Post Mortem: NIU Book 4, Edit 1

So, this arc wasn’t as exciting as the last one, was it? Not much really happened for the vast majority of it, apart from a few weapons being designed. In fact, things were going so Goddamned slowly I decided to change the serial’s entire structure to avoid what I perceived brings this and Book 2 down into a giant mass of boring.

Goals

One of the points of this whole post-mortem thing is to learn from my mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes in Book 4. This mostly had to do with pacing. In fact, it was so bad I had to change the point of this arc halfway through.

Another thing, the reason this arc seemed so directionless was that, well, I did not really have very many goals.

Set Up Nathan the Weapons Designer

Well, I did this. I did this, and I’m not sure people found the obviously rushed pace of  enjoyable. There’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure how many people cared. I do know that at least two people did, and they commented on it with various suggestions. I liked that part.

Make something happen, for the love of God!

So, I have been hearing some criticism of how nothing was happening. So, I accelerated the sequence of events. Originally, The Architect was supposed to reveal himself next arc. That wasn’t going to work in any way. Why? Because everything falls apart whenever I have to spend time on daily life at NIU. I won’t make that mistake a third time.

Community Response

Community response was mixed. This is the first section in which I’ve generated a bad review on any platform. While there has been an uptick in comments on all platforms, that still feels bad.

Metrics

The Good

I do think that I have some good comedy bits. For instance, Timothy finding out May was into hip-hop and how he tries to use that to win her over.

Nari and May have an interesting relationship, I think. I like how Nari is sort of id unleashed: as long as she’s making things, she can be happy. May is the Super Ego. She spends more time thinking about the potential ways the creations of Olympus Inc. can be used inappropriately than anyone else.

The Bad

In case you didn’t realize it, I try to have a set amount of words as a minimum. That, and the fact that I didn’t have a clear goal made this arc somewhat painful. Next time, I hope we get some more direction.

I hope I can do better next time.

The Future

Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m not sure if I can do side stories every month. I am falling behind on my backlog and only have four. It can’t go on, no matter how much I’d like to do them.

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Post Mortem: NIU Book 3, Edit 1

So, wow, this is over. We may or may not be halfway done with this thing I’ve called Nowhere Island University. That’s kind of crazy, right?

Speaking of crazy, wasn’t this volume pretty crazy? The Dragon’s Teeth are, if you haven’t guessed, going to be very important. I’m not sure how much I should give away, but Nate’s right about the Dragon’s Teeth.

In other news, I also started posting on Royal Road. That boosted stats by a significant margin from last time. That is really cool.

Anyway, what matters is that The North Korean Affair is over. Like the last two times, we have killed it. Now let’s go poke around the corpse. For science.

Goals

The point of a post mortem is to make me think about my own work. I have a lot of respect for good reviewers, especially the Channel Awesome crowd and several former and current Escapist people. However, I know that no person who reads NIU on its own can fully know what I want.

Therefore, I talk about my goals so people are more likely to judge my work by my standards, as well their own.

Introduce The Dragon’s Teeth

Now, The Dragon’s Teeth are important to the story. They will leave North Korea, and it will be big. I can’t say exactly how big it will be yet, but it will be the second biggest event in the entire story. To give you an idea of how big they are, I’m not sure I’ve made them intimidating enough.

That being said, I’m not sure I want them to be too intimidating. After all, Nathan (and the audience) has to have a reason to believe that the Dragon’s Teeth can be defeated. Otherwise, Nathan’s insistence that they can be defeated looks unreasonable.

Finally, I needed to give them a bit of character. The Dragon’s Teeth can’t just be just some nameless, faceless, unknowable force. They need a personality and a goal. And so, since they have several different “services” (Ninjas, Picts, Legionaries and Berserkers… so far) I decided to give each branch a different personality. The only problem is that I hadn’t really been given a good opportunity to introduce them as I want them to have a sense of mystery.

Still, I’m very happy at the way the Dragon’s Teeth came out. They are a very threatening force and an intriguing mystery. At this point, that’s all they really need to be.

Explain NIU’s Politics

This is why I need to make my goals more defined. I give a bit of a hint at how things work, but not much. I do think that I’m showing that there are some tensions, but I didn’t really go in deep as I wanted.

Still, there’s time for me to get more in-depth. I guess that will come next volume.

No New Characters!

The goal was to only introduce characters that would be killed off in short order. Instead, I gained two more. More on them later.

Community Response

Between volume one and two, there doesn’t seem to be that much of an uptick in interest from WFG or Spacebattles. Still, I’ve been getting a massive increase in views. Why? Well, that’s because I’ve started posting on Royal Road.

