Farewell For Now, Netflix

Not many films, even fewer that I want to watch.

Not many films, even fewer that I want to watch.

Netflix and I are parting company. We’ve been together for a year or two, enjoying an infrequent, on/off relationship, but it’s finally come to an end. The decision is entirely mine.

I just wasn’t finding enough time to make use of the service, and the £5.99 a month was a regular reminder of this fact. I signed up using their free-for-three-months deal, plus I got £20 via a cashback site, so I in effect got seven months’ worth for free. During our time together I watched the whole of the last season of Breaking Bad, which pretty much justified having Netflix altogether. I may have watched a handful of films and comedy stand-up shows, but in general I wasn’t consuming enough of it to make it good value. Having a toddler in the house makes these kind of things harder to commit to, as well.

Earlier this year I discovered that I could access the US Netflix library by amending the DNS in the Netflix settings on my Xbox 360, which although not strictly legitimate meant that I had a far wider range of shows and films to watch. Seeing as I was a paying customer of Netflix I don’t really see anything wrong with this. Once I had it set up, I watched a bunch of films and TV shows I could never have watched on the UK version. This deal ended once Netflix amended their DNS codes, and although I could have sought out another one that worked via the plethora of forums and Youtube videos available, I couldn’t really be bothered, especially since I was hardly using it any more, anyway. So I cancelled the service.

Respect to Netflix by the way, for their no bullshit cancel option on their website. You log in, go to My Account and there’s a big ‘cancel’ button. You hit that, confirm it, and you’re done. No navigation to the depths of the website, no filling in forms to justify yourself, and best of all no ‘call us to cancel’ bullshit, where you’d have to negotiate menu options and then discuss the whole thing with a sales person intent on retaining your custom. You can also resume your service at any point.

Because I cancelled mid-billing period, I have until 6th July to use what I’d paid for, so I’ve been trawling the site to find things to watch in my snatched spare time in the evenings. Bearing in mind I am now back to the UK-only library, there are fewer items to choose from. I find myself watching films and documentaries on Netflix via my iPad, usually whilst multitasking with household chores, like ironing, washing up, or making/eating breakfast. Given the less than full concentration I’ve been affording my recent Netflix viewing, I’ve been looking for decent documentaries to watch/listen to, rather than films with a plot I could miss out on. But I’ve watched a mix of both recently. Here’s a list of my recent consumption;

  • Only God Forgives – I didn’t realise this was a Nicolas Winding Refn film until afterwards, but it has all the hallmarks of his films – slow-moving, sullen, and violent. Refn also directed Drive, which I loved, but Only God Forgives is not as good in my opinion.
  • Craigslist Joe – This is an independent documentary made by a guy who documents his travels across the US only using Craigslist to find accommodation and places to eat etc. It’s interesting, but I found the music soundtrack a bit annoying, which started to grate on me after a while.
  • Route Irish – An independent British film about a military contractor struggling to cope with the death of his best mate. Enjoyed this, but I found some of the acting a bit strained, I suspect this is due to the script being semi-improvised in places to make it more naturalist. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some of the cast weren’t actors, but people who had lived and worked in those circles.
  • Narc – About an undercover cop in Detroit. I haven’t finished this one, but it looks OK so far.

If I manage to cram in any more films/shows before my subscription ends I’ll make another post. I’d like to check out more documentaries on Netflix, but nothing has really caught my attention from what I’ve seen. I loved Indie Game: The Movie, and I’m looking for more stuff like this. The more witty, intelligent, and unusual the better. Gimme ideas… (but they probably won’t be on UK Netflix anyway)

England – The All-Important First Game

This was meant to be published on a fantasy football blog I write for, but never made it, so I’m posting it here instead, just hours before time renders the article obsolete.

England's hope at this World Cup might rest on players such as Barkley.

England’s hope at this World Cup might rest on players such as Barkley.

England’s World Cup campaign starts with a game against Italy in what has been dubbed the ‘group of death’. Over-used footballing clichés aside, the result of the first match is going to have a huge bearing on the rest of the tournament. So what do England need to do to get the most out of their opening game?

