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Thoughts: A Reflection on growth over two years.

June 26, 2013

Worm commenter Hobbes just commented on Hive 5.10 (Post made on December 7th, 2011):

[…]

This chapter is also a milestone on a metafictional level. […] Wildbow, you mention that the average length of a chapter is around 1800-2800 words. Compare that to Interlude 24, which is many times the length. It’s also, I think, better quality. You also talk a lot less about your writing process now than you did here. It seems like putting out content is less of an ordeal now, or at least more mundane.

I don’t know how often you reflect on how far you’ve progressed as a writer, but, if I may be so bold, now might be a good time to take a moment.

The length of a Worm chapter, as of the time of this writing, ranges from 6k to 10k words. For comparison, a shortish (240 page) novel is about 60,000 words.  At 2.6 chapters a week, I’m just about writing a book every month.  A monthly NaNoWriMo, for those familiar with the event.

When I started, I was looking at the other web serials out there, I checked the average word count and then tried to fit myself to it.  I was probably doing myself more harm than good.  To fit those wordcounts, I had to force the cliffhangers, I had to twist my own arm to make the chapter end at the ‘appropriate’ times.

Having longer chapters takes time, but it also gives me elbow room for plot twists, characterization, themes and atmosphere.  It’s less confining.  Some of that stuff comes much more naturally to me now than it did.  It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to get chapters done now, but I’m a hell of a lot happier with what I’m producing, and a hell of a lot happier with where I’m at as a whole.

The key thing at the heart of that?  The underlying paradigm has changed.

Here’s the thing – in December 2011, I was in school.  Still in school, I should say.  I was pretty miserable, to put it lightly.  I had zero idea where I wanted to go in life, I hadn’t found the passion that my dad (founder of a small business), mom (speech and listening therapist) and brother (human rights advocate, now aspiring lawyer and a father/homeowner) have found.  It’s a hard thing, to be surrounded by people who want me to have what they have, and I’d been looking fruitlessly for years, trying different courses for years in hopes of finding that one vocation that spoke to me.  I’d found what interested me (Applied Language and Discourse Studies), but I couldn’t even conceive myself working a nine-to-five at any particular job, whether it was in that field or otherwise.

My writing, at that point, was little more than an experiment.  Worm was a way to break a bad habit in my writing, where I’d keep going back to revise something until I burned out on it.  The idea was for the serial/blog format to keep me moving forward, my expectation was for a small audience, 15-20 comments on a chapter was a good day.  At the time, I was only getting about 200 daily views on average, a far cry from where I am now:

Monthly Views JuneClick me for better resolution.

My goal, then, was a simple one.  I thought maybe I’d work a dead-end job I was miserable at, and maybe I’d have the time to do the things I enjoyed on the side.  It meant I’d work full time at being a filing clerk or janitor or stockboy or housepainter, and then go home to play video games and write.  Except I wasn’t even there, because finding a job was proving fruitless.

But I had a talk with my dad on New Years.  A great talk.  He’s often raised the idea of finding the kind of career in something you’d be doing for free anyways.  That night, we talked about it from a different angle.  What would I get paid for, if I could get paid to do something I enjoy?

“Writing,” I eventually answered.

My follow-up protest, then, was about the fact that the bar was set so high.  Only 1% of people who write books really ‘make it’.  It’s very similar for artists, for actors, for musicians.

He asked me, if I’m recalling correctly, “So?”

It was a good talk, covering that and a lot of other points, including school.  It wasn’t the easiest talk, probably not for either of us, but it meant the world to me.  Still does.

And the end result was that I threw myself into the writing.  Once I got my feet under me, I steadily raised my expectations for myself, started paying more attention to the core of the story, reading about writing, and more.

I started to write as though I already had that full-time job as a writer.

A few months after that discussion with my dad, I set a minimum of 4k words for my chapters.  I also set up the donation meter, which has been my primary source of income.

My fundamental beliefs haven’t changed, as far as writing.  I still like being surprised by the work.  To have that moment in the midst of writing a sentence where you get an idea you’d never have had if your fingers weren’t at the keyboard, pen on the page.  A character concept, a turn of phrase, a brilliant maneuver.  Approaching the end, I know what happens, but I don’t know how the protagonist will get out of it.

If anything’s changed, really, it’s my focus as a writer, my expectations of myself.

I note, in the comments of Hive 5.10, that I was considering a vanity publisher like Lulu.com.  I realized vanity publishers were something of a rip-off.  A little while after that, I thought about a small publisher like 1889 labs instead.  Good guys, they did Jim Zoeteway’s Legion of Nothing book(s).