So, that’s three places I’m posting. When I’m done with NIU, for the sake of my own sanity, I think I might cut down on the places I post. Having to only update one site will allow me to focus on only moderating one place, save time posting, and consolidate the fanbase. Until then, I plan on NIU being in all three places.

Back to Royal Road. In his very detailed review, j0nn0 mentioned that he felt the story felt too fast-paced (Note: he had gone from RRL to the WordPress site, so he had read from the beginning through most of Volume 3 for his review.) Weirdly enough, this is the exact opposite problem I had with Volume 2. In my opinion, reading through that was an interminable slog.

This is not to suggest j0nn0 is wrong. In fact, this is to say that his disagreement is actually very helpful (and you should totally check out Trending News (According to the Narrator).) In the next volume, there’s going to be a lot of time spent at NIU, just like in Volume 2. That was deliberately set up to give a break to the story, and let the readers rest. Yet people still think the entire story is too fast-paced? That is something I need to fix.

Metrics

Now, for those of you who don’t know, this section is something I usually keep for my fellow WFG writers. If you have no interest in this, feel free to skip.

The first thing I’d like to report, while Patreon funding has remained relatively the same, views and visitors have grown.If you’ll recall from last time, you’ll remember that there was not a single month over four thousand views and eight hundred visitors. That has changed.

 

Views and Visitors 2
Views/visitors per month as of 5/10/2016

I find it curious that the two big jumps have happened in the spring. I’d be curious to see if this happens again. I’d also be curious to see if, like last year, traffic peaks around July and goes into a slump that bottoms out in the winter.

As to referrers, I had a lot of luck with Royal Road. I believe my first post on that site went up in March. Most of the views from that month came when I set up the RRL page.

Plus, in April, I found out how useful r/noveltranslations can be. One post referred sixty-five visitors to me in a single night. The next day was my best ever, with 1,812 views and 205 visitors. Subsequent postings have had… less positive results. I’m going to have to play around with when I post there to get the optimal number of views.

The Good

There’s a lot to like here, at least from my point of view. Partly because this arc has been more focused. Every action is in pursuit of a goal: in this case, getting home. Yeah, in the last arc, that goes out the window, but at that point, it helps brings things to a close.

Also, I think I like how several of the characters are starting to completely lose it. Nate, just like planned, is starting to become a bit obsessed. Combined with his burgeoning alcoholism and a few incidents of near-homicidal rage, it should be interesting when he gets to a certain point of his development. Also not helping Nate is the fact that so far, his risks have paid off.

John and Kyle, meanwhile, are much more sensible. They want to get out. Both have their reasons (I’ll get to Kyle’s in a bit) and they are very good. Yet they still have things keeping them in the game.

There’s also some pretty nice fight scenes. With the cool opportunities that the Dragon’s Teeth and locations present and the squishiness of our heroes, it actually would be hard to make a boring fight scene. Ironically, though, the best comes at the very end against the South Korean police. I’ll have to make Nate confront that at some point.

All in all, I’m reasonably happy at how this volume has turned out. Are there problems? Well, yes. On that note, let’s take a journey over to…

The Bad

Now, before I begin, let me just say that a lot of these problems are more like time bombs. These are mostly characterizations that might draw criticisms later down the line. One in particular could be so bad I get hit from two very different groups of people.

Joseph’s characterization, however, is just bad. He is pretty much two different characters. This would be ok if he just underwent an arc like, y’know, an actual character. Instead, he randomly changes personalities at least once. Shame, he could have been interesting. At least I was planning on killing him anyway.

The next potentially bad character I have is Nari. Now, I like Nari. The problem is that she’s a nine-year-old girl hanging out with hardened commandos. My fear is she becomes what is commonly known as a scrappy. Maybe its an unreasonable fear, but I don’t want people to think she’s useless. On the contrary, I want them to think she’s useful… maybe a little too useful.

However, the most potentially headache-inducing character I have at the moment is Kyle. Kyle, in this arc, revealed himself to be trans. Now, transsexual people, as I’m sure a few of you are aware, are a touchy subject. That makes them a very interesting subject. It also means I have to get a trans character right if I want to avoid certain kinds of backlash. The thing is, I’ve already made Kyle say something that kind of demands clarification.

Still, I think I’ve done very well. Its just… I’ve given myself a bit of a challenge, that’s all.

The Future

Now, things are going to have to calm down for a bit. There’s a storm coming, and its going to be a big one. Most of you have a partial idea of what I mean. Some of the more perceptive of you might have caught a hint of what is coming after that. There is also a third big thing that I want to touch on soon.

Still, every storm has its calm. Most of the next volume should be that: calm. Yes, outside NIU, things are going to be going pretty sour, but on the titular Pacific island, it will be pretty much business as normal for an arc or two. Then everything will go to hell.

