State of the Serial (An Author’s Note)

Well. That was a thing, wasn’t it?

A little over two years ago (maybe longer, who knows?) I wrote five hundred words based off of a writing prompt. This past Tuesday, I posted the last chapter of the serial that writing prompt became. One hundred and sixty-five chapters posted twice a week, at around the same time every week. Sometimes I missed up an update because WordPress decided to screw me, sometimes I fell asleep with the chapter written and didn’t wake up until an hour or two later. That’s not great, but it’s certainly not something that I’m about to flagellate myself over.

It’s done. I finished it. I finished it. There aren’t any words to really express how I feel right now.

I’ve never really done anything creative, except for writing, so I don’t know if this is a universal feeling or only one that authors can understand. But I had an idea and, helped along by an unflinching refusal to quit, I managed to craft a story about thieves in the modern age, criminals with codes of honor, and my personal analysis about what it means to be a family. Is this what parents feel like when their kid reaches eighteen? Is this how sculptors feel when they chip away the last little bit of imperfection? Do artists get this feeling when they’ve made the last stroke of the paintbrush?

I don’t know. I hope so. I really hope so. Because, trust me, it’s awesome.

One of the difficulties with my writing style is that I never know what I’m going to write until I’m writing it. I think I’ve talked about that before. Sometimes, I’ll try to scratch out an outline, but that never really works for me. If I want to know more about a character, I have to write that character into a situation and then sort…see what they do. How else am I going to learn organically what’s going to happen? Script everything out beforehand and then stick to things, even when it doesn’t feel like what the character would do?

That same…I don’t know if problem is the right word, so let’s go with ‘difficulty’…extends to my plotting, too. At no point in the process of this serial did I know, for certain, anything beyond the next two or three chapters. At least twice, I had to scrap whole tracts of work because they just didn’t feel right. There was a line, an electric current running through my story, and sometimes I didn’t realize that I’d lost the thread until five or ten chapters later. Oh well, into the bin they went. Back to the drawing board.

Two chapters a week, at about 3k words a chapter, is a fairly difficult schedule to maintain, I think. Granted, I know of both serial and traditional authors who put out higher word counts (I know of both serial and traditional authors who do considerably less, but quality matters more than quantity, obviously), but it was certainly a challenge for me. On more than a few nights, I just didn’t want to write my requisite thousand words. I did it anyway, for the most part. When I failed, I wrote twice as much the next night. Or, you know, I tried to.

I feel like a less stringent schedule wouldn’t have yielded these results. If I’d allowed myself to miss a single update, I would probably have talked myself into missing two or three. It wouldn’t have been long before I just wrote off the whole project and flitted over to the next thing (there are crime novels, westerns, and horror novels floating around in my head at any given moment). But I knew I’d set a goal and I wasn’t going to myself down.

Also, my girlfriend threatened violence on multiple occasions, should I decide not to finish “For Riches.” A little extra encouragement never hurt anybody.

And here’s the thing: there’s more. I’ve known that I’d have to break “Pickpockets, Cat Burglars, and Conmen” into three parts since about halfway through For Riches or More. As I’m typing this, at 12:35 and two beers in, I’m about five thousand words into the second serial, which follows the adventures of Devlin, Sarah, Michel, and Mila as they navigate the maze of alliances and rivalries that comprise the criminal underworld. But I prefer to have something of a buffer before I start posting things, in case I have to delete several chapters at once.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I want to take about two months off before I really launch into the second serial, but I also don’t want to lose the rhythm. I’m considering posting one chapter a week (maybe on the main blog, maybe over here, I’m not sure) dealing with side characters and their reaction to unfolding events. Call them “Interquels,” since they’re not quite interludes and not quite preludes. One of those per week gives me eight interquels before I feel comfortable revealing the new serial to the internet and all of its critics.

Also, I want to spend some time looking into turning the serial into six different ebooks for people who don’t like reading websites. If/when I get that figured out, I’ll update the main blog with relevant links, make a FB status, and tweet about it. So stay tuned for more news on that front.

I’ve got my own opinions on the story and I’m sure that any readers will have thoughts that aren’t the same as mine. Which is great, really. I want to hear them, I really do. Email me, leave comments, write reviews, throw tomatoes at me…almost all feedback is useful feedback, and I’m willing to take the destructive commentary if I get some constructive comments on the back end. Really, I’m just glad that you’re out there reading these words at all.

I’m done. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick around to see what I do next.

4 thoughts on “State of the Serial (An Author’s Note)”

    1. Thanks, thanks. Neil Gaiman said that the secret to writing a novel was to write it, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I’d like to think that I would’ve figured out some kind of trick by now, seeing as I’ve been writing in one form or another since sixth grade, but it seems like I’ve just go to keep smashing my face into the keyboard until something takes, y’know?


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