Lessons I Learned from Serialisation

Posted March 18, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

Lessons I Learned from Serialisation…

One of the things Patreon lends itself really well to, in some ways, is serialisation. Not that serialisation is anything new, per se. It’s been around for centuries and possibly the most famous example of serialised fiction in Charles Dickens. Yes, that Charles Dickens.

In the past couple of years I’ve watched serialised fiction go through a resurgence. It’s been around for ages. It’s incredibly common for web cartoons, but fiction has never gone away either. It’s a very popular way of producing fiction online and there have been sites dedicated to hosting it for years. Writers have, in fact, been making a living off it for years as well. It’s only been in the past few years, since the arrival of Wattpad, Serialbox and Radish that companies seem willing to engage and experiment with serialisation. It’s fascinating.

But this isn’t a post on the history of serialisation. I mean, if people are interested, I can add it to my list of essay topics, but right now I just want to look at the lessons that serialising my fiction taught me. After all, that’s what I want to talk about more, isn’t it? My process and the craft? Serialisation seems a good place to start, especially since I started serialising the draft of DemiPrincess2 for the $5+ tiers recently, and the lessons I learned from the previous times I’ve run serials have been poking at me more actively again.

So, first things first: if you want to serialise your work, it pays to know your writing processes extremely well before you start because it’ll tell you whether you need to serialise something that’s already finished or whether you can dive straight into a new story and keep on track.

For me, serialising something that isn’t finished doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s because the schedule pressure doesn’t play nice with my brain, though that’s pretty uncommon. Usually, it’s because I write messy first drafts and if I’m serialising it like something that’s finished, I’ll end up getting everything all tangled up and stuck. I’m a “revise as you go because the plot doesn’t work and that means nothing worse” kind of person, so serialising something I know I’ll have to revise mid-story doesn’t work well. It needs to be something in the final stages of polish or it won’t work for me. I’ll inevitably end up going on a hiatus while I sort everything out and get back on track and it will invariably take longer than I’m comfortable with when the promise of serialisation is regular updates.

For me, then, I need to have a finished serial or a very clear understanding that readers are reading a draft and that as long as I’m not in a position to write every day (thanks, brain!) I can’t guarantee that they’ll always go up at the same time every week.

It also means that I need a decent buffer before I start. The DemiPrincess WIP serialisation was only scheduled once I was around a quarter of the way through, which is less than I’d like, but since it’s not a finished project and I really want to share more of my process, I’m giving it a go. See how it goes.

I need a hiatus. Most people are understanding if something crops up or you need to take a brief break. Building them into the structure of the serial can be helpful in managing the work, especially if you’re the kind of writer who produces first drafts clean enough to write as you go. I can do that with poetry, but not so much novels and even then it helps to have a little break in between sections to build up a decent amount of buffer.

It took about two serialisations before I realised that, at least in the way I’ve seen other writers run them, they’re not really my thing. They don’t work for me and they don’t mesh well with my process even when the process is tailored towards working as serialisation. Verse novels are excellent serialisation material, in my experience. The poems are relatively short and self-contained while still carrying through a cohesive narrative. They’re like very tiny chapters.

And then some of them were several pages long, but that’s neither here nor there.

I do like serialisation as a concept, though. They were how I shared fiction when I first started sharing my work online and no one cared how long it took for a new instalment to appear. They were happy to see it whenever. Well, I mean, the fans were. The people who lost interest… not so much. It was actually a perfect way for me to learn to have confidence in my writing and my self because sharing them, without any pressure to make them good, meant I could always rewrite them and repost them later in a revised version and, until then, there were people who enjoyed those messy first drafts and who cheered me on.

That support was utterly invaluable, and I’ll admit I miss it more than a little because it was heartening to discuss my stories and their successes and failings in a public forum and to watch writers far, far more skilled than I do the same.

Nowadays, I’ve come to the (reluctant) acceptance that serialisation isn’t for me unless I’ve either finished the story or have a built-in way to account for my writing quirks. There’s actually one project that I’m keen on serialising in future that’s perfect for a haphazard approach, but I need to be a lot further along with it than I currently and have a far firmer idea of where the narrative is going before I can start. A timeline would probably help, but mostly I need to work out a good rough schedule. There’s a conceit at work that makes it perfect for serialisation and I want to try and figure out if it’s possible to serialise it wholly in that framework. I might have to rejig the framework to make it more effective, but that’s for after Demiprincess2 and 3, not right now.

I’m excited to see where serialisation can go, though, and I’ll be continuing to look at ways to make it work better for me since I do enjoy it so.

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