Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#1
Most of the time I do a passive investigation on Royal Road, because the moment I ask a question I risk changing the bias in my results. I usually bounce from thread to thread and story to story, looking for patterns. I haven't found an answer to this one, however, and the forum search features are a bit limited. 

I've seen plenty of stories go on, or come back from, or that have been on hiatus. With one exception, these hiatuses always seem to be unscheduled; the author does not announce when the story is coming back, and usually winds up on hiatus due to real life issues or having writing problems. The one exception I mentioned is for Writathon, as I did find one story that was listed as on hiatus until the next challenge. 

In trad publishing, there's always a delay between books. The author writes the book, it gets published, it gets read, and then the story pauses. The author might be busily writing all the while, but the audience has to wait. The equivalent of this in web publishing would be a scheduled hiatus, where a story gets updated one chapter at a time for a scheduled period, and then goes on hiatus for a month or two. 

Has this been done? How would you feel about it? Would this lose the rhythm of the publication schedule, even if the audience knew the date it would be coming back? We all know that consistency is the key to maintaining an audience, but can that consistency include scheduled breaks? 

Further, in trad pub, an author will frequently not work solely on one project, and rather put out a book in a different series before continuing the first one. If a scheduled hiatus is possible, can a web fiction author then use that to focus on different web novels? For example, would the web fiction model be able to handle an author who publishes Story A during months 1-3, then Story B during months 5-8, and then Story C during months 10-12, wrapping back to Story A? 

I'm interested in all opinions. No wrong answers. Remember, this is for science. How do you feel? ;) 

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#2
As a writer, I took a scheduled hiatus last year for several months to write a different story, returning to my first story in January. I have another upcoming scheduled hiatus for the same project from next month through January. I don't have enough time to fully focus on more than two stories at a time, and I have enough projects in progress that I have to juggle the scheduling if they're all going to get the time to shine. Mainly, I'm alternating between my two long-running stories while pausing one or the other to write standalone or shorter stories in between.

Is it a less efficient marketing strategy than fully focusing on one long ongoing story that never ends? Probably. But I don't want to be a one-story writer, I have hundreds of stories I want to write across multiple subgenres and don't want to pidgeonhole myself into any single project or genre.

Returning from a hiatus definitely isn't as easy as continuing, the momentum isn't there, it's an old project, the spark of it is lost. But it's definitely possible, and by picking up my previous update schedule and resuming like nothing was wrong, after a few weeks I was able to rediscover my love for the story and carry on with as much ease as ever.

As a reader, I tend to ignore hiatuses. I read in clumps, waiting several months/years for chapters to accumulate, then read them all in one go. If a story hasn't updated since the last time I checked, then I move on until I feel like checking on it again. It has no significant impact in my reading.

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#3
The author MelodyAvaunt has placed her book How can I save the world if I'm no longer the hero? On a scheduled hiatus as she works on another of her books.

As well The Daily Grind goes on regularly scheduled hiatuses between arcs. I think the last one was about a month

As does When Immortal Ascension Falls, Time Travel To Try Again though they are rather short breaks.

I certainly don't mind a hiatus, especially if it's planned, or if the author has made a point of stating that it's temporary. I know full well how life gets in the way. Plus, it's all just free entertainment, I'm certainly not obligated to any authors time or energy. I'm mostly thankful that they've made their work available for free :p

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#4
While I haven't done it so far, I intend to take a hiatus of 4-6 weeks for my story once I have published all of the second book. I'm doing this both to be able to take a break from writing and to concentrate on other projects. I don't know how others feel about it, but working on one project constantly for months drains out your creativity and even your technique. I felt how my writing had gotten weaker during the last spurt. It's been two weeks now, and my passion for my work has reignited, and my brain's brimming with ideas and plot points. Though the fact that I've had the time to watch new shows helped too (I'm not sure how it is for everything else, but I don't get creative from reading most book and mainly use them to improve my technique, tv shows and video games allow me to weave plots). 

And even though I feel the urge to write the story again, I force myself to actually spent at least four weeks not the other story. I'm planning on continuing my other story in the meantime. Though, I'm not going to publish it here, mainly because it's in german and because it violates a few of the content rules here (heavy focus on themes like religion, incest, political and social criticism, etc.)


