A/N: Whoops. In my quest to revise this messy, 9-year-old time capsule, I deleted the first chapter, which may have caused a bad chain reaction. The last chapter uploaded on my end, but readers can't see it. Please excuse the technical difficulties.

Pet Peeve Retrospective: The Difference Between Popular and Unpopular Fics

Popularity on FP is measured in numbers. FP developers saw this and created a way to sort stories by reviews, favorites, and follows. The developers knew that the numbers matter.

Plagiarists also knew that. Thieves stole popular stories for profit, causing many writers to remove their work from FP in the late 2000s. Sadly, this removal process continues today.

What makes something popular? When I was younger, I analyzed the stats of the most popular stories in the FP Romance section. My conclusion was that popularity comes from writing something trendy. I saw the trend patterns to prove it.

I was wrong.

I thought trends were somehow inherently popular, not understanding that they had to become that way. I was looking at the end result, not the cause.

Popularity does not come chasing a trend. If a trend has to be chased, it's already too late.

Popularity comes from readers telling others that they enjoy something.

It may not seem that way, since a popular story does receive negative or critical reviews. But the majority of reviews will show at least one of three things: a reader likes something about the story, a reader wants the story to continue, and/or a reader is invested in one or more characters.

So how do I get a reader to enjoy what I write? I give him/her an enjoyable experience, so enjoyable that s/he is compelled to talk about it.

It's that simple and that difficult.

First, I get rid of the idea of a summary box, bleach that from my mind. Summaries are boring. It's not a summary box. FP lied to me.

It's a billboard.

On that billboard, I need to create a blurb so interesting that a stranger will click on it. If I can't get people to click, they are not going to read.

Next, my first chapter must be as engaging as I can possibly make it. This is crucial. If a reader clicks out, s/he didn't enjoy it enough to come back.

Do you know what my click-out rate was on 11/2/2020? Guess. Guess how many people didn't read past the first chapter of this series.

For simplicity, let's assume that people read chapters consecutively, with no jumping around or re-reading. In that scenario, sixty-six percent of readers for Kill Your Darlings didn't read past the first chapter. The click-out rate increased with each chapter of this series, all the way up to eighty-seven percent.

Of course, there's no such thing as a 0% click-out rate. I'm always going to lose some readers. But the more enjoyable I make a first chapter, the more incentive I give someone to keep reading.

Then, make the next chapter as engaging as I possibly can. Rinse and repeat, until I have completed the story and a reader is so happy with his/her experience that s/he graces it with a review, favorite, and/or follow.

Remember, silence is feedback. If an audience is completely silent, they haven't been given something worth talking about.

Harsh truth, isn't it? I can't sugar-coat this. I can't blame the system. I can't blame the readers.

If I look at someone's work, see his/her grammar and spelling mistakes, formatting problems, questionable narrative choices, and a mountain of reviews spilling over his/her story, I know this writer did the job right. I may not have enjoyed this person's work, but other people did, and they were willing to say so.

An enjoyable experience wins against any flaw in a story, hands down. If a reader loves a story, s/he will forgive its errors and keep reading.

Without an enjoyable experience, every flaw is a reason to stop reading.

Thank you for reading the last chapter of this series.

Thank you for the reviews.

Thank you for the favorites and follows.

And most importantly, thank you for enjoying my rants.

Your enjoyment makes all the difference.