My first two “behind the scenes” posts were for my first serial on this site, in 2014. I’ve decided to do another now, since:
a) I want to talk about my frustration last week, for possible solidarity with other writers, if nothing else.
b) There will be stats, for people who like that sort of thing.
Note: There is a good chance I am not quite right in the head. In April 2015, I transitioned this serial site from “Epsilon Project” to “Time & Tied”, in large part because the latter is me editing a work from 15 years ago, versus writing 2,000 words weekly. I’m not saying editing is easier (particularly when deciding to add illustrations), but with edits, a backlog/buffer is at least possible. That’s handy in April. Since April is one of the worst months of the year, in terms of writing.
See, I’m a math teacher. And April is a report card month. So along with November (not too bad, but NaNoWriMo’s out), June (exams on top of the reports) and January (the worst, exams plus organizing second semester in 24 hours or less), April ranks up there as “a month where only schoolwork is occurring”. Add to it my tendency to help with the school play, meaning I don’t necessarily take weekends off that month, and in 2015 I figured I’d lose my mind maintaining “Epsilon”.
So what did I do in 2016? I shifted back to “Epsilon” at the end of February. At the same time as I was writing, illustrating and publishing a weekly math webcomic too. I did this KNOWING April was coming. As I said, not quite right in the head.
Yet you might have noticed that I didn’t miss an update.
Let me set the scene for Story 3: Week 9. Sunday, April 17th, and I had just published “Half the Battle“, where the cast breaks out of the DEO. That was my 20th straight day at work (since Easter). In fact, it was tech weekend. I ran rehearsal of the play to start the morning (9am) because the director was also organizing a student trip to Spain. (She’s even more ambitious than me.)
I don’t remember exactly when I left the school on Sunday. Definitely after 4pm. Then I still had to finalize report cards and generate comments. I didn’t get to bed until after 2am. On the bright side, my math webcomic was self-updating on Monday, because I’d queued up four comics at the end of March.
Monday, April 18th was my 21st straight day at work, on less than five hours sleep. That night was dress rehearsal, so I left school after 9pm. Tuesday I did NOT work 12 hours. It was a unique day. Wednesday was opening night, Thursday was Cappies night (I’m the school’s advisor, I left work after 11pm), and Friday was a matinee show in the afternoon followed by closing night.
It was before the matinee on Friday afternoon, my 25th straight day at work, after working for over 60 hours since my prior serial update (at least 30 of them paid), that I closed the poll. It had 5 votes. I’d need another update in less than 48 hours.
I started writing “PROM, Committee” about 4pm Friday. The new characters were names from the play, with personalities as amalgamated with an anime about magic that I remembered from years ago. About 25% of the dialogue was repurposed (humorously) from the play. I made it through less than 500 words at the time. The rest of Part 9 was written on Saturday.
Oh, not Saturday morning. I went to a mathematics professional development session (voluntarily) that morning! Good speaker. No, I wrote the rest Saturday afternoon, then published on Sunday as per usual. I’m betting you didn’t know that, because I don’t think anyone who did know actually reads my fiction.
Now, writing-wise, what did I have to show for Week 9? Well, “PROM, Committee” actually had 30 views by my birthday three days later (oh, I turned 40, woot), largely because I posted it to the FB group for the play, and the director said she loved it. It also got a comment from kaleidofish. Meaning the self torture felt kind of worth it. Contrast Week 11.
The first week of May, I was going to a math conference (Thursday to Saturday), a 5 hour drive away. Tuesday I was still pulling together lessons for the substitute teacher, packing, etc, so I kept the “Epsilon” poll open. Wednesday was the day Cappies nominations were announced… er, long story short, I made it to the conference at 11pm. Found wifi, and closed the poll.
Similar to Week 9, I didn’t get a chance to start writing until late on Friday – actually not so unusual – except now I knew I had limited time on Saturday. Could I do it? Well, a 70 hour work week on the tail end of 25 days’ work didn’t break my streak. I was damned if this would do it.
I wrote Friday night. I wrote for an hour Saturday afternoon, after the conference. I wrote in a diner and edited at a rest stop during my 5 hour drive home. And I published on time the next Sunday morning. Not quite the effort of Week 9, but more so than Week 10.
