thing I noticed is that when I’m writing third-person, the mental imagery is actually from a third-person perspective. I tend to write my stories as I watch them play out like a movie in my mind. When I write first-person, the mental movie takes place from a first-person point of view. I don’t know what this says about my writing process, but I find it fascinating.
I’m now wondering if my word count will increase for third-person if I can trick myself into seeing my third-person story from a first-person point of view. That would be wacky.
August 1, 2019
This document is purely based on my own observations and what I’ve learned from studying writing–both for web novels and for traditional fiction.
I will update this article with new information as I go. So be sure to bookmark the page.
A dialogue tag is a phrase that attributes a line of dialogue to a speaker.
“Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said.
‘Sam said’ is the dialogue tag. It attributes the dialogue “well, aren’t you cute?” to Sam.
From what I’ve seen, dialogue tags can be broken down to three types:
Tag Type 1: Simple-Attributive.
These are examples of a simple-attributive dialogue tag. The tag does not do anything other than attribute dialogue to a speaker.
I include ‘asked’ here because generally, this tag comes after a question mark, whereby the reader already knows that the speaker is asking a question. The tag itself does not add any information other than who is speaking.
Tag Type 2: Descriptive
Sam said warmly.
These are examples of descriptive dialogue tags. The dialogue tags here serve not only to attribute the dialogue to a speaker but additionally, they describe something. In this case, they describe the way Sam is speaking his or her dialogue.
Type 3: Action-Attributive
“Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam reached down and petted the cat.
The action-attributive dialogue tag isn’t usually considered dialogue tag, but it does in fact also attribute dialogue to a speaker. By putting Sam’s action in the same line as the dialogue, conventional writing rules tell us that this dialogue belongs to Sam.
Tag Type 1: Simple-Attributive
1. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said.
2. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb. “Dialogue.”
Example: “Well,” Sam said. “Aren’t you cute?”
3. Speaker speech-verb.
Example: Sam said, “Well, aren’t you cute?”
The three examples above show how dialogue and dialogue tags can be ordered. You can also do this for all the following examples as well. So to keep things short, I will not include changes in order below.
Tag Type 2: Descriptive
4. “Dialogue,” speaker rare-speech-verb.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam purred.
5. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb adverb.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said sweetly.
6. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb + description.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said in a sweet tone.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said with violent joy exuding from the deepest reaches of her shining heart.
The possible examples for this one are endless. You get the point.
Tag Type 3: Action-Attributive
7. Action. “Dialogue.”
Example: Sam reached down and petted the cat. “Well, aren’t you cute?”
As mentioned earlier, you can break up dialogue with action as well.
The examples below combine the attributes of the dialogue tags types above.
8. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb, -ing action-verb.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said, petting the cat.
9. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb and action.
Example: “Well, aren’t you cute?” Sam said and petted the cat.
This one above is quite simple, but I don’t think it gets used enough, so I’ve included it here.
10. “Dialogue,” speaker speech-verb + description. “Dialogue.” Action. “Dialogue.”
Example: “Well,” Sam said with a smile forming at the corner of her lips. “Aren’t you a cutie?” She leaned down and ran her fingers across the cat’s back. “Yes, you are.”
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The examples above are typically found in traditional fiction writing. Web novel writing in English should look no different. Unless you are translating a foreign web novel that uses different conventions (see Japanese square brackets), it is best to stick to the conventional rules of dialogue formatting in English.
The only significant difference is that web novel writing might feature shorter descriptions and action lines due to their faster pacing. Even in this event, the formatting for web novel dialogue is the same.
July 24, 2019
I haven’t watched an anime that has put me on the edge of my seat like Attack On Titan Season 3 Part 2 has in years. This is some peak Game of Thrones-equivalent writing. There were moments where I literally thought Oh wow, my heart is POUNDING.
As a web novel writer, I’ve read countless books on plotting, character creation, and narrative structure. I’m still by no means an expert, but what has happened is that whenever I consume fiction, there’s a piece of my brain that is constantly viewing it from a “creator’s” angle. I’m guessing what happens next not based on the world or the story but based on “what techniques and formulas will the author use to make a good story.”
Sometimes I’m right about my guesses and sometimes I’m wrong. The point is, there’s always a part of me that isn’t entirely engaged–a piece that’s experiencing the story while being aware that it is just a story. It’s an unfortunate cost to anyone who makes a hobby into a profession. Comedians go through the same thing. They often hear a joke and instead of laughing, they’ll think “Ah, you used this method to create the humor in that joke.”
But then, every now and then, something comes along that totally sucks me in. Attack On Titan Season 3 completely transported me. I forgot where I was and what I was doing. It had my full attention and focus, and I was dying to find out what happened next. I felt a full range of emotions as conflicts played out on screen. It completely blew my mind.
That, ladies and gentleman, is what great storytelling is all about.
But now that I have finished the season, I’d like to break down a few reasons for why Attack on Titan is so captivating.
Like Game of Thrones, viewers are completely aware of and believe in the stakes of the story. These primarily include the end of humanity and the death of characters we love. The latter of these is the most important.
Too often in high concept stories, the stakes are only “the end of humanity.” That’s extremely intangible and also unbelievable.
