What I learned from Writing Online

Reflection .jpg

(Image is CCO and I added the text)

The new look for my blog is almost done!!! I hope you like it! I tried to make my page look more professional and create a standalone theme from my stories. In the past, my website theme was based on Clash of Tides. You know, with all the blue, but since I pulled my stories down, it’s time to change.

Today’s post is going to be more serious than normal, but don’t worry, I’ll get back to the funny posts again later. After taking my stories offline, I did some reflection on what I learned from writing online. Feel free to read my list, and then let me know your thoughts.

  1. My writing wasn’t as good as I thought it was

When I first started writing, I always thought I could write a story that everyone would enjoy. I’ve read other writers state the same thing in their blog posts. That between comparing yourself to other writers, getting rejected by publishers or agents, or by the lack of reads you get online, you learn you weren’t as great as you thought you were. I won’t lie, after I worked hard on my stories and saw a poorly written story getting more reads than mine, it broke me. I was depressed for days, and even cried over my lack of ability to gain traction. However, I kept going to see what would happen.

  1. Readers will barely comment on your work

I won’t lie, like other writers, I loved the comments I got on my stories. Comments not only let me know readers were enjoying my work, but also helped me view my stories from their eyes. When readers commented with their theories, it helped me view my work from different angles. Alas, I also learned readers rarely commented. For every 100 reads, I only got 4 comments. That’s only 4%. In other cases, I would get 300 reads and only 3 comments. Needless to say, I learned readers don’t comment. I even looked at stories from popular writers and their results were the same. I suppose readers online just want free stories and don’t want to offer reviews. If you have readers who review, please appreciate them because they are rare.

  1. Writing online isn’t about quality, it’s about wish fulfillment.

This may not be true of all writing sites, but I’ve noticed on websites like Wattpad and DA, most of the popular stories are all wish fulfillment. What I mean is cliché stories about some random girl with a dark past being saved by the hot guy. Ok, to be fair, Clash of Tides uses some of those elements, but I did make my story bigger than that. I tried to have a deep message about racism and growing into a strong person despite what you are born into. Anyway, continuing, yes, wish fulfillment. Maybe it’s because most readers online are teen girls, but honestly, it’s depressing to see what gets popular in this day-in-age. If this is the future of literature, then count me out.

  1. It’s easy to lose sight of your goals

Unless you are a focused person, it’s easy to get lost in other things when posting your stories online. Between all the different writing sites, it’s only natural to “become a part of the community”. And by this, I mean getting caught up in the social side of things: reading other people’s stories, being active in the threads, and starting groups, etc. Soon, it’s less about the writing and more, how many readers can I get? Or, if you do become popular, it’s “I’m one of the top writers on this site, and I don’t have time to help others anymore” – This is a true story, and I’ve seen it happen too many times. In fact, on Wattpad, a group of authors who used to barely get reads got featured, and now they call themselves, “The best writers on Wattpad.” The haughty attitude disgusts me, a lot. Even when I was popular with my fanfictions, I never once said I was the best fanfiction writer. It’s stupid because I know I’m not the best and never will be. I always tried to be humble, but meh, being humble hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

  1. It’s a means to an end

I won’t discuss this one too much, but yes, it’s a means to an end. It’s not about popularity so much as it’s getting your work out there. Think of writing online like testing the waters and trying to grow a fanbase.

Writing online has caused me to be depressed, to turn into a monster (worrying too much about reads and popularity), and to lose sight of what I love. I love to write – plain and simple. I want to make readers happy, but I need to remember readers don’t feel the same for me. In the end, my stories are just another text file online used to pass the time. However, to me, my readers are the ones I want to bring into a new world and share my imagination with.

I am the failed writer,
The lonely writer,
Part of the forgotten

 

 

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24 thoughts on “What I learned from Writing Online

  1. You’re a pretty good writer: what made you decide to write? How do you work at your craft? Do you ever do exercises from writing prompts? Have you taken Creative Writing courses? How did you get to be so good?

    (Now don’t go getting swollen in the head; you’re not the best-seller machine yet.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll first say, “been there, done that,” and we do a lot better beating ourselves up versus praising ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle and while it can help give us perspective, we can’t buy into it. Social media already tells us what we’re worth; we can’t fall into the trap of telling ourselves the same thing, especially when it’s not true. Some of the stuff I’ll say will come out as tough and I apologize if it will offend you or anyone else.

