A Story Takes Shape

Sharing scenes from my current novel-in-progress (maaaaybeeee novellaaaaa…) has been quite the experience. So in no particular order…

…it forces me to write something. I promised to send people scenes every Sunday, and I haven’t missed a Sunday yet (17 Sundays so far!)
…it pushes me through my fear of judgment. The fear is still there, but I’m facing it down!
…it makes me write differently. In part, this is because I know someone is going to read it, unlike the stack of stories in my very large binder. But also because I’m sharing it in sections, it isn’t like a book someone can just keep reading or flip back through the pages. What if a reader has forgotten a character? What if I pick up where a scene from two weeks ago left off? And I don’t want a narrator to jump in with, “When we last saw our hero…” So, there are more scene changes than there probably would be otherwise.
…it has me wondering how long something like this can go on. A novel might be 250 pages, but my 17 installments (that’s 17 weeks!) is not even 40 pages in my Word doc. I could make each installment longer, of course, but people do not like long emails. People are already giving me a great gift of their time to read what I send. Asking anyone to read a ten page chapter in their email (and probably on their phone) seems…a bit much.
…it makes me cringe! If I were writing this like a normal person, I’d have it completely written and I’d have fixed all the plot holes and straightened out the plot lines. My apologies, those along for the ride! I’m taking you on a journey and I get the next part of the map when we stop at a stop sign. And it’s dark so I can’t see the potholes. And the engine is unreliable. And maybe the driver shouldn’t even have a license.
…it has logistical issues. What really is the best way to serialize a novel in this digital age? Maybe I should used a different for than Tiny Letter. I like Tiny Letter, but it makes sharing old issues next to impossible. But on the other hand, it is free!
…it is fun! For me anyway. I enjoy it the same way I love NaNoWriMo and Story-a-Day May. It’s a challenge!

If anyone has a question, ask! And thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “A Story Takes Shape

  1. You’re doing great — it’s safe to stop second-guessing yourself now. (Ha.) Have to admit I laughed at the qualification: “If I were writing this like a normal person…” — I think one of the things your consistent readers value about your writing is that you do NOT write “like a normal person.” It’s a tough, maybe unresolvable dilemma, which boils down to: if you wrote “normally” you might (and might not) attract more readers — on the other hand, some of your regular audience might drift away.

    I always think about prolific authors of the past, who had no sense of (and no way of learning) the size/scope of their readership. How did Author X manage to keep going, while having no real idea how many people they were reaching? Somebody like Dickens might’ve been able to point to actual sales (as I understand it, not that I’m an authority, he obsessed about sales volumes), but I think he was probably an exception. What about the less-than-top-tier authors, or for that matter the true oddballs like Poe? I wouldn’t mind having Poe’s legacy, but would I want Poe’s LIFE? And what in the world kept him going, despite all the frustrations and desperate floundering he experienced?

    My only real experience with “publishing” serial fiction was a sorta-kinda novella — maybe a novellini — I did online some years ago, one chapter a week, for a total of only 12 chapters. It amounted to less than 20K words. It’s one of the most interesting things I ever wrote, from my own perspective as a writer/reader. But it “went” nowhere, so to speak — “nowhere” in normal terms. Does that mean I shouldn’t have bothered? What good did it do, for me or anyone else? I don’t think questions like that are really anything but frustrating — and they will stifle what small satisfactions I can get from creative activity at this very fraught point in history.

    Keep going, until you decide you simply can’t. Trust us (whoever, and however many) to follow!

    1. I’m glad I was able to save your comment from the spam bin. Makes no sense to me that it was there!

      I just keep thinking there’s a way I’m supposed to be doing this…but then I don’t really make any effort to try any other way. Thanks for reading and sticking with me. I was thinking about Dickens when I decided to give this serialized novel thing a try but not about his obsession over sales. Egads, I love Dickens but he must’ve been impossible. (He was certainly awful to his wife!) Ah, and Poe…definitely would love his legacy not his life. But I’ve been very happy with the tiny readership I have. The feedback has been positive and it really does cheer me up, especially in this wild year.

      It is worth it, that publishing experience with your novella/novellini! Though these days it can feel otherwise.

      But I can say that this is good for me. I’m learning something about my writing style and plotting. I have never been so focused on plot before. But also, questions about creative endeavors are frustrating. What’s the point of any of it? I don’t know. But not doing it isn’t an option even at this time when so much seems not helpful to saving the world. And shouldn’t saving the world be the priority?

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