Chp 11 Feedback Day! – MOKO Press presents: LeyLines, a Fantasy Adventure Comic by Robin Childs Skip to content
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Chp 11 Feedback Day!

Chp 11 Feedback Day! published on 16 Comments on Chp 11 Feedback Day!

If you’d like to go back and re-read chapter 11 from the beginning, click here.

Let me know what you think of this chapter. Your feedback can be about anything, not just the goal I was trying to achieve. All I ask is that you’re specific and constructive. Negative or positive, let me know what worked and what didn’t. I always learn a ton from listening to your opinions, and it always makes future chapters stronger.

The Original Script & Revision Process

If you would like to read the original script, I’ve posted it for Patrons contributing $1 a month or more on Patreon.

I’ve also posted a BONUS document for my Creator Corner Patrons ($5 a month) that chronicles the journey between the original script/revisions and the final product. That includes brainstorming notes from my sketchbook, short fictions, and a deep look at the new techniques and approaches I developed to tackle the problems that chapter 11’s chapter presented.

As always, THANK YOU to my Patrons for your support, and I hope you enjoy this special inside look into the process beneath the comic.

The next two weeks

Beyond just fixing the script and producing new content, part of my hiatus was to build healthier habits. I promised myself I would enforce more regular breaks during the year between chapters, to help with my stress levels and give myself some breathing room to catch up on anything that I’d gotten behind with. Considering that I just got back from two days of driving and a four day show, this couldn’t come at a better time.

Speaking of which, here’s the latest VLOG for June. What amazing timing for the first VLOG of the month. I am very tired. Can you tell?

I will be taking the next two weeks off. Updates will resume on June 27th with the launch of Chapter 12! We’ll be returning to the main cast. You know, those other people we haven’t seen in forever. What were their names? Tofu? Zero? Miso soup? Yeah, them. Those crazy kids.

See you June 27th!

And thank you for your comments and feedback. Now that I’m back from my trip, I will be catching up with everything as soon as I can and making sure to reply to everybody. I appreciate your input and patience!

16 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

Well… I’m sure this isn’t what you want to hear, and it’s not what I want to be saying, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that, for me at least, Ley Lines doesn’t work very well as a webcomic. Some comics I have no problem following despite getting the plot delivered in a page or two a week over the course of many years; others I follow for a long time before realizing that I have absolutely no idea what they’re about anymore. I’m not totally lost here yet, but Ley Lines is closer to the latter extreme, and I don’t think that’s necessarily because you’ve done anything wrong. You’ve got several plot threads in this story, and I haven’t been able to keep them all in my head this long. At this point, I’ve forgotten critical details about all characters who are not Pakku and how they fit into the story – especially the antagonists; I’m afraid I would fail a pop quiz on them – and I think I’ll need to give myself a refresher soon.

Hi Seth. It’s actually a problem I’ve become increasingly concerned with as well. I think it’s especially exacerbated by how long chapter 11 took to create, and how long it ended up being. The first part of this chapter was released in August 2014. That’s nearly two years. It’s way, way, WAY too long to ask a reader to keep track of anything, and I totally understand if details about the cast and plotlines are slipping away.

I’ve tried to make sure chapter 12 is much more focused, half the length, and free of the critical failures that forced chapter 11’s hiatus. However, your comment makes me wonder if maybe there’s something else I can do specifically for my online readers. A way to get people refreshed on past events, without them having to read the entire archive.

I have overhauled the archive page itself to include chapter summaries, but maybe I could use the break times to help catch people up? Post a series of “The Story So Far…” pages that goes through the key points in the story so far? What do you think? Would that benefit you as an online reader? (And if anybody else reading this likes the idea, or has another suggestion to address this, please chime in!)

What is it about other stories you follow that make them easy to keep up with the plot, no matter the pace? What do you think it is about LeyLines that is causing problems?

“What is it about other stories you follow that make them easy to keep up with the plot, no matter the pace? What do you think it is about LeyLines that is causing problems?”
I think there are three main interrelated things that the webcomics that are easiest to follow do (or avoid doing):
1. Keep things simple. It’s not hard to remember, for example, that the heroes are trying to stop a lich from unsealing an eldritch horror in Order of the Stick. It’s pretty straightforward, and we’re reminded of it constantly. The political dealings and world-building in Ley Lines are a tad more complicated.
2. Stick to following the same main character or group, except for the occasional cut to the antagonists or brief party split. Otherwise, as in Ley Lines, you run into the problem where plot threads are left hanging and part of the main cast isn’t seen for months, or even years.
3. Avoid keeping plot details relevant for too long without reminding the reader about them. Arrange the story such that if the readers know what’s been happening recently and vaguely recall what came before, that’s enough. I’m no writer, but I feel pretty sure that this is a hard trick to pull off. It’s also the most important point – points 1 and 2 are really just obvious ways to make this one easier.

