So you’re going to publish your book online. You’ve weighed the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing, then gone deeper and decided that you’d rather post your story online as you go rather than publish a finished product on Amazon. You’ve combed through the many websites where you can publish your book and have chosen your winner. Perhaps you’re going with Wattpad, or a book publishing website where you can earn some cash as you go like Royal Road or Fictionate.Me.
First of all, I have to commend you on making all those tough decisions! As a self-published author myself, I know a lot of sleepless nights can be spent fretting over where to publish your book online. Secondly, I would urge you to make sure you’re really ready to start publishing your book. It’s no fun at all to have posted several chapters of a story, only to realize that you’re not all that into it or don’t know where it’s going.
Here are a few things you can do to help you make sure your story is one you’ll want to stick with through thick and thin as you publish.
1) Don’t Skimp on the Brainstorming Process
I know it can be very tempting to dive into a new story once you even have the slightest glimmer of an idea. I’ve definitely done it. But I’ve also ended up with pages and pages of unusable material because I didn’t have a very good idea of what my novel was actually about.
A way to avoid this narrative stumbling around is to dedicate some real time and energy to brainstorming your idea. If you want to write historical fiction, do as much research as you can on the time period. Even if you’re not doing something historical, research can be a huge asset—you can learn more about mythological creatures, or true crime cases, or whatever your story is going to revolve around.
Another important part of the brainstorming process is writing character sketches. These brief biographies of each of your central characters detailing their pasts, relationships with their friends and families, and any other essential information will help you get to know them. The better an idea you have of your characters going in, the more likely you are to be able to make them real and human enough for readers to relate to them.
2) Take a Step Back
Once you have a full-fledged idea, it’s time to leave it alone for at least a few weeks (a few months, ideally). It can be very difficult to stay away from an idea you’re excited about. But that distance is very important. Sometimes what seems like the most exciting idea in the moment becomes the dullest one after some time has passed.
You owe it to yourself and your writing ability to give your idea time. If it truly is as wonderful an idea as you feel it is now, you’ll still feel that way a little later down the line. Having some extra time to think about your story before you begin will also likely give you even more ideas about how to make your novel great.
All right, you’ve hit the point where you are really and truly confident in your idea. Now it’s time to start outlining. At first, you should just start with a rough outline of what you want to happen in the overarching story. This is the basic beginning, middle, and end. The end part is particularly important—it is very difficult to keep an interesting story going if you don’t know where it’s going to end up, particularly when you’re doing so in front of an audience.
Next, you can move on to more in-depth outlines of each chapter. I tend to only write only five or six of these at a time to give the story some flexibility. It can feel very confining, after all, to think of an outline as being set in stone. I prefer to think of it more like a map I’ve brought along on a hike. It’s possible I’ll barely even glance at the map as I go, allowing myself to be guided by the most exciting trails and beautiful views. But when I get totally lost and am wandering past that stump with the weird moss for the third time, I’ll definitely be glad I have the map.
It’s possible that this won’t be a helpful method for you. Some people are writers who fly by the seat of their pants and prefer to follow their stories toward some unknown conclusion. I will just say that when you’re publishing online, it can be a lot more satisfying for you and your readers if you already have a destination in mind.
4) Write Your First Few Chapters
After you finish your overarching outline and a few chapter outlines, it can be a very good idea to have a go at writing the first few chapters of your book. You may be thinking that part of the fun of publishing online as you go is that you don’t need to have anything written yet. You can type your first chapter right into a self-publishing platform’s editor and publish each one as soon as you’ve finished it.
However, there is something to be said for giving your story a test drive before you release it into the world. I would recommend writing the first chapter, taking a few weeks away, then coming back and reading it over again. If you’re happy with it, you can move on to writing the next few chapters. Then take another break and come back. If you’re still enjoying your story and see great potential in it, this would be the time to start posting online.
While there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself for publishing online, the most important one is to take a deep breath and relax. One of the best things about self-publishing your book online as you go is that your readers understand your book is a work in progress. They won’t begrudge you a typo here and there—in fact they may helpfully point them out to you so you can fix them!
Hopefully, these tips will help you to feel ready enough to go out into the self-publishing world and share your story with confidence. The feedback you get from readers is invaluable and will show you that the vast majority of readers are eager to help and make your story the best it can possibly be.
Author’s Bio:- Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com, and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jill has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.