Author’s note: web serial paused

This was a very difficult decision for me – I actually sat on my chair and cried yesterday, and I’m crying now, but I just can’t keep updating weekly anymore. I don’t want to be one of those web serial autors who start missing updates and eventually stop updating at all, so I’m making the cut here, with the promise that I will definitely finish this web serial.

I spent a few days sick in bed this week, and as I thought about how in the world I was going to finish this week’s chapter, I realized one thing: I can’t. Some of you may know of the massive drop in reader numbers that started with the beginning of the Endgame arc and went on and on. Right now daily views are lower than they were near the beginning of the serial about 2 and a half years ago. I used to have a steady group of readers who came back for the latest chapter every 1-3 weeks, and their number stayed the same since arc 6, about two years ago. Now only half of them come back to read the latest chapter. Votes have dropped by half for the first time in years, as well.

I feel like every time I post an update, I’m letting everyone down, and I’m not 100% sure why – I’m burned out and have been for a while, but I always did my best to provide quality updates, though I feel the best I can manage is no longer enough. The drop in views is so depressing that it’s starting to affect my daily life.

Over the years, I’ve invested close to 2000 hours of my life in this web serial – not for money, but for the simple joy of improving my writing and having a steady group of readers who followed me on this journey. Thanks to my handful of Patreon supporters, I made an average of maybe 10 cents per hour of writing. I always hoped for more comments on updates, but I’d like to thank everyone who came back to read more, who voted and posted comments. I feel really bad for those of you who are still reading every update. I want to write the story you deserve to read, and to do this, I need to take a step back and analyze where I’ve gone wrong so I can do better.

Keep in mind that I’m writing in a foreign language. Writing in English (and trying to provide the same quality as native English speaking writers do) is an immense mental effort for me that involves lots of googling, fussing, despairing and online translating. This is probably the main reason I’ve been burned out for a while now.

Anyway, I’m going to post some kind of update a month from now, on the 12th of February 2017. If at all possible I’ll post more than one chapter on that date. I’m going to finish this story at a pace I can manage, with the quality you deserve. I hope you’ll come back to discover how the story ends!

I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

36 thoughts on “Author’s note: web serial paused

  1. I’d like to add – please don’t be afraid of posting honest feedback! I’d rather hear it from you than a paid developmental editor when I eventually get around to editing – and publishing – the last ebook in the series. I hope you’re going to read the ebooks, too, because those will contain the story I wanted to tell. The web serial is a draft of the story I wanted to tell.

    • I love your story. I really do. Sometimes I skipped a few weeks just to return and see that there is an hour’s worth of read and I was happy, because your story and writing is great, actually better than most native writers’. I almost always voted at least twice a week, I was rarely a day late on reading the new chapter. As I am not a native speaker of English either, I was amazed by your proficiency at this language. I love the characters, they are well-developed, the twists (especially the “The world has already ended, Andrey” one, totally mindblowing) were amazing. Take all the time you need, get some rest and in case you decide not to continue, we won’t be mad. You gave us a story and characters to love and more. I wonder why you didn’t get more votes or why there were less readers, I really can’t understand. It might be bad luck. Dunno :). Like I said, take your time

    • Well, it’s the endgame arc. Lower reader amounts should be expected, as a fair number of people will want to read the entire end at once. Some if it may be the major changes in the story though.

      Story wise, the big thing i can see that may be driving people away is Kid. Chris, Radient, and Dancer (your main characters) are pretty much being sidelined in favor of her. You also gave her a -very- strong power surge, deus ex machina powers like that are usually reserved for villians, and are generally recieved poorly when given to the heroes (characters who gain whatever power is needed to win get boring quickly, and need a major flaw if they’re even going to be a minor character (e.g. Eidolion from Worm having little control over what powers he receives, as well as a generally irrelevant charge up time for those powers)). Given Legion’s power, it’s difficult to say how overpowered Kid is (too early to tell for sure, but she does seem overpowered), although a fair amount of people may still reject her new powers on principle. Just remember, heroes overcome impossible odds, be careful about making them too strong. Also as a cutsey child hero, some people will hate her on principle (it’s been done to death in nearly every anime). That type of a character either needs to be a main character from the start, or remain a side character.

