Re: Help me work out why my first story tanked?

#1
So I spent a while researching how to game Trending on RoyalRoad, and then the Trending algorithim got changed just before I started posting...

However, even if it hadn't, my first story is not doing that well anyway, so I guess I was being naive in thinking I might have some success here.

Why is my story not picking up more readers?

Is it because

1. It's just not good enough?
 
(my ray of hope is that it's the first novel I wrote, over ten years ago, and I have four more to post)

2. It's metaphysical fantasy, not litrpg, which is what succeeds best here?

3. I posted the first chapter a while ago so that I could schedule the rest of the chapters in advance, and seeing that puts people off?

4. Some combination of all of the above? 

Thanks in advance for any advice or help.

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#3
First off, what do you consider successful, and how much of that have you accomplished?
In my experience, it takes a bit for stories to take off here. It seems like you started posting your story pretty recently (only 6 days ago?), so I'd say it's too early to tell if it really 'tanked'. Who knows, you might still get into Trending later and get more readers then.

I don't really know what to say about the other points. I think fantasy should do reasonably well here, even if you'd have an easier time with LitRPG. I don't know if having the first chapter be posted earlier than the others is a turn-off, but I don't think so. I doubt many people actually look at these in detail. The number of chapters you've posted is probably more important.

A few things you could try: get a different cover and see if you get more views, vary the posting times for your chapters, do a few comment or review swaps, comment on or review other fictions, put a link (or a picture with a link) in your signature in the forums. Maybe some of that could help.

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#4
Well here is a few thigns I see off the back.  

1.  You have a bunch of stories in hiatus, that might turn people off as it shows your not one to finish.
2A.  You really only started 6 days ago, so it takes a while for people to pay attention and catch on.   If your story is the kind that I like I might follow it, and keep track and read, but I'm not going to go all in until I get a feel for your story.
2B.  While your story just started there is a issue of a month between first chapter released and second, this might leave some readers a little leery till you get more consisten.

Once you've been out for a while maybe a few months of regularly posting, look for review swaps.  
As someone else suggested, post different times, different days.  I'm not sure how often people check, but I only check the new stories regularly, and the older stories I will check the released when I'm caught up.  

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#5
Okay, I'll take a look at chapter 1 and let you know what I think.

First off, before I start reading, I'm going to just say one thing.

1) Author trust/credibility

When I look at your fictions page, I see five. Four of which are on hiatus. One at 13 pages, two at 3 pages, one at 18. People on this site tend to like longer running fictions or webserials, or complete works. When a new person looks at you as an author and sees four stories which didn't get very far before being abandoned, that makes it hard for a reader to want to engage with a new work because it puts them off and makes them worried that this one might get stopped early too. This stops people from investing in a story, because why would you if you think that it will stop receiving updates and the characters will be stuck in limbo. Consistency is a major factor in attracting viewers for longer running books. Both in updates sticking to a schedule, and sometimes other fictions the author is pursuing also still being ongoing.

2) Story Introduction.

"A knight climbs a mountain in search of [SPOILER] and when he reaches its peak he is thrown into the sky.
He wakes up miles away from the mountain and must journey back to it in order to discover what happened to him."

Do not put [spoiler] in the bio for a story. This is to attract a viewer to want to read the story. If you hide it with 'SPOILER' it isn't mysterious, and wastes space, and makes the story less intriguing. You're giving the premise for the book. If I discover what he's looking for on top of the mountain on chapter 1-4, then there's no point in putting a spoiler there and is only hurting potential attraction to readers. If I don't, don't include that in the premise. "In search of an artifact," etc are better. Or change it. "Searching for something he can no longer remember, all he remembers is being thrown into the sky after reaching its peak"

Otherwise, I'd say the premise is fairly generic and lacking a unique appeal. If you look at my Chasing Paradise story, it also has a fairly generic premise which makes it harder to attract new viewers. The key if this is the case is to put forth a unique pull/characters in chapters 1-5 to pull readers into continuing to read. It's okay to have a generic premise, but you immediately want something for people to latch onto to continue reading from that point forward to really make the story unique on its own.

This story however I feel like could have a better intro to make it more dynamic and intriguing. My story doesn't really have that luxury. 



Now I'll start reading chapter 1.

3) Prologue and first few sentences. 

First off. I think prologues are extremely overdone at this point in the fantasy genre. In about 90% of cases, I'd say that people should just toss the prologue altogether. In this case it's weird. Your story blurb implies that he already fell from the mountain and that this is where we are starting the story. However, by the inclusion of the prologue where he is presumably reaching the top of the mountain, that contradicts the setup in the blurb, and already breaks a promise to your audience. 