Except now I’m thinking more about going a harder road, with higher expectations.  I’m aware that Captive Prince, another popular and well reviewed serial, was approached and acquired by Penguin Books, and have wondered if there are publishers lurking in the wings and waiting for Worm to conclude before they decide if they want to do the same.  A reader (who has sponsored a short story anthology before) has talked about donating the money needed for a print run of the series.

Will I stake my hopes and dreams on those possibilities?  No.  Would I snap up those deals in a heartbeat?  Even then, probably not.  I’d have to give it some thought, and be very careful.

It’d be nice, though.

The thing is, I’m confident enough that I think I could manage on my own, that I might get something off the ground with the money I’ve earned from donations (even if it means postponing moving to a quieter, more comfortable spot), even try a kickstarter (or, more likely, a series of kickstarters) to make the print run happen.  It’s expensive, even mind boggling, but the confidence is there.

That’s the big stuff.  Spooky stuff in terms of scope and all that.

Setting expectations lower, maybe I just end up releasing an ebook and it barely sells, but I can continue writing and hopefully drawing in enough donations to keep writing.

On a simpler level, I’m clearing my schedule two or three times a week, sitting down for 12-14 hour days and plugging away at a keyboard to produce a series of chapters that are 6-10k words long.  There’s ups and downs, I have good days and bad, some chapters need revising, but I’m slowly inching towards that end goal – to make a (very) modest living off the writing alone.

I think I’m already at a point above the average self-published author.  The average earning for an author on a 60-130k word book is about $500.  Yes.  I’m writing about 50k words every month, and I’m making more than that.  My readers make that possible, and I’m insanely, incredibly grateful.  I hope I never lose that gratitude, lose sight of the fact that my readers make it possible.  Just the other day, someone who’d posted in a forum to recommend Worm to people (drawing in 20+ people to check out the story) was thanking me for poking my head in to comment and answer questions.

It’s like, are you crazy?  I owe you guys.

That confidence, as anyone who chats with me in the minutes before a chapter goes live knows, isn’t universal.  I’ve lost objectivity, over time.  It’s harder to gauge the quality of my own work or the audience expectation, now.  The work is bigger, the range of opinions broader, the material is rooted in more previous stuff.  Every arc, it seems, I get a small handful of readers who decide that that chapter with dialogue is the straw that broke the camel’s back in a story they view as having too much dialogue.  That chapter is just too much action when the story should be moving forward.  Most often, that chapter is the breaking point in terms of the story and the setting getting too dark.  They announce their dissatisfaction and walk away.

Maybe the story got just a little too long for its own good.  A smaller work, it ends before people reach their limit in any department.  I like that Worm sprawls.  But long works have their issues, like a protagonist that looks like she has plot armor, because the fact that she’s alive when she’s faced so many difficulties strains belief, just a little.

Logically?  I know I’ve built something, and it would take something more dramatic to destroy it.  But I spent a long, long time with very little confidence in myself, and I can’t help but feel that I’m sitting on a soap bubble.  Is this chapter the one that has my audience realize I’m nothing special?  Is this where my audience disappears on me?

So I sort of bite my nails, in a way, any time a chapter goes live.  Every word of praise, every review and donation and mention on another site rebuilds that confidence I’ve so masterfully reduced to shreds in the 45 minutes between the point I finish proofreading and the point the readers first comment.

A running theme in Worm is that the sheer power that superpowers bring to the world has made the brights brighter and the darks darker.  I kind of feel like that, now.  Big scale or small, and it’s only going to get more dramatic: I’m on the precipice of entering the story’s conclusion, with chapters I’ve been nervous about releasing since 2011.  There’s a billion loose ends to tie up, and it’s daunting, as I’m on the precipice of finishing Worm and seeing if the story passes muster.  That’s without even touching on the subject of starting the next series and facing all of the doubts and concerns and more that come with releasing a new chapter, magnified a thousand times over.

The peaks are higher, the valleys lower, the lights are brighter, the shadows deeper.  I’m terrified and excited and hopeful and pessimistic all at once.  But I feel alive, and this little experiment/troubleshooting exercise has become something I’m definitely passionate about.

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From → T01, Thoughts

33 Comments
  1. Okay. Objectivity based on fan reactions.
    Remember, there’s always going to be people fawning over every syllable you give them and wanting to have your babies.
    Remember, there’s always going to be people who’re ticked about SOMETHING you’ve done and who will walk away.
    Remember, there’s always going to be a lot of people somewhere (sometimes in multiple places at the same time) along the sliding scale between those two extremes.