      I apologise for any typos, wrote this from a phone.

      • Good points, thanks! I’d just like to say that Legion is so massively overpowered that I’m struggling to come up with reasons why the heroes (Kid included) wouldn’t lose outright. Unlike Legion she needs time to switch powersets and isn’t super-aware of everything that’s going on in the city around her. And Legion’s psychic aura is basically instakill (Noire avoided it very narrowly, I had to give her some plot armor there). Maybe I need to kill a few more characters… 🙂

        Chris would have died already but I decided to keep her alive (for now?) because readers seemed to like her so much.

        • One thing about killing off characters… Be careful with it.

          Some authors seem to have read somewhere “to create impact for your story, craft a likeable character… and kill them off at the end, when you don’t need them for character interaction scenes anymore” or something like that. And hey, sure, it works! People fall in love with the character, it dies, people get sad over it, the story has more impact.

          So then that author does it again.
          And again.
          And maybe they even get to wildbow (of worm, pact and twig fame) levels, where I can’t re-read a story because I know what will happen to these characters, so I can’t feel happy about their growth. And I can’t enjoy any NEW works of that author properly, because I KNOW what will happen to the characters, so I never let myself grow to like them. The kids in his current story, twig? They all were disposable things for me from the first moment. Their deaths were meaningless to me because I knew they were coming. Zero impact on me, no feelings created. And a massive diminishing of the impact that the character interaction WOULD have created if I had cared about the characters. (Wildbow is still a great author and I somewhat enjoy following even twig now, but mostly for the worldbuilding).

          So if you kill off a character, make sure it is to make an important point. Not on a whim, not because it “creates impact” or “makes the story feel more real”. If you get in the habit of killing off characters, readers will stop growing attached to ANY of them and then your future works will be very weak for those who already know one of your stories. Going the G.R.R. Martin route only works well in the first story of an author that the reader encounters.

          • Food for thought, thanks! Now I wonder, though… how can I find the middle ground between ‘overpowered’ characters and characters who die? A few heroes have already gotten hurt so bad that they were removed from the spotlight for a time. How can I allow a character to ‘win’ and / or survive without giving the impression that they’re overpowered? Many battles are so fast-paced and unpredictable that smart planning doesn’t really come into play.

            • Getting hurt works, sure. Getting hurt and working through it to succeed anyway shows a strong personality without OP powers.

              Also, to show that a hero is NOT overpowered, you could have him *and some allies* face an enemy (or group of enemies) that his powers don’t work (or don’t work well) against, forcing him to play support or stand in the sidelines while those with more fitting powersets take care of the threat. Depending on the person you use this on, it can also lead to some character growth with the feeling of uselessness that comes from this, and the guilt over a friend that got hurt fighting the monster where this hero could do nothing to help… stuff like that.

              Also, remember that “sometimes discretion is the better part of valor” – maybe there is just nothing the hero can do in the situation you present them with. Maybe they would be killed if they even tried. Maybe they HAVE to run, and either they already are a strong enough character to understand this (showing this would flesh out the character as experienced and good at judging the situation) or they might have to face this for the first time, then you could write a few paragraphs where they come to grips with the fact that there WAS nothing they could do to save those civilians / stop that monster / bring justice to XYZ, leading to character growth that you could show your readers.

              I think at least some of these already WERE in anathema, but since you posed the question here I thought I’d just list the ways I can think of right now 😉

          • It is worth noting that endgame is a fairly appropriate time for heroes to die, mistakes due to fatigue, injuries hampering mobility, heroic sacrifices, this is the time to take advantage of the benifits of all of those (especially given the game changing power surge potential here). Will someone dying become the deciding factor? I’d recommend avoiding killing off more than one of the ‘core’ heroes (if any), but side characters are all fair game for this. Jasper could make a major impact for Dancer, maybe the remaining EU heroes for Radient (or his family?), Noire would be perfect for Chris if you don’t have plans for her (you’ve been playing up her ability to damage Legion since he appeared though, so I suspect you do). Kid would make an impact for Chris and to a lesser degree Dancer, but again I suspect you’ve got some major plans there. I will laugh if Chris’s death surges Saint though (especially if he remains comatose).

