Similar to the CYOA, there are many paths you can take
Maybe you’ve decided to take the leap and create your own ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. You might have read my article Would Your Novel Work as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Story? and mapped out exactly what the plot points are going to be, thought about which type of endings would be appropriate to your novel, and chosen to accept that your readers will be the ones making all the decisions. You may have kept in mind the interaction-seeking audience your book would appeal to, decided this style of weaving plot points would add to your book, and — if you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer — you may have decided to let go of pantsing for the time being.
You might now be thinking about how to approach bringing your interactive novel out from inside your mind and into the hands of the public. You might be thinking that creating multiple versions of your book might be a good idea to reach a larger audience, since some people like to read print, while others like to keep a Kindle or other device bursting with all their favourite stories with them at all times.
Not unlike the CYOA book you have your mind set on, there are many paths you can take to turning your CYOA book into a published book. This post will focus on how to convert your finished product into an EPUB format that can be readable by a Kindle.
If you decide to choose the self-publishing route, there are a number of ways you could approach getting your book out there.
In this post, I will provide you with the way I have done it, and then I will list some alternative ways you could go about doing it.
When I was writing my CYOA book (the CYOA teaser for my soon-to-be-published novel Bad Blood), I was actually taking a standard novel I had already written and converting it into a CYOA novel. If you plan on creating your CYOA novel from scratch, skip the first section ‘If you are converting a standard novel into a CYOA’ and move on to the section ‘If you are creating a CYOA novel from scratch’.
A few notes before I go into how I did it
Why I chose to go with Twine
Twine is a great program to use for building your own interactive novel.
- The layout is very user-friendly and as a tool, it’s pretty straightforward to use; not to mention it’s an open source program that provides users with full access and full functionality.
- The program creates a complete mind-map and modifies it for you as you go along creating your book’s ‘passages’; this makes all the possible paths in your novel easy to view, even from a quick glance.
- You have the option of generating a single HTML file as the output of your entire book, which you are free to use however you like (this is not needed for my method, but using this HTML file is one of the options you have with regards to the distribution of your CYOA novel, which I will come back to later).
In short, Twine has everything you need to create your very own interactive novel. Well, almost everything, as I will outline in the points to come.
Note: You might want to use the downloadable offline version of Twine rather than the online version; it’ll make saving your book much simpler.
Now moving on to how I did it…
The way I did it
If you are converting a standard novel into a CYOA
- Write your story. Write your base story if you have not already. Don’t worry about the links just yet; simply write the first draft and make notes where you plan to add links. Whatever word processing software you are using, you will eventually have to convert it to a DOC or DOCX format. Feel free to use any program you like, from Scrivener to Google Docs. Just make sure you have a way of getting it into a DOC or DOCX format after you’ve finished writing.
- Convert your story to a DOC or DOCX format. If your story is not already in a DOC or DOCX format, make sure it gets there. You will need this later, as you will use this as input to convert to EPUB.
- Save a master copy of the standard version of your novel. If you are creating a CYOA from a standard novel, you might want to keep the original master copy of your standard novel, just in case.
- Download Twine and create your CYOA book. Since you already have the standard copy of your novel, simply copy and paste your book into sections as Twine ‘passages’, adding the necessary links. Use Twine to actually create the interactive aspect of your novel.
- Mirror the interactive changes in the DOC or DOCX file. Once you have a fully-functional interactive novel in Twine, pull up your story in Microsoft Word. You are using the Twine story as a template. Section off parts of your story in the Word document and add the passage titles from Twine as headings in Word. Then use the hyperlinks function to link the choices to the appropriate section heading — you might find this Word hyperlinks tutorial helpful (see the end of this section for a more detailed demonstration on splitting and hyperlinking your story).
- Download Calibre. Use it to convert your finished DOC or DOCX file into an EPUB file.
If you are creating a CYOA novel from scratch
- Download Twine and create your CYOA book. Use Twine to create your interactive novel.