Some people, needless to say, will realize that bad things are going to happen. Nathan, obviously, being one of them. They will be in a desperate race to get the world ready for what they think is coming.

Also, I’m thinking of potentially reworking my Patreon setup. Royal Road, from what I can see, doesn’t approve of donation bonuses. Also, donations have been pretty steady for several months. Maybe offering  more content to Patrons could boost subscribership, but I’m not sure.

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!

Post Mortem: NIU Book 1, Edit 1

So, amazing as it is, I have actually started Book 3 of Nowhere Island University. The first track won’t be posted until December, though, so there’s that. In the meantime, I have decided to do something called a Post-Mortem. This is a term that I believe has originated in the videogame industry. This is basically what a development team does when a project is released, or, as the metaphor implies, “dead.”

However, I wouldn’t say NIU is dead in that sense. Hell, not even all the content is done. I think that there are at least three more volumes of NIU in store, most likely more. That being said, this serial has come a long way since the WordPress site went up on February 21st, 2015, and even longer way since I posted the first two chapters in the Spacebattles Creative Writing Forums ten days prior.

Also, I’ve recently come to several good stopping places where, for my own benefit, I should take time to reflect back on what I’ve done. Hopefully, you’ll agree with me that there’s a lot of good stuff in here. However, there’s not that much great stuff in here. Apart from the side stories, there is only one scene that I would say is great. There is also some bad stuff as well.

Goals

The first thing I feel I need to talk about is the goals of all this and if I accomplished any of them. Honestly, seeing as there aren’t that many people who even know that this serial exists, these are the best ways for me to judge myself. Hell, I probably should get into the habit now because if this gets big, I’m going to have to deal with a lot worse than silence.

Goal 1: Be Wildbow

Ok, look, I knew I could never be Wildbow. From the first sentence, Worm had me hooked like nothing else. I read through the entire thing in the course of a month. It sounds like a slow pace, but in actuality, it was kind of a race. The fight scenes and character drama made my heart pound. The tragedies, such as the character deaths, hit me hard. The injustices that the main character suffered enraged me. I exited Worm a changed man.

So, naturally, when I was bored after dropping out of college, I decided I’d start a web serial about superheroes. The idea (as well as many others) had been kicking around in my head for almost a year, slowly gaining traction. Finally, I decided that not only did I want to start writing again, I needed to start writing again. Now, subconciously, I knew it wouldn’t be as good as Worm. However, I’m actually how surprisingly different it is.

For instance, Worm is, at its core, a superhero story in the same strain as Alan Moore’s Watchmen: a towering praise-magnet set in a dark world and designed to ask the audience hard questions about morality. And, like so many other superhero stories, it focuses on the people in the costumes who go running around hogging the spotlight. They also both absolutely revel in deconstructing the tropes of the genre.

Nowhere Island University, on the other hand, is not a superhero story. For a while, I did not realize this. Then Billy Higgins correctly identified what it truly is in his review on Web Fiction Guide. Then I started to fight it. After all, the plot is [redacted for spoilers]! It has to be this inherently nerdy piece of fiction that celebrates inherent nerdiness!

But I was wrong. Despite the sci-fi bits, despite the Parahumans, despite the person in costume who showed up that one time and hasn’t been mentioned since and despite the fact that this plot revolves around [spoiler redacted], this is not a superhero story. At the core of Nowhere Island University is a Tom Clancyesqu spy thriller, complete with attempted self-insert protagonist.

The thing is, though, that is not a bad thing. Ok, it might be a bad thing for the people who want a superhero story, but for me, it’s wonderful because I might stave off some of the inevitable comparisons to what I attempted (and kind of failed) to rip off.

Goal 2: Set Up the Plot and Tone

The thing about Book 1 is that it is really self-contained. Yes, there is a blatant sequel-hook at the end, but apart from that, everything ties up nicely. People go into a situation, some people get out, others die, and there’s this wonderful moment of closure.

However, the meat of the story is only hinted at once (pay close attention to what Bai says in Track Nine,) and two of the characters who will… become extremely important later on are only briefly mentioned and one of them is only barely mentioned. These two characters, plus another two who we don’t even meet yet, are the driving force behind the plot. For the past five hundred years in-universe, everything has been building up to these four meeting in an explosive confrontation. And I, the author, have only slightly hinted at it.

What I was good at foreshadowing was potential projects I want to do at certain points. Track Nine, for instance, was an April Fool’s joke about an idea for Magical Girl-themed serial I plan on doing. There are also some bits that are almost horror, which ties into an idea for a police procedural/ghost story I had. But that’s not for a while, and there are at least two other serial ideas I have.

