Fiction on the Web

‘I have seen the future and it works’ Lincoln Steffens


Writing fiction for the Internet is certainly a new challenge for the writer. However, it is not as scary a business as some would like to make out, the same rules of writing apply online as they do in the mainstream. It has been suggested that the writer needs to acquire new skills to write fiction for the Internet.

Some say that the writer must gain a new understanding of the ‘grammar and syntax’ of the Internet to write successfully for it; which may certainly be true for non-fiction but perhaps this is rather an overblown concept as far as fiction is concerned. Fiction on the Internet is very similar in style to print based fiction at the moment, including the good, bad and the indifferent, and it would be foolish to be put off by statements such as this.

As with fiction in general it is still important that the writer develop entertaining, well-written stories or novels to stand any chance of success. If you are a skilled writer you will find the Internet opens up a whole New World. If you are a beginner, or novice writer, you will find the Internet a paradise of information, which will help you avoid becoming isolated and ensure that your knowledge base is permanently extended and updated.

Here are a few suggestions culled from various sources. We are unable to give any real assurance they will work as Web writing is an art form that is still in its infancy.


  • Try writing in the same way as you speak, this will make the work more concise and engaging.
  • Use ‘you’ instead of ‘I’.
  • Sentences should be sharp and succinct, no more than 17 words long.
  • Write short paragraphs. Remember to constantly edit your work. Be brief.
  • Give information in bite sized pieces, people on the Internet do not read in detail – they scan the page for clues, which may be textual or visual or aural.
  • Use lots of sub-headings, dividing the piece by each separate idea.
  • Use bullets.
  • Avoid long narratives.



  • Spell and grammar check your work.
  • Check your pages after uploading.
  • Research editorial style well.
  • Use hyphens sparingly.
  • Use conventional spellings: use email, online, WWW, World Wide Web, Web site, web surfer, web page.

Submission Guidelines for Fiction

Just as submitting fiction to a print-based fiction publisher or a magazine requires that you follow submission procedures, certain rules also apply when submitting your manuscript to a Web site, an online publisher or agent, or an e-zine. Most editors when seeking submissions on the Internet will give a clear list of their requirements and tell you exactly how you should submit material to them, whether via an email or snail mail. It is obviously in your best interests to observe them.

However, it is always sensible to pay a visit to the site you are intending to target and take a good look at the content, style and presentation. You can then quickly pick up on the general tone and the target audience of the Web site, just as you would for the print market, before you submit your work.

You really can have the best of both worlds on the Internet because many editors seeking submissions don’t necessarily want them for online purposes. So you can in fact keep your eye on both the Internet and the mainstream world of publishing at the same time and benefit from both. Email submissions should be embedded into the body of the email rather than attached as a file. This means that you start writing an email offering your work to the chosen editor including whatever details about the manuscript and yourself they have requested and then you cut and copy your piece into the email itself, sign off and send. It’s as simple as that.

However, each editor will have their own preferences so make sure you pay particular attention to individual guidelines. If for some reason you can’t find submission guidelines anywhere on your target site, send a brief e-mail to the editors. Tell them you are a freelance writer and that you are interested in writing for them. Ask them how they prefer to receive queries and once you receive an answer follow their requirements to the letter, submit one or two pieces that you have written specifically for them having already established their editorial slant when you went to look at the site.


Manuscript Format

Again manuscript format varies from editor to editor or publication to publication, online or off. Usually along with other guidelines they should tell you how they want the manuscript presented and this will probably be along the following lines:

Format: All entries must be in English and should be submitted in electronic format, either via email or as a text-only attachment. All text should be 12-point type, preferably in Times or Helvetica, single-spaced and left justified, with double spacing in-between paragraphs.



  • All submissions are preferred e-mailed in Word format, otherwise, type-written on plain paper. Please be sure to include the Author Information and Story Cover Sheet with your submission.
  • Stories should be non-fiction, ranging in length between 1-4 pages of double-spaced copy.
  • Please provide information regarding the original author andthe publication in which it appeared (see Author Information Sheet).


An Eye on the Future

As you may have discovered by now, the Internet is constantly changing and sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the new technology that appears almost daily. However, one of the simplest ways you can keep abreast is to predict future trends in your particular area of expertise. You can do this by keeping your eyes fixed firmly on the writing industry in general, read those ezines, take a look at the relevant newsgroups and Web sites, and keep up to date with the publishing industry both online and in the mainstream. Often success can be based on your ability to be able to see into the future before any one else; an old idea doesn’t sell well but a new one will be snapped up.

In many senses we are already in the future as far as the Internet is concerned and most writers are keen to keep up with developing trends. The most difficult step as far as getting online may be the first one. Once you have taken a good look round and surfed into as many writing sites as you have stamina for, you may begin to see where you can test the waters as far as your own writing career is concerned. Whatever your interests or requirements are and whatever you seek from the Internet you are assured of finding it somewhere on the World Wide Web.

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