What did I have to show for it this time? In 48 hours, I got five views. Two votes, the lowest yet. And it was a damned tie. And all I could think is Why am I killing myself here? Would anyone have noticed a missed update? I tweeted out twice that I had a tie, looking for people – and I got a response from Curtis, saying he was already one of the two existing votes. That’s it.
Except that message is very possibly what kept me sane. Because I hadn’t actually known Curtis was reading, let alone voting.
Before going to bed, I posted an addendum to the poll saying I’d keep it open until the damn tie was broken, and when I woke up, it had been, so poll closed. Except the silence had done what 25 straight days of work could not – I no longer felt like writing to the deadline.
And YET – it hadn’t been silence. Curtis had called it a “great story”. And one of my FB friends tossed a “Like” onto the WP post after me mumbling there, which was the first time that’s happened all year. And Scott was still sharing my entries too, and he’d commented previously. So… fine.
The serial got my half-hearted attempt last Sunday, on Week 12, less than the usual 2,000 words (though not by a lot). This week? I’m feeling more grounded. So onwards we go.
Now, why does ANY of that matter?
Because sometimes it’s nice to have one’s efforts appreciated – but readers aren’t psychic. They don’t know when you need it. And there’s probably other writers out there who have felt depressed in the way I did, at times. Who knows? (Comment below?) There’s so much we struggle with that other people don’t even know about, and yet despite those problems, those blocks, as a writer we make the effort and put it out there – and get nothing?
But not nothing. A lot of that is mindset. Things are rarely as bad as you think. Which brings us to…
I seriously wonder if I post up my statistics merely so that other writers can look at them and go, “Well, at least I’m not THAT guy”. (It certainly feels like it’s my primary function at “Web Fiction Guide“.) As long as this data is serving a purpose, I guess? My plan here though isn’t to be “THAT guy” but more to compare against myself, to see that things aren’t so bad. Let’s rewind over a year and a half.
Those are my statistics from “Behind the Scenes 1”, showing the first five weeks of serial episodes on this site. The anomaly on October 5th was due to a couple extra Facebook shares. Now, compare that to my statistics below, as grabbed in Week 11, when I had that two-votes-tied thing happening on Monday night.
That’s a difference of 18 months. And… the only reason my maximum view count jumped from 30 to 40 is because of Week 9’s recent Facebook share (on the 24th). But let’s look deeper. That means Week 9’s effort was worth it. Moreover, Week 11 didn’t start too bad, compared to Week 10. And hey, I’ve gone from 10 zero view days to only 1 zero view day. These are little things that have meaning.
Now here’s a breakdown of how the individual parts themselves have fared. The “within 3 days” mean Sun, Mon, Tues — how long the polls are open.
EPSILON THE FIRST
Ep 1: 21 views within 3 days; 5 votes. (Views to date: 233)
Ep 12: 5 views within 3 days. Poll kept open, 4 votes of 13 views to date.
EPSILON THE SECOND
Ep 1: 9 views within 3 days; 3 votes. (Views to date: 80)
Ep 12: 7 views within 3 days; 4 votes (Views to date: 31)
EPSILON THE THIRD (CURRENT STORY)
Ep 1: 12 views within 3 days; 4 votes. (Views to date: 30)
Ep 12: 14 views within 3 days. Poll still open, 6 votes of 17 views.
So… that’s a progression? Certainly Story 3’s episode 12 has more votes this week than any prior #12. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m MILES ahead of my time travel story…
T&T THE FIRST
Ep 1: 26 views all April 2014 (Views to date: 282)
Ep 12: 4 views all June 2014 (Views to date: 10)
Yeeeeah. You may see why I felt I had to switch my serial up, despite April being one of the worst months. T&T was depressing me. I simply cannot find an audience for the majority of my writing. In part because I have little time to market. Which, honestly, makes it all the MORE impressive that some people have latched onto the current story. So – look for more this Sunday.
If you’re one of my current readers – thanks! If you’re not – maybe give it a try? I also webcomic personified math, which is heading into an election. Or here’s some other places you might look into: Curtis makes a bunch of videos over at Basement Electronics. Scott blogs about his writing at The Chaos Beast. And kaleidofish has an interactive serial at Redwood Crossing.
I appreciate you reading to the end. Here’s hoping that June, with more report cards, is better for my writing than April. (Prediction: Hell no, it won’t be.)