Why write serial fiction?

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while and I wondered if it should be a blog post. I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer this question for you, but I can come close to an answer for myself, and, perhaps, in there you will find wisdom.

I’ve been struggling to finish projects for a while now and, although I am very close to finishing my first (slight) paranormal romance, I have a thriller that I’ve had outlined for a few years just sitting on the back burner. I like the story, too, and the characters and I want to turn it into a character-based series, but…finishing is hard.

Finishing is the number one piece of advice that successful writers tell new writers. (I don’t have the stats for that but it sounds right and if it’s not right, it should be right.)

The thing is, after all this time, I’m not a new writer. I’ve been writing for decades, but I rarely finish longer works (short stories, flash, and poetry are not an issue). I think my mind starts to wander on a project after about a month, so if I can’t get the writing done in 30 days, then off to greener pastures? I guess.

What about NaNoWriMo, you may ask?

Meh. I’ve never won it. I write under a pen name and don’t have writing friends physically close to me. And this last year has shown that I definitely have an end point to my online stamina. I think it’s a worthwhile thing and maybe I’ll give it a try this year, but, again, meh.

I’m revisiting the “Write a Novel in Three Days” post from Ghostwoods – a post so popular, they made it the 404 page. I do love the idea of working out a lot of the story before writing. Combine that post with Dead Wesley Smith’s resurrection of his pulp writers posts and perhaps the world was speaking to me: “Get all the meat out and then write like the Dickens.”

Which brings me back to my original question (see what I did there), why write serial fiction? Serial fiction allows me the satisfaction of finishing something small on a regular basis, while still fulfilling an overarching storyline. I think building in cliffhangers is energizing as a writer, particularly in my Wound series (at Tapas and Webnovel) as I’m posting it shortly after I write it. I know where I want all my characters to be at the end of the season, but I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to get there. And I am in love with writing it.

Serial writing allows me to play with timing and characterization as well. How much can I deliver to the reader about a person in just one line of dialog? What inner thoughts can I share about them without it feeling like filler? What peril can I put them in at the moment the scene ends? AHAHAHA.

These little thrills give me the motivation to work on the longer pieces. I was going to say they were like warm-ups, but I don’t want to diminish my serials in any way. I just as strongly about these stories as I do the novel-length stories that aren’t finished. The finishing with serials isn’t really the point, not initially. Some publishers suggest you have an endpoint in mind, or the entire piece mapped out – that seems more like novel serialization then serial fiction. That’s fine, but it’s different. Serial fiction is about the chase, the journey, jumping from cliff to cliff to cliff.

There’s an end, sure, but what a ride!

Negativity and writing

At the time of writing this, the world is a mess. This isn’t about that, but that ain’t helping.

There are times when I’m late posting something because I’ve just been burdened with other work or am lazy. Once or twice I was just uninspired, which is against everything I think about when it comes to the work of writing. This week though, my issue was one that I deal with on a regular basis: seeping negativity. This week I nearly drowned in it.

While my private life is just that, I do find myself spending nearly every day with a terribly negative person. It is not a relationship that is easily severed, though distance can sometimes be achieved. When days are good, I find myself impenetrable to the dark aura and the distant yells. When I am in a weakened state, less confident in my identity or ability, those tendrils sneak past my defenses and seriously fuck up my day. Or two days, or three. I can usually cap it there, but I’m increasingly weary.

My situation is not uncommon and I think I could find some help in talking about it more. Not just with professionals, but with people (especially fellow writers) who deal with a similar issue and who find themselves wasting a lot of writing energy just protecting their own happiness.

What say you? Do you have tips on how to remain hopeful in the face of negativity?

Meet me in the middle

Getting stuck and unstuck in the center of writing.

I tend to have trouble with middles and I think this is common. Normally I am a “pants” writer, someone who discovers the story, the characters, the whole package, as they write. This has typically ended with me getting bored about halfway through and abandoning the project. In the darker moments, I suspected that I was never going to take writing seriously and that it would always be something I played at. I didn’t have the “stamina” to make it through a whole story. I just wasn’t good enough.

