Lessons From Lexie #2
So it’s been a little over a week since I launched Lexie. In this time I went through various stages of excitement and discouragement. I’ve been thrilled with beginning and sharing this project and disappointed when droves of people didn’t jump on the train right away (a foolish hope, of course, but a girl can dream)! Everyone I tell about it seems to think the idea is cool, exciting, and cutting edge. I just need people to go one step forward and begin reading and engaging. (Hey, sociology majors—this could make for a good paper!).
pros and cons of wattpad, other modes of sharing the story
One of the reasons I decided to put Lex on Wattpad was because I’d seen the crazy high numbers of followers and reads for stories – we’re talking in the MILLIONS here. The problem is, it seems the only way to get that kind of following is to trade reads with others and be really active on discussion boards—a working author with several deadlines just does not have the time for that. It was a little rough, seeing the numbers climb oh so slowly. After a week, I’ve had about 715 reads, but that doesn’t translate into followers or “votes” (another Wattpad thing that helps your story move up in the ranks, therefore giving it more visibility). Those are the things that really help to bring your story to the forefront. You can also see a breakdown of how many reads you get for each chapter and that, too, has been disappointing. Not everyone reads all the chapters (at this point, there are only 5 episodes, as I’m calling them). Wattpad is very good about tracking things, such as what parts of the world your story is being read in and it graphs various data, such as how many reads you got on a given day. This info is potentially helpful. All that being said, Wattpad has a bit of a learning curve.
As a result of all this, I decided to also post each chapter on Lexie’s website (which is a Tumblr). I’m hoping this will provide an easier way for people to read. I realized that a lot of readers might not bother because they won’t want to join yet another social media site, and I totally get that. Particularly adults. Most of my readers on Wattpad, according to the statistics on my story, are between the ages of 13-18. This is encouraging, because I primarily saw this as a way to increase my readership among teens. I know this will be a slow build and I’m working hard to get the info out there. I had a great launch week with articles in Huffpost, Bustle, School Library Journal, and USA Today, among many prominent YA blogs. We did lots of interesting stuff, so I hope readers can see the potential of entering story this way. After this first week, I’ve decided to look at this experience through the lens of the scientific process. The only way scientists learn and discover is through constant trial and error. They form a hypothesis, they do the work, they see what the results are. They amend the hypothesis as needed. This is why I added Tumblr as a way to read and I’ll keep searching for other ways to get the story out there.
I also suspect that the further along I am, the more willing people will be to get invested. Since we live in a time of binge-watching and binge-reading (thank you Netflix and Kindle, respectively), serial storytelling might not work for everyone. Although, teens seem to really dig it because they’re on Wattpad catching up on multiple stories all the time, so they’ll be more likely to look you back up when you announce you have a new post. This all means that it’s very possible that I’ll see a major spike in readership when the story is actually finished.
This will lead to lots of decisions on my part. For example, how long will I encourage people to read the whole story on Wattpad before I switch over to traditional publishing (the final step in this process)? I have no doubt that there are loads of readers who are only interested in reading the story between two covers or on their e-reader. I also welcome the idea of having it edited and re-worked, just like any manuscript I submit to my publishers. This provides another exciting aspect of this project—readers are getting the chance to read and influence the first draft of my novel This means that there is an opportunity for blossoming writers to compare the first draft (what readers will get on Wattpad and Tumblr) with the final draft that will reach readers in a traditional way. This means that readers who fall in love with the characters and the story online will have a huge incentive to buy/read the book itself, both to see how the story has changed, and to get the extras I plan to put at the end of the book (this would be a novella or scenes from when Chloe, the protagonist of Something Real, and her boyfriend, Patrick, spent nearly a year travelling the world). I’ve also liked the idea of considering Something Real as a prequel to The Lexie Project, and not just as a companion novel. I feel that this adds more weight to Lexie’s story and connects the two stories in the minds of the reader.
So far I’m having great fun working on Lexie. It’s very fulfilling getting deeper into character and the story, discovering things as I go along, and working with all her social media. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see the ways that Lexie is funny or clever—I don’t particularly consider myself to be either. Lexie is much better at Twitter and Tumblr, too. Her brassy ways give me loads of freedom to play.
challenges for this week
There were only two major challenges in the actual crafting of the story this week. The first is that I found myself wanting to move the plot forward too fast and I realized this would make for a very short novel, indeed. I was anxious to give readers all the good stuff up front so that they would keep reading. My betas and my own instincts helped me to pull back and in doing so, I came up with better story progression and opportunities to deepen the internal lives of my characters. I also came to realize that because my readers are only getting one chapter a week, I’m really learning how to make each chapter count so that not only is the chapter giving the reader something new and exciting, but it’s also going to have a much nicer cliffhanger or emotional question at the end of the chapter. Both of these things are very important in YA, both for propelling the narrative forward and keeping the pace fast and readers engaged. Thus, the story becomes a bit of a workshop for me. I like seeing the chapters as standalone events, but ones that are absolutely connected to the chapter before and after, as with any novel. It raises my own stakes for each chapter. I can’t just bank on the one before or after it to keep the reader engaged.
Time in the novel is also a tricky thing, since I say that the novel is being written in “real time,” which could be construed as Lexie having just lived whatever I post. I found this to be impossible, of course, because I only post once a week and because there are often several chapters in a row that take place on the same day. This means the reader may only see one full day of Lexie’s life over the course of a month. I found an answer to this, which is that the real time part of it is Lexie’s engagement with her social media—which is actually in real time. Much like having lived experiences in what will become a reality TV show for a later week, the novel is compiling events for later distribution. My goal, however, is to attempt to keep the seasons in time with our actual seasons. Thus, I’m hoping that summer scenes will take place in our summer, autumn scenes in our autumn, etc. But, of course, I have to do what’s best for the story. The good thing is that Lexie can account for all of this in social media. I don’t want a reader to be able to say, “Hey, this isn’t real time—it’s Halloween and she’s already celebrating Christmas!” We’ll see how that goes. Again, this is the part where editorial changes will come in when the book is being prepped for traditional publication. I will no longer need to worry about real time. We’ll see how the adventure goes!
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