How It’s Made: Earth 2

Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well. This post is just something I thought up as a way to celebrate this project reaching 100 wordpress followers. Now this might seem confusing, as the number on the sidebar is not very close to 100, but that number includes all followers including twitter, which pretty significantly affects the count. I haven’t really concerned myself too much with marketing this blog since the early days, so seeing this number is fairly encouraging to me as a writer.

I’ve always had fairly humble goals for this blog, and you all consistently blow past them. When I started this project way back in 2018, my initial goal was to get 5 people to read all of my posts. Throughout season one I easily achieved that from all the work I was doing marketing this, but after I took a year long hiatus to focus on school, when I resumed posting, I was discouraged by the fact that I’d lost a lot of my consistent viewers. I’ve slowly worked to provide quality writing to you all and I would consider myself to have achieved success by merit of my writing now rather than my marketing.

Now, with all the preamble out of the way, let’s begin the actual post. Here is, more or less, my current writing process for superzeroes.


Before I ever upload a post, I always have the entire season finished. That is what I utilize the time in my hiatuses for (in theory). If you want generally tips for web serials, I’ve already written a decent post about that: Web Serial Tips: Don’t Go the Wrong Way!

Step one: Ideas

I begin every season by working out vaguely what I want to cover. This comes down to a lot of vague ideas that I jotted down and set up in earlier seasons, combined with some good conversations with my friend J, who has been so much help to me throughout my writing career, and looking forwards to the ending that I have in mind. I generally consider this initial phase to be done once I’ve looked through my notes on the previous seasons, and come up with about 5 or 6 sentences describing what will happen. 1 sentence for the setup and what happened in the time gap between seasons, 1 sentence for each ‘arc’ which is something I’ll touch more on in step two, and 1 or 2 sentences for the conclusion.

This is loosely inspired by something called the snowflake method, in which you build a story by building down from a central idea. https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/

Step two: Spreadsheet outline

This step has had many iterations throughout my writing career. During season one, I more or less didn’t outline more than a couple posts in advance. During season two, I utilized a program called scrivener to accomplish this, but I discontinued, due to my mac dying and the fact that I both hate and don’t want to pay for the windows version of scrivener. For season three and onwards (up to now at least), I have simply used a spreadsheet.

I start by setting up a table with headers like such:

I use the y axis to describe the characters in the arc, and I use the x axis to describe which act they’re in, usually out of 4, but not always. I took inspiration for this story style from JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. If you haven’t read it, he has a large cast, all of which end up on their own respective journeys in small groups, which all work together to build the overall plot. If you’ve read Trials, and Afflictions (when it’s finished), hopefully you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about here.

Once I have the table set up, I fill in act 1 in detail for all arcs, and then fill out the rest as best as I can. It’s always wound up changing on me, so I don’t worry too much about the specifics of future acts until I’ve written the one before it.

Step three: Spreadsheet outline for individual parts

This step has always existed to some extent in my writing, but I’ve really refined it in the last couple of seasons. First, I set up another page in the same spreadsheet with 3 columns, like so:

The first column corresponds to the arcs set out in the last step. The second column indicates which act and which part within the act, so the first one is act 1: part 1. Now, take note that this is NOT the part number that I use when I upload. It simply sets out the chronological order within the act. The last column is the simplest one, as it is just an outline of what I need to happen. This isn’t fully set in stone, but by the time I’ve outlined it like this, it usually at least mostly occurs.

During this step, I only fill out act one, unless I have particularly strong ideas, then I may jot them down for the next arc. I try to finish all of the first acts before I move on to fully outlining the second acts. This is because I don’t know fully how it will resolve most of the time, and like to not work too far ahead.

Note that I’ll sometimes made a cell for the ending, with a brief description of where I’m building up to, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it spot on in the outline. It’s always undergone at least a little change.

Step four: Actual writing

This is the step I can provide the least help for you on. I set out to make what I need to happen in this part happen in 1000 words or so. I will sometimes expand a part into two parts, and I’ll sometimes collapse two parts together. It all depends on how it pans out. Sometimes I’ll set out to actually make something happen and realize that the premise was always completely ridiculous, and there was no reasonable way I could accomplish it. At that point, I practice the following 3 steps:

  1. Improvise
  2. Adapt
  3. Overcome

That is to say that I just figure it out. I may need to alter the ending, but I always manage to figure it out.

Since this tidbit didn’t really fit anywhere else, I’m gonna put it here. I don’t count writing progress in word counts. That is to say that I don’t keep track of how many words I wrote in a session, or in a month, as many people do. As a serial writer, I keep track of how many parts I’ve written. The parts are always around 1000 words, so if I need to know the number of words, I just use that and multiply it out. I used to keep parts at around 600 words, but I found that often led to lackluster parts where I skipped important details. This is something of a writer growth thing. 1000 isn’t some magical number, it just usually works for me. I have a pretty good eye for how much I can make happen in 1000 words with appropriate detailing.

Step five: Color coding

This is a fairly important step for me. I always color code my outlines once I get further into them.

The specific color scheme is unimportant, but using something like this conveys a decent bit of information about what needs to be done very quickly. Looking at this, I know I’ve written act 1, outlined act 2, and haven’t properly outlined acts 3 or 4.