        • Sorry, I don’t visit as often but I love your story and life has just been a little rough.

          Syndic is right about Kid. Not only is she OP( any power she imprints?! Dancer can already manipulate reality to simualte other powers Kid using Dancer’s power to create a superpower (pun unintented)), but she is taking all the spotlight and making it look like everyone (except Radient) are holed up and have accepted defeat, also I hope I get to see more Noire, Sunny and yes, Chris as her power has more potential than given credit
          she can create a force field to trap people, can use a knife and murder any villains before they can protect themselves, she is also protected from Legion’s aura and if Jasper writes a song for her (She DID save his life) she can be very valuable in the front lines.

          Also I think that character death if done now would seem a bit forced since the thing is ending and your crew is already upon the ship UNLESS there is a massive all out global war or something, I mean, the governments of every country can’t be gone and I am sure that nukes exist in this world(right?).

  2. Sorry to hear this, and I have to admit, I too am one of the currently not-as-regular-as-I-used-to readers. For me, it was the combination of the arc name “endgame” and the interludes making it very clear that the serial was close to finished, and the fact that – as it probably had to, since it seems to be one contained story rather than an open-ended universe – the chapters went further and further away from character-driven, fun (for me) to read chapter-by-chapter, towards “another piece of the story”.

    When the chapters were either mostly or partially about the characters, it was fun just following along update by update to see how they developed. Now that the chapters were more about driving the story to its conclusion, and with said conclusion seemingly very near, I didn’t find myself looking forward to the next chapter with anymore. So I figured instead I would wait for the story to finish, and then read the remainder in one go.

    Not meant as criticism, merely as explanation why – in this one case at least – readers might not turn up as regularly as they used to. The writing is still top, the story still captivating, but the fact that this serial will end soon means – for me at least – a shift away from the “I’ll keep reading this update by update and that is how it will be for the foreseeable future” mindset, towards a “this book is almost over, all that’s left is finishing the story” one. Those last few pages of a book are always a bit saddening for me, so I do not want to draw that feeling out by experiencing it with every update. Instead, as I said, I thought to bundle it all into one sitting and counter the sadness over the story ending with the hopefully satisfying ending you will come up with.

    So yes, I definitely will be back to see how the story ends. And if you decide to write another one after it, I’ll be along for that one too. Take all the time you need to do it right, and most importantly without burning out please! 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback – I figured that this simply being the last arc might have something to do with it, and that maybe people wanted to wait and binge read, which would be a compliment. 🙂 Still, I need those views and comments (and votes) to keep me motivated. But having read all these comments I feel better already, and I’ll definitely complete the story in my own time. It’s just that I feel the weekly update model has failed, in the end. The constant stress of having to update regardless of work, sickness, holidays etc. isn’t worth it with such a huge drop in readers.

  3. bah, that should be “I didn’t find myself looking forward to the next chapter with /character/ anymore” – I put that in arrow-brackets, guess the comment system thought it was a html tag or something and filtered it out^^

  4. I never really liked that the story felt like it was holding me hostage. “Oh, so you want to read another chapter do you? Then vote for me or be disappointed!” If you look at topwebfiction.com right now you’re #16 and none of the top 15 people do that. The only other one that I’m aware of is Citadel which is #25.

    Additionally, I just don’t really have anything to comment on usually, partially because I know I’m never caught up. Why post what I think might happen when other people already talked about it a week ago?

    It’s also kind of slow to update — once a week, right? Compared to the other stories higher than you, it sees like they all update more.

    Then there’s the holiday slump, which has nothing to do with you. Even Wildbow has posted that before — stories are read more when people are in the regular school schedule. During the Christmas holidays, people spend more time with their family, and reading dips. During the summer, people are busy taking vacations and reading dips.