Goal 3: Establish How Bad Hell Semester Is

Yeah, I think I did that.

Goal 4: Create a Diverse Cast of Characters

First off, before we go any farther, let’s define terms. By “diverse cast,” not only do I mean diverse from racial, ethnic, mental, religious, and gender-identiy standpoints, I also wanted to avoid that thing that happens in lots of early comics where every character is basically the same guy with a different face and wearing a different costume talking to him/herself and only doing things because the plot requires it. In fact, the main reason I wanted to write many different identity types of characters was to avoid that problem.

For the different from each other part, I think I did a great job. I have made so many God damn characters in this book, but they are all distinct. The two most similar characters, Nathan (or Killer, as most people in and out of universe are calling him now) is much different from John. While John is desperately searching for a way out, or a reason that things aren’t so bad, Nathan actually seems to be embracing the violence and casual depravity of this world.

It doesn’t just stop there. Doc and Cross, despite their cordial ribbing are actually dating now (in case you didn’t catch it in Track Nineteen.) Salim is undeniably psychotic, but unable to recognize it in himself. Eric is a boisterous, charismatic leader.The Monk is just the most perpetually chill guy ever. Eliza is just amazingly snarky.

However, the two characters I’m most proud of so far are May and Ulfric. For May, it mostly comes from the side story Crashbut even at other times, she has just proven time and time again that underneath her goofy, socially inept facade lies a genuinely good person. By a good person, I do not mean pushover. She will get her way, and she will stand up for what’s right.

Ulfric, on the other hand, is an amazing killing machine. But underneath his bloodthirstiness is… well, more bloodthirstiness, but there’s also some warped sense of morals and fair play. His capacity for violence and size is matched only by his intellect. He is also disturbingly childlike and almost mute, but has a talent for getting in people’s heads. He’s supposed to be one of the most disturbing characters in this world, and he fits that bill to a T. Now I have to keep him just as interesting.

The problem, though, is that most of these characters are terrible, terrible people. Sometimes, people mistake having a minority as a bad person means the author is a capital-B Bigot, who hates said group with a burning passion for bizarre reasons. Usually, though, they are lowercase-b bigots who are just kind of ignorant about things. The thing is, I probably am a lower case-b bigot, which I will have to work on. If you feel I have fucked up in any way, please tell me. Then I either try to justify myself or fix it.

Community Response

Honestly, I can’t really say that NIU didn’t get any response. There just wasn’t a lot of it. My impression is that if you ask the average netizen who follows web serials about NIU, their response would probably be “What’s that?” The people who have heard of it usually have something good to say.

The two most helpful comments have come from the two reviews on WFG and my beta reader/sister. My sister came in after Book 1 was mostly finished (which is why Book 2 is so much better on a technical level,) but both the reviews are about Book 1. For instance, I’m pretty sure that Tartra’s review was written before we even got to The Chamber of Horrors.

That review, even though I was very shocked to get that good a score, pointed out some problems in my story. In fact, it actually shook me enough to have me make some drastic changes to how Book 2 would end. There are also some other changes, like less internal monologuing from our main character. In fact, I think that’s why Billy Higgin’s review was more positive: I had taken time to fix those issues.

The thing is, though, no one else has done a detailed review of NIU that touches on anything beyond Book 1. Billy’s review, while very wonderful, only touches on events from Track 18 and before. Tartra’s only covers things from Track 8 and previous.

Now, on to the fans. On the WordPress site, I know I have several people subscribed to my stuff. However, few of them are regular commenters. In the Spacebattles forums, I actually do have some regular commenters. I just wish they would engage each other as well as me. Maybe I shouldn’t have split my base. Or maybe I should split it even further and open a subreddit! (No. No I shouldn’t, that would be stupid.)

Still, it is heartening to see discussion in the fanbase whenever it does happen like “OH NO! DEATH FLAG!” incident or the lovely discussion on mechs. I just wish it would happen more often, is all. Still, of all the people who could be giving me money, so far you guys have turned out to be the best.

Other Notes

I’ll have to give Book 2 a look-over, but it seems to be much more bleak, which is a damn shame. There were some moments in this one that were just fun. However, in the next book, there just wasn’t as much chance for the fun and the funny. Mostly because I’m using it to talk about PTSD, which is an inherently unfun topic.

At least I cut down on the repeated language. At times in Book One, there are times that have multiple paragraphs in a row, sometimes even multiple sentences in a row, that began with the same damn word. I’ve fixed a lot of it, but it still annoys me that I’m doing that.

Weirdest flub: “How many people have they died?”

The Future

You know what? I think I’ll save this for the next Post-Mortem. The goal will be to have it sync with the final track of Book 2. Hope all you students of NIU are ready for it.