Writing a web serial: the gift and curse of reactionary editing

I just finished writing up a blurb for Asylum on nests (you’ll recall my earlier thoughts on genre specific writing). Now I feel like a crap writer for not showing this better in text. :/ It’s not too late to tweak upcoming entries, of course, but I almost wish it was. There’s something maddening about releasing a novel 2-3k words at a time, and having plenty of time to waffle, debate, quibble and fine tune week to week. It’s crazy making, to be sure. But also pretty stellar to be able to see the impact your words are making, and having the option to correct mistakes you couldn’t do in trad pub.

This is part of the reason Asylum took so long to release. I can’t say the whole thing is queued up and ready to go, but I wanted to take the novel a goodly way through it’s re-writes, partially for a buffer but mostly so I could front load information when it was needed, instead of trying to do a retcon scramble. So far, I’ve promised myself no major edits will be made to posted work, unless A) something goes terribly, terribly awry or B) we ever re-address the novel for some other format of publication (because let’s be honest, current Asylum isn’t even kind of paced for a print novel). But it’s oh, so tempting, especially with the small readership we currently have, just starting out.

I’ve read a few web serials, and I’ve seen it go a lot of ways. Some authors actually prefer to adjust to audience feedback, some write the entries on the fly every week and are sort of reading along with their audience. I just don’t know at this point. Book 1 of Asylum has some pretty serious plot points it needs to hit, but after this book is done… It really could go anywhere.

So this is my ramble, helpful as it may or may not be. I’d love to hear from other web novelists on their approaches to reactionary editing. It’s been my biggest fear about this whole thing, and I think it might be time to get my head out of the sand. Authors, and readers, of web novels, how much impact do you prefer to let reader feedback have on an actively updating story?

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