Given the heat and the conditions in which the match will be played in, I think it’s fair to say that neither team will want to over-extend themselves and risk injury and defeat in their first game. The Italians play a naturally cautious style of possession-based football, so England can’t expect them to come charging out of the blocks and leave themselves vulnerable at the back. Likewise, Roy Hodgson has been shown to adopt a tentative approach in his use of tactics, so it seems likely that England’s first game will be a cagey affair, with both teams looking to secure points in the remaining group-stage games and not conceding them early on.

Hodgson faces performing a delicate balancing act between being cautious and displaying a lack of ambition he could later regret. The opportunity to beat Italy is certainly there. The Azzurri haven’t won a match since September, recently drawing 1-1 with Luxemburg, and are notorious slow-starters when it comes to tournaments. If either team score early we’re likely to see long periods of protecting the lead rather than the applying of pressure. On the other hand if it’s goalless mid-way into the second half, both teams are likely to settle for a draw.

A well-drilled defence and a protective layer of midfielders is likely to be the key to keeping a clean-sheet in a cagey affair such as this. In fact, a repeat of England’s Euro 2012 performance against Italy will be just what the doctor ordered considering it’s likely to be the hardest game of the group, on paper at least. But maybe with a little less of the Andrea Pirlo passing masterclass, this time around.

I think it’s fair to say that both England and Italy will be looking at this opening match as a ‘must not lose’ scenario. A good result, draw or victory, will be an excellent confidence builder, especially given the pessimistic forecast that has foreshadowed England’s campaign before it’s even started. As for team selection, I can’t see it being much different to the one that started against Honduras, and if the game is flagging in the last third then the introduction of Raheem Sterling or Ross Barkley could certainly open the game up.

The key to a game like this at this stage of the tournament is to not do anything silly. Simple passing, retaining the ball, and not allowing Pirlo et al to dictate the terms in which the match is played. Remembering that Italy will be looking to see the England game through and then turn their attention to winning all three points against Costa Rica in their next match is important too. Factors like this should mean we see a delicate sparring match of a game, rather than any high-intensity attacking football. But sometimes boring is good.

The Importance of Character Building

Not the characters in your shitty novel.

I’m talking about your own character. To be an interesting and rounded person you have to have had some interesting and informative life-experiences, all of which collectively add to your personality and approach to life in general. The things that you do and see inform who you are. Events and experiences that are character building can come from almost anywhere, but most of them are universal to all of us.

Some of the most obvious ones;

Driving a shitty car. Only when you’ve driven a car that looks and drives ugly can you appreciate good cars. A lack of features, bad bodywork, unreliable performance and basic undesirability is what you need here. Years of driving showroom-new models or company pool cars is not going to build you any character for later in life. On some level, a crap car teaches you things about being resourceful too, especially if it’s unreliable or has a bunch of strange quirks that you have to live with.

A bad flat or apartment. Most people have lived somewhere shitty at some point in their lives, especially when they were younger. College or university often dumps young people on the cheaper side of town, with unscrupulous and uncaring landlords, in conditions that are less than desirable. You know it’s shit, but you can’t afford to live elsewhere. Sometimes bad housing comes to us when we buy our first place. Like with the bad car, you get resourceful. You learn to adapt. You save and cut corners, you know what to avoid and what to do later in life. You’ll have conversations years later that go something like ‘remember when we used to live next to that freight railway line/upstairs from those junkies/in that shack with rats…’ In a perverse way you’ll be glad you did it.

Being broke. To some degree, most people have experienced a lack of money at some point in their lives. Sometimes you start off like this when you leave home or go to college or university, but often it comes to you after you’ve had money, in the form of redundancy or a change in circumstances. Looking for work and having no money teaches you something about yourself, and let’s face it, being broke in the West is a totally different from the experience elsewhere in the world. In the developed world it usually means a change in lifestyle and a period of job-searching or working hard for little pay, but all of this makes you richer in terms of your character. Not that you’d appreciate it at the time, because being poor sucks. But it certainly teaches you the value of things.

Apu Simpsons Character

Apu demonstrates the importance of character building – by wearing a skirt and a breast-plate, holding a tarot card and a club.

A job you hate, working for someone you despise. This one is really important, and most people run into it at some point. If you don’t, you’ve either been really lucky or have found your perfect working niche early in life. You need the money so you take the job, but it’s not interesting or rewarding, and to make matters worse the boss is a fucking jerk. This teaches you important people skills, as well as informing you about your career goals (or lack of them, in my case).

