beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
[archiveofourown.org profile] Jenrose has two great pieces of meta/guides for AO3 use. One is a primer for posting Google Docs fic to AO3 and how to avoid the pitfalls thereof.

The other is about the differences between chapters, stories, series, and collections, and why you should choose carefully which you use for different fics.

I am not affiliated with the Archive in any formal way, and never have been, even as a volunteer, but I do use the archive A LOT both for posting my own stories and reading other peoples', so take my opinion for what it's worth.  Here's my take on stories/series et al on AO3:

To decide how to categorize your writing on AO3, you should take into account both what feels good for you as a writer, and what works for your readers, as well. You want people to be able to find what they're looking for easily (so they won't throw their hands up in disgust), you want everything related to be together, you want them to be encouraged to comment/kudos. And some people (like me) who are fandom veterans and download copies of every fic they like for personal archival purposes (I've seen too many beloved fics disappear), and it takes very little effort for us to be happy, too.

A story/work is the basic unit. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It may be long or short, and it may or may not contain internal subdivisions (chapters). You should be able to read it on its own with no problems, and nothing other than a few sentences explaining the previous works if it's part of a series. It can be a work in progress, but other than that, it should be complete in itself.  This is what most people think of when they think of a story.

A story/work should not be a dumping ground for short unrelated pieces.
  • If someone likes one of them and then gets excited that "oh, wow, there's 30k words of this story!" they are going to be VERY disappointed when they find out otherwise.
  • If someone is looking for one particular trope (say, wing!fic, or curtain!fic, or "Howard Stark's A+ Parenting," or any particular trope) and you tag the story as that because one piece has it, they will read the first section, maybe the second section, and probably give up in disgust because what they've read has nothing to do with whatever they're looking for. By putting short unrelated pieces together, you prevent people from finding (and hence READING) the stories of yours that they actually want to read.  Lots of people simply are not willing to wade through all of the different tidbits to find the one tidbit that they want.
  • It clogs up the tags, especially if you put pieces of different fandoms in the same "story." Say you have a work/story with three Harry Potter ficlets, two Naruto ficlets, and one Rivers of London ficlet. You tag it with all of those fandoms; it appears in the works list for all of those fandoms. Then you add two more Harry Potter ficlets and a Once Upon a Time ficlet. Every time you do that, it goes to the top of the tag for every fandom it is tagged in. This is especially annoying for the small fandoms, where they don't get much new fic, and they get excited because yay, new fic! only to be disappointed that it is not, in fact, a new fic in their small fandom. They will probably be very annoyed with you and less likely to read your fic in the future because it feels like you are using bait-and-switch tactics. (Yes, I have heard more than one person in more than one small fandom complain about this.)
  • You will get fewer readers. Most people choose to read a story based on the summary. They may use tags to find stories they might like, but a large part of the decision on whether or not to read this particular story is the summary. If you have a lot of unrelated short pieces together, you can't really write a summary that has stuff about them all, and hence you are DRAMATICALLY reducing the number of people who will read any of it.
  • Sometimes people are looking for a long fic, and will click on a tag (fandom, character, pairing, other tag) of stories they'd like to read and sort by length. Your collection of unrelated ficbits now looks like a long story of the type they want to read! Except it's false advertising, because it's not 50k words of what they want, it's 783 words of what they want with 49k words of other stuff they don't care about. Chances are, they will be very annoyed, and more annoyed if they don't figure out what the deal is right away.
  • You will get fewer kudos. If each ficlet is its own thing, and someone reads two of them and likes them, they can kudos both of them. If they are part of the same story/work, they can only make ONE kudos for everything altogether.
  • If someone does read all of it, and likes one ficlet but not any of the rest, and they make a habit of downloading their favorite fics to read while commuting or for personal archival purposes, they won't be able to do so.
  • There are two exceptions to this.  One is for drabbles (true drabbles that are exactly 100 words) and other ultra-short things.  Even if you put 50 drabbles together, that's still only 500 words total, and the very smallness mitigates against many of the problems.
  • The second exception to this is if you have a series of longfics, and also some really short scenes and gapfillers and outtakes and whatnot.  Then you can put them in one story with a summary that tells what it is--"short stories and outtakes from my [whatever] series"--and people won't mind.  Everything is there in one place, easy to find (if they like that series) or avoid (if they don't).  Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find.  It's not clogging up the tags.  Even so, if there's something that stands on its own as a story within the series, I would recommend making it its own work, rather than just a chapter in a jumble of scenes.

