Today’s guest post comes to you by Tuesday Serial’s very own, Larry Kollar, as he shares with us his experiences in writing serial fiction.
How I Did Everything Wrong (and Still Finished My Serials)
by Larry Kollar
On July 10, 2007—ten years ago! And nearly three years before #TuesdaySerial existed—I wrote and uploaded a blog post titled FAR Future: Episode 1. The title was a pun on my blog’s name, FAR Manor, because it was set in the near future—five years to the day, to be exact. With more confidence than warranted, I said I had “woke up this morning knowing how to proceed with this particular series.” Nearly two years later, on May 9, 2009, I finished the story and the last installment (Episode 104) went up on September 7.
I consider this quite an accomplishment in retrospect, because I started with:
- no plot or story arc
- no real clue what I was doing besides posting little “slice of life” missives from a fuel-depleted future
- no set posting schedule, beyond a pipe-dream of two or even three posts per week (it became once per week after reality set in)
- no episodes in a queue for posting
In short, I did everything wrong but managed to finish a serial—an epic one, at that. It worked out for me, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone else trying it.
Obviously, I had a few things going for me. Not the least: complete ignorance what I’d gotten myself into. Having a group of people egging me on in the comments was probably what kept me going, though, when it grew far beyond anything I’d ever intended. At one point, I thought it would run 60 episodes. That became 80, then 85-95, and finally 104.
You would have thought I’d learned.
As I was wrapping up FAR Future, I thought I’d have a chance to rest up before tackling the next big project, but it tackled me first. Two weeks after FAR Future wrapped up, I posted the first episode of White Pickups—a flash fiction piece that blew up into something (much) larger when I asked myself “Okay, what happens next?”
This time, at least, I had a handful of episodes written up. I still didn’t know where I was going, but figured it would work itself out like the last one did. I also figured it would wrap up after 40 episodes or so. WRONG. Not only did it run 90 episodes, I realized I was only halfway through the whole story. In the end, it turned into two full novels (the second one named Pickups and Pestilence). Not only that, its genre shifted from soft-SF to contemporary high fantasy… fortunately, that shift happened early enough that I could do it without disrupting what I’d already posted.
After White Pickups wrapped up, I had yet another flash fiction piece grow on me… a four-part story that became Accidental Sorcerers. The short story grew a sequel, then another… and then I had a novella and decided to put it on Amazon. I would say “the rest is history,” but I published Book 7 at the end of last year, Book 8 should be out in the next month or two, and I’m not done yet.
Too far in the other direction?
After that, I wrote several shorter serials… and I waited until I was done, or almost done, before posting them. This took some of the stress out of it, and maybe I needed that while I was working on stories I meant to sell. But the spontaneity was gone, and (for me) that’s part of the fun of writing serials.
But with all the stories I’ve posted on my blog (and on the defunct WriteOn), I only ever left one hanging—The Lost Years, a Termag story about the aftermath of The Madness—and I’ve resumed work on it. Never say never, right?
A happy medium!
I think I hit a happy medium with Blink. Once I realized it was going to grow legs and start running, I structured it much like Accidental Sorcerers, as a series of serialized short stories. But this time, I did it deliberately. There’s an arc, but I wrote each one to stand mostly on its own.
Before posting, I had a handful of episodes to get the story started, and a pretty good idea of how it was to end. By now, I had some writing experience, and could make a reasonable guess at how long the story would go. Posting the beginning of each story gave me the incentive to keep writing.
There are scary ways to write a serial, and there are safe ways. But maybe there’s only one rule for writing a serial that really counts: keep at it until it’s done.
About the author…
Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals—some of which might be fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal, the Were-Traveler, and the anthology Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2. Longer works include his first novel, White Pickups, and the popular Accidental Sorcerers series.
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