    Take ALL of that with a grain of salt.
    Keep this firmly in mind. Your objective is to tell a good story in a competent fashion, and get paid for doing what you like.

    Basically the only REAL fault your writing has at this point is that there’s no 3rd party editor to give you the once (or thrice) over and give you ideas on where you can tighten things up and make the story flow more smoothly.

    But, right now, you’re publishing for free as a web serial. So that’s not a horrific drawback. Especially for voracious readers, like myself.

    One other thing that will help you over time (if you’re not actually doing it already). Write EVERY day. You note you’re sitting down 2-3 days a week and knocking out stuff in a 10-14 hour session. That’s admirable, but it can also be exhausting and lead to writing fatigue.

    Writing (at least a bit) every day allows you to spread the work load around so you’re not quite so under the gun. You can finish your work in a more even manner. This won’t always reduce your one-time workloads though. Every so often, the little imp of inspiration will hit you and you’ll wind up coming up with a better or more novel approach, and wind up burning some of your older work.

    Also, doing a bit of writing every day allows you to work ahead as well. If you’re just not “feeling” Chapter 25 at the moment, but you have a few ideas for Chapter 26 or 27, you can get some preliminary writing down without busting your skull on something that isn’t working for you at the moment. Later on, this becomes useful when/if you’re working on multiple projects at once.

    Anyhoo, enough with the advice.

    Keep going man. Writing isn’t the easiest profession to break into (and you DO have to break in). But you’ve already got your foot in the door (and are wearing nice strong shoes so they can’t squish it).

    • Thank you, Charles.

      I do write every day, but I find that I get the most consistent results and uninterrupted flow by writing in one good, long sitting.

      I’ve always been sort of the type to do well with intense binges of work followed by distinct breaks. A day on, a day off. Rinse, repeat.

      I don’t think I’m close to burning out, but I do think that I’d be a happier person if I was doing one bonus interlude every other week, instead of two out of three weeks. I’ll get there, working through the backlog.

      • Authy_Silverfur permalink

        I love every syllable you give us and I want to have your babies!

  2. Rika Covenant permalink

    “Is this chapter the one that has my audience realize I’m nothing special?”

    I’ve only been reading Worm… What has it been now, four months? You’ve talked, shared jokes, played games, etc. on IRC et al. with myself and many others of your fanbase, and I have to say this: For the above statement to have any grounding in fact, you would have to not be special in the first place. And you definitely are. You have a knack for writing that borders on the insane, not just in the volume of content but the sheer characterization you poor into even bit characters- To where someone who has been mentioned in a single scene and dismissed quickly in-universe is the subject to massive amounts of speculation and checking through previoous chapters by the community as a whole to see if there were little nods to a character or situation existing beforehand that weren’t noticed but hindsight brings them to the fore.

    (here are two spoilers for anyone reading Worm for the first time, so I”m ROT13ing it. Read at your own risk.) Gur ovttrfg fvghngvba gung pbzrf gb zvaq vf jura Gnggyrgnyr xrcg tbvat bss ba ure bja guebhtubhg gur fgbel, znxvat ure frrz yvxr fur’f abg dhvgr 100% jvgu gur grnz, ohg vg gheaf bhg gung fur unf va snpg orra znfgrezvaqvat n cyna gb hfhec gur ybpny pevzr ybeq xabja nf Pbvy, sebz npprffvat n uvqqra erfreir bs pnfu ivn n onax znantre’f bssvpr qhevat n urvfg guebhtu gb frireny bgure fvghngvbaf. Gur ovttrfg punenpgre pnyyonpx gung cbcf vagb zvaq vf gur pnyy onpx bs… jung jnf vg, 16 puncgref? jurer lbh zragvba Tert va bar bs gur rneyl puncgref juvyr Gnlybe vf fgvyy va fpubby…. Naq ur orpbzrf na npghny vagregjvarq pnhfr naq rssrpg cyngsbez zhpu yngre va gur frevrf gung bhgf Gnlybe nf n fhcreivyynvarff.

    All these little details that you’ve written are amazing worldbuilding that goes on even as you write book after book’s worth of material on a consistant schedule day and night, rain or shine, sick or healthy. You’ve given a new breath to a fading genre, revitalizing tired concepts and turning them on their head- or their side, as the case may be. Subversions, inversions, and straight tropes alike all mingle in your epic saga- and I make no mistake here stating this; you ARE special, to each and every one of us who reads Worm.

    • Thank you Rika.