It is better to have a single work marked as a WIP than to have each chapter of your story posted as a separate work.
  A chapter is a short piece that does not stand on its own but must be read in order with the other parts of the story.
  • Someone looking for a complete work will be very disappointed.  They thought they were getting a complete story, and all they're getting is one chapter in a WIP.  There are some people who don't read WIPs, only complete fic.  If each chapter is a separate work, they can't tell if it's complete or not ... so they won't read it.
  • The default at AO3 is to view a fic chapter-by-chapter, but you can also set it to view an entire work all at once.  If you post each chapter as its own work, nobody can do this.  Those readers who prefer to read a whole work in one page will be annoyed or disappointed.
  • Those who download fics to read offline or for archival purposes will find it much more difficult.  Instead of downloading one story, they'll have to download a lot and figure out how to get them in the right order on their device.
  • It's false advertising.  People know what a story is, and they know what a chapter is, and if you give them what is basically a chapter and tell them it is a whole work they will be annoyed.  Annoying your readers is counterproductive.
  • You clog up the tags.  This is especially annoying if you're posting frequently in a medium/small fandom.  Someone clicks on that fandom and they get a whole slew of "works" that are, in fact, just different chapters of ONE story.  It drowns out other stories and thus annoys other authors and any potential reader who wants to find more than just your fic.
So what do you do if you have more than one story (complete works that stand on their own) that goes together?  How do you handle that?  On AO3, you make them into series or collections.

A series is a group of related works/stories in the same plot arc set in a particular order, be it chronological or otherwise. When you put things in a series, you are telling your reader a couple of things. First, that all of these stories belong together quite closely (more closely than a collection) and that they should be read in a particular order.

A collection is a group of works or stories that you believe belong together for whatever reason.  Maybe it's "all the fic I've written about Bitty cooking."  Or maybe it's "all the fics I've written in any fandom with kidfic."  Or maybe it's "all of my favorites."  Or maybe it's "all of my tumblr meta ficlets."

Note: I don't think there's much point in creating collections or series with all of your works in a particular fandom in them; it's super-easy for a reader to find them without you doing anything. They click on your username, and get taken to your dashboard with a list of the fandoms you've written in right up there top center. Clicking on the one they want will take them to all of the works you have written in that fandom. On the other hand, it's not like there's any problem with it, or any inconvenience it causes your readers, so it's purely a matter of personal preference.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-20 11:15 pm (UTC)
dariaw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dariaw
Thank you for saying this! I HATE when I look for fic and end up finding something that sounds good but it's just one fic with 50 different stories put in as 50 chapters. And the chapter titles don't help you identify which ones you want to read at all! I also don't like when people make a series when they should make a collection, but it's the single fic as a collection of large fics that I can't stand. I actually started to wonder if I was wrong for posting my short standalones as standalones, but then I looked at the alternative and said nope. It's ridiculous. Do people think that as long as someone likes their writing, they'll want to read every short piece they write, regardless of fandoms, pairings, characters, kinks, plotlines, etc.? I don't understand this trend at all! Is this one of those things that makes it easier for tumblr to pump out announcements about new chapters? Because I don't see why anyone would do this.
Edited Date: 2017-05-20 11:17 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-20 11:54 pm (UTC)
ratcreature: The lurkers support me in email. (lurkers)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
I suspect the reason authors do this is so that their short snippets don't overwhelm their long stories on their works page, and readers can still easily find their "proper" stories by browsing. That is why I post all my drawbles for each fandom in a single "work" rather than posting them individually. If I did that they would totally swamp the more elaborate artworks. I wish AO3 had a less prominent "Scraps" section like DeviantArt does.

I mean, I can see why you dislike this practice, and I see the disadvantages as well, which are somewhat worse for texts than for pictures, but having every scrap as single work is not better.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 08:43 am (UTC)
ratcreature: reading RatCreature (reading)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
Obviously the sorting doesn't help for images because all my works have 0 word count regardless of whether it was a five minute pencil sketch or a painting that took several weeks, but even with writers it is not that their most intricately crafted things that they'd like to showcase are always long fic.