The interesting job. This might not necessarily be a good or well paid job, but you enjoyed your time working there. Remember this line from the film American Beauty?

Lester Burnham: When I was your age, I flipped burgers all summer just to be able to buy an eight-track. 
Ricky Fitts: That sucks. 
Lester Burnham: No, actually it was great. All I did was party and get laid. I had my whole life ahead of me.

That about sums it up. The work might have been dull, but the people you worked with made it worthwhile. No responsibility? Even better, you just take the money and spend it on the stuff that makes you happy, let the jerk boss worry about inventory and tax returns. I worked as a video games tester for a year or so, where all I did was hang around with other gamer nerds, talking about and playing games. The money was bad and it did nothing for me career-wise, but I loved it. Like Lester Burnham flipping burgers, I also spent an entire summer constructing chicken feeders in an agricultural warehouse, just so I had enough money to buy beer and hang out with my mates.

Bad relationships. Thinking back to these will probably make you cringe, but they’ll probably help you out in the long-run. That guy/girl you spent ages chasing and dating, just for it to end painfully and/or humiliatingly? Just tell yourself it was character-building and you’ll see it totally differently. There are mistakes there you’ll never make again. There are things you’ll never say again, or things you will say next time. There are types and models better suited to you, but you didn’t know it at the time. But you do now, because it all helped to build your character.

It’s strange how the things that were essentially bad in our lives take on a new value later on in life. How many times have you seen a piece of shit car that reminded you of one you once drove and thought ‘I used to have one of those…’ , or thought back to the freezing cold apartment that you hated at the time, whilst smiling to yourself? It happens all the time. That’s all character you’ve built for yourself.

Cars, jobs, houses, partners, poverty. I must have missed some other important character-building experiences…

Dear Amazon, I Love You But…

I love using Amazon, but there’s something missing from their mobile app. 

Ever since I bought an iPhone a couple of years ago, I regularly use the scanner on the Amazon app to scan the ISBN numbers of books and products I come across in shops. For me, the app serves two purposes.

  1. What does this cost on Amazon, and can I sell it on my Amazon Marketplace Store?
  2. Can I buy this cheaper on Amazon than in this physical shop?

The first issue is only really relevant when browsing items in charity shops or thrift stores or any of the random places you might come across second-hand books. The second option is for looking at books in a bookshop. If I don’t want or need the book asap, I look at the online price on Amazon and buy it later. I know the bookshop loses out in this instance, but that’s the nature of the beast nowadays. There’s a bookshop close to where I work, and even though I almost never buy books from them due to their high prices, I’m always buying birthday and Christmas cards from them. Plus, they seem to be busy so they must sell plenty of full-price books in the face of online availability.

However, I recently discovered another use for the Amazon scanner app. I saw a couple of books about digital photography that looked interesting, (I’m trying to decide between The Digital Photography Handbook by Doug Harman and Complete Guide to Digital Photography‘ by Ian Farrell – any suggestions?) so I flicked through them, and scanned the ISBNs. As expected, the prices were much more reasonable online. I put the books back and thought about buying them later. But then I realised that having scanned the details of two books, the app only remembered the details of the second one. In fact, if the app is closed completely, I think it forgets the last scan entirely. The scanner part of the app has no ‘History’ function to record your recent searches, so all your past scans are lost.

Amazon Book App Scanner

Using the Amazon App Scanner For ISBN Numbers

To get around this problem I realised that once I’d scanned an item I could scroll down the details and use the ‘Add to Wish List‘ function. Whilst not as useful as a ‘History’ function might be on the actual scanner, this does provide me with a way to record my browsing. So now from the comfort of my laptop or iPad I can check out the books I was interested in in the shop. I find Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature really useful for deciding to buy a book or not.

Amazon Add To Wish List

On the item details, scroll down and ‘Add to Wish List’ to be able to browse the item later.

So now with my recently discovered little technique I can quickly capture the details of books, store the info, and make decisions on purchasing at my leisure at a later point.