- Mirror the interactive changes in a DOC or DOCX file. Once you have a fully-functional interactive novel in Twine, open up a Word document and copy the passages over as sections with the passage titles as headings in Word. You are using the Twine story as a template. Use the hyperlinks function to link the choices to the appropriate section heading — you might find this Word hyperlinks tutorial helpful (see the end of this section for a more detailed demonstration on splitting and hyperlinking your story).
- Download Calibre. Use it to convert your finished DOC or DOCX file into an EPUB file.
Demonstration of steps 5 and 2: Sectioning off and hyperlinking from Twine to Word
This section contains a short video demonstrating how to use the hyperlinks function in Word to successfully transfer your CYOA novel from Twine (HTML) to Word (DOCX).
- Copy over the text from each section in Twine. Add the appropriate section titles as headings in the Word document to match the section titles in Twine. Note that the section titles are simply placeholders for the bookmarks you will be placing in the Word document and will be deleted later.
- Add bookmarks to the beginning of each section. Place your cursor before the first word in each section and select it as a bookmark. Label each bookmark something simple that you will remember. The easiest way to go about this is to simply just go with the section title with added underscores in between the words (e.g. End up outside → end_up_outside). The bookmarked area will be where your text will link to (AKA the outcome or ending).
- Add links to the end of each section. Once you’ve added an appropriately-labelled bookmark to the section you plan to direct your reader, highlight the text you want to link from and add a document-internal link to the bookmark.
- Delete all the placeholder headings (section titles). Once you’ve finished bookmarking and linking to every section, you can remove all the headings in the Word document.
/media/76b3e7e907c53f11682ef64bca6ac0aeAdding bookmarks and hyperlinks to the corresponding sections in Word (Video Courtesy of Author)
One alternate way to do it: Distributing and marketing your CYOA using Twine’s HTML file
As mentioned previously, Twine allows you to publish your entire story to a single HTML file, which you are free to use however you like. If your goal is to publish your story to the web, then this is the way to go.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of this method:
- The process is much simpler and less tedious. The plus side to publishing on the web is that you can skip all the additional tedious hyperlink steps and DOCX conversions and simply write your entire novel using nothing but Twine.
- Your official publishing routes are more limited. Since all you have to work with is an HTML file, going print or converting to a Kindle are out of the question unless you can find or create a program that can convert HTML to an EPUB format (in the past, Inklewriter provided this as an option; however, they have since shut this service down).
- Your readers will expect you to take full advantage of the fact that the web is fully customizable. The customizability aspect of publishing to the web can be both a pro or a con. If you are publishing your story as an ebook or in print, readers will not expect much by way of creative customization. But if you are publishing to the web, you are automatically in competition with other interactive websites. If you don’t take full advantage of it, readers will wonder why you chose to publish on the web and not in a less customizable format. To illustrate this with an example, a music video can sometimes ruin a song for people. In the same way, if the customization does not add to your story, it will take away from it. That brings us to the next point.
- Your story might be better off without customization. Depending on the type of story you are writing, you might want to think about whether changing up the text or adding visuals will take away from your story or add to it.
- Customization might take a lot of time and effort if your story is long. Even though the conversion process of your story may be short, the customization process might take long, depending on the length of your story or novel.
- The output story is available to anyone who has access to the HTML file. Let’s say you decide to distribute your story using your HTML file. You set up a PayPal link from your website or blog so that once users make the payment, they will automatically receive an email with your story file. Once they receive the file, however, who’s to say they won’t make copies of it and distribute it to others? Once the file gets out, it’s hard to keep track of whom they are sharing the file with.
Even if publishing your entire interactive novel online doesn’t appeal to you, you can still use the HTML output Twine provides to your benefit by making part of your story available online free as a demo to help gain an audience of interested readers. You can create a mini demo version of your CYOA as a separate story in Twine and include it in a blog post, in a post on social media, or on your website (whichever you prefer). This is a good way to build interest and give potential readers a taste of what they are buying into when they purchase your full novel.
CYOA teaser for my new book:
[UPDATE: My CYOA book is now available in both print paperback and ebook]
Other posts on creating CYOAs
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