I utilize the same color scheme on the parts page, where I can see exactly where I’ve gotten and what parts need to be done. Another added bonus of this, is that it provides a nice motivational boost to highlight large swaths of my spreadsheet in orange, especially so when I finish the last part in an arc and can connect the two swaths, but that might just be me.

Step six: Rinse and repeat

Once I’ve written an act, I outline out the next, then write it. I continue to color code the whole way through, until eventually I’ve written everything I need to in all the arcs. I always write all of the first acts, then all of the second acts, so on and so forth. I won’t work ahead in Jude’s arc and leave Paul’s behind, since I’m building to the same point and time.

Step seven: The ending

Once I’m ready, I will begin outlining the end. For this section I usually treat it like 1 act, writing a brief description, and then outlining the individual parts. For Trials, the ending was 2 parts, but for Afflictions it is around 6.

Step eight: Ordering

Once I have the thing written, I will order the parts in actual upload order. I do this by the following steps. First, I make a new column, and manually determine which order the parts will go in. During Trials, I alternated arcs each part, but during Afflictions, I’m doing all of the first acts, then all of the seconds, with a few exceptions.

The only big hassle for this is that I have to manually copy each part into one big document to print for the editing phase. That proved to not be too much of a hassle, but was considerably easier in scrivener.

Step nine: Editing

This step, I actually have something interesting to say again. First, I will send the whole thing to J, to see if I’ve written coherent arcs, or if I’ve written something particularly stupid. At the end of Trials, for example, I initially wrote something that more or less said something quite dumb that I disagree with, and I didn’t catch it, because that wasn’t my intention. Once I get notes from J, I’ll move on to personally editing.

When I edit, I drive to my university and print out the entire thing, whole punch it, and put it in a binder. Once I’ve used all my printing money for the semester, I go on home and do a readthrough where I only mark things like typos, but I don’t look very hard. I am simply trying to reorient myself in my story and read it like a reader. This is where I find plot changes that I need to make, and I usually try to reference J’s notes.

Once I’ve worked out any kinks in the plot, I’ll move onto my version of editing, in which I go into the physical binder with a pen and highlighter (I have a specific pen comme highlighter), and I mark any changes that need to be made, be it an inconsistency, a typo, or a complete rework of a part.

Once I’ve made all my notes, I go in and make all the changes on my computer, which somewhat allows me a third readthrough when I’m fairly sick of looking at it. Once that’s done, I declare the project finished. I input links and photo credits as I upload parts. Photo credits got easier when I decided to just design a generic image for the whole season.


Thank you all so much for reading. I hope this is something of a “reward”, but let me know if you liked it or hated it. It was considerably more effort that a normal part, and twice as long with graphics, so don’t expect this too often. I’m declaring the next milestone to be 1000, for which I will do something bigger (which I don’t have to determine right now at least, since I don’t earnestly believe I’ll ever hit that). Keep an eye out for another special project I’m going to be releasing soon, since I’ve decided I will at least link it on here, and have a great day!

Web Serial Tips: Don’t Go the Wrong Way!

Hey everyone! Blogging can be harder than it looks, and you can easily set yourself up for too much stress. I hope these tips will help keep you from going the wrong way on your journey! I know doing blog posts is mildly outside my wheelhouse, but I stumbled upon someone asking about it in a tweet, and decided to write up my wisdom from the 2ish years I’ve been doing this.

I would like to add the disclaimer that I am by no means a writing or social media star. I do this as a hobby and I reached my goal viewership (~5 people reading every entry) a while ago. My current wordpress follower count is about 60, not ~600 as indicated by the side bar which includes my twitter (@cjaworks). With that in mind, here are my tips.

Tip 1: Not a novel, a serial.

First let’s talk about what a serial is, and what a serial isn’t. A serial is just a story that has been formatted to be released in several small pieces. This hails originally from serialized detective stories from the 1800s, which were mailed out to readers individually or as parts of larger publications. A serial is not a story that got cut into a bunch of pieces haphazardly and released one by one. While you technically can chop up your full length novel into a bunch of pieces and upload them once a week to your blog, you really shouldn’t. You have to take at least a little effort to edit your story for a serialized format. You need to make sure you’re cutting off in appropriate places for long term pauses. This is a concern unique from novels, due to the time distance between the publishing of installments.

One way you can do this is to try to structure it so that each installment is something like an episode of a procedural TV show or an epic. An event occurs, which is the focus of the installment, and the event is wrapped up by the end of the part. It doesn’t have to be long. The event can be something like a hard conversation, one particular fight, or a question and an answer (for example, a character hears someone coming, and at the end of the installment, they figure out who it is). Additionally, this doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. I have, more than once, had an event span multiple installments, but even with that, you can usually work out a resolution to a single facet of the event, or utilize a cliffhanger.

Tip 2: Write before you upload.

