Posts Tagged ‘ claudia hall christian ’

Three Super Ninja Tricks to Unstick Your Serial Fiction by Claudia Hall Christian

September 29, 2011

We are very pleased to welcome back a special guest to Tuesday Serial. Claudia Hall Christian is the coordinator for #bookmarket chat every Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST. Be sure to stop by for excellent marketing conversation. But the reason she’s here with us today is that she also writes serials and she’s sharing some excellent tips. This is the fourth guest post in a series from Claudia.  If you missed her previous posts, now’s your chance:  “5 Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Serial Fiction,” “Why Your Serial Fiction Is Likely to Fail and What To Do About It,” and “Serial vs Serialized Fiction – What??”  Welcome back, Claudia!

Three Super Ninja Tricks to Unstick Your Serial Fiction by Claudia Hall Christian

You’ve dedicated yourself and your blog space to your serial fiction and suddenly – you’re stuck.

Don’t panic. Everyone who has ever decided to write a story has gotten stuck at one point or another. It happens. In fact, I think a lot of the ‘10 years or 10,000 hours to become an expert’ rule has to do with learning things like ‘stuck happens’ or as I prefer to think of it: “Stuck is merely a rest stop on the highway of unstuck.” Or something like that.

If you find yourself stuck, the first question you should ask is: Am I stuck or is my serial fiction?

A. It’s you.

Stop fooling around and get your rear in the chair. Seriously. You can’t imagine how often “writer’s block” is actually a failure to apply rear to chair and hands to keyboard. Get up fifteen minutes earlier; go to bed a wee bit later; stop watching television; write on your lunch break or get a digital recorder and write in the car. Get to work.
From Patti Digh's 37days.com - fabulous

If getting to work doesn’t do it, you have to face the fact that maybe you’re stuck.

Maybe your life is too lifey right now and you simply can’t continue your serial fiction. Maybe you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired and need to relieve one or all of those situations. Maybe you got excited and jumped in too early. Maybe you need to live a little more before you can write on a serial fiction schedule.

If you’re at a sticky junction, don’t blame your serial fiction.

Take some time off. Go for a walk. Sleep. Eat good food. Meditate. Talk to someone you don’t like. Read. Get a massage. Play with a child (preferably one you know). Go live a lot so that when you’re feeling ready, you have something interesting to write about.

And relax. All good stories need to be told. Your time will come.

B. It’s your fiction.

So there you are. Your rear is in the chair. You’re typing away and suddenly… your story gets stuck. For a moment, you can’t believe it. Confident it will all work out, you may even shut off the computer and return the next day.

And when you do? Nothing.

Uh oh. What do you do now?

Here are three super ninja tricks to unstick your stuck serial fiction.

1. Add a character:

Everyone has a mother, brother, father, sister, ex-lover, best friend, arch-enemy, boss or even just the perpetually barking dog. (Remember David Lynch made an entire series out of a dog who never said anything.) You have left someone out of your characters’ lives. The question is who? What’s their perspective on the current dilemma? I’ll tell you that some of the greatest characters in fiction are often created because the author was stuck.

Not sure who to add? Check out the contestants from any season of the Biggest Loser. The casting director does a fabulous job of including a variety of people so that there’s someone for every audience. Who’s missing from your cast?

If I’m really stuck, I’ll go to the US Census interactive site and look at the different racial, ethnic, age and housing breakdowns for where my serial is set. You’d be amazed at what will spark your interest. For example, in the Queen of Cool, I learned that Fort Worth has one of the largest populations of Romani (Gypsies). Gypsies? Really? Oh yes, I’m adding a few of them to my serial.

A word of caution: Adding a character is the easiest trick in the book. If you use it too often, you’ll end up with something that looks more like the tryouts for American Idol and not a serial fiction. Use this trick only when you have to.

2. Delete the last three hundred to a thousand words:

It’s ‘murder your darlings‘ time.

Writing fiction, and particularly serial fiction, is all about choices. Your characters can go this way or that way at any juncture. If you’re stuck, it’s likely that you’ve chosen the wrong way for your character to go. That’s like trying to get a two year old to do something s/he’s decided not to do. Everything comes to a halt.

Go back to the last major junction and start writing again. I know it’s painful. Especially when you’re on deadline and you’re trying to get the last bit done. Sadly, if you don’t go back, you won’t get anything done. Chances are, your characters will right themselves and the story will flow again.