Quote:Further, in trad pub, an author will frequently not work solely on one project, and rather put out a book in a different series before continuing the first one. If a scheduled hiatus is possible, can a web fiction author then use that to focus on different web novels? For example, would the web fiction model be able to handle an author who publishes Story A during months 1-3, then Story B during months 5-8, and then Story C during months 10-12, wrapping back to Story A?



Just from the effects the hiatus and refocus on other projects had on me, I can only recommend this. It allows for a greater quality of the work and fights of the writer burn out. The biggest problem may be the audience of web novels. Will they accept it, and will authors take the risk?

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#5
As a reader, i found that indefinite hiatuses were one of the great tragedies on Royal Road, especially when the story is at a high (rather than low) point. 

As an author, I've made a point of not releasing anything until I've reached a point that if the fiction goes on indefinite hiatus, the readers have something that can (in some sense) be considered whole or complete. 

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#6
*taking notes*

I am not surprised that there are stories I missed that do this, but I am still disappointed that I wasn't able to find them. :) Still, it's hard to go through all the author notes, blogs, and Patreons to see if a scheduled hiatus already happened. Though all of the linked stories by Sereminar are ones I've never found in the first place, so I wouldn't have been able to investigate those in the first place.

The big question is, does the audience come back at the same rate? Those authors who have done this, how was your retention rate off of hiatus?
YAK Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: Further, in trad pub, an author will frequently not work solely on one project, and rather put out a book in a different series before continuing the first one. If a scheduled hiatus is possible, can a web fiction author then use that to focus on different web novels? For example, would the web fiction model be able to handle an author who publishes Story A during months 1-3, then Story B during months 5-8, and then Story C during months 10-12, wrapping back to Story A?

Just from the effects the hiatus and refocus on other projects had on me, I can only recommend this. It allows for a greater quality of the work and fights of the writer burn out. The biggest problem may be the audience of web novels. Will they accept it, and will authors take the risk?

That was my question, yes. You may be surprised to find that one of my most common pieces of advice to newly-published authors is to take the time to write something different from their first book. It keeps an author from getting stuck in a rut. I'm really just curious as to how it affects web publishing, since the latter is so focused on regular updates.

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#7
I've taken 2 hiatuses so far, both about 1 month long (the first one on a previous account).

I just ended my most recent one last week, and I announced at the end of the previous chapter that I would be going on a 1 month hiatus (well, until may 18th).

I lost 2 followers and 1 favorite in that time, but I've since recovered the favorites and (passed by nearly 30) the followers. I intend on taking another 1 month hiatus at the end of episode 03, and I'll do that every episode until the story's done.

I work full time, averaging 48 hours a week (4x12hr days), and I only have a 2 week backlog because I didn't use my last hiatus effectively (aka IRL got in the way)

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#8
The flaw here is that you are comparing professionnal writers with hobbyists/part timers. 

Time makes the difference. Someone writing on his free time can't be expected to have the regularity of someone who's job it is. 

I'm a hobbyist, writing on my free time. I had though this through well before publishing and have a massive backlog (20 chap) to see things coming if IRL takes too much of my free time. 

The only thing that would put me on hiatus is if i get too busy for more than 10 weeks. Or die in a car accident. ^^

Readers are more comprehensive with non professional authors. Even with the pro. There are authors with big patreons and publishing only one chap a week who takes the luxury of a week off. And readers are fine. They are even fine with GRR Martin taking 8 f*** years to write a single book. ^^

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#9
I follow Azarinth Healer on patreon and the author is incredibly consistent. But a while ago he had to slow down hos writing speed considerably for life reasons and told this to the patreon crowd. Everyone was expecting a drop in readers, but that didn't happen. I don't remember exactly how it went but I believe he either retained his readerbase or actually had an increase during that time. He didn't go on a hiatus, but his chapters were more than halved for some time, despite paying the same for a decreased amount of chapters. The patreon comments and general nerdery increased, too, because everyone wanted more of their fix. He's taken vacations too and there was no significant loss to patreons. 

