But what kind of website? I could build a simple flash site that takes my readers through my stories click by click, the way Inanimate Alice does. It’s a pretty simple option, really, and wouldn’t require a ton of web-savvy to build.
I could build a hyperlinked text, like an online version of Afternoon and Patchwork Girl, simply creating links from page to page to represent my story spaces. It would be really easy to put together with the web tools I already have, like iWeb, Google Sites, or any basic WYSIWYG editor.
I’m an ambitious soul, however. Hypertexts have been done. Flash has been done. Games have been done, and fan fic has been done. Not many that I’ve found has combined them all together into one, however. I want that capability, and nothing I’d seen was approaching this level of functionality.
So I made a list of the features I want to be able to include in my digital text:
- Hypertext (i.e. networked structure)
- Collaboration: readers can contribute text, images, their own stories, etc.
- Community: forums, blogs, a sense of belonging to the storyworld
- Print or Save capability: so readers can print a PDF of the story they participate in, for sharing or revisiting
- Mobile capabilities: readers can access the story on their mobile devices
- Membership/password protection: should the story catch on, should I ever sign on with a publisher who wants to publish the book and subsequently sell the digital story, it’s nice to have restrictions on access – signing up could require a passcode received once you’ve paid a fee, subscription, or provided proof you’ve purchased the print novel. Something like that anyway.
- Activity tracking: another aspect of requiring membership (even free membership) is that I can track what’s going on on the site – who makes what changes, what’s popular, what’s not working, etc. Great for providing feedback to the author, and for using in my research.
- Networking my work: the idea behind practice-based research is that the work doesn’t necessarily stand completely on its own. Like a DVD packed with extras, it’s great to be able to go behind the scenes, to see how the author created the piece, the thought processes, the research, the other work they did along the way. I want to be able to link back to my main website, my blog, my other work, etc.
There’s probably more to this list than I can think of at the moment or track down in my notes, but this is the gist.
The scary thing I faced was that I’m not a web developer. I have basic html skills, enough to post images in my chat forums and add some code here and there to my WYSIWYG website builder. Make me edit a CSS, and my eyes cross – I know what it is, and I appreciate its purpose, but I’m just not at that editing level yet, much less creation level. I couldn’t even begin to start on the ground zero process of greating a large, membership based site with all the functionality I wanted. I was daunted.
Until a few weeks ago, when I attended the second session of CEDAR, that I started to generate a good idea…