Breaking promises to the audience, especially within the first section of your novel, is Not GOOD. Your first chapter is all about what your promises are to your audience and what the story is going to be about. When you break a promise, you immediately detract from the reader's suspension of disbelief which is vital for someone to get immersed in your book. 

The weird thing about this prologue in particular to me is the fact that you could simply just label it chapter 1, and adjust the story's bio to reflect that. I would either get rid of the prologue or just roll the start of your story back to here, including the blurb. Anyway, lets point out the second sentence 

"Its thick beams cascaded down from on high, bathing him in incandescence."

Given the first sentence was 'hot light' basically, you can eliminate 'Its' and change the sentence to 'Thick beams cascaded down from' 

Incandescence is a weird word, while it is a noun, it feels weird here in terms of flow. I personally would change it to 'bathing him in incandescent light'  which eliminates the need for 'it' at the start of the sentence. 

"Colour was lost, as all colours became bound up with one another, shades and tones becoming merely different intensities of the same all-encompassing light, forming a swirling current that shimmered and danced to some unheard tune."

This sentence runs far too long. Is complex to the point where it's confusing. I would break this up and make it much more clear.

"As all the colours entwined together, different shades and tones of light blended with one another to form the same all-encompassing light. It was almost as if a swirling current could be seen in the light, dancing to an unheard tune."

Is just one example of how I would break up this compound sentence and make it clearer. 

"had been beginning to take its toll on Zantheus’s body"

This is a weird sentence structure. 

'Had begun to take its toll' would be better.

Okay, we're going to move on from breaking apart sentences.


4) Paragraph structure. 

I think a large issue in this first chapter is how you're breaking apart your paragraphs. If two paragraphs are about the same topic, then make it one paragraph. Because if you don't, it feels like you're repeating information over and over again and that bogs down the flow of the story.

Example:

"Even the whiteness of the mountaintop became pale in comparison with this flame. He cried out as its light flashed into his eyes, which he shut and covered up at once with his hands. It was so bright that even with his eyes closed they were still filled with burning light.

Zantheus cowered from it. For the first time in his life he found that he was afraid. Something was happening to his eyes. They felt as if they were burning up, and would soon turn to ashes if he did nothing to block out the light."


The topic of both of these paragraphs is highly similar. It's about him reaching the top of the mountain, and then the light flashing out. There is no reason to split this into two separate paragraphs, it just drags the flow. Think of your story as a bunch of fractals. Each component of a story should be complete. If two things are very similar and next together, then they should be together not seperate.


Choppy paragraph structure. You break up your paragraphs far too often in my opinion. When you go with small condensed paragraphs, your story should be at a point that merits that form of structure. For example, fight scenes are a good place where a story should be having these shorter more abrupt examples. Or an intense situation. 

Example:

"His right hand fell down onto what was apparently just a layer of very thick snow, though he only knew from the way it gave way to his hand, more easily than the rock.

At last, he had done it! He had reached the peak! He wrenched himself up on to the plateau and clambered to his feet, straining himself almost beyond bearing."


What happened in these two paragraphs? He reached the peak of the mountain. It's not exactly a situation that I feel merits changing your paragraph flow to this type of structure. Most of the story is written like this, and honestly, it kind of makes the flow all junted and wrong feeling. You need more balance between this and longer more descriptive/reflective moments. Otherwise, it detracts from moments that should be intense which are normally highlighted with this shorter more abrupt paragraph structure. 

Such as this. "All at once a terrible fire burst into life a little way ahead of Zantheus." Loses impact because the paragraph structure before a dramatic and abrupt event like this has already been overused in the first bit of the story.

5) Unreliable Narrator

This story is told in third limited. Given this POV and the way you structure it in the story, it makes it hard to do stuff like this and make it feel natural/okay.

"As these features appeared before him he also saw that it had not been a fire in front of him at all.

What was in front of him was an enormous mirror."


6) Passive Voice

There is a lot of points in the story where you use the passive voice and it's necessary. Using 'was' and other tenses of 'to be' I do this a lot too. But there are points in this story which you really should not be doing this because you want it to be more evocative and dynamic, and clearly, that intent but the flow and word choice undermine this when using the passive voice. Be aware of when you use 'to be' in a sentence and ask yourself if you can rewrite it to be more evocative, or if you actually need to use it there. It's a hard thing to practice, but if you start getting a handle on it, it makes your writing far more interesting when you can choose when the right and wrong times to use it are.


7) Answering the Questions you asked directly.

I'm including this section ontop of this critique to address what exactly you asked. It'd be rude to ignore, and given your pointed questions, maybe it will be helpful to you in addition to a more detailed breakdown of chapter 1. I want to preface the end with this; I intentionally broke down your first chapter and honed in on weakpoints, not highlighting what I liked. This isn't a direct criticism of your writing abilities, just areas I noticed could be improved and hope will be helpful for you to consider when given direct examples in the text provided. 