Conclusions impossible, but I think it'd be fine, provided: 1) There's already a dedicated audience, 2) the author has a history of consistency, and 3) the author is good at communicating, letting people know in advance and approximately how long they'll be gone. 

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#13
I've seen multiple multi-volume stories that have a regular posting schedule but have an announced hiatus between different volumes/books, the first that come to mind are the Adventures of Einarr Stigandersen (two chapters per week, but 1-2 months of hiatus between different books. The starting date of the new volume is told in the epilogue of the earlier volume) and Pirates of the Milky Way (not on RR anymore, not even a teaser, what a pity). 

Seaborn had a hiatus of about five months because of military deployment. The author announced it some weeks in advance and told us how long he would be gone ("until end of the year") before scheduling all patreon chapters to be posted automatically in the following weeks even though he had already left by then. He announced his return right on time (New Year's Eve), told us that he would be building a new patreon buffer first and resumed regular chapters some weeks later. 

In both cases, I think that everybody is fine with it, I certainly am. When there is a clear schedule and a clear cause for the hiatus, only immature people would be able to say anything against it. I think that readers want consistency more than a quick update schedule. "The next volume is almost finished, just needs some editing" or "I'm literally away from the internet for this specific period of time" tells us that the author will return and continue, barring severe unforeseen circumstances (e.g. sudden death). 

People going on a two-week vacation is still okay but raises the thought of why they have no buffer at all. Not that we readers have any claims to on-time chapters, but the forum is full of posts that clearly emphasize how important a regular posting schedule is. Somebody always posting the next chapter ten seconds after writing it is just waiting to make their readers angry (or worried) when something unexpected inevitably occurs and they miss a chapter. It's much, much, much better received to post a bit slower for a week or two (with announcement! E.g. "no Friday chapter this week and next, am creating a buffer") but then to always have a buffer for unexpected delays. Be it health issues, other real life obligations or writer's block. 

The big problem with the H-word and the cause it is such a dangerous option to use is that – as you already noticed and wrote – most hiatuses are sudden and unexpected and of indeterminate duration: "I'm ill, this could take three days or three months or I'll never be back"; "Need time for family, this could take some weeks or years"; "I have no new ideas, perhaps I'll find new ones, perhaps not"; "I'm not having fun writing, perhaps it'll return, perhaps not". While this is completely normal and understandable, it leads to disappointment and perhaps anger for the readers. Some of those will not be there any more when/if the author comes back. 


NovelNinja Wrote: would the web fiction model be able to handle an author who publishes Story A during months 1-3, then Story B during months 5-8, and then Story C during months 10-12, wrapping back to Story A?

Yes, this should be completely fine for most readers, because there is a clear announcement of when the story will continue and why the hiatus happens. Many readers might not be thrilled, especially those who only like one of those three stories, but nobody should be outright hostile to it. But if the author ends each period on a cliffhanger instead of at the end of an arc, they need to be whipped. 

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#14
I mean, I take schedule breaks all the time. It's just something readers have to expect with my writing. I take breaks between stories and I may take a break during stories. I cannot write full steam. It's a good way to burn out and I've already experienced that once. I rather take a few weeks off from writing than spend month after month staring at the same unfinished paragraph.

When I posted my first novel here, I was trying to avoid a long break between novels. I had written three between the novels stories to write about events that were kind of important, and the sequel however, circumstances weren't in my favor. I felt it was better to re-write the thing from scratch and then personal stuff happened, and I didn't post for a year.  I ruined my perfect method and haven't been able to gain it back since.

And I'm going to take another long break between novels again, however, I'm not sure if I mean to post the drafted novel I'm working on RoyalRoad.  I am on a writing break right now as I just want to stop worrying about supplying a chapter every week and just focus on writing again.

Re: Continuing the Quest: Scheduled Hiatus

#15
That's what backlogs are for. Having two-three weeks or more in reserve can let you take a break without changing anything to your publishing. You'll later slowly buil back the backlog. 

I also feel it helps the story to feel more consistent (in term of internal coherence) when you are far ahead in your writing, you can proof check for inconsistencies before publishing. 

But it requires anticipation and to have started it before starting to publish a story. It is definitively a comfortable security, it takes off the pressure of writing or the fear of author's block, you always have time to deal with it later.