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Strong Starts

Crumbly Writer

Just an observation, but has anyone else noticed that if a story starts slow, the scores typically don't pick up much (i.e. the initial scores tend to limit the future scores)?

My reasoning is (and this is all hypothetical), that the initial lower scores result in fewer people picking the story up, so there are fewer readers to vote the story up in the later chapters.

In my current story, the scores are my lowest, yet I've been receiving rave responses to the story, so it's a bit confusing. Since I typically write stories that start slowly (someone discovers something, and it takes a while to figure out what's going on), I've found that the initial score remains largely static, but that once the story finishes, the score drops further (as those not impressed enough to read it initially tackle it--resulting in lower scores--but that the scores (for a decent story) will gradually improve over time.

But it reemphasises the old advice, it's best to start a story off with a bang (someone gets killed, abducted or chased) rather than a whimper (someone stumbles upon a mystery, notices something odd about a neighbor, travels to a new city only to ...).

This seems to affect FS scores more than SOL, due to the lower number of visitors (there aren't as many readers over the years to make up for the initial lower scores). Hence I wonder what the effect will be on scifistories.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Just an observation, but has anyone else noticed that if a story starts slow, the scores typically don't pick up much (i.e. the initial scores tend to limit the future scores)?


I can't agree or disagree, because I don't look at the scores at all, except when they come up in discussions. However, almost all of my stories have good scores, and there's no significant variation between the slow starter and the fast action starters.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I think you over analyze scores.

As to a slow start, I'm not sure what your definition of "slow" is, but if you don't get into the plot's conflict quickly chances are readers will stop reading. Some of those might actually vote their displeasure. Those low scores stay with the story forever.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Jay Cantrell

On my last few stories the scores start about 8.2 and increase a few hundredths of a point each post.

They have been between 8.7 & 8.8 at the end and then jump a tenth or so the week after they conclude.

I have a couple of frequent commenters that like to track the scores and downloads. I pay more attention to the downloads ... mostly because I don't really know how the scoring works.

Replies:   REP
richardshagrin

One approach I have seen, if you are concerned about low initial scores, is to disable voting until part or even all of the story is posted. Or refuse voting entirely, although that discourages some readers from reading the story at all.

shinerdrinker

@richardshagrin

I have to admit that I am guilty of being discouraged from reading a story if there is no score.

I equate no votes on a story to movies that don't show to critics before their major premieres. The movie studios know their movie sucks but want as big of an opening weekend as possible to make sure the movie makes that money.

A true sign the movie is good and worthy of watching is the second week numbers rise or stay relatively equal to the opening weekend.

That's just what I think about it.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I typically don't fret about scores that much, although I do watch the trend in scores (whether the scores move up or down for a given chapter). I've been a bit perplexed by the strong associated sales and the positive comments but the lower scores, but from what I'm hearing, I may be looking at two audiences, one who likes the latest story, and one who doesn't, and it's the second group who may be lowering the scores. But again, if you don't hear from readers, it's difficult to understand how they think.

But Lazeez's set up discourages no-scoring stories. There are several authors who don't allow scoring, but they typically do so because watching the scores distracts, rather than informs them.

REP

@Jay Cantrell

and then jump a tenth or so the week after they conclude.


I always start a multiple post story at 5, and then increase/decrease the rating after each chapter is posted, if warranted. At the end, I make my final rating. Assuming others do something similar, that is probably why you see the increase after the posting is complete.

Switch Blayde

@REP

I always start a multiple post story at 5


See, CW, that's what I meant by over analyzing. There's no rhyme or reason to the scores given. Each individual, like REP, has their own methodology. I would never score the way he does, and probably many others wouldn't, so merge the way he scores with the way A scores and the way B scores, etc. and what does the result tell you?

And since the score is basically how much the reader liked it, you could take the story in a direction they don't like so they'll lower their score. You interpret that as something you did wrong -- that the chapter brought the score down so it must be bad. Well, it might be great, just not liked by some reader. Maybe they wanted the hero to live and you killed him off. Maybe they wanted the guy to get the girl and he got a guy instead. The score is simply appeal, nothing more.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I always start a multiple post story at 5, and then increase/decrease the rating after each chapter is posted, if warranted. At the end, I make my final rating. Assuming others do something similar, that is probably why you see the increase after the posting is complete.

As I noted, I tend to see the opposite happening. When the story first finishes (within the next day or two) the scores will jump, but then the readers who haven't been reading all along will come along, and the scores drop within a few days as you get more 6s and 7s from those not excited about the basic premise.

The scores then increase, as people discover the stories afterward, but initially after the story completes, the scores tend to drop.

Replies:   REP
REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

My mind isn't really here today. When I wrote the post, I remembered you saying they increased. OOps!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

My mind isn't really here today. When I wrote the post, I remembered you saying they increased. OOps!