    1. My writing wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

    The day we stop learning is the day we stop living. I don’t remember who said that but it’s true. We always strive to be better. And as writers, we’re always going to write and we’ll always get better as we go along, especially when we’re open to improving ourselves. The way I wrote ten years ago is not as good as the way I write now. The way I wrote last year is not as good as I write now as well. The books I published then aren’t as good as the books I write now, and will continue to write – that’s because my writing can never be as good as it will be the more I keep writing and getting better. This view (whether your writing is good or not is subjective. Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves even under the guise of being “realistic”).

    2. Readers barely comment on your work.

    Readers are not obligated to comment on any work, even if they like it. Sometimes it’s just that, they like it and there’s nothing else to say. This is akin to the stuff writers do to guilt readers into leaving reviews: “50 reviews will get me more advertising so please review,” or “Reviews show me your appreciation…” or whatever else it may be.

    I get way less comments than 4% of my total reads, and way less reviews than the books sold or given away for free. It’s just the nature of the beast, especially on Wattpad. Also look at your audience. Wattpad readers expect free, free, free. Plain and simple, free. 1% will buy your book. Sometimes less than 1% and the rest of them can’t even leave a rating elsewhere even though they’ll rave that they LOVE your book on Wattpad. And that’s the way Wattpad likes it. On the mobile app, unless the reader goes to your profile page, they can’t click on a link outside of Wattpad. And really, who goes to a Profile page first?

    3. Writing online is about wish fulfillment.

    Writers make fun of tropes, but they sell, free or paid. They sell. We read to escape and so while I’m at home having no choice but to deal and listen to a raving 6-year-old having a tantrum, you bet I’m going to go online to find a story that will fulfill my wish for an escape. Heck, I’ll even write one. And I have written every single one of my books as a wish fulfillment – mine – and they’re not all about love. In the horror story I’m writing right now, I’m going to kill someone I hate (on paper) and you bet that’s wish fulfillment, vengeance. Sure, I’ll add in elements there that are important to me but I’ve learned long ago now not to write specifically to spread an agenda as the main thing, even if it’s veiled behind a nice story.

    As for quality, it’s subjective. Some people want Louis Vuitton, while others are happy with the simple bag they find at the outdoor market, where the handmade stitching is quality to them (and it is) versus monogrammed leather that tells everyone you can afford a thousand-dollar bag. Same with books. Some readers will buy only traditionally published books with the perception of quality, paying $14.99 for an ebook while others find quality in a $1.99 or even a free book. It’s all subjective, even on Wattpad. I’ve seen quality books don’t get any airtime but that’s the way it is. Think of the audience. I’d also worry more about the paying audience versus the Wattpad audience whose mindset is primarily to find FREE books, and when they’re done with that book, they move on to the next one, and the next one. The only time you’ll see them again is if you have another free story. It’s a harsh reality and it hurts, but that’s also the audience you’re dealing with.

    5. It’s a means to an end.

    Everything we do is a means to an end. Everything. Unless you can go Buddhist-like in the practice of non-attachment, which is hard to do, we don’t do anything without the expectation of nothing in return. Everything we do, even when we say, “I just write because I want to make people happy,” has an unconscious expectation of a return whether it be a comment or a vote, or in the world of sales, a book sold.

    For authors, writing online is a strategy. I do it to give readers who are new to me a taste of my stories even if some of those are full books. As a business strategy, it’s not any different than offering your book for free on Amazon and other retailers, as a way to introduce readers to your work and hopefully, they’ll like it and convert to actual customers of your other books. To say that your readers don’t feel the same for you – that they’re not as happy to see you write as you feel writing – is discounting the ones who do love your work and have thus been silenced by a generalization. What about the ones who’ve followed you and read your work all this time? What if they went on vacation and couldn’t read your stories when you expected them to? Does that mean they don’t appreciate you and the stories you wrote? You actually get more engagement than I do on WordPress which means you have a lot of readers. When you pull your stories out of the blue because you assume no one reads your work because they don’t comment, and thus appreciate you diminishes the goodwill you’ve worked hard for when you started. It also destroys the faith they had in you as a writer of stories they followed.

