Post Mortem: NIU Book 2 Edit 1

And now, here it is. The end of Book 2. It doesn’t seem as big a deal as the ending of Book 1. Mostly because I learned quite a bit more from Book 1 than I ever did from Book 2. If you remember from last time, this is where I reflect back on what went right, what went wrong, and how to make sure I do more of the former and less of the later.

One thing is that I have noticed about the period I have spent writing Book 2 is that while I’ve gotten a bit better and I’ve gotten significantly more viewers, not much has changed. I haven’t increased Patreon funding, the TV Tropes page hasn’t gotten any bigger, and the plot hasn’t really gone that much farther. Of these three concerns, the one that I’m going to be talking about the most is the awful pacing in this book.

Also, I think I need to write down the goals for a book in order to do some preplanning and refer to them constantly. I haven’t got a lot done in relation to my goals. I need to do more preplanning. I need to focus on my goals more.

So, now that I have killed this beast, let us poke around the corpse to see what we can learn… Hopefully we get some very nice answers.

Goals

As I said before, I need to focus more on goals. First step is to write them down before I start the book, instead of guessing them after I finished the book. Then, while writing, I can go back and check to see what I need to work on. That might help.

Further the Meta Plot

The problem with this book is that it does little to further the main story and it only has its own story at the very end. The problem with building up to the end of the entire series in this book is how early on it is and the fact that very little in this book has anything to do with what comes next.

This makes placing any clues to the end awkward. In fact, if you were wondering what the hell Track 17 is about, then here’s your answer. Honestly, that might be one of the clunkiest things I’ve ever written. Yes, it’s atmospheric, but everything suddenly gets hijacked by two characters that seem like obscure extras to talk about things we won’t see for at least another book. As any freshman media studies student will tell you, that isn’t good pacing.

On the other hand, we do meet three of the four people who are going to be far more important to the plot than Killer as well as get some hints as to what’s going to be in the next book. The only one of these three people who I think you can figure out on your own is NIU’s president and founder, Anthony Newton-Howell. Honestly, I think his introduction rivals even Ulfric’s.

Talk About Life at NIU Post-Hell Semester

Originally, these would be two different goals. Talking about the effects of Hell Semester and get a look at what the characters do in their free time. However, as I was writing this, I realized that these were the same thing. The kind of wounds that Nate and his friends gained from Hell Semester are the kind that stay with you every second, and May can’t really heal them, no matter how much she wants to.

There actually is some nice hints that some of the main characters are fraying at the seems. Nate’s having trouble sleeping and reacts poorly even to fake gunfire. Eliza has a complete meltdown in Track 18, and back in Track 1 she suggests that she’s been having guilt issues since long before Hell Semester. However, I’m not sure how much I’ve talked about what John’s doing. That’s something I really should get on.

It isn’t all depression, PTSD and guilt, though. There are some bits of fun, like going to a party and the fact that two characters are already having a romance! Characters are even interacting without Nate being a driving force, though that is kind of the theme. I hope to get some more of this done soon.

Make Certain Characters Less One-Dimensional

If you go all the way back to the first WFG review I ever recieved, you’ll find that one of the author’s few complaints was how one of the characters (Richard Forrest Taylor) was exceedingly one-dimensional.

Now, when an author notices a complaint about their work that really sticks with them, they must first ask themself “Is this critic right about it being there? Are they right about it being something that’s bad enough to fix?” Now, one-dimensional characters are not a terrible thing, but I honestly decided I wanted Richard to be more.

That led to the twist of him and Kyle, someone I had very few plans for initially, to become double-agents for NIU. However, with Richard, I’m not sure I gave him much of an excuse. I mean, yeah, his parents ordered a hit on his sister in the side story he shares with Jen, but that feels kind of thin to me, especially as he’s still a racist.

Kyle, on the other hand… Kyle’s fun to write. First off, he’s an excellent double-agent, but he really cares about the people he works with. He also can’t seem to get a break. Unlike Nathan, he knew people coming in. Those people ended up dying horrible deaths in Hell Semester and the few who did survive would end up dying fighting Nazis. I actually really want to do a side story from his perspective.

Community Response

Like the previous book, I’ve experienced a mostly positive reaction from the few people who have come across NIU. I’ve also got better at analyzing comments for what I’ve done right and for what I’ve done wrong (for instance, I should describe characters more often.)

Firstly, I’ve learned quite a bit about what characters people like and dislike. I’m glad to see that I’ve got everyone significantly turned against NIU now. That’s quite fun. Also, people are starting to chose favorite characters which is pretty cool.

Some have requested information on other characters such as Valkyrie. Rest assured, Valkyrie will be mentioned again, and new types of Parahumans will be introduced. I’ve also been told that there aren’t that many Hispanic characters in English-language sci-fi. As penance for killing one of my Hispanic characters off, I plan to give the other one more screen time and maybe introduce another.

All this points to a strong sign that I’ve developed an actual audience, instead of just somehow attracting a swarm of bots. Now, the next step is to get a community where readers actually talk to each other. So far, strangely enough, that has been more effective on Spacebattles.

I say it’s strange because, much as I like it, Spacebattles is only friendly if you’ve been reading since the beginning. If a reader starts right now, they’d have to read around a hundred and forty thousand words in order to comment, and that number is only increasing, with the goal being by at least two thousand words per week. This isn’t even counting side stories which increases the total word count by another sixty thousand.

On the WordPress sites (both the NIU site and my author blog,) the comments are pretty much dead. It might be easier for people to comment without having to read literally every single word, but not many have taken advantage of this.