I was describing different trends, it's easy to confuse.

awnlee jawking

@REP

I recently made a blog post about ongoing serials I'm enjoying the most. Mentioning no names, a number of popular stories are hovering between one and two stars in my ratings system, and I'm biding my time to see if there's a consistent improvement before considering adding them to my list.

AJ

red61544

I think many authors make a mistake by posting just one chapter to start a new story. If the story is a slow starter, consider posting two, three or even more chapters to start so that you're into the meat of the story and have people hooked. If the great Russian novels were to post only chapter one on SOL, no one would ever get beyond the first chapter.

richardshagrin

@red61544

Very few would get all the way to the end of the first chapter. Character names alone would defeat most readers.

There is a possibly appropriate joke. Picture a whorehouse, with stick figures, one walking away, one lying down inside and one running toward it. they are various nationalities. The one walking away, him a finish. The one inside, him a laying, and the one in a hurry, him a Russian.

Switch Blayde

@red61544

I think many authors make a mistake by posting just one chapter to start a new story. If the story is a slow starter, consider posting two, three or even more chapters to start so that you're into the meat of the story and have people hooked.


That's what I do when I write a sex story. If there's no sex in the first chapter I post the beginning chapters through the one with sex.

If the great Russian novels were to post only chapter one on SOL, no one would ever get beyond the first chapter.


I can't get through the first chapter. "Great" in one person's eyes is not in another's.

KinkyWinks

What is the average score?

Crumbly Writer

Sorry, but you've got to be more specific. Who are you asking and which scores? If you're asking me, the originator of the thread, then my scores (all my stories) average in the high 7s to low 8s, while the story in question currently has scores in the lows 7s (SOL) to mid 6s (FS). Thus it's easily my lowest score, even though it generates rant feedback and is producing my strongest sales in quite some time. It's a conundrum.

Bondi Beach

@richardshagrin

One approach I have seen, if you are concerned about low initial scores, is to disable voting until part or even all of the story is posted. Or refuse voting entirely, although that discourages some readers from reading the story at all.


Stories without scores do not show up in certain searches, also a minus factor.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Stories without scores do not show up in certain searches, also a minus factor.

I'm not concerned with the scores, but I just wonder why my lowest scoring book has some of the most positive feedback associated with it. There's a disconnect which bothers me, and until I figure out what triggers it, I'll keep picking at the scab.

"Love and Family During the Great Death" also had a low score, though it's risen over time, and for good reason (I killed off everyone's favorite characters), but I'm still proud of the work, even though many people can't make it through the entire story. But as long as I understand their reasoning (and why they wanted more of the story they couldn't finish), I'm fine with the lower scores.

slutsarah

I am struggling with this right now. I want a strong start but my choice of the first person may have made it very difficult.

Currently I think I will write the whole story and then re-arrange some parts so that it starts at the most interesting point near the start.

The only issue with that is that its currently just after getting out of bed in the morning and I want to avoid starting the book by getting out of bed.

Sarah

sejintenej

@slutsarah

slutsarah I am struggling with this right now. I want a strong start but my choice of the first person may have made it very difficult.

If you are the author I suspect you are, you need to get something in the first couple of paragraphs which will make the reader carry on to discover whatever it is that has been alluded to. You don't need to refer to "yourself" at all at this stage.

In the second story para 4 and 5 refer to two other people, Simon and Penny; if you had used those two paras as openers and gone easy on the " bit of lesbian fun was not on her list" then there you have a hook.
After that you can take your first few descriptive paras to explain who (randy) Mandy is.
I don't think you need your present para 3 about having changed names - I suspect most readers make that assumption in any case and if someone did think they were real names then any search for them would be fruitless.

Ernest Bywater

@slutsarah

Currently I think I will write the whole story and then re-arrange some parts so that it starts at the most interesting point near the start.


That is VERY hard to do well. One of the worst books I ever had the misfortune to try and read did just that, then went back several months to where the story actually started. It made ti hard to follow what was going on, and had what should have been the finishing climax as the opening scene, I never did finish chapter 2 of it, because I was totally lost by then - yet the author concerned wrote some great stuff, just messed that one up because the publisher wanted a more dramatic lead in first chapter and that was the only one dramatic enough.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Switch Blayde

@slutsarah

I want a strong start but my choice of the first person may have made it very difficult.


What does the POV have to do with a strong start?

Start the story as close to the inciting incident as possible or pick a scene that simply piques the reader's curiosity.

Starting with her getting out of bed is boring if all she's going to do is wake up, brush her teeth, and eat breakfast. But imagine a beginning where she wakes up in a strange bed. What goes through her mind? What are her emotions? Where was she and how'd she get there? Now when she gets out of bed the discovery begins.