      I should stress I’m not fishing for compliments (though they’re appreciated nonetheless) – nor am I doom and gloom. Despite the acknowledgement of the less fantastic moments and the stresses and anxieties, I’m happy with where I’m at and happy with where I’m going.

      Though hearing you talk about me like I’m that special makes me feel like I’m riding the soap bubble again, haha.

      But thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying, and I hope you’ll be with me/us through the next book.

      • Rika Covenant permalink

        Not expecting you to be fishing for compliments, but you deserve them. There’s no soap bubble there, either, so stop feeling that way! Just because you’re special doesn’t mean that you’re infallible. you’ve had your ups, you’ve had your downs, but through it all you’ve remained true to your goal and have written an amazing volume of quality work. That IS something special that deserves recognition.

  3. notes permalink

    There’s never a point where you’re going to be done getting better (death probably excepted), but Hobbes is right – there’s a very noticeable change between then and now. What you’re doing is working on several levels, and I’ll be quite interested to see what happens when you wrap up Worm – what happens to Worm, what you do next, where things go from here.

    You do something very different than what I do – but that repeated experience of existential terror (is this the day that the world stops playing along with my delusion that I’m actually doing something?) isn’t different. Two things I believe about that repeated process: one, it never goes away. Two, that kind of repeated intense stress gradually desensitizes you over time. Things – in your work and in your life – that once evoked terror will later merely evoke notice. Usually because there’s something bigger to be terrified about, which helps disguise the gradual progress.

    Sometimes this gets called confidence.

    Very long run? Brevity is its own art. Several of those I’ve recommended Worm to have simply bounced off the prospect of reading that many words. Cramming more meaning into less words is a valuable skill. (Not my own specialty, obviously).

    Else – living in gratitude, like living in joy, is a very good way to stay sane.

    • “Something bigger to be terrified about.”

      Too true.

      I do agree that what I’m doing seems to be working. As a whole, people seem to be happy. I’m happy. The daunting stuff in the future is stuff I’ll figure out. Burn that bridge when I come to it.

      On brevity – I do agree. Something I need to work on (though I’m trying to keep arcs tighter, shorter and more focused, and I think it’s a little better than some in the middle, like the S9 arcs and the Echidna arcs, which maybe pushed people a step too far).

      • Rika Covenant permalink

        I hope you never do away with your prosaicness. I much prefer it to someone who is brief and succinct when it comes to stories. the little bits and pieces that really grow the world as an organic whole are those things that all too sadly often are cut for the sake of brevity.

        In short, Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan et al. > Vance, Ballard, Haldeman et al. That doesn’t mean be overly flowery; I don’t think many truly enjoy reading purple prose, after all- but don’t try to make your writing style more terse for terseness’ sake.

      • bloodposeidon permalink

        if you take away the gore and blood aka the life of Worm I would not have read Worm. your writing is NOT offensive what you write seems alive because bad sheet stains happen in real life. I was even more hooked when Taylor gouged out an eye and S9/Echidna were really GREAT arcs if you want happy non violent people to read your work then write about love, joy, and all things happy but u can count on me not being an avid fan of that. right now a lot of people are watching The Walking Dead can you tell me why? most people love reading or watching gory, bloody fighting that’s why. so please don’t feel ashamed or regret writing any of Worm. if fans left then they weren’t really your fans to begin with and your step to far made me a very devoted fan if you consider S9/Echidna your step to far

  4. Fake Name permalink

    >Every arc, it seems, I get a small handful of readers who decide that that chapter with dialogue is the straw that broke the camel’s back in a story they view as having too much dialogue. That chapter is just too much action when the story should be moving forward. Most often, that chapter is the breaking point in terms of the story and the setting getting too dark. They announce their dissatisfaction and walk away.

    Do people really complain about “too much dialogue”? I haven’t been reading all the comments lately, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention that.

    I definitely get the “too dark” comments, but I want to point out that a lot of those people (like Anzer’ke, for example) are still reading.

  5. notes permalink

    Agree with Rika that there’s a market for epic – I’m an enthusiastic part of it. Agree also with her that your goal is to be a better Wildbow, rather than a worse someone else.

    Do think that brevity is a valuable skill, not least because being brief HERE makes it easier to go in depth THERE.

  6. Great Greedy Guts permalink

    Not trying to flatter you when I say this, these are the hard facts.

    Yours is a story I recommend (or have recommended) to most everyone I know in real life, at least once. When people ask me about my favourite authors, yours is a name that springs to mind pretty prominently. I am 70% sure that when Worm is done (and edited), it will be one of, if not THE, best books I’ve read. That might not seem like a huge numer (100% or 99% or whatnot) but it really, really is.