Now all that’s needed is for Amazon to add a ‘History’ function to the scanner on their otherwise fantastic app, and make that data available to the ‘Browsing History’ on my account. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

** There’s always the chance I’ve been a dumbass and not realised that there is indeed a way to do this from within the scanner. If there is, please let me know.**

My Year In Books – Courtesy of Goodreads

A few years back, for no reason other than mild curiosity, I set myself a target to see how many books I could read in a year, all recorded on the goodreads website. The idea being that you set yourself a target, then record the books on the site as you read them. I started doing this in 2011, when I read 16 of a target of 15. In 2012 I upped the target to 20, and managed to meet it, but only just. In 2013, I set the target back to 15, knowing that the arrival of a new baby would slow my progress somewhat, but I still managed to get in 16 books. She’s a good sleeper.

For 2014, I’ve kept the target at 15. I’m not trying to competitively consume books, punishing myself to get to the end, but I think that’s a good manageable total. So far I’ve read one, so that makes me 6% into the challenge according to the widget on the site. In December Goodreads sent out an email with a link to a summary of the books read that year. It’s quite interesting to see what you read over the last twelve months. Here’s a handy graphic they provided;


Some of them I’d totally forgotten about, which probably meant they weren’t that good. There certainly were several average to forgettable titles in there. Totally average crime drama, a plodding literary fiction novel, and the cult A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, which I hated. Did anyone else find this annoying to read, or am I only one?

But that’s the beauty of reading, you make a choice based on what you read in the synopsis and see on the cover, but you won’t know until you read it. It all adds to the experience. Read my post on reading bad books for more about completing or dumping books you don’t like, mid-read.

Looking at the graphic of what I read last year, I realise I read three George Pelecanos novels in 2013! That’s because I’m a big fan of the writer, who wrote several episodes of The Wire and Treme. His novels are everything I’d want my work to be (if I ever finish anything!) – taught prose, great narrative, and superb characters. In fact, I have another couple of his books to read this year.

Another thing I notice is that six of the sixteen books were read on Kindle, which is an increase on previous years’. The paper versus e-reader contest will continue I guess. I read at an average speed, and my opportunities for reading are pretty much restricted to evenings, mostly before going to sleep. I drive to work rather than use public transport, but if I did I’d probably decimate my to-read pile (although it would probably grow in proportion to my reading speed.)

Who else sets reading targets, either via Goodreads or just in general? What does your ‘already-read’ pile look like?

Adding It Up – The Grand Total For 2013


2013 is history. Quite literally.

And with it ends my record keeping of all the additional income I earned for the year. In total, I made £627.24 after deductions and costs etc.

December saw a big spike in Amazon Seller Account book sales, presumably from people buying books for Christmas presents. Almost all of these were old aviation-related books that were given to me by my dad from a clear-out he was doing. One of which was a big book of paper planes that could be cut out and folded into various designs according to the instructions. This was still sealed in cellophane and in mint condition. It sold for £15, but was expensive to post due to its size, but there was still a chunk of change to pass on to my dad after deductions etc. Interestingly, it was posted to the Officers’ Mess at RAF Brize Norton, a large air force base here in the UK. I can imagine it being given as a gift to someone at the base and then dozens of paper planes being constructed and thrown across an office or dining room.

The only other source of additional income in December was the payment of my royalties from Amazon Kindle – sales of my short story I chucked on there a couple of years ago. Although it sounds impressive – royalties from book sales – the reality is somewhat different. I made £9.18 in total, and that’s from a year or so’s worth of it being available to buy. It also includes both US and UK sales, which is even less impressive. The only reason I got the US royalties is because Amazon and the IRS changed their policies toward overseas earnings – meaning that if you didn’t have the requisite US tax code, all your earnings are subject to a 35% deduction. After a lengthy and expensive phone call to the IRS office in the US, I got my EIN number, submitted it to Amazon, and eventually got my royalties. Which only just paid off the cost of the phone call…

So the break-down for the year looks like this;

Month Number Value
Jan 3 £41.21
Feb 3 £47.88
Mar 9 £48.29
Apr 7 £32.01
May 6 £29.96
Jun 5 £15.62
Jul 14 £127.05
Aug 7 £86.94
Sep 6 £45.22
Oct 3 £64.39
Nov 2 £23.65
Dec 9 £65.02
Grand Total 74 £627.24

And the break-down of the income sources looks like this;

Source Number Value
eBay 35 £285.28
Amazon Selling Account 33 £220.23
Quidco 3 £76.75
Survey 2 £35.80
Amazon Kindle 1 £9.18
Grand Total 74 £627.24

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the money was earned through Amazon and eBay. The eBay money comes in irregularly as I tend to list things on an ad-hoc basis, when having a clear-out or something falls in my lap and has a) no interest/value to me, or b) is worth a bit online. I have about 30 items listed on Amazon at present, these are just old text books etc that sit around until someone buys them off Amazon or the value drops so low that I donate them to charity shops etc.

