Navigating episodic texts when presented within classical blog structures.

Delivering creative writing in a blog format presents certain technical and creative problems. The creative "challenges" as they are better described will be tackled later. For now this text will address the immediate technical problems: especially as they manifest themselves to the reader.

First and foremost among the technical problems is the issue of direction. A creative piece such as the current short story and to some greater extent the previous blogella "I arrest you" is immanent to the nature of standard blog presentation. The original nature of blogs was that they were composed of separate entries in a time sequence where the sequence is presented in a "most recent first" order whereby the most recent post on a blog is always presented as the first item on the first page that a reader is presented with when accessing the blog.

For readers of these episodic creative pieces who begin reading as the author begins this is not an issue and will actually feel both natural and intuitive - but only so long as they read each episode before another is published. Woe betide them if they drop off of the pace! If two or more epsodes have been posed in their absence then they will either miss an episode or more or else they will be in the same position as new readers - they will be reading the episodes in reverse order!

And there we have the nub of the problem - (or not) - anyone coming across a creative work in progress fashioned this way will begin in the "wrong place" and work their way down the page but "backwards thru time" to the beginning - at which point any number of other episodes might have been posted "above" where they came in!

The worst possible case must be if a reader should discover a creative text just as the last episode is posted. It is also true that the writer, and anybody else at all come to that, finds it very difficult to point readers to the work once it is either under way or worse still when it is complete. Once complete the work is effectively inaccessible unless the reader is prepared to put in an unusual amount of effort.

Or, if the writer is prepared to put in an additional effort to reformat the work - either in flow or at completion. During the creation of "I arrest you" - the blogella that featured in my blog earlier this year - I attempted to create a "New readers start here ..." version of the work as I posted each new episode but found that it added just too much to my workload and when that text spread itself out onto 3 other blogs in order to carry parallel texts the challenge overwhelmed me.

It was a gallant attempt and tried to present a reversed version of the as then entire blog text as an homogenous and regularly updated web page of its own. It did not prove terribly popular and, as I say, was too much extra work (in fact the multiple parallel texts problem poses a typesetting and layout conundrum that has, as yet, stumped me - If you re an innovative typesetter and think you can solve this problem - I have tried Rios's alternate page solution and it doesn't work - please get in touch).

That failure and the continuing issue of how to set the blogella for paper however, gave me the idea that rather than making adjustments and or copies to or of the text one might usefully, and with much less effort simply assemble and alternative indexing structure for the work. The world wide web after all excels at hyperlinkage and an active index - a new readers' index - would be less effort to maintain and present the work in its original unfolding to newly found consumers of the text.

In the simplest of case all one needs to do as a writer is to ensure that every post of the work has a permanent link (URL) and construct a reverse ordered list of these links as a separate WWW entity and this would ensure that any reader can read the episodes in the order that they were presented to the audience by the writer. If you - CLICK ON THIS LINK - you will find a copy of this entry presented as a separate web page and on that page the leftmost column presents just such an index (slightly enhanced) prepared for use with the work in progress.

Now some of you may have noticed several paragraphs back that when I used the expression "the nub of the problem" I followed it directly with a disclaimer wrapped around with dashes and parentheses that indicated that perhaps it was not a problem at all. Now the reason that it is not necessarily a problem dwells in a modern understanding of a text. If one believes that the writer and the reader each have something to bring to the text in order to make it a performance then it is quite clear that the order that the writer wants to present the text is not necessarily the same as the order in which the reader wants to read it and thus the odd structure and order of a text presented episodically in a blog structure presents certain novel opportunities to the "active" reader and it was only in writing this piece that that realisation dawned upon me.

I acknowledge that not all of my readers will be that active as readers but not wishing to deny such readers as are the freedom to explore and unfold the text in their own way I have constructed the new readers' index (NRI) in such a way that it indicates, by the order of the episodes indexed, the order that the episodes were originally presented in but without forcing the active reader to slavishly follow the same order. I have, for example, refused to number the episodes. I have added brief textualindicators to act as some kind of taster or teaser but you will notice that I have indicated where the whole text "begins", from the writer's point of view. I shall, when we get there, also indicate where the text "ends", again from the writer's point of view. In this I follow the example so admirably set by B S Johnson in his seminal work, The Unfortunates.

A link to the stand alone NRI will be placed on each and evey blog hosting the w i p when it, the stand alone NRI, is posted, and the NRI will be regularly updated in line with postings thus bookmarking the NRI Each of the links in the NRI opens a separate window or tab in your browser to house the selected episode. As a bonus, and if you use FireFox, then and if you take the trouble to install the LINKY extension you can open every link on the page all at once in multiple tabs.

For the present the NRI is constructed and maintained by hand but in the future it should not be impossible to automate the job. Please feel free to crib this idea - if you wish to credit me please include a link back to this piece.

The blog version of this piece may not be updated but the non-blog version will. In due course I will extend this to address the creative and or writer's issues that flow from episodic publishing of a creative text in blog form.