    Your work serves as an inspiration. I’ve loved the serial format for… a long time, but never thought I could do it. I didn’t think I could make it as an author. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Worm has provided me with a huge impetus to try. As you put it so well, to just live as though I was, and let reality catch up.

    On the brevity versus… expoundedness(?) angle: you’re getting better. The last arcs and chapters have been markedly better than the beginning, or when I first caught up (the S9 arc). You KEEP GETTING better, too, and it’s REALLY visible. The last few chapters you’ve produced have been so much more effectively plotted and paced that I don’t know what else to say about them beyond that.

    Thank you so much for everything.

    • Rika Covenant permalink

      Prosaic, is the term you were looking for I think.

      • Kniffler permalink

        No, it isn’t. “Prosaic” means unpoetic. “Prolixity” might be the word you’re thinking of, although Worm isn’t prolix so much as protracted.

  7. WyldCard4 permalink

    Hm…

    Very inspiring, seriously. This is actually making me feel better about my own writing.

    Now, wildbow, you are good at this. I think I did say that Worm was one of the best stories I read in the past year when I first reviewed it, and I stand by that.

    Now, Worm is not perfect. You should not get cocky. Your humility is really, really good, and I think it is probably one of the reasons you’re writing is as good as it is. That level of not being quite comfortable with yourself is something you should nurture. A LOT of great writers tend to decay in different ways over time. This is kind of the opposite of a criticism, but I’m not sure how communicating “your concerns about yourself make you better” can look good.

    I look forward to the Worm updates almost every day, practically setting my calender by it. This is one of the works I’ve been consistently following for the longest time. I care about Worm and I am impressed by Worm. I archive binged Worm and have stayed almost entirely up to date ever since with only a short break after the rollercoaster of the Noelle arcs.

    This is an incredibly long story. I like it as an epic. I think that a lot of media works on attachment more than quality, getting comfortable with the characters and having an easy time stepping into the right atmosphere and mood. That’s probably why fanfic works so well. I am interested in what you could do if you actually wrote a new novel a month rather than kept writing the same novel.

    Hm, this seems a bit disorganized. I guess good luck is the best thing to say. Good luck, wildbow, keep up the good work.

  8. Someguy permalink

    I’ve always wondered if anyone could write a story that completely screws over the Comics Code Authority:-

    -Crimes will always be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice & to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

    -If crime is depicted it shall be as a fun and pleasant activity.

    -Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall always be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

    -Criminals will be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.

    -In every instance good where triumph over evil and the criminal “punished” for his/her misdeeds, the criminal must also profit in other ways or get away scott free in ways that humiliates/uses authority.

    -Scenes of excessive violence shall be encouraged. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and necessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be glorified and enshrined to thrill the audiance.

    -No comic magazine shall use the words “horror” or “terror” in its title. The words “real” & “based on real life stories” will be encouraged.

    -All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall be graphically illustrated.

    -All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be coloured and autographed.

    -Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue of Black and Gray Morality and in all cases evil must be presented alluringly and to to injure the sensibilities of “Moral Guardians” & Religious Fundamentalists.

    -Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are encouraged unless they are “sparkly”, in which the characters must suffer agonising torture and be unable to “die”.

    -Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are celebrated.

    -Nudity & indecent or undue exposure is to be presented sexily to encourage reader masterbation. Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive postures are to be published as centerfold pin-ups.

    -Females shall be drawn unrealistically with exaggeration of all physical & sexual qualities.

    -Illicit sexual relations are not to be hinted at but graphically portrayed.

    -Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are acceptable.

    -Seduction and rape will always be shown or suggested.

    -Sexual perversion or any inference to the same is strictly to be presented tastefully unless it involves scat which would then be impossible.

    -Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures must be in the advertising of any product; clothed figures will be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to “Moral Guardians” & Religious Fundamentalists.

  9. DasNiveau permalink

    On that thought … when you publish Worm on paper, make shure it’s available in Germany.

  10. kylind permalink

    It’s probably inevitable, just like you said, that you’re going to get more criticism with more readers. People that are satisfied with a new chapter are unlikely to comment each time (apart from the biggest fans), but people that are unsatisfied with something, will comment.

