I had often wondered what the writing process for a web serial or web fiction looked like before I had started writing one of my own. There are some articles out there on how to prepare for writing a web serial, but I haven't found many that give an actual example of what that looks like on a daily basis. So I would like to provide my writing process here for others to reference.
As a disclaimer, I am still pretty new to writing web serials, and my process may change as I develop the tools needed to write serials. As of writing this, I am almost sixty thousand words into my first web serial, Sprig, so I am definitely not claiming to be the golden standard or anything like that. I am just one example. If you like my process, try it out. If you don't, take the parts you like, or none at all. I just want to help others who may be beginning their journey as a web fiction author.
I subscribe to Stephen King's "write every day" mantra, for the most part. I've noticed that when I don't, I have a hard time getting into any kind of rhythm. It's easy to let life come up with other things to fill your time, so in order to keep that word count climbing, I get up at 5:00 AM every morning and I do my best to write six hundred words before my kids get up and I have to start getting ready for my day job.
I wish I could reliably do more, but six hundred is a number I can hit on most days, and it's easier to stay motivated if you are regularly meeting the goals you set for yourself. Sometimes I'll do one thousand, and sometimes I'll do two hundred and try to make up the rest later, but forcing yourself to write every day helps keep you going.
When I reach the end of an arc, I usually take a day or two to plan out the next one. This consists of writing down an outline and typing up questions to myself about what could happen or where the story is going. I don't know why, but writing out questions helps me actually think of concrete answers to them. It usually takes much longer to flesh things out when I am only thinking through things instead.
In the end, I might not stick to the outline, but I find having one at least helps you write faster. Without an outline, I usually end up staring at my screen thinking through simple situations and then getting mad at myself for making such little progress. Outlines are good.
I have chosen to release Sprig every five days and the only hour I can rely on having each day to work on my story is that 5:00 to 6:00 AM window, so I do have make some room for editing in there as well.
I use one of the days in my five-day cycle to edit one chapter ahead of the one that I will be releasing next. So if I am going to release 1.5 on Thursday, I will edit 1.6 the Tuesday before it. I always leave a day between when I edit and when I release, in case I want to make any last-minute changes while the chapter is still fresh in my head. And I edit one chapter ahead of the one being released so that I can have that unreleased chapter ready for my early-access patrons.
I reserve a whole day (hour) for my big edit, where I work on the chapter until I have everything perfect, or as close as I can get it. I also do two other edits. One is a simple grammar/spelling edit right after I finish writing the chapter and another grammar spelling edit is done after the big edit.
In order to get my story in front of more people, I am currently publishing it on three different platforms, the first is this site, Stories by Houston Hare. Then I cross-post, one chapter behind, on Royal Road and ScribbleHub. I've chosen those two sites because I believe my story is something that readers on both of those platforms will like, and the Terms & Conditions say that they won't steal my story.
I don't know if the other sites will be beneficial in the long run, but I have heard plenty of success stories about Royal Road, and ScribbleHub is new but has a pretty clean interface for listing and finding stories. At the very least, I am able to put a link to my website in the story description on those websites, which helps this website show up higher in Google search rankings.
Cross-posting does add to the workload some, as I have to copy each chapter over individually, fix formatting, and then do it all over again if I make any corrections to the original. I think getting my story in front of more people is worth the minor inconvenience.
Once I have time to do it, I plan to hire a professional editor to go over arc one. Then I'll self-publish it as an issue (kind of like a comic book) on Amazon. I will be releasing it either for free or very cheap as a way to introduce new readers to the story and direct them back to this website. Eventually, I'd like to self-publish the entire story, but that is still a long way off.
How Do You Make Money?
Right now, I don't really. I have three Patrons at the moment and am making $6 a month. I don't expect Patreon to really take off until I have a substantial amount of Sprig already released though. Currently, I use those $6 to help fund other new serial writers and build relationships.
Eventually, I hope that people will like my story enough to support me on Patreon. I also plan to release more of the story on Amazon and earn some money from that too. I will start by releasing one arc at a time, and later, I will probably do volumes containing multiple arcs. The hope is for that to be another source of income.
I don't write for the money, but money does help. I have found out that writing a web serial and releasing at least 2000 words a week is like working a full-time job. It's hard to find the time especially when you already have a full-time job. With more funding, I would be able to spend less time at my actual day job and spend more time writing. But that is a far off goal. In the meantime, it is a hobby, and it may not ever become more than a hobby. Either way, I intend to complete this story and continue to improve my skills as a writer.
So far, I'm happy with the progress that Sprig has made. I have nearly 60,000 words written as of writing this, and the lowest rating I have received on it so far is 4 out of 5 stars. This is also the first story I'm releasing to the public and the longest story I've ever written. So, all things considered, I think it's doing pretty well. I'm excited to see what the future holds.
So that's my process. What's yours? Do you write a web serial? If so, tell me how you do it in the comments below. Are you hoping to write a web serial? What questions do you have?