And I like reading ficlets by authors this way because I can download them easily read on my e-reader. I am not going to download fifty snippets individually but I do download short ones as a single "story" especially if they are all vaguely related like e.g. fandom headcanon snippets or such. I am sure there are utilities that could collate things for me to read, but I don't bother with that.

I agree that a total jumble with no common random or theme is much less useful.

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Date: 2017-05-21 08:00 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
+1, I quite like reading ficlets or seeing small artworks this way, as long as there's some kind of sorting rule applied. I don't want to read eleventy billion entirely different stories under a wall of tags, but I would go through someone's snippets related to a single, small fandom or involving the same fanon universe/characters.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 08:47 am (UTC)
ratcreature: Word. RatCreature nods. (word.)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
Yeah. Same here, especially since I usually download to my e-reader to read. I am not going to do that with a ton of tiny individual snippets, but reading somebody's character snippets in a single fandom in one "story" is easier.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-30 06:20 pm (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
Same! For me as a reader, I both VASTLY prefer having fics grouped that way (I am not about to click on 50 300-word snippets, but I enjoy reading them in one document), and I find it far less intrusive than having the main page of my fandom flooded with short fics. Which is why I do mine that way. I group them by fandom and occasionally by pairing/rating (that is, I'm unlikely to stick a single porny ficlet in the middle of a bunch of gen ones) but otherwise I figure they're tucked neatly out of the way like that. It makes my author page feel much tidier to me than having 200 fics in my main fandom of which 150 are too small for me to bother with a title/summary.

... And that's another reason why I'm not going to upload 100 Tumblr ficlets as separate fics. I'm not going to try to figure out a title and summary for something that's 400 words of a WIP I will otherwise never write. Frankly if I clicked on a fic like that on AO3 I would feel cheated. But I like having my Tumblr fics grouped together on AO3 because I like it when other people do that. I have been through a number of those incredibly frustrating "I read this awesome plotless little h/c snippet by so&so on Tumblr a year ago" searches and I love it when authors who write a lot of shortfic/commentfic put it all together so I can find and read it on AO3.

I mean, what it comes down to is, no matter what you do you're going to annoy somebody, so you may as well do the thing that annoys you, personally, the least.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-30 08:25 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
In re shortfic/commentfic: me too. I also like it because for me it clearly establishes a different . . .like, register of work? This is not a fic they worked on for any length of time, this was not something Deeply Thought Upon or whatever, which means I approach it differently on all levels. It gives me the context to read them in a way that's almost always more rewarding.

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and I'll stop spamming now /o\

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Date: 2017-05-30 09:56 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
It seems like part of the problem is how connected people consider the fics collected in a chaptered "fic" collection to be -- if it's all in one fandom, that's very strong; if it's Tumblr ficlets or drabbles, or like one example below, themed "walks into a bar" ficlets, that can be seen as a weaker connection to some searchers, so they get annoyed in a "Why are you lumping all this together" way. But the lumping-together is the point -- different people have different standards for what should be brought together, which is inevitable because this is all being hammered out by really slow, grumpy, public, almost tectonic consensus.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 12:18 am (UTC)
anghraine: leia in the death star cell; text: distressing damsel (distressing damsel)
From: [personal profile] anghraine
Total agreement on just about all counts. I don't really care one way or the other about series vs collections, but groups of scraps as "chapters" of one story are deeply, deeply frustrating. Even if they're all for the same fandom/ship, but when they're completely unrelated things with 15 ships from seven fandoms? eurgh.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 12:34 am (UTC)
tassosss: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tassosss
With regard to "It is better to have a single work marked as a WIP than to have each chapter of your story posted as a separate work" and "A series is a group of related works/stories in the same plot arc set in a particular order, be it chronological or otherwise."

This is where I run into trouble because something I thought was a one-shot turned into a longer story. I posted the one-shot then a sequel and both of these I would argue can stand on their own, the third piece in the universe which I wrote to bring in another character accidentally developed a bad case of bigger plot. So now it's a case of feeling stuck in one format - the series - when part of me now thinks they might be better as chapters in a longer story.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 03:01 am (UTC)
vicki_rae: (ZZZ - No one writes love songs about the)
From: [personal profile] vicki_rae
I always prefer short things in individual works. My first thing on any author page is to sort works by word count so the short fics go to the end.