    Your output is really impressive, especially since it’s of a pretty high quality. If I could recommend one thing for your future works, it would probably be an editor. Or at least just someone to double-check your work before it is released. You might have to start writing an Arc in advance instead of releasing every chapter as soon as it’s written to give them enough time.
    You’d lose some responsiveness compared to now, but I think it would create much ‘tighter’ arcs if you finish one before releasing it.
    For a superhero setting, there’s very little fridge logic occurring, which is impressive. But it could be reduced even further by having an editor read it and say stuff like “Why isn’t character X doing action Y in this situation?”. With such a huge cast of characters and diverse range of powers, it’s hard to always factor everyone in.

    On the other hand, if you need that pressure of writing a chapter immediately before it goes live to keep up the amount of writing you do, disregard that. 😉

  11. Bester permalink

    Let me just call a spade a spade here. There are a handful of authors that I can start to read with complete confidence that I’m going to be happy and impressed after reading. David Weber, James Galloway (Fel, of Sennadar fame), and the like. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll get a few pages into their newest book/chapter/post and start to feel like I need to force myself through reading the rest. They consistently hit the right notes (whatever notes those are) over and over and over without exception. You are on that short list.

    While I agree with you that vanity publishing isn’t going to get you anywhere worthwhile (though E-Book publishing is looking more and more like a viable avenue), I fully expect the day to come when I’m reading your published books. I will be buying them, there is no doubt on that point.

    That isn’t because there aren’t occasional chapters that sting and are hard to read (for various reasons); if anything it is because those authors have a way of pulling me in and making me care about their characters/universes when the going gets hard. That is a rare gift, and even if there are occasional flubs with bad chapters (not that there have been yet) they are meaningless in the scope of things, and I’m unlikely to remember them when thinking of that author or story.

    I don’t say any of this to flatter you, and to be honest I’m fairly shocked that you aren’t confident to be unfazed. I can’t tell you how to feel, but you have a gift and those that don’t appreciate it should be ignored. At the end of the day the story is about the author’s vision; and while authors shouldn’t be completely isolated from their readers’ opinions it is the author’s vision that should be followed.

    You have a huge talent, and I’m glad that you have decided to take the path of the writer. I’m looking forward to reading your stories for many years to come, and will gladly pay my piece to help you do that.

  12. You are surprisingly consistent in quality and approach. I’m even more impressed reading this entry. Be patient with yourself.

  13. BTW, another writer’s blog entry on writing and novels. http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=19998

  14. endochrom permalink

    What I’m about to write might sound like flattery. It might sound like the ramblings of sycophant. It will probably just sound kinda mushy and fake. I’m not being fake though (although mushy is accurate).

    Reading what you have written here frankly amazes me. I’m still in college and I hope that one day I’ll have a quarter of the passion and dedication that you do. Worm has quickly become one of my favourite stories, even in its non-completed state. I love being able to check, 2 or 3 times a week to find a massive update waiting. It helps me measure the passing of days and is one of the highlights of my week. I almost found myself reconsidering taking a certain class so that I could keep my 2 o’clock’s free to read Worm as it came out (sorry but the class won). Reading a story like Worm is an amazingly uplifting experience for me. I wouldn’t call it ‘spiritual ecstasy’, but I’ll say this – I find Worm and the dedication which you put into it to be one of the most consistent inspirations to me since I began reading the story. Whenever I feel as though something is too much effort, or too difficult I remind myself that you are churning out a novel a month for an uncertain, small audience.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t think Worm is perfect. I think it is a damn fine story that has the problems many stories do in their early stages. But this doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of it one whit. Personally I love the efforts of characterisation and the pains you take to make your world varied and believable (within its own rules). I’m not a fan of the pacing or of the sometimes absent characters who you have built up to be so interesting. But these aren’t necessarily flaws within the story. Just things I don’t like. It seems as though you are always a little worried about the reception you’ll receive. People’s opinions scare the shit out of me too. But I truly adore your story.

    You say that you are passionate and I truly believe that. I suppose what I’m really trying to say is this;

    Thank-you.

  15. I’m very much enjoying to read Worm.

    Your story is great fun, very creative and brimming with new ideas. Very hard to put down.

    The world of Worm reminds me somewhat of the excellent “Top 10” series written by Alan Moore. If anything, I prefer the darker mood of Worm.

    I wish you continued success!

    Seeing that Worm is the most popular web serial, I suggest that you could easily kick-start and self-publish your series when it’s completed.

