Now for Part 5 of my story. If you’re only just joining me, I’m in the process of telling the story behind a “novel” I recently published online: a fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. Part 1 is the idea’s introduction, Part 2 is about the planning process, Part 3 tells about the writing, and Part 4 covers the editing. Have fun reading the next part of the story!
Today’s post focuses on the publishing of the novel online. After all the fun of writing and editing the fanfiction, I have to confess that this was the “dark point” of the story. Still, it was a learning experience like every other stage before, so I have no regrets. Enjoy!
Part V: The Publishing
Before I finished the story, I thought about how exactly I would publish it. I decided to post one new chapter every Saturday; by posting once a week, my chapters would be spaced out enough to avoid being overwhelming, while still being consistent enough to keep my readers engaged. After that was settled, I needed an idea of when I would start publishing. By a stroke of luck, I noticed that at the pace I was writing, I would probably be able to finish my fanfiction around the release date of the new Romeo & Juliet movie. So for fun, I opted to post the first chapter in October. All I needed to do then was finish writing by September. And with all my hard work and dedication, that’s exactly what I managed to do.
Now you may be wondering why I consider this stage the dark point of my experience. The truth is that I had quite a few fears regarding this story, but the excitement of working on it mostly drowned them out during the writing phases. Once the fanfiction was done and ready to be published, however, they all came rushing back. What were they, exactly? Bear with me for a bit and you’ll soon understand.
The Debut of Chaos and Control
Here’s a fact I haven’t mentioned yet: Chaos and Control was not sent out into the world unread. Throughout the entire process, I had the support of my best friend to keep me going. After each chapter was written and revised once, I would send a copy of it to him, and he would later give me feedback on what he had read. Even though his comments were mostly praise, they kept my spirits up to the very end of writing. I was so excited about my story that I was happy to already have one loyal reader.
But when the fanfiction was done and the first chapter’s publish date was drawing near, my biggest fears kicked in: that no one else would read it, and if they did, that they wouldn’t “get it”. When I shared the story with my best friend, I was able to take the fanfiction directly to him and discuss all the ideas I had implemented into my work. I wouldn’t have that chance with my other readers. Instead, I had to trust that they would find the story themselves, and that all the details would come across the way I had planned. And I will say this much: that wasn’t easy at all.
If you write it, will they read?
When October finally came, I started publishing Chaos and Control. As promised, I posted one new chapter a week, always on Saturday in order to reach as many readers as possible. I was excited and nervous at the same time, but more than anything, I was happy to have finally reached this stage. All I needed to do now was wait for the Sonic fans on the archive to stumble upon my story. I checked my profile stats every day to see how many hits it was getting. Unfortunately, the results were rather disappointing.
I told myself that it was normal. My best friend assured me that the story would be more likely to get attention after a few chapters had been posted. However, after a month of publishing, the hits still weren’t as frequent as I had expected. I started to wonder what I might be doing wrong. Was the synopsis not interesting enough? Were readers turned off by the idea of a story starring fan characters instead of canon characters? Did they not care for Shakespeare or Romeo & Juliet? Were the chapters too long? I kept on questioning and doubting myself week after week, until suddenly I was struck by a horrible thought…
I didn’t want to think it. I had been trying to avoid it since before I posted the first chapter. But the more the story was published, the harder it got to stay positive. Even when over a third of the fanfiction was online, it wasn’t getting as many hits and reviews as I’d hoped. All the hard work I had invested over a year and a half was going virtually unnoticed by the only audience to whom I could present it, and that one thought hurt like nothing I had ever anticipated. So one Saturday night, a few hours after posting another chapter from the first half of the story, I did something rather embarrassing…
I knew even then that I probably shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help myself. I was sad that a story into which I had poured my heart and soul wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. I was angry that terribly written amateurish stories were getting more reviews than my well nigh professional-level one was. I was frustrated that I was trying to market my fanfiction to readers who weren’t likely to appreciate it. But mostly, I was upset for feeling like I hadn’t managed to tell a story that others would love as much as I did. Although I knew it wasn’t true, I still felt like I had failed.
And then something incredible happened…
The Power of One
A few years ago, a reader (who for now I’m going to assume is female) left a review on Generation Beta telling me how much she loved my story and that I had a God-given gift for writing. It was one of the most uplifting comments I had ever received on that site. She left a few more reviews on my other stories, always encouraging me to keep on writing, and even though I didn’t publish fanfiction as frequently as I used to, I was happy to know she was following my work.
Some time after I started publishing Chaos and Control, this reader came back. I received an email notification that she had left a review on the third chapter, and once again, it didn’t fail to lift my spirits. But there was an even bigger surprise in store for me. Later on, she replied to my thank-you message to tell me how she was really enjoying my story so far, and that she loved my characters so much, she wanted to draw them for me! I was so touched; it was the first time one of my readers wanted to create fan art based on my work (not counting the music my best friend had written for Generation Beta). I loved the drawing she made of my main characters, but even more, I loved the feeling of having made a difference in one person’s life.
Now don’t get me wrong; I was always happy to have my best friend reading my story, and if it had only been read by him, I still would have been content knowing my entire audience loved it. But the knowledge that a stranger had been so inspired by something I created was encouraging in a different way. I had reached out to somebody new, in much the same way I had reached out to the reader who would become my best friend with Generation Beta five years ago, and that was enough to make me believe Chaos and Control was a success.
So if there’s one thing I took away from the publishing stage, it was knowing the power one reader could have on my whole experience. My best friend continued to support me with kind words and reviews to the very last chapter, and I eventually gained a fair share of readers who all absolutely loved the story. But I was already happy halfway through sharing the fanfiction, because I had been reminded of how one person can make all the difference. Of course, there were other fears that had yet to be addressed before it was all over… but I’ll leave those for the next post.
This concludes the fifth part of the story behind my fanfiction. Next week’s post will focus on the feedback I received on the novel and what I learned from the reviews that readers left on my story’s chapters. Thanks for reading!
Note: If you’re interested, you’re more than welcome to read my story and even leave some reviews. I promise you don’t need to know too much about the Sonic universe to appreciate it. Reviews are positive, but contain spoilers! Thank you!