Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Writing Serial

I’ve been writing more of my anthropologist journal and giving it in monthly installments to the writing workshop. My writing partner-pal Rikoshi has been doing the same with his novel, and last night we were discussing some aspects of writing serially that are good, and some that are bad.

To the good: the big one is that it forces you to get something done. So far we have both been pretty good about meeting our deadlines, six chapters into our respective books. Considering that’s five chapters more than I’d produced in the previous year, that’s terrific. Another good thing is that it breaks down the story into smaller parts, and you feel like at the end of each part, you have to make it interesting enough for the reader to pick up the next part. That’s a great way to avoid getting lost in meandering long descriptions and loose plot threads. When people aren’t engaged in the most recent chapter, they’ll let you know. There’s also the ability to take feedback from earlier chapters and incorporate it into later ones without having to wait to go back and edit it. That’s tremendously helpful and will save time when you go back to edit the whole thing, because you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what needs to be fixed.

The bad: pretty much what you would expect. You’re showing people first drafts, fairly raw ones. It’s hard for the readers to develop a flow because they’re just reading one chapter a month (still, Dickens used to do all right with that). You can’t go back and fix things in earlier chapters to make what you just wrote in this recent one make more sense.

Overall, though, we both agreed that the good outweighs the bad, and that we’re learning a lot from this experience. It’s definitely something that works for us, and if you have a workshop group and a novel you’re stuck with, it’s worth giving it a try.

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2 responses to “Writing Serial

  1. Rikoshi July 24, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Another good thing is that it breaks down the story into smaller parts, and you feel like at the end of each part, you have to make it interesting enough for the reader to pick up the next part.I feel like my inability to do this (or my inability to convince myself that I can do it) is one of my big problem points, actually.

  2. Anonymous July 26, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    You mention Dickens, and it opens a whole line of thought. This is really a different style of writing. It is a ‘serial novel,’ which has roots in the 19th Century and it does contribute to a sort of ‘pot-boiler’ vibe– or ‘cliff-hanger,’ if you prefer. That isn’t bad, but it is different; because of your inability to go back and change chapters that are already ‘out there’ and thus in the past, you do have certain constraints. I think the way it makes you write makes it worth it. And any minuses are countered by the fact that you *know* that once you are done the ‘serialized’ version, you get to edit the ‘complete in one volume’ version to meet your own specs.But that is something to remember when you do finish and go to staple all those chapters together: This is a different format, really. So enjoy it!NED!

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