Related works linked in a series is always useful. I don't read works that compile unrelated short fics. Tagged or untagged, there's no way to find the pieces that would be interesting to me. There's no sort fix for that.
Edited Date: 2017-05-21 03:13 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 07:54 am (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Great post!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 10:32 am (UTC)
endeni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] endeni
/A story/work should not be a dumping ground for short unrelated pieces./ - OMG yes, I hatehatehate those fics that are basically just "this is where I dump all my tumblr ficlets"... *sighs*
Also the GDocs/AO3 meta looks super-useful, thanks for sharing!
Edited Date: 2017-05-21 10:35 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-21 11:31 pm (UTC)
ratcreature: reading RatCreature (reading)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
The cynical explantion is of course that the "gains" a ficlet collection might get over time in both kudo/comment and word counts and repeated placement in searches is worth it in clicks and views even if it annoys some users that then won't click.

But I actually don't think people are trying to "game" the system. I mean, it has drawbacks as well for getting feedback, like that you can't get kudos on your individual things, just once for your collated work. So you might get more clicks but fewer kudos.

However there other advantages, besides the e-reader aspect. It can also help readers to subscribe to updates. On AO3 you can subscribe to an author, to a series or a story, but not subscribe to just things an author posts in your fandom or to collections updates.

Now let's say an author writes a ton of short Tumblr ficlets that are not a series. And is prolific in three fandoms. Two fandoms you dislike, one you love. If they post all as single works you have to subscribe to the author to catch them, and get roughly two useless mails for every update you actually want. If they have works "my Tumblr ficlets from fandom A" you subscribe to just that and don't get the other updates.

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Date: 2017-05-22 04:33 am (UTC)
endeni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] endeni
Why indeed, it's such a mystery to me... Maybe it's just that they're newbies? *sighs*

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-30 07:31 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
Because they aren't using AO3 as a "place where people who don't know me can find my work cold and read it."

They're using it as "a place to centralize all the fic that my tumblr readers And possibly I myself might be looking to find again, and don't want to use tumblr's terrible infrastructure."

They're using it purely as an archive, not as a bookshelf. They are archiving their fic in one place.

They are also attempting not to ENDLESSLY SPAM anyone who might be tracking them as an author, or the RSS feed that people set up, or to clutter up their own archive page extensively with tiny snibblits, and are using "series" in a different capacity; are mentally categorizing everything that goes in that part as "stuff that's finished or not important, stuff I haven't edited", whatever.

And a bunch of other reasons basically summed up as "they're not using the archive for the exact same set of purposes as many people commenting here, and that's actually allowed, and even encouraged by the Archive itself."

(Bluntly, if I were the kind of person who WAS a fannish butterfly and didn't tend to obsess intensely over one version of canon that moves into her head and lives there, or te kind of person who could have six different versions of one canon in her head at once, etc, I would absolutely use a "story" format this way: it's convenient, it's a way to mark all the stuff in it as "this is the grab-bag of fic ideas that never got bigger than this and don't have any connection with anything else, or anything longer, that I've written, it keeps my dash and my works-page tidy for my use, it lets me give a single tidy link when someone asks me 'where's that one you did about the thing?', and it doesn't twig my profound visual irritation at having a fic that is actually shorter than the individual header information the archive comes with automatically, and I don't have to come up with actual full Header Crap for something less than five hundred words.

I already use this as a way of collating too-short-to-feel-worth-it ficlets within the same verse that are not actually deeply related. *shrugs*)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-30 07:53 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I think it's worth noting that the tone of this and the comments really comes off as "anyone who does things differently with this platform than I do is clearly either new or stupid and should do it in the way I like best"? If that's your intent, then cool beans, but if not it's . . .really the sense.

Speaking as someone who actually quite LIKES certain uses of what's described below as "frankenfic", who does not find "just click on 'fandoms' in their dash!" actually that convenient/useful and finds a lot of quite-short-fics in separate documents actually pretty irritating both as writer and reader, and in other ways differs in her use and preferences for the AO3 environment from what's above. Soooo.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-02 08:34 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Fans who take it upon themselves to dictate to other fans how to do fandom "correctly," whether about how to post fic or how to be an avatar of alleged social justice, make me want to do precisely the opposite of whatever they dictate.

Just saying.

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