You can always hold onto these pieces and use them as ‘pieces of the puzzle,’ side-stories or additions to a later project. You just have to get rid of them right now.

3. Brainstorm with a friend or editor:

Chances are there’s someone in your life who reads your fiction. Stephen King calls them Intended Readers or IR’s. Talk to this person about where you’re stuck. I have a friend I have dinner with once a month. You’d be surprised at the major arguments the husband and our friend have over what’s next in Denver Cereal. It’s fabulous!!

If you can’t think of anyone to talk to, put “FIND SOMEONE TO BRAINSTORM FICTION WITH” at the top of your serial fiction. Readers sometimes have a deeper understanding of what’s going on in your fiction. Mine that resource.

One of my super secret ninja tricks is to ask the audience. When I say, ‘ask your audience’, I mean literally ask them.

We were in a major war here over what to do with a serial killer in Denver Cereal. No one could agree. And I wanted to arrest him, put him on trial, and have justice be served. I’m like that. Rather than continue to war, I got all concerned parties to agree to put it out to our audience. I installed PollDaddy (free edition) and we asked. Man oh man!! The audience came up with stuff I never in a million years would have thought of.

J.J. Abrams says they mine the forums and comment section of Fringe and other TV shows when they get stuck. So I’m in good company.

These are my super ninja tricks for unsticking a stuck serial fiction. What are yours? Leave them in the comment section and we’ll chat about them!

This is an ongoing series about writing serial fiction. The series continues on the last Thursday of every month.


Claudia Hall Christian is an author and a beekeeper. She writes the Alex the Fey thriller series, as well as the crunchy and sweet serial fiction, Denver Cereal. In April, 2011, she’s started a serial about a young widow who loses every thing to find herself, The Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth, TX, for She is Dallas.

 

Why Your Serial Fiction Is Likely to Fail and What To Do About It by Claudia Hall Christian

July 28, 2011

We are very pleased to welcome back a special guest to Tuesday Serial. Claudia Hall Christian is the coordinator for #bookmarket chat every Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST. Be sure to stop by for excellent marketing conversation. But the reason she’s here with us today is that she also writes serials and she’s sharing some excellent tips. This is the second guest post in a series from Claudia.  If you missed her post “5 Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Serial Fiction,” now’s your chance.  Welcome back, Claudia!

 

Your serial fiction is likely to fail. My serial fiction is likely to fail. Hell, Stephen King’s serial fiction failed. You have to face the facts:  serial fictions mostly fail.

Serial fiction fails for one reason and one reason alone.

WRITING SERIAL FICTION IS A TON OF WORK!

Serial fiction is the A game. It’s not something you do on the side. It’s not something you do to ‘make you write more.’ It’s the NFL of writing fiction.

How is writing serial fiction different from writing novels? Easy. It’s completely different.

When you write a novel, you sit at your computer and type. You type and type and type and type and type until you come up with a draft. Meg Cabot writes her novels in six week marathons where she eats, sleeps and dreams of the book until the first draft is complete. So does my friend, and author of more than twenty-nine books, Lynda Sandoval. Even Jonathan Fields wrote his latest non-fiction book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, in a kind of writing frenzy. A lot of books – fiction and non-fiction – are written in this mad dash. And eventually the madness ends.

Round of applause.

If you’re smart, you send your six or so weeks of work off to someone to copy and proof edit it. Then you sleep for a while. You might play with the kids, garden, eat, take long baths, work another job, lay around the house or whatever you do to recharge. One magic day, your manuscript arrives in you inbox or at your door and you get to work again. You work and edit; you wordsmith and worry; and eventually you send your masterpiece out to your early readers.

And you recharge for a while. At some point, your manuscript comes back again. For the next few months or years, you continue this dance of edit and release until the momentus occasion…

Ta da!  Your novel is published.

Round of applause.

Serial fiction is a different animal all together.

If you’re writing traditional serial fiction, the chapters are published as they are written. This means you live in the manic panic all the time. No time to lay around the house, take long baths, or whatever else. Most serial fiction authors don’t even have time to send their work through editing.

They finish a chapter and publish.Wake up and do the same thing the next day and the day after that.

Even if you write a few chapters ahead, some day you’re going to get to the moment when your chapter is due and… it’s your birthday, you’re sick, you’re on vacation, your mother died, or fill in the blank. I had the horrible evil flu; my husband had the same evil flu; the dog was sick; we were on vacation near Aspen; it was dumping so much snow the roads were closed; I had one bar internet service; and I had chapters due. That’s serial fiction.

