Bytown Episode 1 Postmortem
Yesterday I released the last chapter of Episode 1 of Bytown, and tomorrow we kick off Episode 2 with all kinds of craziness and psychological trauma. Behind the scenes, I'm getting relatively close to finishing Episode 3 (yay!) but I'm starting to anticipate that my current schedule of cranking out B-Sides every Thursday is going to throw me off-schedule soon. Between that and Topic Tag Tuesday (plus my 900 ghostwriting assignments at any given moment) I am quickly running out of time.
But still, it's time for some good old fashioned 1st month analyses!
(note: spoilers for Episode 1 lie herein. Tread carefully)
Numbers Numbers Numbers
I haven't done a huge amount of marketing for this project, on account of it being a kinda crappy time for self-promotion and all, but the trickle of word of mouth seems to be helping. We went from around 30 visitors in week 1 to very close to 700 yesterday. And people seem to be coming back for new chapters, too, despite my not reminding them very effectively at all :)
One trend I'm noticing is that people are coming back on the off days (Tuesday, Thursday, weekend), possibly because their MWF are super-busy, or possibly because when they visited on MWF, the chapters weren't live yet. I can't think of a good way to fix that, but it seems like everyone's getting their fix, so that's nice.
This has been an issue for as long as I've been writing webfiction: how long is too long? The old answer was that a good daily chapter length is around 750 words or so — long enough to get into the story, but short enough that it can be read on lunch breaks etc. That standard used to mean more than it does now, I think (especially with covid) because I suspect people in 2020 are more adept at consuming digital content in their spare time.
That said, I still like to be careful about how I compose these things. Novelists work in terms of total length, but webfic writers look at things on an atomic level. If we ramble too much (and the audience doesn't like rambling) then we might lose readers midway.
Episode 1 came out to 28,499 words, which puts it at a little less than a third of the length of your typical historical novel. That was by design, so that episodes 1-3 could be bundled into a digital and print books and be a respectable length. The issue has been to maintain the episodic rhythm while not creating a dangerous hybrid of a project, where, say, episodes are 50,000 words — just barely novels themselves, but an overly-large beast when combined.
So far so good, I think, and the stats seem to back that up. We'll see how things shake out over time.
This is kinda looking back several months, but: it took me very little time to write the first 5 chapters of this episode, and then it took me a very long time to write the next 5 chapters -- as is usually the case. The final 3 I did in a frantic rush, and then the editing process happened over the course of a few weeks. If that pattern repeats for all the episodes, though, I not only won't make my goal of staying 3-4 months ahead of things...I'll actually fall behind.
Clearly, I need to pick up the pace somehow. I'm just not sure what can change to make that happen. The plot to this story is huge and complex (references dropped at the start of episode 1 come back in episode 9 etc) so livewriting my way through it won't work. I just don't know what will work.
I know! I'll sleep less!
Nothing earth-shattering yet. There is still a lot to do on this project, and a lot that can go wrong (yay!) but I'm not in crisis mode yet.
Sometime in the next month, I need to write a post about business models for Bytown. But for now, I should probably get back to writing before I make things even worse for myself.