The Maddening Genesis of a 150,000 Word Novel

A long time ago I wrote a few novels and posted them onto the Internet. It was sometime around the turn of the Millennium, none of the major social media websites existed, and blogging was a nascent phenomenon. Since I already had a Yahoo email account I had a free Geocities site to put any material on*, therefore I used it as a platform for my novels. There wasn’t any way I could promote my novels outside my circle of close friends, and the only way I tried to raise the profile of my work was to get involved with a web-ring** of writers who were also posting their novels on the Internet. In any case at that time I was preoccupied with more pressing matters, such as actually writing the novel itself, along with home work (I was a high school student at that time).

But after graduating from high school, life became much more hectic and work on my novels became sporadic. I stopped uploading my novels but continued to monitor my Geocities site, it had a neat feature that allows the user to see how many views each page gets. Over the lifetime of my website I was viewed more than a hundred times, which appeared extremely modest by today’s standards, but at that time gave me a little thrill. However, on closer inspection I discovered that while I received about 120 visitors on the first chapter, by the middle of my novel my readership had fallen down to around 12-15, and virtually no one made it to the last chapter.

Even though I was disappointed in the low readership of my work, it was not unexpected. I had very few ways of promoting my work on the Internet, and I was more interested in doing the hard work of writing than trying to get it published. Also, I am a textbook case of introversion, to the point that I did not tell my closest friend I even had a Geocities site. (Although I did once try to pass around my novel at school by floppy disk. Yes, it was that long ago.)

The novel disappeared from the Internet when Geocities was shut down in 2009. I was unaware of Geocities’ demise until a few months afterward when I discovered my novel permanently deleted from the Internet. I was disappointed because I came to rely on Geocities as an archive, and thought that I lost a major corpus of my work (fortunately I discovered the original copy of all my writings a few years later). I could not even find my work in the Internet Wayback Machine, since for some reason robots.txt*** was configured so that the archiver was prevented access to it. Even the web-ring I joined vanished from the Internet, disappearing into an endless digital graveyard.

Oddly, I am glad that my novel did not get much attention, because much of my work was poorly written, filled with typos and grammar mistakes. At that time I was too naive to care about issues like that, and in any case I was giving away my work for free. If you bought a Rolex for $20, you shouldn’t be surprised if “Rolex” was spelled with two l’s.****

I have since grown more mature as a writer. Now I have a job that is stable enough I can spend some time working on new pieces. If I were completely honest with myself, I probably haven’t grown much more mature as a writer, I had just become less naive and learned to put more structure into my writing and proofread more. In a way it was much better that my writing never completely matured, because many love the eccentric way I use language no sane people will attempt. It gives my writing a character that many polished pieces of writing lack.

Having written so much in the past few years I have decided to share a portion of it with you. I am currently looking back at a novel I wrote tentatively entitled Caroline, and turn it into a blog. It has an interesting history, I wrote it in a frenzy during summer vacation of my second year in college. I didn’t know how I even accomplished the task, but everyday I spent 3 to 4 hours in some of the most intense writing sessions I ever engaged in, producing a 150,000 word first draft. The entire novel reads more like a stand-up comedy act than a coherent narrative, which at first seemed like a drawback, but this might make it more suitable to be put in blog format than print.

Even though I am excited to share some of my work with you, I am also apprehensive because like my previous attempts my work might be mostly ignored. Before embarking on this seeming quixotic task of blogging a novel, I read opinions of social media experts, most of whom think that blogging a novel is not a good idea. The main argument is that the blog has a fundamentally different format from a novel which does not fit with narrative story-telling. But considering how the term “social media expert” is basically an oxymoron, I take their opinions with a grain of salt.

I am aware that the Internet is not the most hospitable place for a novel. The Internet is basically a medium for chattering. Most of it is a long-running conversation anyone can join and leave at any time, a conversation with a topic that constantly shifts to whatever the mood of the crowd decides. People on the Internet are usually not interested in reading thick tomes which take hours to read and careful contemplation to fully comprehend. Then again, I hope to keep my novels interesting enough so you do not realize you are reading a book. I cannot promise to succeed, but at least I will try.

*At that time Yahoo owned Geocities.

**A web-ring is a series of interconnected websites, usually for the purpose of promoting content with a similar theme and search-engine-optimization.

***robots.txt is a file on web servers which tells web crawlers what it can and can’t download. It’s used by all the major search engines and other web applications what and what not to archive.

****I know about this because when I was young my family could not afford to buy Adidas shoes, but we had money for “Adidos” shoes.

Continue to Caroline

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