Disclaimer, in case it wasn’t clear: I don’t necessarily think this is good writing advice in general; just for webcomics.

“I have overhauled the archive page itself to include chapter summaries”
Oh, I hadn’t seen that yet. It’s bringing some of the story back… but not quite enough.

“Post a series of “The Story So Far…” pages that goes through the key points in the story so far? What do you think?”
I think that would help, and this would be an opportune time to do it.

Webcomics do pose a unique challenge of keeping readers engaged with a small drip of content over a long period of time. I’m still working out how to juggle all these plot lines I’ve laid out while still keeping the week-to-week content engaging. It sounds like I need to get a handle on that sooner rather than later.

I definitely think I need to do a better job of stating, and restating, goals. It’s something I tend to forget. While I agree that it’s tricky, it would be better if I made the effort and had the result be clumsy, but effective, than to neglect this and leave readers hazy on everybody’s motives. Most episodic content, such as TV shows and issue-by-issue comics, start with a recap of some sort. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s graceful, but that exposition is there for a reason. I absolutely need to improve my skills in this regard. Especially since the story at this point can’t really be simplified without starting over entirely, which is not a direction I want to pursue. I also won’t have an opportunity to consolidate casts and events until I get everybody to Kuzopa, and there are OTHER dangling plot-lines I need to resolve before that. As a result, I’ll need to rely on other techniques more heavily. I’ve got to stop treating this as a novel, and start viewing it more as a series on TV. If I can pull in more of those episodic techniques, it might reduce confusion and help keep people feeling connected.

In the meantime, I’m going to start putting together those “Story So Far” pages today. I’ll be posting those over the next two weeks during the break. After that, I’ll make a special section for them in the About section, with a link in the side-panel. And I’ll re-post them in each chapter break.

Thanks so much for talking this out with me. I won’t be able to apply this to chapter twelve (that’s almost done right now) but I can keep a much closer eye on it for future chapters.

I tend to agree with Seth, and I think it’s a very difficult problem to solve. One thing that would make it easier would be to have each chapter follow a single character (or group of characters that stays together). Ursula Vernon’s Digger also came out twice a week, but it’s a very linear story – almost every single scene is from the protagonist’s perspective. I found it very confusing to go from a Pakku/Una scene to a Renar/Milan scene for several pages.

I do think chapter summaries and “story so far” pages would help, but in the long run, is there a way to tie up the storylines with Pakku/Una and Renar/Milan and then focus just on Tama, Mizha, Kali, and Zhiro from here on out? They’re the characters I care about most. You could also do the chapters from their perspective, and then have bonus stories about other characters which develop the background world, but which aren’t essential to the main story. I like how the Trickster Tales did that with Rava and Kali. The bonus stories could then be something you include only in the published books, or for Patreon subscribers.

Like I said, I think it’s a thorny issue and there’s no magic bullet, but I hope that helps.

At this point, the Kuzopa plotline and our main cast are too interconnected with each other to cut one out in favor of the other and have anything still function as a complete narrative. I’d hesitate to relegate their content exclusively to a bonus story, especially since that would mean only a handful of readers would have the full story. There might be opportunities farther down the line, although I confess I’d deeply miss Una and Pakku. I think a lot of other readers would too. Cutting them out might please some fans and deeply disappoint others.

I do want to move towards more integrated and clean story lines. The cast continues to balloon, and I need to improve my skills in managing them. I’ll keep your comments in mind about flipping from A plots to B plots.

As a follow-up question, did you find previous chapters that used the same technique confusing as well? Chapter nine flip-flopped between Koruval’s crisis of faith, Tama and Zhiro’s fight, and Mizha and Kali’s discussion of the past. Chapter ten flip-flopped between Mizha facing down her past in a dream pocket and Zhiro (and later Dream Eater’s) confrontation with the Keepers. Were these transitions also confusing, or was there something particular about this chapter’s transitions that was lacking?

One thing I’ve found that helps in doing a long, complicated webcomic, is putting links below the comic to points in the story I’m referencing in the current page. It also has the added bonus of making it easier for newcomers to get a crash course on the current storyline. El Goonish Shive does this and I found it immensely useful when I first discovered his story and wasn’t invested enough to do an entire archive binge.

I have also done it in my own webcomic, especially when I’m making a big reveal or am connecting a dot I had dropped many pages back (and thus a year ago for readers). This way, readers can read the relevant pages to jog their memory and don’t have to do an entire archive binge (or search around for the relevant pages). I think this is much easier than creating “The Story so far…” at every chapter break.

That’s something I used to do pretty frequently and recently have gotten lax about. I’ll definitely get back to doing this more regularly for future chapters. Maybe I should even go back through this one and see if I can find places for more helpful links and call-backs…

I did find it a bit confusing in the previous chapter, but Mizha/Kali and Tama/Zhiro and Koruval are more connected to each other, so there wasn’t as much sense of distance.