Metrics

Nowhere Island University and my blog have both grown a huge amount. In its first month of existence, the NIU WordPress got fifty-five views and twenty-two visitors. Nowadays, I consider myself unlucky if I get that in a single day. This section will be mostly for my fellow serial writers, so if metrics and stats bore you, you can just skip ahead.

Views

 

 

First off, we have views. For those of you who don’t know, views are how many times various things on the site have been looked at. As you can see, there’s been a little bit of a dip recently.  Most of that is because this is a snapshot taken three quarters of the way through November. It still isn’t looking that good, but I think I heard someone say November isn’t that good for views. There is also the chance that it will turn around.

Visitors 1

Then there are visitors (how many different individuals actually came to the site.) If you didn’t know any better, or didn’t notice the different numbers on the right side, you might think that it was the same graph. Oddly enough, the month I had the most views was not the month I actually spent money ($20 dollars, to be precise) to buy some advertisments on r/Fantasy.

Now, my numbers aren’t really anything spectacular. However, I am a new writer with no credibility whatsoever, so it is to be expected. But what I need to know is can I expect improvement? The answer is maybe.

Link data 1

This is a pie chart showing the statistically significant referers to Nowhere Island University as of 11/18/2015. For our purposes, that means ten or more people referred.

By far the biggest referrer is Web Fiction Guide. I decided to lump in Top Web Fiction and the WFG Forums as well, because they are pretty much the same entity. This tells me that most of the people who come to read Nowhere Island University are already familiar with web serials, which means my audience is mostly drawn from a tiny pool. Another web serial called Rumorblock, while helpful, also draws from this same pool.

WordPress tools are what I decided to call things like the WordPress dashboard. This means that a few of my readers are also WordPress users. Big shock. Twitter and Facebook probably just mean that some people follow my Twitter account or the NIU Facebook page. The problem is there is really no way to tell if that is the case.

Then there’s Reddit and TV Tropes. Almost everything on those, I know for a fact that I posted myself. The Reddit hits are almost entirely from making use of the r/Fantasy and r/Writing self-promotion posts. The TV Tropes page was created by me. But they are working. My take? When people other than me start updating the TV Tropes page and posting links to Nowhere Island University on Reddit, that will be a sign that I’ve succeeded and can stop having to post something every other week on self-promotion threads.

The Good

When I went over Book 1, I discovered a huge amount of flubs. Understandable, as I wasn’t that diligent at proofreading. Now, though, I have a beta reader! A beta reader who is getting tired of my shit, but a beta reader nonetheless. (Seriously, thanks sis! School is tough enough.)

I also think I am developing my characterization skills. There are subtle touches to a bunch of characters. I’m actually happy at some small moments, and a few big ones like Eliza’s whiskey-induced meltdown a few chapters before the end.

The Bad

Oh God… the pacing! The pace is sooo sloooowwww. Maybe it needed it, though. Let me explain.

If you remember last time, I mentioned something about wanting to be Wildbow. What I didn’t say is that one of the few things I don’t like about his work is that he doesn’t ever slow down. While this accounts for the addicting nature of his work, I feel that slowing down at some points allows people to get to know the characters better.

However, I think I may have overdone it this book. I focused on nothing, and then The Grenzefrontier just pop up out of nowhere eighteen or nineteen chapters in and (spoilers) are going to fuck off out of the plot except for a few cameos to make way for a bigger threat that will curb-stomp pretty much everyone else.

Then there’s Richard’s motivation. If you don’t read his side story, his allegiances come kind of out of left field. If you do read it, a good chunk of his motivation is because I fridged his sister. The goal of his turn was to make him into a complex (but not exactly likable) character, not just add another cliche to the pile. Hopefully it balances out, but I kind of want to do something to fix this.

Anyway, that was the bad. You may think I forgot something or am being overly harsh on myself. That’s fine if you think that. These two sections are more for my own benefit than anyone else.

Now, here’s to a larger Good section and a smaller Bad section next time. For now, let us move on to The Future.

The Future

Now, there is good news and bad news. Since the bad news ties in directly to what I was talking about earlier, I’m going to go with that first.

People in this story are going to die. There is a war coming and in war it is inevitable that people will die. There are several problems. First off, we all like characters. Hell, I really like a few of them. That makes it hard to choose which ones to kill off.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve deliberately made my cast of characters diverse. Despite the fact that I’m a white, cis-gender male, there aren’t that many characters that meet that requirement. That means I really need to be careful with how my characters end.

The good news is that Book Three is going to be much faster-paced. If you’ll remember in Tracks 21 and 22, people mention a clone army called The Dragon’s Teeth. I don’t want to give too much away, but they’re going to be a huge threat.

Also, I have some ideas for side stories. I’ve noticed that a lot of side stories so far have are about how characters have come to join NIU. I have a few ideas for some side-stories. For instance, how did Kyle get involved in a sting operation overseen by The President himself? Can the captured Nazis who cooperate really join the school? And what is Ulfric’s deal?

Of course, there are a few ideas I have for side stories that don’t fall into that category. For instance, I wan to make a story about how superhero agencies operate in this world. Plus, I have several ideas for Halloween side stories (such as how Eric found out that magic exists and Psychics that can talk to the dead.)

And… honestly, I think that’s it for today. As always, you can vote for Nowhere Island University on Top Web Fiction and give me money on Patreon if you so desire. Also, thank you for your support. This has been quite an experience for me so far and would have probably quit if not for the support I’ve gotten. Book Two will complete on Wednesday, the 25th. See you then!

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