    • What I posted about are recent developments and the slip started with the beginning of arc 14, 2 and a half months ago, so… as much as I’d like to blame the holidays or the update speed, I don’t think those are related. As for update speed, this is all I can manage. 12 hours a week for one chapter is a lot. Native English speaking authors can dish our 2-3 chapters in the same amount of time, so I can’t. I’ll always be a slow writer for that reason. It just can’t be helped. 😦

    • Regarding Citadel – it got 100’s of votes back when it still updated regularly. I’m pretty sure the drop in rank is due to lack of updates, not because of the voting system. Most readers don’t seem to mind it as far as I know. I’m probably going to get rid of the vote preview system now, but it seemed to help my stats and views for a long time. I guess by now everyone who wanted to check out the story has already done so.

  5. I’m sorry to hear that you are having to scale back (Is that the right term?) with your serial, Anathema is one of the more interesting takes on the genre. It somehow maintains a sense of optimism in the face of, I mean, AFTER the Apocalypse. (That was a brilliant plot twist btw)

    For what it’s worth: I don’t think you’re letting anyone down. Not in quality, story or consistency. If you hadn’t said so, I would never have guessed that English wasn’t your first language. Anathema has one of the tightest plots and some of best characters of any of the webserials I read (At the last count that was around twenty different serials on a regular basis and a handful of irregular ones).

    I am really enjoying the Endgame arc, with all the twists and changes that come with it. It’s a pity that some people have been turned off by it and I hope that they’ll return to read the whole thing once the story is concluded.

    Until then, I wish you all the best of luck!

  6. That’s sad news… 😥
    Well then, I’ll be back one month from now, looking forward to that. =)
    I hope you’ll get well soon… Both mentally and physically. Get all the rest you need, burn out is nothing to be trifled with. :S
    About the declining readership… I actually got nothing there. I really enjoy your story, I try to read each chapter as early as possible (usually around sunday evening or early on monday)… and I just don’t see why anybody would abandon the story NOW of all times. Okay, sure, no story was ever loved by EVERYBODY, so I completly understand it if people drop stories after a few chapters or in the middle or something… But it just does not make sense to me to read a story almost up to its end just to drop it there, just before the conclusion happens… Especially since I fail to see any major blunder in your storytelling that would justify this… I don’t even recall a minor one… I afraid I’m not really helpful here…
    Well then, I guess I’ll see you one month from now! Don’t stress yourself out and best of luck! ^^

  7. I remember I had some harsh criticism for you when you first started but at this point I honestly think most of it was unfounded. You’ve done an amazing job with this story and I’m coming finally impressed with how you’ve been able to keep the setting dynamic and evolving.

    I understand the feeling of not wanting to let it slip (I fell into that a *while* ago), and though I never did take writing as seriously as you do I can sympathize at least a little. It’s important to remember that people still care, but you’re not letting them down. They understand.

    Finally, it’s really important for mental health to not care about viewership or readership. Don’t look at your views. WordPress analytics lie, trust me. Every time a reader loads a page, that’s a view, so if someone reads twenty chapters, it’s twenty views. As such, views are way higher when people are bringing the archives. Likewise, people who are newer will check every day, and generate unique viewers every day. People who are caught up only generate one unique viewer per chapter, so even that metric is a poor judge of readership. They’re a much better metric of how many new readers you get than how many readers you have.

    • My writing was terribad when I first started, I never felt like your criticism wasn’t justified, to be honest. You’re a good critic! And I’m amazed (and very, very happy) that you’re still reading. So, thanks for making my day. Everyone else who made my day, thanks to you, too – even if I don’t respond to every comment individually, it means a lot.

  8. Take all the time that you need to get back to form and do not sweat it. All authors need a break from time to time and let your creative energies grow. Let it build and it will make your writing better than if you did continued on. This had always worked for me and I am nowhere near your level. Do not give up!
    I am a big fan of weekly manga and I learned from it that weekly serialization of any kind is very
    hard to do consistently for someone working on the serial full time. Do not feel bad and just know that you are only human. Work at the pace you are comfortable with and thanks for all the good work.

