GETTING READERSHIP FOR YOUR CONTINUITY
By Steven Savage
Archives available at The Way With Worlds Home Page
Well, recent events have made me decide to focus on how to get people to read things in your originally designed or spun-off continuity. You worked hard. You've got a well-designed world and characters. You want readers for your stories, but no one is reading and no one is reviewing!
Frustrating, isn't it? People don't pay attention. People don't see what you've done - but let them put up some story in some popular genre and its in the spotlight. It may not even be good - and your work, finely detailed and meticulously plotted is being all but ignored.
OK, that's pretty much it. However, if you analyze it, you can tell what people want to read. I mean, its not too hard to target an audience or include some general elements in your story that you know will get people to read. Play up this or that, jack that rating up, post it at the right spots.
Of course, the problem is that you may have to adapt your continuity to put in those elements that snag readers. If you want some more action, or a really neat magical sequence, or some romance, its going to take work. You just can't stick something into your continuity.
The best way to handle this situation, after you've decided on the focuses you want to attract readers, print out your most important notes and your plot outlines. Read them carefully.
Now set them on fire, jump on the ashes, and flush them down the toilet. This is roughly equivalent to what you're doing to your continuity by trying to play the marketing game of 'alter my story to get readers.'
Harsh? Yes. When you've got a tight continuity, good characters, and a cohesive world and story, playing marketing games is harsh. What you're doing isn't any different than the market-driven, focus-group-driven, lowest-common-denominator research done by people to churn out bland, boring television shows and movies.
If that's what you want to do, fine, but the column won't help you much.
An important rule of writing solid continuities - DO NOT PANDER. You may be able to select several tales from your world that people may enjoy. You may find some focuses are more accessible than others. Some stuff may just be more fun to read. Part of writing is sharing, and you need to know how to share.
However, do not alter your continuity just because you think more people will read it with certain elements. Don't toss in more battles or more sex or more cool "stuff" or whatever you think will make people pay attention. That means altering your continuity to accommodate elements that have NOTHING to do with good world-building and good storytelling. Its like introducing a virus to a healthy body.
It's far better to find ways to get your stories read by people that like what you're doing (or will tell you at least what's wrong), than to try and just "get read." If your major goal isn't to produce stories that use your talent, explore ideas important to you, and are fun to write, you're not going to enjoy yourself.
Imagine yourself stuck in a state of worrying if people will like what you did, of researching, tweaking, fearing. Imagine each story not being what you enjoyed or felt, but slapped-together pandered research and elements you figure people want. I don't know about you, but it doesn't sound fun to me.
Pandering wrecks continuity. Pandering wrecks fun. If you need to be read, work on being a good writer and finding people who are genuinely interested in what you do. Make a good world and write about it - and the satisfaction of staying consistent, coherent, and working hard can't be taken away.
It sounds corny, but look at the alternative.
A new, semi-regular section, where Ill spotlight sites and resources useful for worldbuilders and continuity-based writers.
My focus this column is the listserv SFWorldbuilder (http://www.onelist.com/group/Sfworldbuilder) at Onelist/egroups. Its a nice, low-traffic, high-thought listserv for people that build their own original Sci-Fi worlds. Ive found the people on it to be intelligent and thoughtful, and Ive seen intense, long discussions on good continuities. If you work in original SF worlds, give it a try, you may learn a lot.