Building Patterns

You need to be consistent with your publishing schedule.

If given the chance, many people will binge something from start to finish. Many kinds of books were published this way.

The all at once model doesn’t always make sense.

Publishing a serial / episodic type of content can work to publish a little at a time online. Some people will get hooked and stick around, checking in as frequently as they know an update goes live. Others will try to wait until enough chapters are released to read all at once.

I do a mix of both. Sometimes I’m impatient and I consume the new content the moment it goes live. Other times I wait for a few drops to come before tearing into them.

It depends on how much I love the content if I jump on it ASAP or not when something new is published. Serials where I absolutely adore them I will read or watch immediately on the new drop. Other content I’m not as hooked I’m happy to wait awhile to go through what’s new.

Sometimes projects go on hiatus, or have longer than usual update schedules. I’ve been there. I know how agonizing it is to wait.

Some of my favorite works are ones which only get published once every two weeks, once a month, or even once every few months. A single brief chapter once every few months! It’s painful! Especially when the short chapters feel like nothing even happened.

Those long waits can sometimes make you forget about the project for a while.

If you’re set up to be notified when chapters are released, then it can be a helpful reminder.

If you’re part of a community which enjoys the content somehow, you’ll usually hear about new updates that way, eventually. People always talk about new content.

God Tier Publishing Schedule

One chapter a day.

That’s how frequently you want to be publishing chapters.

If readers know that they have a story they enjoy where chapters are published every single day… they will come back every day and read.

Building a daily habit can be extremely powerful. There are things I do every day, there are things you do every day. Probably because you built a habit around doing them. There was some quality of the activity which you became compelled to take part in.

If you are reading a story along with friends, then there can be a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) related to being up to date with chapters. You can encourage the development of communities to foster this sense of being up to date on chapters. People want to be up to date on a series they enjoy. They want to discuss their favorite works with others. And they don’t want to be spoiled. The safest way to avoid spoilers is to read new chapters as soon as they drop.

The bare minimum chapter length should be 600 words.

Your daily minimum should be 1,000 words.

Some people struggle to write 1,000 words in a single day! But many thousands per day is possible with planning.

The very best word count target for daily publishing is 2,000 words.

2,000 words is enough of a bite to make people feel like they got something good every day. It gives you more room to develop your story, characters, and worlds more too.

If you’re doing the daily publishing thing, then there is no real rush in getting to the end of your story.

Of course some people will complain that the primary hook they are in the story for is never reached. Many serial stories have that problem.

There are ways to overcome the problem of leading people on, such as solving the primary hook just after you introduced several more juicy hooks that will ensure readers won’t drop out as soon as the main hook is dropped. Then you can have closure sometimes, but still have compelling reason to continue. It can be an endless cycle. Telling stories after stories with the characters readers love.

Daily publishing only makes sense (to me) if:

  • You love writing your work and enjoy publishing it so much you want to do it daily.
  • Your work is very popular and you want to strike while the iron is hot, and keep the iron hot!

You can always change schedules later on if you begin with a daily schedule, though it may upset some fans. If you go from weekly to daily, that can be seen a generally more positive schedule change to fans.

Weekly Publishing Schedule

If you can’t do a daily schedule, then at least do a weekly schedule.

This is what most TV shows do.

In the age of binge watching shows, people want everything at once. It’s the same deal as full books. You can read the whole thing at once.

But dropping it all at once is not the same thing as releasing over time. They both have their own value.

In TV shows, it allows room for weekly hype. Theory building. Going over episodes with a fine-tooth comb. Building anticipation for the next episode.

It may not fulfill the desire for all episodes at once, but it still enables other valuable things which all at once never seem to accomplish.

There can still be issues. Such as not managing expectations properly. When Amazon publishes their own TV shows, they do it once a week. And they benefit from the weekly hype, the theory crafting, the weekly check-in. But they also get review bombed every single time. People like the show, but hate that they have to wait, and so the review scores of the show are not reliable. Did the show suck or not? You can’t really know on Amazon shows based on their review scores, you have to look elsewhere for an honest take.

Writing may have a similar problem. If an author goes from publishing big books to doing serial fiction, they may suffer a similar fate. Review bombs by people who want full books again!

Hopefully that is something we can avoid.

Lame Publishing Schedule

Whatever kind of schedule you choose, you need to be consistent.

If you are not consistent, you can break the spell your work has on people.

You can also upset people. Some people are more negative than others to broken promises implied or otherwise.

Once you begin a pattern, you don’t even have to make it an official schedule - it’s your pattern, and if you break it your readers will notice and let you know about it.

The Big Drop

Popularized by some magazines as well as Asian comic anthologies.

The idea is to periodically drop a bunch of something at once.

Generally it’s varied content. As in one chapter per work in a collection. Like with Weekly Shonen Jump. It has a long history of publishing many great works in this format. One Piece and Hunter × Hunter are some examples of very long histories of publishing (though HxH also has a long history of taking breaks between publishing).

This can work in digital format too. You can make an event of the weekly drop.

You can also charge an all or nothing fee. People pay for the bundle, they can’t pay for the single chapter of something. If they want to get a chapter of something, they need to buy the drop for it, which might include chapters of other works too.

Some people probably won’t like that, so a minor compromise you could do is to discount the individual chapters within the big drop bundle. So it’s paying 50% per chapter instead of 100% if they buy in the bundle, and if they are interested in multiple works within a drop, they can end up saving money over all.

Do what makes sense for you, your market, your audience.

Keeping Technical Quality Up

My writing is not the best ever.

I still try to keep the quality up, remove simple mistakes.

One tool I use with my writing is ProWritingAid (Affiliate Link).

I pay for it, and recommend it.

Most of the time with PWA I use the Grammar mode followed by the Style mode. I might do the Grammar mode again after Style to sanity check the work. I have a certain writing style, and I don’t always agree with the suggestions PWA gives.

It doesn’t always catch all issues, but it catches many common problems. I find it worth the money… if you actually use it often! I use it nearly every day so it makes sense to me.

A useful trick is to have Text to Speech read your words back to you. A free one is Balabolka. Personally I don’t mind the robotic voices, but if you want more TTS natural speaking voices, they are out there for purchase.

Nothing beats an actually qualified editor to proof your work. But you really should only send your text to such a person after you have had time to edit yourself. Tools like PWA help remove the busy work a real human may do with the words, and instead focus on other issues.

Keeping The Story Hype

Besides the challenge of keeping technical quality up while writing a series, you also need to be concerned about degrading the quality of your work.

There are many books and articles out there which can give you an idea on how to do compelling writing. I’ll put a few short ideas here.

  • Leave every chapter on a cliffhanger of some kind. You’re leading into the next chapter at the end of the previous chapter in some way.
  • Advance the story. Even if it’s a tiny progression, you need something there that matters. It can be something good, or something bad. Did the hero get something good? Yes, but… No, and to make matters worse… That’s good progression!
  • Give the reader what they are there for. Know your audience. Make the product they are expecting. If you’re not writing a romance but you suddenly write like a romance, you’re going to have people wondering what is going on and possibly dropping out. You want to avoid that.
  • Don’t be boring. If the writing is boring to you, then it’s probably going to boring to the reader too. If you are not interested, excited about some writing that is a massive clue for you to either rework it, condense it, or skip over it. If you are super hyped for every chapter you write that is a great thing to have.

The End

Even our Meta articles are on a schedule. We publish articles here every single Friday.

There is always more to say. Until next time!