You absolutely need to finish and edit your entire story before you start uploading. This is not to say you can’t do further edits, or realize your ending sucks, and change it, but you *need* to have your story finished before you start. When I started uploading Origins (known just as Earth 2 at the time), I had about half of the story written and edited every post as I went. This was mildly stressful, but I managed. That was until I hit a slump and stopped writing for a while. I kept editing and uploading, and eventually I nearly ran out of backlog. While this did inspire me to hurry up and finish the story, it was considerably more stressful than writing the thing first. This is in contrast to how I’m running this season, where I have it fully written, and simply have to copy and paste an installment. I could even go ahead and schedule every post, but I’d have to manually update navigation links anyways and don’t have the most faith in wordpress’s scheduling capabilities. If you just write the whole thing first, both you and your audience will thank you.

Additionally, if you look in my table of contents under season one, you’ll see that the 3rd installment is not just called Part 3, but “Part 3: Rewrite”. This is because I was new in my writing journey, and had part 3 uploaded before anyone besides me had read it. It was not great. I had some things I was very unhappy with, so I released an updated version. Below are the links to both, but I’ll give a disclaimer that I’ve improved as a writer since then, so even the revised version isn’t exactly my best work.

Earth 2: Part 3

Earth 2: Part 3 (Re-Write)

Tip 3: Networking

I’m sure this is the thing that I am least qualified to talk about, but I’m going to do it anyways. There are a few serial unique things with marketing, so I’ll focus on those.

First, there is the original question posed in the tweet: “What platform do I pick?” I’m sure you can work out what my answer to that is. I went with wordpress for mainly the reason of already being vaguely familiar with the platform, from having a blog that I didn’t do anything with a few years ago. Wattpad is another option which I know of, but wordpress seemed less intimidating to me. Another option would be to use Reddit. Many writers have their own personal subreddit, you can upload to your page, and there is even a serials subreddit where people are encouraged to upload their serials. There are other options mentioned in the original tweet that I am unfamiliar with. You could also opt to go with multiple platforms, but I think you’re better off sticking with having a primary platform, and perhaps regularly uploading links to your primary on other platforms.

Then, no matter what platform you’ve picked, you need to first network within that platform. On wordpress, there are two primary ways to do this. First, you can tag your posts. I came into this with a mildly self righteous bias against hashtags, but I now use them on every post. Hashtags do a LOT of my marketing these days, and all I have to do is copy a template post that has them in it already. It is nearly free publicity. I try to keep it to about 5 hashtags for posts, and only tag the specific ones which are relevant to the post. For example, I sometimes use the #writeLGBTQ tag, but I only do that when my LGBTQ characters are actually in the writing I’m tagging. Then you have something which I don’t do often anymore (which I am aware I should), but I did a lot during my earlier days: WordPress reader. This is one of the reasons I like wordpress. It is where your hashtags go. You can follow specific bloggers or search by tags. This allows you to meet other bloggers, who might decide to check out your blog if they see you’ve liked and or followed. Note that this shouldn’t really be your only reason to read other peoples stuff, since I took a lot of design ideas from a blog I stumbled upon (which was actually great and you should read it).

Bonus tip: Use featured images in all of your posts. It makes them more appealing according to wordpress at least. It also lets you show off your other work if you draw or do photography. Even if you have to really stretch the connection, go for it. Look at that first sentence in my post, added afterwards so I could show off an original photo.

Plug to the great blog I found and read https://retroactivityserial.wordpress.com/

Next, I’d like to shout out the Web Fiction Guide. I put my blog in there towards the start of my career, and I still get clicks from my page on there. The people that run it were really friendly and helped me out when I had an issue submitting.

Last, I’ll briefly cover all other social media. I mostly network on twitter, which is really easy to integrate with your wordpress blog (presumably others as well). I send out a scheduled tweet every time I upload a new post, and add appropriate hashtags. An important thing to remember though: Don’t only tweet (or post on any other platforms) links to your blog. You certainly *can* do that, and you’ll probably get some clicks, but I’m reluctant to follow people who just tweet links to their work. Additionally, interacting with the community helps me find new people, some of whom read my stuff, and some of whom I learn things from. I used to network on reddit as well. You can answer writing prompts, post in critique threads, and find other good work on there, all of which can help point people towards your serial.

Tip 4: Consistency

My last tip is in counter to all of my networking tips. In all likelihood, you’re not going to get a ton of clicks, so don’t feel obligated to do a bunch of networking. I hardly bother with it at all, beyond the easy stuff. The biggest boon to growing your blog is to set a regular upload schedule and keep it. I upload every Friday at noon, barring technical errors. It doesn’t have to be weekly, just set something and stick to it. Consistency helps you stay disciplined in your writing, and helps give your viewership a steady increase. This will also help you in the future if you decide to monetize your content. If you’ve shown that you can be regular with your content, people will have more faith in you, and thusly be more willing to subscribe to your patreon/kofi/whatever.


 

That’s more or less all I’ve got, and it’s pretty late where I am. Just remember you’re doing this for a hobby, so don’t stress about it and be okay with it not going anywhere. I am so unimaginably stoked to have 63 followers, and that’s what I’ve gained over 2ish years of doing this. If you don’t know who I am, I do a serial, check the about page for more details, I think it’s pretty good.

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re all well.

(Photo credit: Me, I took that. Look at it.)