1. It's just not good enough?

I wouldn't say that. I've seen some pretty rough stories on this site, and I'd count it above that. It has some flaws, particularly when it comes to flow and sentence structure, but I think the main issue for you attracting viewers is that it simply just isn't that compelling of a blurb. Like I said, I have a fiction like that, where the premise is more vague/generic, and its just harder to convince people to give that story a shot unless people already see that it's doing well. On this site, success snowballs. Once you hit trending, a story gains immense upticks in viewers. Once you have 30 people following, more people are likely to look at the story. Ect. ect.

I really think the story structure, to begin with, is what's making it hard to keep a consistent audience. 

2. It's metaphysical fantasy, not litrpg, which is what succeeds best here?

Genre has a big impact on story success and attention here on RR. Not being a litrpg makes it harder to gain an audience, yes. That said your first chapter(or prologue) seem far more fantasy than 'metaphysical fantasy' (I'm not even aware of that genre and what it entails). Most of that came from the mysterious light. Which again, relates to establishing promises in the first chapter. Maybe you should consider making it Feel more like the genre you're shooting for with word choice and maybe a small allusion paragraph detailing the character's history or world.  

3. I posted the first chapter a while ago so that I could schedule the rest of the chapters in advance, and seeing that puts people off?

Yea. This relates to the 'author trust/credibility' thing I mentioned at the start. It would put some people off. But if you go ahead and keep releasing later chapters on a schedule you stick to, I think that would repair any weird feelings people have about a gap between the first chapter and second being ~a month.

4. Some combination of all of the above?

I think the main thing you have to focus on when you have a more vague or generic premise is not only attracting viewers but mostly retaining the audience. If you can consistently grow, eventually you'll hit a point where the story is big enough for people to see it and be willing to give it a shot, despite a more generic starting point. Like I said, on this site success breeds success. The better a story is doing, the more people will look at it 

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#6
I'm going to be honest here: unless you genuinely haven't improved at all, or have recently revised the story in question, you probably do NOT want to start with something you wrote ten years ago. You want to put your best work forward. Aside from getting people to click in the first place, having something as good as you possibly can is the best way to retain readers. 

No amount of gaming the system or strategic posting can make up for a lack of story quality. It doesn't matter if you have the greatest advertising campaign in the world, if it's pointing to something subpar. (Note that I'm not making a judgment on the quality of your work; I haven't read it, this is just a general statement.)

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#7
The thing with gaming the system is that its the writing equivalent of swinging for the fences.  If you miss, suddenly you have a story with no following and an inconsistent post schedule.

Now we don't even know what the system is to game (this is a good thing).

At this point, I think the only real advice someone can give you is:

1. Get a good cover (look into stock images if you don't wanna drop money on it)
2. Get a good blurb (yours is short, confusing and doesn't have much of a hook)
3. Publish as often as possible until things work out.

Note: if all three of the above don't do the trick, the issue might be the genre, your writing or just a matter of luck.

Keep at it!

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#8
Ok dudes, thanks for all the advice. Here's what I've done so far:

1. Deleted two of my other hiatus fictions which I had just added so that I could schedule chapter releases for them ahead of time. I guess I'll re-submit them nearer to the time that I want to post them. I can't bring myself to delete my remaining two fictions that I'm doing the same for yet because they've had some comments, ratings and follows, but maybe later I'll copy and paste the comments somewhere and then delete those too.

2. Added a bit to my blurb from my amazon copy and filled in the '[SPOILER]', for now.

3. Re-blocked the Prologue using the original paragraph spacing. I'd actually re-done it for RoyalRoad because I thought people here preferred single-sentence paragraphs, but apparently I was wrong.

Thanks! Onwards and upwards! Now that my first 14 chapters are out I'm on a Tuesdays and Fridays release schedule until it's done!

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#9
Regarding the hiatus fictions: 
Am I understanding correctly that you already have finished them and could update them at any time? 
If yes, is there a particular reason for not doing so, say... once a week or every other week?
Having three ongoing fictions (no matter the release schedule) makes for a far more trust inducing sight than two fictions on hiatus with only one chapter each.

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#10
There's not much to add to this, but I would um, I would strongly re-examine what Zachskye said about the story introduction.
ZachSkye Wrote: 2) Story Introduction.

"A knight climbs a mountain in search of [SPOILER] and when he reaches its peak he is thrown into the sky.
He wakes up miles away from the mountain and must journey back to it in order to discover what happened to him."