    Please consider a $5,000,000 stretch goal so that Worm can be lavishly illustrated by the best artists and published as a whole shelf of graphic novels (without trimming the text). Who will you choose to direct the movies? 🙂

    • That last sentence “Who will you choose to direct the movies?” is the absolute truth, I would love to see Worm as a long epic superhero movie series (ala the Avengers, which has shown that a braided comic adaptation can be successful).
      I’m not a critic, I’m not a trained reviewer, I’m not an English professor, I’m just a guy that likes to read and likes to read a lot in a lot of varied universes\genres and Worm is a good read plain and simple. I’d rank it at about the same level as Briam Lumley’s Necroscope\Vampire World novels as far as immersion and enjoyment, it’s not quite mainstream enough to be Steven King 🙂 But the writing\character development\action is of a consistent high quality which does put me in mind of the above authors.

  16. tsevenhuysen permalink

    You’re living a dream in a lot of ways, Wildbow, and it’s great that you’re able to step back and identify/recognize the challenges you’re facing and the little mental hang-ups that come with being a writer and allowing other people to read your creations.

    Carry on! You’re doing great work.

  17. I like that Worm sprawls, too.

    Hg

  18. bloodposeidon permalink

    if I was you I would leave Worm as is for at least a year and if u don’t have offers then there is a lot of dumb publishers out there. or u could set up a website were u offer to make a book and if u get 3000 orders of your book at 60$ a hardcover with an amazing picture on the front not just a wrap around paper I meant like an engraving on the cardboard on the outside type picture with green looking gold making most of the picture. that will be $180,000 you will know you will get up front so make sure u talk to publishers. they’ll try to sign you on as only getting 10% and they will cover the costs and stuff but if you do it yourself you will probably make a lot more. it will be a lot harder though. business sucks lol. I wouldn’t know the printing costs or the shipping costs but it couldn’t be more than $60000 but I am just guessing. I will buy Worm in a hardcover for $60.

    now the thing is if you try to publish Worm it will take a lot of your time and you will lose some fans that u got now wanting another online serial and if it was me I would choose writing the a second online serial while asking for help to get worm in better shape and finding out what the costs of getting it printed and stuff will cost because u are not alone and offering a free autographed book to fans will help you get u more fans in the long run. if u read this and want more opinions from me please email me. I think a lot and unfortunately I have no clue what I want to do with life but I will gladly offer u my opinions because Worm is awesome and fantastic and I am a very big fan probably not number one though.

  19. seez permalink

    I can say, after extensive hesitation, reflection, and eventually happy certainty, that Worm is one of the best stories I have ever read. Reading it made me happy during a dark place in my life. It made me want to write again, and I found renewed appreciation of the power of human creativity where it had faded. If all you ever wrote was Worm, I think that would be enough that you should be considered a great writer. Nonetheless, it has a lot of problems (sometimes I felt that new story developments were not explained clearly, and some of the plot-points near the end seemed slightly forced) and I hope you try to make the next story better, if only because it seems like you could pull it off and create something amazing.

    Another note: I love the long chapter format. I’ve always been a fast reader, and can read most books in less than three hours. Even when I love them, it feels like they’re over far too soon. Having a long story like Worm to sink my teeth into has been a pleasure, and a gift I am profoundly thankful for. Usually I have to break out the old Russian authors when I want something for a long plane ride…

  20. Flukes permalink

    “My writing, at that point, was little more than an experiment. Worm was a way to break a bad habit in my writing, where I’d keep going back to revise something until I burned out on it. The idea was for the serial/blog format to keep me moving forward…”

    I was wondering if you ever had a phase where there were dozens of brilliant shiny ideas that you tried to juggle at the same time?

    Because I think I’m at that phase, and I’m really unsure of how to get out of it. I’d write about 10K words or so, plot out a half-decent, plot-hole-ridden plan, then get distracted by some shiny, new, idea.

    Take my current project. Projects. I’m stuck on the project that I think of as the ‘primary’. A scene that just won’t flow properly, or flows in a way that completely breaks the tone(odd humour where there was supposed to be building tension). I think it’s because of that that I kept thinking more and more about my other idea, hiding in the wings, until I actually started it and realised that I got distracted.

    What approach worked for you? I’m toying with the idea of a web serial, but I’m pretty terrified of the prospect of getting stuck and distracted, leaving a massive unfinished sentence(metaphorically). How do you stick to the same story for more than two years?

    I’m asking, because, frankly, Worm is awesome. Thematically, setting-wise, characterisation-wise, plot-wise.

    • I think it’s okay to explore. But make sure you’re exploring in a constructive way.

      Worldbuilding in bullet points should be off-limits. Write scenes that illustrate what you’re trying to bullet point. Draw connections to other parts of your world. But just do the snippet. When it’s time to write again, pick a different time, place, and scene. Different characters. Stay consistent, but don’t feel obliged to stick to something that doesn’t grab you. Phase out ideas that don’t compel.