Ultimately what this information tells me is that there is money to be made from sources other than your salary. In theory, the Amazon and eBay listings could be stepped up and provide more income, but like all these things it’s a balance between effort and value. I’m happy to keep an eye out and list things as they come to me, but I don’t really want to be hoarding piles of junk on the off-chance I’ll make a sale.

So what did I do with the money I made?

Like spending money in general, it’s hard to keep track of where it went. More than half of it went on car insurance, which was good to know I had that covered. The rest was used to pay for Christmas presents and helped to fund a 50 inch plasma TV I bought second hand from a friend. Ultimately, it was £627 that I would have had to find from my monthly salary if I hadn’t done this.

I don’t plan to do much differently this year, but it would be good to improve on the 2013 figure. £1000 perhaps?

Adding It Up – November


November’s extra income was a bit lower than previous months, clocking in at £23.65. This is mostly because I didn’t make much effort with putting things on eBay. I only listed one item, an old mobile phone that was in good condition with all its accessories and original box etc. I put this up for Buy It Now for £25 and it sold quite quickly, making £17.35 profit after fees and expenses.

The story didn’t end there with the item though, as the buyer sent me a disgruntled email about the functions on the phone, and sent me negative feedback, which he posted before contacting me! To cut a long story short, I replied to his question, expressing my annoyance at his knee-jerk feedback. He then asked how he could change the feedback, to which the seller has to request a feedback revision, and lo and behold he changed it from a negative to a positive saying ‘item as described’! So I went from a negative to a positive, and didn’t have to argue the toss about a refund. eBay is a strange and confusing place at times.

The only Amazon sale was for a book, a big collection of Commando comics compiled into a tome the size of a cinder/breeze block. Luckily I’d priced it to cover the postage, as although it wasn’t heavy it certainly was bulky! I like Amazon sales as it has that double whammy effect of clearing junk and making money. I don’t have a big inventory, perhaps a dozen books which are a mixture of unwanted titles I’m finished with, or items I came across which looked like they might have some value, or in a few cases, books given to me by my parents in an attempt to clear some of their junk. 

Nov 2 £23.65
Amazon Selling Account 1 £6.30
eBay 1 £17.35

I haven’t listed anything on eBay in December, but I have had a flurry of book sales via Amazon, which I suspect are Christmas presents. These have been specialists titles, namely books about aviation – again a mix of books given to me by my parents for resale, or things I’ve spotted in charity shops which I knew might sell. December’s income already beats November’s total, so that’s good Although I suspect I won’t get any/many more as it gets too close for Christmas post etc, but it’s another title out the door and a bit of extra cash in the slush fund. Incidentally, a large chunk of the money raised paid off my car insurance as well as provided a nice boost for Christmas present buying!

Adding It Up – October


I almost forgot to write up last month’s additional income review. October’s total was boosted by a cashback payment that had been in the pipeline for months, so much so that I forgot about it. Here’s a breakdown of where the money came from last month;

Oct 3 £64.39
Quidco 1 £34.00
eBay 2 £30.39

The cashback was from Quidco, most of which was earned via a home insurance policy I took out about 6 months ago! Luckily I wasn’t relying on this money for anything, as it certainly doesn’t get paid as a matter of priority between the retailer and the cashback company. October also saw two eBay sales, both for the same type of item.

As a Sky TV customer I was sent a wireless Sky TV on-demand box that arrived unannounced in the post. The idea is that you plug it into your Sky box (TiVo is the US equivalent) and it connects with your wifi and gives you access to films and TV shows via the TV. I couldn’t really see myself using this, as I have Netflix plus my time is at a premium any way, so I thought I’d check out sales on eBay for them. Surprisingly, they were selling for £20ish, and seeing as this was free, boxed and unused, selling it made sense. I shelved it with the idea of getting it listed soon. Then a few days later another one arrived, so I listed them both. Selling identical items on eBay is easy as you simply enter the quantity number and it goes down every time someone purchases from you. So I made my listing and waited. The same day I listed them I got an email from someone on eBay asking if he could come round that night and buy one, paying in cash. I agreed, he turned up, and the sale was made. When I went to look at the listing, I realised that the buyer hadn’t actually used the ‘Buy It Now’ function, he’d simply sent me an email and then paid cash for the item on my doorstep. This means as far as eBay is concerned, this sale never took place. I changed the quantity from 2 to 1, and waited for the last one to sell, which it did, this time in the conventional way via Paypal etc. Due to one selling for cash, and the other via eBay, the profits for each item were different. I made £18 straight profit from the cash buyer, and £12.39 for the eBay one. £30.39 profit from two items that cost me nothing. Not bad at all.

