Discipline and determination pay off for webserial writer

JC McCrae is probably one of the most hardworking webserial writers out there. In two-and-a-half years, the 29-year-old Ontarion resident wrote Worm, a webserial 1.7 million words long.

“That would be 26 books,” he said via e-mail. “I wrote 305 chapters in two-and-a-half years. Almost a book every month.”

Worm is the highest-rated work on several websites that collect serial fiction.

“I know my work wasn’t totally perfect, but the response has been exceptionally good,” he said.

McCrae said that he originally put up Worm to fix his problems with writing. He had been accumulating hundreds of unfinished tales and wanted to break the habit.

He saw that writers were putting stories online one chapter at a time, a few times a week. He thought that the discipline of that could do him some good.

“Having a schedule to keep meant I couldn’t spend too much time editing or I’d miss my deadline. Having an audience, however small, meant there were people who would be disappointed if I didn't follow the schedule.”

And what a schedule! McCrae was uncompromising about deadlines.

“On holidays, when I was sick, when I was in school, when my phone line was accidentally cut by a guy doing some maintenance work, I ran to the library to use the internet there. I bit my nails, I got frustrated with people and even more frustrated with myself. But again and again, two or three times a week, I updated on time and on schedule. It wasn’t always happy and it wasn’t always fun,” he said.

McCrae’s writing day starts at 9am and ends at midnight. He sometimes writes up to 11,000 words a day.

McCrae’s readers are not just appreciative – they’ve donated thousands of dollars to him over the years through a donation button on his website.

They also show their love for the world he created by writing fanfiction and fanart. Some writers get testy when readers do that, but McCrae believes that it helps build a community around his work.

McCrae has recently ended Worm and is feeling melancholy about closing a significant chapter of his life.

 “I already miss it like I miss a friend that has kept me company for several years. The serial helped me get to a better place and I have a dream now that I didn’t have when I started, which is to earn a living solely as a writer and I know the serial can go on to bigger, better things,” he said.

McCrae likens serial fiction to television episodes. Unlike novels where there’s a finish line, serial fiction can go on for years. This, he says, makes serial fiction exciting and unpredictable.

“You have room to be flexible, you can make it longer or shorter or even make a spin-off series if there’s enough interest in a certain character or idea,” he said.

There are two ways to write a serial. One way is to write the entire thing and publish it chapter by chapter after you’ve completed it. McCrae prefers to write as he goes. The result may be a less polished tale, but can be more interesting.

“I like the story to surprise me and if I write a character into a corner, then it’s exciting seeing them try to find a way out,” he said.

Then there’s the interaction he gets with readers.

“Being a writer is lonely, with many writers having family and friends who don’t read their work, and it’s hard when you put so much of yourself into something and nobody cares,” he said.

By writing a serial, he could socialise with fans that do care.

Readers, he said, love to talk about the story as it is written.

McCrae’s current project is to publish print and e-book copies of Worm. He does worry about his final work being stolen since it’s so freely available online.

“I am satisfied, though. A lot of serials don’t finish and a lot of people don’t read serials because they don’t want to read something that might not finish. I’ve written something monstrous in size, I got a good response and I beat the averages,” he said.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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