That’s good to know. So a stronger emotional or plot-based connection reduces the disorientation, but it is still present regardless. Thank you for the feedback! I’ll keep a closer eye on this in the future. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a writer, but it may be time to cultivate some other approaches.

I know the hiatus kinda messed with my perception of the chapter and is never ideal, but it was the lesser of two evils, and shouldn’t affect the pacing anymore. As a segment of webcomic archive, though, it’s fine; the length didn’t bother me. Though as a courtesy to current readers, it’d be awesome to do a tiny recap segment as was suggested above.

I do think you did a good job of giving some insight into Una and the Order of the Eclipse folks like you wanted to do, and Warren gives us a teeny-tiny tie in to the core cast. But for the sake of the print version, I’d see if there was any way to make the investigation tighter. Because it’s so long, it could be its own book, and a full graphic novel is a bit too much time to be entirely away from the main protagonists, so it’s just something I’d keep an eye on to make sure each volume is satisfying.

I’m also not entirely sure I got what Una was expecting out of Pakku in the final pages by insulting him, or what she was surprised about. I saw what you were going for from your notes on here and on Patreon, but just maybe a few more overt summary statements from Una/Pakku at the end. (“This will show him. He can’t just go around blindly trusting people, because every dang one of them are awful.” or “I’m not sure what to make of you, but at the very least, you’re not as morally-depraved as you think, and I respect your decisions.”) I think it would help really nail down how Pakku is challenging Una’s “people are scum” mentality and give the chapter more of a sense of progress in relationship/character development versus regression to “welp, guess that didn’t work, toodles!”

Hope this helps! Really looking forward to the next chapter!

I can definitely see your point on that final interaction. I wasn’t sure if I should play it subtle, or overt. I aimed for subtle, since often when people are in the thick of a bad pattern they don’t really know WHY they do something, they just DO it, but for the sake of communication to a reader clarity might need to take more of a precedence over realism.

Maybe you could draw up a character relationship chart (like the one Namesake did a while back) to help people keep track of who’s done what so far and who’s allied with whom, especially where it comes to all the intrigue. Or maybe a timeline that’s more in-depth than the chapter teasers on the archive page. I’ll admit that it’s hard to keep track of everything sometimes, especially what’s going on with the antagonists (maybe because we haven’t gotten to connect with them quite as much as we have with the main group so far. Personally I think it would be cool to see short background stories about them sometime, so that we can relate to them as individuals more. I don’t know how feasible that would be, as far as being able to reveal information without spoiling the comic.) For me, details like Koruval’s relationship with Otti help me remember the side characters better, even when they haven’t been in many actual comic pages.

I don’t really like the idea that webcomics must be limited to simple, straightforward stories in order to be effective (though maybe I’m biased). I LOVE complicated stories with lots of characters and interweaving plotlines in whatever medium, even if the slow pace of webcomics means I forget things and have to reread the archive once in a long while to piece everything together properly. There are ways to help readers do the connecting-the-dots legwork besides simplifying or modifying the story itself.

The idea of a relationship map is definitely interesting. Right now I’m working on some chapter summaries that have a cast section as part of each one, but once I’m done at those I might try mapping out a relationship/alliances image and see if I can bring some more clarity there as well.

I love complicated stories too. Probably why I write one! (And one reader did point out that simple stories are not necessarily GOOD stories, but that they do have certain advantages in a webcomic format.) I do think I need to start doing more to help readers connect the dots and feel current. I’ve already got a few things I’m going to do (story summaries during chapter breaks, more related links under the pages to relevant material) to address what people have brought up.

The side fiction idea is an interesting one. There hadn’t seemed to be a lot of interest for the two we have available, but that might be that I’m not doing a good job promoting them. Those shorts are a lot of work to put together, so I didn’t want to invest a ton of time if there was minimal interest. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea though!

Admittedly, I really don’t have this problem with Leylines though I have had the problem with other webcomics. Then again, I’m definitely in the minority and it probably comes from the fact that I follow a lot of other long-running things with complicated stories that update infrequently. For example… I’m apparently one of the few people who has kept up with and is completely capable of understanding the entirety of Kingdom Hearts’ myriad, confusing timeline and plot threads without any mental effort whatsoever.

My feedback is that the realism of the characters’ emotions is spot-on and you’re doing amazing at developing them and you’re growing definitely as an author when things first started out.

I really second the idea of giving references back to old pages when plot threads come up, though! That’s always good in a webcomic for a refresher, since it means I’m spending less brainpower on remembering old plots and more on following/archiving the new ones. Just because I have been able to follow the webcomic with just a few returns to old pages to reread, doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t help if you made it easier!

I’ve made a big note that says “FOR UPDATES: Related story links!” so it’s definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the future! Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad the character emotions and development is coming through well. That’s one of the most important aspects for me.

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