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Writing is hard. You knew that.
Let's break it down: Writing is a hard and time consuming, often thankless, task. We do it, though. We keep at it, we proofread, we bug our friends to read it and one day, it is done. It is never suddenly done - doubts usually plague you. When I finished my book, I remember thinking about writing a sequel, changing the ending, or maybe even adding another chapter. I had worked so hard, and it still felt like I didn't want it to be over.
After much thinking I came up with the perfect solution. It was so obvious, I was surprised I hadn't thought about it before. All I had to do was add digital content.
This may not come as much of a surprise to you if you are a fan of fantasy or epics, but I'm not and something that is incredibly obvious to those that read my work. In fact, my novel is probably the furthest thing from that: A small town drama with two main characters, a literary fiction that is a little longer than fifty thousand words long. The bottom line is that the reader does not need the extra digital content.
Will they like it? Probably. Will they care as much as you? Well... probably not.
Why I had to Add Extra Digital Content
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to add the extra digital content. It almost felt necessary. I know that my readers will probably not listen to the same music I did when I was writing the book, but I also know that I wanted the universe that the book is set in to feel real and palpable. You wouldn't think that would be that much of a challenge when you are writing literary fiction - but it is. There is something about being able to see the messages my characters send to each other that adds an entire layer to the experience. It brings it into our universe or one like it.
I'm going to be honest. When I wrote my book and was in the process of rereading it, I (sort of) hated the ending. I knew it was the right ending, because even though I hated it, I also really loved it. It was appropriate. That was when the book had to end. The mark of any good work of fiction is that it stays with you, and I wanted my book to feel like it had stayed with my readers - and while I didn't want to cheat them out of my ending, I also wanted to give them something that would make the withdrawal process a little less painful. Ultimately, that was the deciding factor in choosing to do extra digital content.
The Choosing Process
The next step in the process was deciding exactly what to add as extra digital content. I wanted to make a map of this small town, but everything I found was not exactly what I needed, and the mapmakers I could find where for RPG games and fantasy world builders. It didn't really go with the gritty vibe that I was trying to create, so I had to abandon that idea.
I moved on to the journals. One of the biggest plot points in my novel was these journals that my characters find, but the reader doesn't get to see them. I do that on purpose, because I want my readers to be very involved with my characters and I don't want them to realize exactly what my characters are seeing. Putting it up provides more information than I'm willing to give in the book, so initially, I wasn't sure if that was something I was comfortable with. I decided that it was important for me to show the journal to get my readers to understand the head-space that my characters were in when reading the journals.
I went on to add text messages between my characters. Phone use in the story is a running theme and a very important one, but again, like with the journals, the messages are intentionally ambiguous. Was I ready to destroy that ambiguity? It was hard, but eventually, I decided that I would provide a few conversations between my characters. Not enough to destroy the mystery - again, it was important to provide context, but not ruin something I had been very careful to craft.
I also added family trees. I have two main characters, so this may seem counterintuitive, but their families come in and out of the equation. This means that they are not front and center of the plot, so they can be a little hard to remember even though they are important. I also wanted to add a little bit of background that you don't get from the book.
Where do I put all these words?
The obvious choice for adding extra digital content to my book was my site. It was what I ended up using, but it isn’t where the content is going to stay.
I intend to expand the digital content as my readership does to ensure that those who choose to read my book remain engaged even after they are done reading it. This means that it will have to expand out of my blog and onto other web spaces, which I’m sure will present challenges I’m probably not expecting yet.
About The Author
Lina's debut novel "Five Years: A Fire in Redbridge" is now available for digital purchase on Amazon and Smashwords. She has a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Northumbria University and a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. She has a writing blog here. You can see the extra digital content on her author site.