  9. So. I just want you to know that, although I was not here with you at the very beginning, I am astonished at the consistently smooth, engaging, and original story you have spun for us readers. Of all the web novels I have read, a number much to high for me to post without dying of shame, this one has remained a constant. I won’t wax poetic about how this changed my life, because it didn’t, but I will simply say that I enjoy this story very much. Thank you for all your hard work that I am certain went into this, and rest easy that your readers are not disappointed, are not let down. We want you to do what you feel is necessary, and if that is in the end slowing down the chapter releases or going on hiatus, I will simply be grateful for the story you spent time and effort crafting for essentially free.

    P.S.
    I honestly had no idea that you were not a native English speaker, and was happy with your standard of writing.

    P.P.S.
    I am guilty of not voting. Hang me for my crimes O’ author.

  10. Sorry I haven’t been reading recently. For me, it was a change in my usual routine plus the interruption of the Christmas holidays to further disrupt my day-in/day-out life haha. A similar thing happened to me last year where I wasn’t keeping up with my regular reads in that period. x3

    Regardless of what you choose to do and no matter how long it takes, I’ll be looking forward to the conclusion of Anathema. Thanks for all you’ve done so far and will do in the future.

  11. I haven’t really commented on here before, mostly because by the time I found this and caught up it was nearing the end of the story and I always feel weird commenting on chapters from so long ago. That said, I really have enjoyed this story and am sorry to hear that you are pausing it, even if I do understand the reason why.

    I would suggest that part of the fall off in readers is that the last couple of arcs have moved incredibly quickly. I actually liked the switch of character PoV’s that occurred, although Dancer wasn’t really my favorite. But seeing her story intersect with Chris’ was very interesting.

    The real problem came with the death of Gentleman, I think. From that point on the story felt like it jumped forward and I was missing a bunch of information. I would have liked to have seen the things that happened in the world instead of just being told about them. The whole New Orleans thing especially was confusing, and even though you did get around to explaining what happened and why it really felt strange to just be told that Noire protects the city and all of the Heroes are staying there.

    On a positive note, I have to admit that until you mentioned it in the post above I had no idea that you were not a native English speaker. Your writing has been absolutely stand up in that regard, and better than some other web serials with actual native speakers. So you should feel pretty good about that.

    I really have enjoyed the story overall, despite the parts I mentioned above, and was especially intrigued by the Pulse Interludes. I hope that you feel better after a bit of a break and come back to finish it, because I really do want to see how everything turns out in the end.

  12. I haven’t noticed any reduction in quality at all. I just think it is difficult to follow a once a week story for years, and almost all of the once a week or once a month serials *eventually* fall out of the top 10. Just go at your own pace, and if you want to try to publish an ebook at some point, you could do a bit of promotion.

  13. I have been reading this webserial occasionally, at a slow pace, for over a year now. You might find some comments from me in the very early chapters.
    I haven’t been the most faithful reader, but that is not because I don’t enjoy the story. I just need time to digest every batch of chapters I read, which makes for very sluggish reading.
    I am currently working on finishing arc 10, which is why I hadn’t seen this yet – I don’t often check the front page. Thank you for all your work, and I hope you can finish this at your own pace – you will still probably vastly outpace me anyways.

  14. That’s completely fine. The fact that you recognize that you need a break, and happen to be a human being, is great. To be honest, nothing really seems different in quality since then, I still love it. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next update, so keep up the good work!

  15. Chrysalis you absolutely rock and fuck anyone who does not agree :p

    You are telling the most interesting “super hero” story on the internet these days! I am proud to say that I am a patron supporter of your writing.

    I will continue to unconditionally support you no matter how long you need to take between updates.

    ❤ ❤ ❤

  16. Just something I felt bothered me a bit about Kid is that we didn’t really get to see her struggle. I mean sure it was hard, and she had to put in effort, but emotionally she’s been shoving aside all the the internal struggle which made her feel a bit 2D, so when you’re editing for the ebooks you might want to at that. Otherwise, a brilliant job dear author, what you have created her would be an incredible story for a native English speaker, and to have done it without having that advantage is truly amazing. Good luck finishing strong