Do not put [spoiler] in the bio for a story. This is to attract a viewer to want to read the story. If you hide it with 'SPOILER' it isn't mysterious, and wastes space, and makes the story less intriguing. You're giving the premise for the book. If I discover what he's looking for on top of the mountain on chapter 1-4, then there's no point in putting a spoiler there and is only hurting potential attraction to readers. If I don't, don't include that in the premise. "In search of an artifact," etc are better. Or change it. "Searching for something he can no longer remember, all he remembers is being thrown into the sky after reaching its peak"

Otherwise, I'd say the premise is fairly generic and lacking a unique appeal. If you look at my Chasing Paradise story, it also has a fairly generic premise which makes it harder to attract new viewers. The key if this is the case is to put forth a unique pull/characters in chapters 1-5 to pull readers into continuing to read. It's okay to have a generic premise, but you immediately want something for people to latch onto to continue reading from that point forward to really make the story unique on its own.

This story however I feel like could have a better intro to make it more dynamic and intriguing. My story doesn't really have that luxury.


You haven't quite fixed the premise being generic and lacking. I will say your use of imagery in the prologue is colorful and intriguing, but most people on online webfiction in my albeit limited experience take one look at the premise, and wonder if it's interesting or no.  SOME might read the prologue, but only some. Most just look at cover and blurb. I think the cover is pretty, but like... why should I follow on Zantheus's journey isn't answered.

To use my own story as an example... here's my blurb:
Quote:After years of beatings and neglect from her parents, 13-year old Frances was summoned with her entire class to the fantastical world of Durannon to fight the monsters invading the human kingdoms and defeat the "Demon King." If she succeeds, she might have the home she never had. But if she can't overcome the trauma and self-loathing inflicted on her by her abusive parents, Frances will die, and be summoned back to the home she escaped, on the day that she left.

However, with the help of her mentor, Edana, and some friends she makes along the way, Frances may be able to fight the Demon King and win, and maybe, just maybe, heal from her trauma.
First sentence, I Establish setting in first sentence and give a hint of stakes. Second sentence, I establish what protag benefits if she does well. Third sentence, I make the stakes even higher. Fourth sentence, I give audience a hint of how protagnist might succeed. Bam, there is my hook.

You actually do have an EXCELLENT first sentence:

Quote:A knight climbs a mountain in search of enlightenment and when he reaches its peak he is thrown into the sky.

And the other parts of the blurb are good, but I never find out a hint of why is it important that he go on this journey. Was he not supposed to be thrown into the sky? Is he confused on how he survived? Why should I care is basically what you need to answer in your blurb and while it definitely explains "oh this is my story" I feel it could do better to explain "You should care about my story" so forth.

Good luck with this and remember, online publishing is finicky, don't take a unsuccess as necessarily a sign you have bad writing. Luck has a lot to do with it too.




Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#11

carebear90 Wrote: Regarding the hiatus fictions: 
Am I understanding correctly that you already have finished them and could update them at any time? 
If yes, is there a particular reason for not doing so, say... once a week or every other week?
Having three ongoing fictions (no matter the release schedule) makes for a far more trust inducing sight than two fictions on hiatus with only one chapter each.


Yeah that is correct. Well, basically, my novels get better and better one by one, and I want to time things so that if I do succeed in establishing a readership it maxes out in about August, when I switch from full-time work to part-time work. I'm sort of just releasing this first one right now as an experiment. But maybe yeah, I will delete all the hiatus fictions and then re-submit them in the new year and start posting them all at once... 

Not really sure what tactics to use any more to try to gain readers now that the Trending algorithim has been made secret!

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#12

Faenon Wrote: Not really sure what tactics to use any more to try to gain readers now that the Trending algorithim has been made secret!
Just write the best you can and keep to a reliable upload schedule. ;)


Put links to your stories with a very short blurb in your forum signatur and be more or less active now and then, take a look in the recommendations and review sub-forums and decide if, when and how you want to submit them there as well. 
Try to make your cover and synopsis as enticing/interesting as you can without lying to the reader. And tag your story correctly. 
I think, that's it?  peoconfused
In the end, this isn't a game where you have a sure-fire strategy to 'win'. 

But I'm just uploading here to get feedback anyway. I'm not sure if you're hampering yourself with all this 'strategising'. It seems like it hurts you more than it helps at the moment in any case. 
My advice would be to just slowly post what you have. With the customary seven days at the start where you post one or two chapters a day. 

Re: Help me work out why my story tanked?

#13
I agree with Carebear. The fixation of trying to 'hit the secret recipe of the trending' seems a bit short-sighted.

But my goal on this site was to get used to exposure(and maybe develop an audience), while improving my writing abilities so I can self-publish or get a book traditionally published one day.

I also think if you set out with a fixed goal like trying to take advantage of the trending system, much like in writing a book you don't care for to try to meet what's popular at the moment, usually ends in you burning yourself out or tanking your project because it doesn't have the love it needs.