    I didn’t intend for this to go this long but to wrap it up, find out why you write. If it’s just to write without any expectation of a return on your investment of time and creative effort, then write and put it in a folder somewhere because you’re not after that online engagement anyway. You just want to write. When you’re ready to query it out, send it out. But if you’re writing with the expectation of instant comments and votes, then post it online but understand that it’s gonna be tough when it doesn’t happen. George RR Martin may seem like an overnight success with his Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire but he didn’t have as many readers when he started. He just kept on going. He went to book signings where there was no one there. Did that deter him from writing? No, he kept going. Ten years later (maybe more) he’s finally reaping all the benefits of that hard work and now it’s the other way around. Readers are giving him a hard time for enjoying his life when he “should be writing the next book.” I don’t know what else to say other than just keep writing. If it makes you happy, keep writing 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for commenting on my post, Liz. I mostly wrote this to share my experience with other writers, especially writers who are new to posting their work online. I feel like a lot of new writers always think posting online will be great, but sadly, over time they learn the nature of the beast.

      I’ll respond to the rest of your comment by using my number points.

      2.) This is very true! Readers expect everything to be for free, and it is the way it is.

      3.) It is a harsh reality – I agree with you.

      5). I won’t go into my feelings about readers anymore because I’ve typed enough, but as for WordPress, I don’t believe anyone on WordPress actually read my stories. I believe (now I may be wrong about this) WordPress readers only read my posts. Most of the followers I have on WordPress are from me reading their blogs. Usually, I spend about 1-2 hours a day on WordPress and comment on other people’s posts.

      Again, thanks for commenting, and don’t worry, I didn’t find anything you wrote harsh. Everything you wrote is true and based in reality. However, I’m sticking to my decision of keeping my stories offline. As I said before, I feel writing online has made me into a monster. I lost sight of what was important to me. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m going to write offline and work with a writer’s group in real life. I do want to offer my serious readers a chance to beta read for me. That way, they can keep leaving me feedback and read the rest of the stories. If I still feel the same next year, then I won’t be uploading any of my new books either.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay 1. You aren’t a failure.

    2. Wattpad is a wish fulfillment site filed with fan fiction, bad stories, and spammers getting to be more popular. Your work was serious and that wasn’t the place for you.

    3. You need to know exactly what gender and age (and race I suppose, since your FMC isn’t white, but really that shouldn’t be a factor). If you don’t know it, figure it out. Your stories are fantasy, I mean how else would you classify a mermaid type of story. Without having a chance to read them to help, I can’t tell you if they’re just fantasy or if they’re fantasy/romance, urban fantasy, etc. Having these things set can help you target your audience and make sure all your promotional materials and covers look the part. Trust me, people will judge these items on whether or not they’re going to give your books a try.

    4. Finding comments is hard. I shared a serial I’ve yet to finish and rarely received feedback. What you need are betas. A true writer will gather betas, trusted friends that have already shown interest. Give them a list of questions of what you’re looking for (does X sound like this type of person, were there plot holes, confusions, what about y part – was it too much, Etc) these betas should be able to read and give you all the details you want and answer additional questions at the end. If they don’t, you don’t need them. It took me a couple books to know who I could count on, now I have two I know will come through. With betas you know who they are and you trust their judgement. Random readers won’t give you that.

    5. Because of comparing yourself to others, you let yourself believe your writing is terrible and that you’re a failure. Trust me when I say this: you can’t judge it because your situation is different. Because wattpad and sharing things online as serials worked for some, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Just because you aren’t hugely popular doesn’t mean you’re failing. It takes work to build your fan base. You need to draw people in with your talents and when you see they are staying, odds are they still be interested in an early read of your book prior to officially publishing it or buying it one it’s out. I did this by sharing poetry and short fiction and then I teased about my books, gathering more intrigue. It’s almost been two years since I started – and I didn’t have a book yet. I hadn’t even started it. I even had to start over completely on this blog with zero followers in October because self hosting was a terrible idea. You will have setbacks, but you can’t give up.

    6. Don’t call yourself an aspiring writer. You’re a writer. Play the part. Show confidence in yourself. The first draft is always terrible. Keep your babies private until you’ve finished it and done at least two edits – one in your document, and another as an eReader read through (if you have a kindle app, have it read your book to you, trust me, you’ll catch things). Then betas, then another round of editing. If you think another beta read is needed, do it. But remember that not every book is mistake free, even traditionally published books. Just try to catch as many add you can.