Then, after listening to countless podcasts, watching videos, reading blogs of other writers, I realized that I can combine the best of both worlds. The moment I start to feel the enthusiasm wane while discovery writing, I could stop an outline the rest of the story. I expected this to help me through the fear I have about outlining in general: that telling myself the story in an outline would be satisfying enough that I wouldn’t go on to drafting. That is still a fear and I am teetering on the edge of that being a possibility now.

With The Shape of Us, I wanted to experiment with telling a story from an outside point of view. The game from the NPC perspective, as it were. After the first three episodes, I quickly realized that I needed to outline a full story for Sykes and Baron, a true plot in the background that my POV characters were getting a glimpse of. It then became an exercise to see how much of that plot should bleed through to make it relevant to the POV character’s life at that moment, but also allow the reader to piece together the background story. So I plotted out a 14-episode “season” for The Shape of Us and right now we’re at the half-way point.

I didn’t post on Friday because I didn’t write episode 8. I could give a number of excuses, but I wasn’t ready. I felt that having a space at the mid-point would seem intentional (it was not) and comfortable (it was definitely not). Also, not many people are reading this right now, so the insecure part of me thought “who would miss it anyway?”

I did. I missed it. I fell in love with these characters the moment I finished episode 1 and I am determined to give readers glimpses into their lives, one unwilling bystander at a time. Whatever behind-the-scenes method I use for writing these episodes, in the end it won’t matter. What matters is if I’m satisfied with how the story plays out. So far, so good.

The next seven episodes start posting tomorrow. I hope you enjoy them.

Status Report 191401

I’m writing mostly academic words today — pre-semester set up, etc. — and while words are words and I’m keeping track of them, it’s not as satisfying as those words that I pull out of thin air and plop down on to the page like flicking paint off a toothbrush. (This should give you an idea of how clean my process is.) Tracking what I produce instead of writing down what I want to produce is helping me get what I want done. Now all I need is someone to tell me how I can unfriend everyone on Facebook forever without having to deal with people’s feelings. Ugh.

Rant: Am I The Right Kind of Writer?

There are great advantages to being a viewer of the online writing community. Not a member, per se, but an observer, lurking in the mists just outside YouTube, Instagram, or Goodreads, listening, learning, leaning in now and then to give a like or a “yay,” but never jumping in with both feet into the great advice-laden oblivion. For me, this is probably the best.

I find myself getting anxious, watching videos in particular, about who I am supposed to be as an independent writer and how productive I need to be to succeed. While the publishing advice is helpful and I understand the Amazon-fueled distribution model demands more and more blood sacrifice, I am starting to think that there is a whole market/niche/community out there of “writers” who only give “writing advice” and don’t necessarily write anything else. Please understand I am a novice here and baby hasn’t become cynical yet.

So before I download your “helpful” PDF or sign up for your “complete marketing course” I’m going to want to see a list of your non-writing-business related books, please. Yes, yes, I understand you write under a pseudonym (as I obviously do as well) but before I invest any more of my time (my most precious resource) I’m going to need to see your bibliography. Because otherwise I’m going to think that the best way to make a living as a writer is to cobble a bunch of blog posts together and market them as an ebook to other would-be writers.

I was so thoroughly impressed with this young writer’s discussion (and the subsequent responses) that I became an instant fan of Shaelin. I especially appreciated how she calls out how the community is mainly middle-class, U.S.-based, white women.
(Full disclosure, that’s me too.)

Just to reiterate what Shaelin talks about in her video (which I’ve only just come across, pardon my tardiness) is that writing and writers come in all forms. The Writing Process (capitalized because it’s fucking important) comes in all forms and changes, not just by writer, but buy Project. Every project, whether non-fiction, blog post, article, or fiction has a different Process going into it, during creation and revision, and in the final packaging. The idea that anyone has the secret to the perfect Writing Process is ridiculous at best, an unscrupulous lie at worse.

And, man oh man, don’t get me started on videos about bullet journals and the “Writer’s Planner.” Fhgnaklakdglishdflksndlfkhlsdkfslkdf!

Yup, I said it. I’m unimportant enough to get away with it, too. Wait until my next post when I talk about how a chunk of the writing community appears to be supported by spouse salaries.

Answer: Yes.