      Over time, you may find the story in the same way I found Worm. Of all the different characters you tried, that one character who you were trying to uncover, the one storyline you wanted to explore.

      Now, it’s fine if you go hither and thither in the process. If you switch from one story idea to another, you’re still (hopefully) creating new characters and writing different scenes. If and when you find the story you need to tell, among all the different ideas, you can cannibalize characters from other settings and story ideas. If I’d wound up writing science fiction, I could have made Mannequin a cyborg assassin. If I’d wound up writing fantasy, he could’ve been a scholar who moved his brain into a golem body. Taylor could have been infused with a nanite swarm or cursed with a rune of the locust, respectively.

      I found the story I wanted to tell, in abstract, and I started doing it as a serial to give myself that forward momentum. I knew that I had a habit of going backward (just like you have a habit of going horizontally) and I wanted the natural, built-in forward momentum that a schedule and serial would give me.

      If you do a serial, try to get a backlog up. Use this to gauge how fast and how comfortably you write. 10-12 chapters done in advance, so you write chapter 13 around the time you upload chapter 1. This gives you a chance to set the right pace and work in advance. You need, also, to find a reason to write. For me, a part of my drive is that I hate when a series misses an update (webcomic, tv show, serial, whatever) and I didn’t want to betray the me of the past who’s complained, moaned and groaned about such for years. I’d be making myself a hypocrite if I missed that one update because I wasn’t in the mood or I felt sick or the power went out.

      Then you get to a point where you’re writing chapter 50 because you wrote those last 49 updates on time, and if you fuck up now, you spoil that. Then you write chapter 51 because you wrote those last 50 chapters on time… then chapter 52 because you wrote the last 51 on time. You/I get in a different frame of mind, after a while, where failure to move forward just isn’t an option.

      I’m digressing a bit.

      Yes, I do have a mess of ideas in my head, not always for stories, but for games and such. When I’m sitting down to write, I find that for the first few hours, I’m distracted by some idea that’s set its hooks in my brain. I want to put together ideas for a Worm video game or a game for play among a group of friends online that simulates Game of Thrones level politicking and backstabbery. I want to write a snippet of a science fiction story or add to the draft of the story that follows Pact.

      That said, what you realize after creating for a while (I think) is that ideas and work have a different sort of value. Being inspired is fantatic, and it’s fun, but when you sit down to make that inspiration into something real, it transitions into becoming work. And work is hard. On the flip side of things, however, there’s a deeper level of satisfaction that comes with having created something through work.

      A lot of people, they put too much value in ideas, or they never get to the point where they’re willing to put in the work. There’s that of-heard story among programmers, who get approached by a friend. “I have this great app idea, I’ll share it with you. You can program it and make it a reality, and I’ll give you 30% of the profits!” Some people don’t realize that ideas are cheap. The willingness to make them a reality is where the true value lies.

      What I recommend is that you allow yourself to explore. But be rigorous. Find the value in the work, because it’s there. Build a collection of incomplete stories, a library of characters and ideas you can draw from in the future. Work toward an end goal, being careful to analyze just why you dropped one story or started to falter. Find the elements that are consistent throughout your various works and hold onto them, flesh them out and develop them. If it was a character you couldn’t fully flesh out, or a story concept you couldn’t build steam with, then write the next snippet from that character’s perspective or from a later/earlier point in that same storyline.

      But be disciplined about it, train yourself to do the work, to write 500 or 1000 words a day or 1500 words every other day. Read other people’s stuff and look for the space on the bookshelf that needs to be filled, the story that hasn’t yet been told, that you have to tell. Put in the work, do it with your eyes open. You’ll find your way to the story you need to tell.

  21. Congratulations on what you have built, Wildbow. I’m working my way through Worm, and fully intend to keep reading the other ones!

    I’m happy you are able to do this and make a living doing it! 🙂 Keep on keeping on! ^_^

  22. LiamCU permalink

    Wildbow, I know you wrote this two years ago, but I just wanted to let you know how inspiring I’ve found this post. This is one of the things I read when I’m feeling like my writing is hopeless. Success stories are always great, but there’s something about yours that makes it even better. I love the way that you jumped into writing, and I couldn’t be more glad that you did.

    I ran into Worm at the end of this summer. I read it in a month. It changed the way that I judge fiction (especially superhero fiction), and I’ve incorporated it into the way that I see life. I think that I’m a better person because I read your story. I don’t know if I can even begin to thank you for that.

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