      • It might have, but I actually think you could make it part of the story that while she’s been repressing it the whole time, hiding it from both herself and the reader, she’s actually under an enormous strain. Before it just didn’t feel like her emotions were any obstacle to her. As late in the arc as it is, perhaps her own struggle could be brought to light as just as much an opponent as Legion is, for our emotions are what make us human after all. I know from reading countless series that the ending is the hardest part so hopefully this helps in some way, hope I don’t sound pretentious, but if you do plan to use any of what I suggested at all you can delete my post so there are no spoilers. 😀 on a last note, I don’t know if you’ll find it useful, but consider how other ‘against all odds’ stories ended, maybe gain some inspiration from those 🙂

  17. I’ve been one of your regulars since the beginning, but I’ve bounced of hard of the ending of act 13. I think I commented on this as well.

    I really enjoyed the setting, the characters. Well, everything apart from Legion, who I didn’t like for being too powerful. Gentleman was the perfect villain for me – relatable and understandable in terms of power. Defeatable. Something to overcome.

    I feared Legion would only be defeated by a random Deus Ex moment, and I hate those because they devalue the characters I grew to like. They could be any Mr. and Mrs Smith if they’re saved by something random happening.

    And then the big reveal was that there WAS a Deus Ex moment where some random God gave everyone random powers based on what they may or may not have believed, and then disappeared. Or disintegrated and imbued everyone with a bit of godliness. That act felt so very random, so incredibly Deus Ex (literally!) that I just bounced of it.

    I did check in again lately, and I still do every few months, just to see how the story concludes – but that was the moment you lost me as a fan.

    I am not saying this was wrong of you to write! I’m just explaining why I, me, only me and my personal opinion bounced of it. I loved Worm, and I understand where you have been coming from, but in Worm, the world went to hell and I still enjoyed the ride. Here, I just found the slide into madness and destruction very depressing. I’m lacking the ray of genuine hope here. I can’t see this ending any other way but with a really, really random moment. Or eternal darkness.

    You’re a fantastic writer. The action bits are really good, and it’s really hard to write good action bits. The characters are believable, and it’s really hard to write believable characters. I’ll gladly start reading any new projects of yours enthusiastically, and I hope you’ll continue as a writer. Even the glorious Wildbow was very unhappy with how one of his stories (Pact, to be precise) turned out, and it suffered a bit from the same symptoms, including dropping readership towards the end.

  18. Hi, brand new reader here. I started a few days ago and have read straight through to here, I was about half way through 6 when I decided to check how long the story was to see how I should pace myself and noticed this pause notice. After reading it I decided to just barrel through to give you a idea of what it looks like when freshly read.

    So The first 8 chapters/arcs/books are fairly strong; they are well paced, give enough information to follow the plot as it develops and has fairly good character development for most characters. After that though things start to break down. In 9.8 you introduce a massive plot change but then don’t follow through in explaining how Peter avoids being sent to his family or connects with Andrey. Don’t get me wrong the story stays great but it is really easy to lose the thread of the plot with all the sudden shifts with no explanation or exposition. It gets even harder to follow after 12 starts because you are mentioning “old” Evolved never heard of before that have had new surges.

    The sudden development of New Orleans as a base, Noire surging… well basically all the plot points outside of Kids POV happened too fast with no explanation and as this is the Endgame there is no expectation of flashback arcs from another characters POV to explain it. If you are going to jump ahead in the others story lines you need to fill us in.

    Personally I am enjoying Kids arc but again more backstory is needed… when did she surge? how did she figure out she could use other peoples powers? or is this just part of her original skill set? The emotions in 14 are well displayed as it is her POV. The forced cheerful “I am fine” attitude comes through ok in some points with the nameless but not so much before that,

    More background on who the different Evolved are both before and after the understanding of how surges work would flesh out the world building. I really like this world you have made it has a good plot, most of it has good pacing and is easy to follow. The more you try to jump around the clearer you have to be though, most people have problems following small jumps and you are doing mighty leaps with out the info to let people land on target with you; they end up confused and in new York when you were shooting for new Orleans.

    I hope this helps!

  19. im a new reader but i see this all the time with long stories. when you have problems its best to do this your not letting anyone down by telling ppl you need time to think as long as you dont just drop it its just idiots who have no clue how hard it is to be an author.

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