Replies:   Lugh
Lugh

@Switch Blayde

Thinks of strong first person starts...

#2 or so: "Call me Ishmael"
#1: "It is three thousand light years to the Vatican."

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Lugh

Thinks of strong first person starts...


How about Lovely Bones

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

Crumbly Writer

@slutsarah

The only issue with that is that its currently just after getting out of bed in the morning and I want to avoid starting the book by getting out of bed.

Ha-ha. Have him/her fall out of bed instead. He/she can then curse, mentioning how the day has already started off badly, potentially foreshadowing what's to come. You can then shift past the obnoxious parts about someone waking up (i.e. shift to the conversations over breakfast or at work/school).

Replies:   sejintenej
Bondi Beach

@Ernest Bywater

That is VERY hard to do well. One of the worst books I ever had the misfortune to try and read did just that, then went back several months to where the story actually started.


Very much a style in some U.S. TV series a couple of years ago, perhaps still is: open with a climactic scene then flash "Two days earlier" (or whatever) and go back. What BS.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Bondi Beach

@slutsarah

The only issue with that is that its currently just after getting out of bed in the morning and I want to avoid starting the book by getting out of bed.


Heinlein did that in one of his last novels, can't recall the title but someone here will, featuring the mother of Lazarus Long. It opened along the lines of, "I woke up with a cat and a man in bed with me. I recognized the cat. I didn't know the man. Besides, he was dead."

And then she goes on to muse about waking up once with a barbershop quartet or something like that.

bb

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@Bondi Beach

It opened along the lines of, "I woke up with a cat and a man in bed with me.


That would be 'To Sail Beyond the Sunset.'

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Ha-ha. Have him/her fall out of bed instead. He/she can then curse, mentioning how the day has already started off badly, potentially foreshadowing what's to come. You can then shift past the obnoxious parts about someone waking up (i.e. shift to the conversations over breakfast or at work/school).

Feels like an earthquake to me (actual with tsunami or comparison)

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Very much a style in some U.S. TV series a couple of years ago, perhaps still is: open with a climactic scene then flash "Two days earlier" (or whatever) and go back. What BS.

I've always had trouble with flashback scenes, though in a recent book, I got around it by breaking the story into segments. The scene starts at the beginning, when the primary crisis begins, continues for several chapters, then breaks into a separate section where it flashes back to the main character's background for a couple of chapters before flashing to her opposition character's histories, eventually flashing forwards to what happens after those initial (first) scenes. I think the transition is simpler and easier to follow, but they're largely defined by the nature of the book.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I've always had trouble with flashback scenes


I guess you didn't like "Prince of Tides." The story is told through flashbacks. I only saw the movie, but the the book had more flashbacks than the movie.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I guess you didn't like "Prince of Tides." The story is told through flashbacks. I only saw the movie, but the the book had more flashbacks than the movie.

For Pat Conroy, writing as he does on characters with a history of abuse by one's father, flashbacks make sense. You start in the present with the dilemma, an adult child wrestling with how to cope with an elderly parent he's never felt close to, and then he continually flashes back to the abuse he's suffered over the years, which tells the back story in small, incremental increments.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

incremental increments.


Isn't that redundant? Can you have non-incremental increments?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Isn't that redundant? Can you have non-incremental increments?

I realized that when I wrote it, but couldn't think how to better express it. I meant, the ideas build slowly, a little at a time (i.e. you eke the information out at a steady rate). If I said, "increments" in means "in small portions", instead of "in measured portions".

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I realized that when I wrote it, but couldn't think how to better express it.


Incrementally wouldn't work?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Incrementally wouldn't work?

I'm having an incredibly bad week and haven't been able to get much of anything accomplished. I should actually back up and delete all of my recent posts (including those where I defend my past stories against comments made to other authors). :(

If I can't write fiction, I probably shouldn't be trying to express my ideas on the forum either.

QM

Going back, I believe I posted the first three chapters in Magician within the first week, because it is a slow read and the first chapter in my opinion is not a strong one.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@QM

Going back, I believe I posted the first three chapters in Magician within the first week, because it is a slow read and the first chapter in my opinion is not a strong one.

Regarding starting with multiple chapters, I find few of my regular readers follow the 'new stories' list, so I tend to post a single chapter, let it sit for a few days, and then post any follow-ups so the chapters (say the prologue and first chapter) will show up on the "Series Update" list at the same time.

I also tend to post book covers, character lists, etc. when I post the first chapter. The "New Stories" list might attract a few readers, at most, but most of my readers only pay attention to the "Series Update" list. Historically, "New Stories" tend to focus on short stories while "Series Updates" tend to feature longer works that take time to read (i.e. they unfold slowly and over time). Thus they form different audiences (and blog readers generally form an entirely separate group of readers).

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