    7. Do cover reveals, blog tours, or ask book bloggers to read your books ahead of publication, set up Goodreads early so those reviews will be waiting on publication day. These are all things you can do to spread the word even if you aren’t very popular.

    8. It breaks my heart to see you doing this. Perhaps in the end it will be worthwhile when you publish them, but DO NOT give up on those stories. You’ve invested too much into them and I could tell how much you loved them. Their time isn’t over. There’s still more to write, editing, betas, editing again, teasers and covers to revamp, and then boom. A real published book is out there. It’s no longer among all the badly written fan fiction or teen swoon stories. It’s not on your blog waiting for people to read it. It’s at Barnes and Noble. It’s at iBooks. It’s on Amazon. DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A FAILURE AND GIVE UP ON THESE STORIES. You have the talent. I’ve seen it. Keep doing what you were doing and share other small stories or poetry so people can become interested. Keep sharing these writing updates, because aspiring writers eat them up like fodder. Just don’t give up. Don’t think you’re a failure.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for commenting on my post, Sarah.
      I’ll respond to you with my number points.

      1) Thanks for your kind words.

      2) Yes, yes it is.

      3) Thanks for the advice. I actually started reading a marketing book to help me pinpoint who I’m trying to promote my book towards.

      4) Since I removed my stories offline, I’m going through my reviews now to see who always commented constantly. If those readers want to, I would like them to beta read for me. That way, they can still read the story and see how it ends.

      5) Thanks for the advice! I agree with you about keeping me work private. Next year, I don’t plan to post any of my new stories.

      6) I agree with you. I want to keep my stories private from now on. I’ll try the cover reveals in the future.

      8) Yes, I did love Clash of Tides and Love for an Angel, a lot. Like you said, I don’t think they had a place in serial fiction. I still plan to finish the stories offline, but I won’t be posting images or anything of that nature anymore. Also, I do plan to keep posting small stories and poems.

      Thanks so much for the advice and your wonderful words! All I can do it switch things up and see if that will make a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Writing is something you hopefully do out of your love for writing/storytelling and not for popularity. I think you are a bit harsh on yourself however, you’ve clearly learned some things and are growing from them so the experience has obviously taught you much.

    I still don’t really look at statistics. I couldn’t tell you how many followers I have until one of those weird milestone things pops up once in a while and I usually ignore those.

    It is always nice to have a reader base, I don’t want anyone reading this to think I don’t appreciate the readership I have. I love talking to them, and reading their works and discussing their own thoughts and theories on writing and everything.

    I find it fun, but it doesn’t change the fact that I write out of a love for writing and not out of a need to see people read what I write. I obviously am online so some part of me enjoys sharing my work however if 0 people ever read, I’d still be posting and writing.

    I have been (in some ways) where you are. I used to (before starting this blog and back in my indie review and music interview days) care about that sort of stuff. I obsessively checked the stats page.

    I eventually found, I wasn’t really loving what I was writing. I was loving the interaction with indie musicians and game developers, but I became too concerned with views etc. So I went back to full time devoting myself to what I love most (writing fiction)!

    I’m more relaxed writing that and I got into poetry more because I found I enjoy that style. Breathe, write what you want to write, and write for yourself. I don’t mean be a selfish asshole but basically, write because you love to do it and generally you will find others will enjoy it as well.

    It doesn’t happen all at once, but if you are into writing because you simply love to do so, you will make many a wonderful discovery and learn much about yourself.

    You’ve poured your soul into writing obviously and for doing that, you can never be a failure. I also see you are making changes to your site and adapting so you clearly are trying new things based on what works and doesn’t work for you personally. I have no doubt this will work out for you.

    Try not to be too hard on yourself though. You are a talented writer in my opinion. I enjoy reading what you write. I think it is strong of you to be able to come on here and be honest with yourself, and share your experiences to help others.

    I like that and respect that. Honestly, helping others is a great thing. I love it. I do my best to do so with my Twitter. I’m also letting some newer horror narrators on YT narrate some of my stuff, because I believe in what they are doing, and like what I see and see it as a way to help all involved.