What did Charles Dickens, the master of serial fiction do? He wrote like a madman all the time! In every occasion, you’d find him sitting in a corner or the side of the room trying to finish a chapter in his serial to fulfill his publication contracts. That’s serial fiction baby!

Sometimes you understand why only a few can play (football) is because it demands more than most are willing to give.” Michael Irvin about the NFL

Writing serial fiction demands more physically, mentally, and emotionally from an author than any sane person should be willing to give. Even if you love the story and get caught up in the flow, there will be a moment when your writing requires every bit of what you have.

All it takes is all you’ve got,” Michael Irvin about the NFL

Serial fiction is the NFL of fiction writing. If you’re thinking of writing a serial, you must know in your mind, body, and soul that you’re stepping into the A game.

And still…

A lot of things take more than any sane person wants to give. Marathon running comes to mind. I have a friend who’s been up Everest so many times its like a trip to the mall. That’s not exactly sane.

Plus The Diary of V ran at Redbook for nine years.

(Later in this series, I’ll do a series of interviews with writers who’ve written their serial for years at a time. We’ll see if they will share their super secret ninja tricks to stay on track.)

What can you do to reduce the risk of your serial fiction failing?

1. Don’t over commit: Take the amount you can publish in a month and cut it in half. Now, cut that amount in half again. If you wish to commit to a serial fiction, you need to commit to one-fourth of what you think you can do. For example, if you think you can write a chapter a week, four chapters a month, commit to doing one chapter a month. Most chapters are between two and four thousand words. If you do a chapter a month, that’s a juicy five hundred word post once a week or five 100 word iPhone sized bites. Perfectly doable.

2. Get help you trust: Get an editor. No, get two. Help is fairly cheap and easy to find right now. Don’t overlook college English majors or virtual assistants. If you ask a family member, remember you’re hoping to do your serial for a while. That’s a lot of pressure on the other person. Be sensitive to the idea that they might get sick of editing your serial.

3. Don’t minimize what you’re trying to do: Would you suit up and for a high school football game? College? How about the NFL? When you commit to a serial fiction, you commit to playing in the big leagues. Charles Dickens is considered one of the top 10 influential authors. That’s ever.  Outside of one novel, Dicken wrote a chapter at a time in traditional serial style. I don’t think there is a bigger league than that.

4. Soldier on. One of the most under-rated writing skills is learning to put your rear in the chair and get your writing done. Life is distracting. There are a lot of things and people who need your attention. Certainly there’s Facebook, Twitter, email and Hulu. But remember this: James Joyce had four children and a nutty wife to care for. While writing the Dubliners, he taught all day, took care of the kids in the afternoon, and tutored rich students most of the night. He scrawled out his stories with a fountain tip pen by candle light because that’s they couldn’t afford other light. At some moment, you will need that kind of strength to get your writing done. And how do we get strong? Through hard work and perseverance.