I haven’t sold anything on Amazon or eBay during November yet, nor do I have any cashback waiting, so this might be a lean month in terms of extra income, but we shall see. The money from this extra income is getting funneled into a slush fund savings account that I use for ad-hoc expenses, but this time it looks like it will be used to pay for my car insurance, which strangely enough is the same total as the money I have in the account, so at least that’s taken care of!

Adding It Up – September


September’s additional income was a bit smaller than the previous month, but it was about average overall considering I didn’t really sell much on eBay. I made £45.22 after expenses, the majority of which came from Amazon.

Sep 6 £45.22
Amazon Selling Account 4 £35.44
eBay 2 £9.78

The Amazon sales were from second hand books. The largest share of which was a big hardback book about Star Wars figures. It sold so quickly that now I fear that I priced it too low in the first place, but at £20+ after postage and fees that’s not bad. The book was the first and only book so far to sell from a batch of books my parents gave me to sell in order to clear out some space in their house. Non fiction books are the best sellers on Amazon when it comes to re-selling books. Fiction doesn’t really sell second-hand unless it’s really new, and even then the prices are pretty low. As for the titles of the non fiction books, they were a completely random assortment. There was an old text book on hydrology, I suspect this was needed for a Phd course or something, two books about fairy tales and folklore (these went to two different customers), and the Star Wars action figures guide.

The eBay sales were varied too. My wife was throwing some clothes out, so naturally I couldn’t help but have a look at what she’d piled up as ‘unwanted’. There were various items, but the only thing that looked like it was worth listing was a Ted Baker blouse. It was in great condition and is a branded name, so I listed it and it sold quite quickly. There wasn’t much profit in it, but it was worth doing. especially as it would have been thrown away.

With the new Grand Theft Auto game getting a lot of attention and topping sales charts, I realised that I still had my copy of the previous version, and that I was never likely to play it again. So I listed it as Buy It Now and it sold in a day or two, making me £7.79 profit after fees and postage. I’m not going to count the original price I paid for it as that would have been about £35, and seeing as it was bought years ago and provided hours of entertainment I don’t think the original price can be taken into account when selling old household items. I’ve since bought the new version, and the £7+ I got for the old version effectively helped to subsidise the purchase, which makes great economic sense as far as I’m concerned.

Right, I’m off to car-jack a sports car and get in a high-speed chase across Los Santos…

Blog-posting Novel Excerpts – A Good Idea Or Not?

Lego Figure Writing a Blog Novel

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of throwing chunks of my work-in-progress novel on to this blog, possibly in 500 word segments or even a chapter at a time. It’s a crime fiction novel set in modern day London, following a corrupt undercover detective as his double-dealings unravel around him. This is my first attempt at writing something that will have elements of a police procedural, so no doubt it’s full of inaccuracies, but I can iron those out later.

Each week I’d post a piece of it, with a brief disclaimer about typos and it being a WiP etc, just to see what it looked like ‘out there’. So far I’m almost 20,000 words in, possibly a quarter of the total projected novel length. So I have enough to post to get me started, and as long as I keep working on it I’ll have more to add as I build it up. I might even pick up some tips and useful critique.

But I’m not convinced it’s necessarily a good idea. While it will give me guaranteed blog content for a few weeks, it will basically be me showing the world (or the couple of lost internet travelers who stumble across it) my first draft. And first drafts are always a bit stinky. Combine this factor with the possibility of receiving some harsh criticism from readers and it could be pretty off-putting. Plus, I’m not entirely sure what direction the narrative should take, so without a strict outline I’d be writing blind and asking people to read it.

Do people actually read what is in effect serialized novels by unknown, unpublished writers? Have you ever done it, and what did you get out of the experience?