    It is awesome to connect and help one another. I’m far from the best writer there ever was. I’ll be the first to tell you that. Still, I can also tell you I’m no failure and neither are you.

    Keep adapting, learning, and you will get where you wish to be hopefully some day. Also if you plan on publishing something, never post it online. You can post other work if you are trying to grow a readership, but I’d never post something you genuinely want to publish online.

    I believe in you and thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I wish you an improved journey for that is what this is. Dust yourself off, learn, and continue to get better.

    No one can stop you from doing that. I think you are on the right track. Just believe in yourself. I’m not saying be a total asshole being like I’m the best writer ever! Xp I don’t think you would do that but what I’m saying is enjoy yourself. Have fun, and loosen up. Don’t be so worried about stats.

    You can keep track of them, analyze them, and adapt, but don’t beat yourself over the head with them.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I wish I could say something better than the comments already left, but I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said. I know about dealing with depression, the ‘what if’s’, the ‘shoulda’, ‘coulda’ and the ‘woulda’ but in the end all you can do is keep marching forward. I have faith in you, you just need to be more strategic about your writing as a career. If that isn’t what you want, then pound away on that keyboard and smile because you’ve arrived!!!

    From one writer to another, welcome to the clan! Refreshments are at the table to the rear and the coffee is free but badly made. The days will be long, the nights will be cold, but when you meet Saint Peter you’ll know you’d run the race you were meant to run and the rest won’t matter.

    Your Fan,
    JR

    PS: Don’t drink the punch, TheSaraDoughty spiked it!! She wants you out cold so she can steal your manuscripts!! Mwahahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OMG OMG SO TRUE!! You just put all of the worries and troubles I have had for the past century into words THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS wow I’m so happy and excited that someone finally understands XD!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Akaluv,
    Your post has been preying on my mind. I was going to reply a couple of days ago, but thought it would turn into such a big reply and you’ve had some of those already, but I still feel compelled to say something now. I’m sure many of us writers suffer as you described, including me…YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    Everywhere we are encouraged to be positive, get critiques, feedback, keep on putting our work out there. Too much advice and too much information abound. Well, at my time in life (54) I don’t feel compelled to follow all the ‘right’ advice. I agree with your decision not to put your writing on line any longer, its not the right place for the kind of feedback you want of feel you need. I would only want feedback from a few people whose opinion I trust or respect – you don’t get that online, it’s too wide an audience, and people generally just want to press the like button rather than go any deeper (I’m the same myself).

    There’s no easy answer to any of the issues you’ve described. Being a writer is a very hard road indeed, we all have to acknowledge this. We want to write for others to read, like I also paint for others to view, but it is so personal to show your work – yet we have to and need to.

    So we should be selective who we show, don’t lose the pleasure in writing, because why else do we do it? Be confident that you are learning the craft of writing as best you can because if the craft is right then the standard will be good. A book that helped me deal with these writer’s depressions and frustrations which I still get from time to time, but handle a lot better now, is called ‘The Van Gogh Blues’ by creativity coach Eric Maisel, it helped me enormously.
    Good luck, Akaluv, and take care of you.

    Like

    • Thank you for thinking about me and sharing your words of encouragement. I actually wasn’t going to log into WordPress anymore until I read your comment.

      Yes, that is so true. Readers online just want to do the bare minimum, but I always tried to be different. I knew comments made people happy and appreciated, so I tried to leave feedback on other people’s blog post and stories. However, I needed to remember not everyone is like me. I even bought my fellow writers’ books and read them, but like I said, not everyone is me.

      I’m not even trying to be a writer anymore, honestly. If I had the talent for it, I feel the results would have been different after all these years.

      Again, thank you for thinking about me =) You have a blessed day.

      Like

  8. I feel you in this. I’ve had these same thoughts and feelings at times. I keep writing and sharing my work, hoping that if at least one person connects then it hadn’t all been in vain. For me, writing has always been about reaching and touching others, more than making a living. I am resigned that with the sheer numbers of authors online these days i will never be able to make my living this way, so between my regular job and being a husband and father, I just write, post, and enjoy what i do. I hope you will continue to write and share your fiction with your readers. I’ve enjoyed what i have read of “clash of tides” so far. 🙂

    Like

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