The world needs the stories only you can tell. Get writing, get help, don’t give up and know you’re in the big leagues. Good luck!

~~~

I can’t decide what to talk about next month. I’m thinking either: “Crap, my serial fiction is stuck!” or “Serial fiction vs. Serialized novel? What?” I’m leaving it up to you to decide.  If there’s something more interesting to you, let me know in the ‘other’ row. See you next month!

 

This is an ongoing series about writing serial fiction. The series continues on the last Thursday of every month.


Claudia Hall Christian is an author and a beekeeper. She writes the Alex the Fey thriller series, as well as the crunchy and sweet serial fiction, Denver Cereal. In April, 2011, she’s started a serial about a young widow who loses every thing to find herself, The Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth, TX, for She is Dallas.

5 Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Serial Fiction by Claudia Hall Christian

June 30, 2011

We are very pleased to welcome a special guest to Tuesday Serial today. Claudia Hall Christian is the coordinator for #bookmarket chat every Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST. Be sure to stop by for excellent marketing conversation. But the reason she’s here with us today is that she also writes serials and she’s sharing some excellent tips. Welcome, Claudia!


When PJ and Tony asked me if I would do a series of posts on writing serial fiction, I was like: “Seriously? You want me? For reals?” in the valley girl voice that reappears after doing cartwheels in the grass with my big blue-eyed 8 year old friend Addy.

They were like: “Yes, seriously,” in their best adult voices.

I was like: “Ok.” And here we are. On the last Thursday of the month for a while, I’ll share some of the ‘how to’s’ of serial fiction on Tuesday Serial.

After this awesome introduction, you’ve got to wonder why the heck they would ask me to do anything. Here are three reasons: 1) I’ve been writing the fun, sexy, addicting, crunchy but sweet serial fiction set in Denver, Denver Cereal for three years; 2) I started my second serial about young widow and Fitness model Lo Downs, The Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth and published by She is Dallas, in April; and 3) I’ve studied, read and know a lot about serial fiction. If there’s something you’re dying to know about serial fiction, be sure to let me know in the comment section.

5 tips for writing kick ass serial fiction

So you woke up one morning and decided to write a serial fiction or maybe someone told you serial fiction was the best way to hone your skills and expand your audience or you were channeling Lucille Ball and came up with a ‘hair brained’ scheme or… Gosh, I can only hope you weren’t driving at the time. When you came to your senses, you realized you want your serial to be awesome but don’t know how.

Here are five easy tips for writing kick ass serial fiction:

1. Don’t just jump right into your serial fiction: In serial fiction, the first three chapters are the anchor of the story. A great first three chapters is not only a fabulous way to hook readers but also your best resource. When you get stuck or confused or not sure where to go next, the first three chapters of any serial will light your way. Take your time with these chapters. Around here, everyone works on the first three chapters. Content editors come up with the weirdest and most perfect stuff. So do husbands, wives and children. Let your freak flag fly in the first three chapters. You’ll gather readers and create a depth you will need to keep your serial going.

2. Pantsers rule the serial fiction universe: I grew up in Southern California in a moment in time when lemon and orange groves stretched from Pasadena to the San Bernardino National Forest. Housing developments and towns were plopped along the mountains, Base Line Road, the railroad and the growing highway system. But the rest was uncharted territory. As a young child, we’ll say 16 since that’s legal driving age and we don’t know each other very well, I would take the family station wagon and try to out drive my sadness. In the dark, I’d start down a dusty road and drive. The mountains ran East to West, so I knew I was going East. I knew if I drove a long, long way, I’d end up in Riverside or San Bernardino. I’d peer over the steering wheel, pop in a tape cassette and press the pedal. Great serial fiction is created in the same fashion. I could only see to the edges of the headlights. You have to have some idea of where you’re going, and enough gas to get there, but otherwise, the writer can only see to the edge of your headlights. This is how Dickens wrote. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes in this manner. Heck, it’s how J.J. Abrams creates his successful TV shows, Lost, Fringe and others. It’s just how it’s done.

3. Build a great team: When you write serial fiction, no matter how fast you type and how inspired you are, you cannot do everything. You simply do not have time. You need a team of people to help you with proof reading, content editing, art, website maintenance, and anything else you can’t seem to get to. (For me, that includes someone to clean the house.) While it sounds expensive, you can’t afford not to find people you can trust. We’ve bartered, traded, used our friends, and paid for services to make this happen. In the end, we all feel like we’re creating a product we can be proud of.

4. Create memorable characters and reintroduce them: Spend time brainstorming about your characters and their lives. What are their quirkiest characteristics? What do they do when they’re not in your story? Sure, what they look like is important, but for a serial fiction, how they look is a lot less important than the intimate odd familiarity of their personalities. If you’re looking for inspiration, look at the great character actors of our time. For example, Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester in Glee and Paula Newcomb as Director Vance’s wife in NCIS. These women have almost no screen time and yet they create memorable characters. How do they do it? That’s exactly what you want.

5. Remember your basics: Don’t groan. Basics matter more in serial fiction because you’re carrying people from one week or one month to the next. In case you’ve forgotten, here are a few: adjectives and adverbs are the ebil; omit needless words; you have 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention; ridiculing your characters makes you look like a jerk; every reader blesses you the tremendous gift of their time. In order to keep the basics in my mind, I read Stunk and White’s The Elements of Style (4th Edition) and Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun & Profit at least once a year. Writing isn’t magic. It takes inspiration and hard work to make it happen.

So, those are my top 5 tips for writing serial fiction. Next month, we’ll talk about why your serial fiction is likely to fail (and what to do about it).

Before we get there, I’d love to know what’s your favorite tip for writing serial fiction?


Claudia Hall Christian is an author and a beekeeper. She writes the Alex the Fey thriller series, as well as the crunchy and sweet serial fiction, Denver Cereal. In April, 2011, she started a serial about a young widow who loses every thing to find herself, The Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth, TX, for She is Dallas.