|Ramblings (pl. noun): talking or writing in a confused way, often for a long time
Bardlings (pl. noun): Ramblings from Bard
Posting to Lists
by Michael W. Bard
©2004 Michael W. Bard -- all rights reserved
There are a number of mailing lists available to writers, including TSA-talk, Furry-Lit, and TFWF. Doubtless there are hundreds I either don't know, or have forgotten about. If you know of one that I missed, please let me know. As well, there are also a number of fiction critique organizations, but I am purposely disregarding them. They generally don't have a standard mailing list, and they also usually require stories to be complete before you post them.
Which brings us to the topic at hand: How should one go about presenting one's work to a mailing list?
There are two effective ways of posting stories that I've seen, and a couple of ineffective ways. The two main ones, both of which I've used, are going to be discussed below, and the others mentioned.
All At Once: The first way, and the most common, is the 'All At Once' method. This method is fairly self-explanatory. You completely finish the story, and then post it all at once.
Note: Most lists have an upper size cap on posting sizes so large stories generally need to be broken into segments. In this case, all of the parts are posted more or less at the same time.
- For shorter works (up to a ballpark range of 10,000 words) you will tend to get more readers. You likely won't get more comments, but that's an entirely different topic for another day.
- If, whilst writing, you find that you need the season to be summer and have already stated that it's winter, you can just go back and change it and nobody but you will ever know.
- It is easier to maintain the 'willing suspension of disbelief' in the story as the reader will, likely, read it all at once.
- The work is solely and entirely your creation. If somebody writes and states that they would have liked to have seen you go down a different path at page 1, well it's too late now (unless you completely rewrite it).
- For longer works (above the ballpark figure of 10,000), you tend to get less readers as people see 20-30 parts posted at once, check the amount of time they have, and either ignore it or copy it into a folder somewhere to be read 'when there's time'. Sadly, there usually isn't.
Thus, generally, you get more comments, can make a more polished story, but may not see interesting options until it's far too late.
A Bit At A Time: In this case you post parts at (hopefully) regular intervals. Generally one part a day.
- You tend to get more readers for longer works. This is the big, big one. I've found that longer works tend to read very differently from shorter works. Not better, different. Longer works can gain a momentum that is impossible to a shorter work. In other words, with a longer work it's possible to immerse a reader far deeper and to get a far deeper emotional investment from the reader. I find that longer stories have a power that a short story can never attain.
- If you write intermittently, a commitment to posting a part at a regular interval can help you write at a regular interval
- You tend to get comments from readers on some, or even on every part. These yield two benefits. First, you know that people are reading it which means that you will generally have a greater desire to finish it. Two, readers may suggest something that will give you a brilliant idea and move the story off into a completely different, and likely better, direction.
- This method doesn't work for short stories.
- If you miss the regularly scheduled part posting, then you will lose readers. Everybody understands that things come up, but if they come up frequently people will expect you never to finish it. And if they think you're not going to finish it, then why should they even read it.
- It's hard for people to get into it if they join the list late. If you're posting a 50 part epic, and Joe Smith joins the list at part 15, the odds of him reading the story are significantly lower. Of course, if you posted it all at once then if he hasn't joined, he won't read it at all.
- Once something is posted, you're committed. If, in Part 18, you state that it's winter, and you find that for Part 19 you need it to be summer, you're likely screwed. You can put a note to readers about the change for story reasons, but people will generally not be as appreciative as you would like.
- It's hard to include foreshadowing. Whilst writing a story all at once and you find that the POV character needs to be an ace pistol shot, you can go back to near the beginning and put a comment in that he is. Then the reader isn't surprised and annoyed when he makes use of the skill. If you suddenly need the POV character to have that skill in Part 12, then it's far too late to foreshadow it.
- Posting in parts generally requires a fairly strong outline, at least of major events. Otherwise you can find that the idea you had in mind when you started writing, is now useless because back in Part 5 you thought of a new idea and went off in a completely different direction.
Other Methods: Note that these are more complaints and annoyances at some of the things I've run into. Use them at your own risk.
- Posting When You Feel Like It: If you post parts at random intervals, you will have fewer readers and will need to have some site where readers can easily find the older parts. You end up with the disadvantages of both main methods above, and few of the advantages.
- Blackmail: This usually comes in the form of 'unless I get a number of comments, I'm not going to post the next part'. Or, to put it more bluntly 'send me $10 or you'll never read the rest.' Anything like this will almost certainly piss people off. They'll stop reading and never touch anything of yours again.
- Long Preambles: I've seen some people who post stories at long intervals, often for good reason, to have a 'part 0' e-mail or equivalent that is basically a synopsis of what happened already, and a list of characters for the newcomer. Generally this turns people off. 'You mean I have to read all this before I can even read the story?'
Anyway, I hope this helps you in your writing. Good luck!