If humanity does end, the story is over. But if a character we love dies, we have to live with it and we have to watch the surviving characters live with it. That matters. More importantly, it makes us feel real emotions.
Another pitfall of high concept stories built around secrets is that often it feels like the secrets are made up as the story progresses (see Lost). But with Attack on Titan, you know you are in good hands.
As details of the mysterious history of the world unfold, we find ourselves deeper and deeper in a rabbit hole built on excellent worldbuilding. Things that were strange in the beginning are starting to make sense.
The picture that is forming before our eyes is being put together by perfectly shaped puzzle pieces. Anyone can make up weird happenings. It takes a real genius to explain them in a way that works in the world they’ve created.
Even the villains. Especially the villains. We feel empathy for their perspectives and motivations, yet we still hate them as they kill and harm the characters we love.
There are no simple characters. Each is unique and real. Because of this, no character feels like they were created to serve a tool to forward the plot. Rather, they each could be the main character of their own stories. That is an incredible feat.
* * *
I have nothing but envy and love for Attack on Titan’s creator, Hajime Isayama. The man is a storytelling god.
Oh, and I should mention it has some of the best animation of this decade.
So if you haven’t seen Attack on Titan yet or the latest season, go check it out, and for several moments, you’ll forget that you weren’t born behind a wall.
May 22, 2019
Some years ago, I read the first two books of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. I never picked up the third book. I can’t remember why, but I likely started a new genre binge and put aside fantasy for a while.
Recently I was trying to think of authors with good, easy-to-read prose, and Abercrombie’s name popped in my head.
He is known for being strong with grit and violence in his writing, and I remember enjoying reading his first two books, so I decided to go back and finish the series.
As I was reading The Last Argument of Kings, the third and final book in the trilogy (there are a few other standalone novels in the series), I noticed that Abercrombie does a particularly good job at starting his chapters. In some he starts with a character action. In others, he starts with dialogue or description. In one, the chapter starts with a letter. Below are excerpts from the openings of five different chapters, showing the different ways Joe Abercrombie starts his chapters.
Spoilers note: Although this is the final novel in the series, there are only some very minor spoilers contained below. However, you’ll likely get a bit more out of it if you’ve read the book.
“Cold night!” shouted the Dogman. “Thought it was meant to be summer!”
The three of ‘em looked up. The nearest was an old man with grey hair and a face looked like it had seen some weather. Just past him was a younger man, missing his left arm above the elbow. The third was no more’n a boy, stood down the end of the quay and frowning out at the dark see.
Dogman faked a nasty limp as he walked over, dragging one leg behind him and wincing like he was in pain. He shuffled under the lamp, dangling on its high pole with the warning bell beside it, and held up the jar so they could all see.
The rest of this chapter involves Dogman and his crew killing the sentries and infiltrating a castle. The scene uses a dialogue start, beginning halfway into the operation with Dogman posing as an injured man.
The great moat had been drained early in the siege, leaving behind a wide ditch full of black mud. At the far end of the bridge across it four soldiers worked by a cart, dragging corpses to the bank and rolling them flopping down to the bottom. The corpses of the last defenders, gashed and burned, splattered with blood and dirt. Wild men, from past the River Crinna far to the east, tangle-haired and bearded. Their limp bodies seemed pitifully withered after three months sealed up behind the walls of Dunbree, pitifully starved. Scarcely human. It was hard for Wests to take much joy in the victory over such sorry creatures as these.
This chapter starts with the description of the end of a siege and the sorry dead of the losing side. The end of the paragraph shows us that this is West’s POV.
This chapter catches us up with the war (its difficulties) and the next plan of action as well as the conflict between Burr’s generals.
Ferro stalked around the room and scowled. She poured her scorn out into the sweet-smelling air, onto the rustling hangings, over the great windows and the high balcony beyond them. She sneered at the dark pictures of fat pale kings, at the shining furniture scattered about the wide floor. She hated this place, with its soft beds and its soft people. She infinitely preferred the sun and the thirst of the Badlands of Katnta. Life there was hard, and hot, and brief.
But at least it was honest.
Abercrombie starts with an action. Ferro scorns her new comfortable digs, revealing her character and her future trajectory.
Uffrith didn’t look much like it used to. Of course, the last time Logen had seen the place had been years ago, at night, after the siege. Crowds of Bethel’s Carls wandering the streets—shouting, and singing, and drinking. Looking for folk to rob and rape, setting fire to anything that would hold a flame. Logen remembered lying in that room after he’d beaten Threetrees, crying and gurgling at the pain all through him. He remembered scowling out the window and seeing the flow from the flames, listening to the screams over the town, wishing he was out there making mischief and wondering if he’d ever stand up again.
The first sentence is an opinion. The second sentence tells us who’s opinion it is and Logen’s backstory—what it was like the last time he was in Uffrith.
Though I believe that we have never been formally introduced, I have heard your name mentioned often these past few weeks. Without causing offense, I hope, it seems as if every room I enter you have recently left, or due soon to arrive in, and every negotiation I undertake is made more complicated by your involvement.
Abercrombie begins with a letter that Glokta receives. The next part is Glokta standing in the meeting spot–an immediate skip to the natural conclusion of Glokta receiving an invitation to meet.
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.