Following in the Footsteps of Dickens?

Recently, one of the bloggers I follow posted a mini rant about buying an ebook that turned out to be a first draft of the first segment in a serialized story. (Yes, that’s you Meeka!) I can’t blame her for feeling a bit exploited by the writer of that un-finished book. I know that ebooks are rarely edited to perfection and, honestly, I’ve found typos in hardcover editions from major publishers so there seems to be a lot of imperfect, not-quite-finished books out there. But I think there should be a difference between inviting readers to check out a draft and selling a completed story of any length.

I found myself getting hooked by the second part of the ebook’s description — it was part of a serialized story. What a great idea! Walking in the footsteps of Dickens could be a dream come true — or a nightmare. Meeka did something of that when she participated in one of those write every day, don’t look back, fast track novel writing experiments.

I’m not a “joiner” by nature so I shy away from the group hugs of fiction writing fests. But why not do my own experiment in serialized storytelling? I pondered this on a beautiful, sunny, winter’s day as I walked home from an appointment about 30 city blocks from my home and by the time I reached my door the plan was burning a hole in my computer keyboard. I resurrected the plot of an unfinished, and sadly rambling, manuscript and got to work.

Between five that afternoon and midnight, I had four short chapters and in the morning I added most of the fifth before going to the gym. Telling the same story I had carefully prepared and researched five years ago, but telling it in short bursts from clear perspectives and with as few tangents as the characters would allow, made the story fly.

It doesn’t have the cliff hangers of an old fashioned serialized novel, but I am aiming to reveal a distinct and important part of the mystery in each chapter. I hope to post it chapter-by-chapter on this blog over a period of weeks. But unlike the writer of Meeka’s rant, I will complete the story BEFORE I post the first chapter.

How’s that for walking in the footsteps of Dickens? It feels a little like jumping out of an airplane and hoping the parachute opens in time. In other words — it’s a lot like writing fiction.


    • Candy

      That’s so funny!
      The story I’m working on — now up to chapter 7 — involves a playwright and references to Shakespeare… what a coincidence. The plays the thing to catch the conscience of the king.

  1. Wow! The Pollyanna in me is jumping up and down in excitement. What an amazing silver lining this is. You’ve taken the concept of serialization and used it to revitalize a story that was languishing. And I love the idea of you paring it down to the bone. I’ve always been -cough- verbose -cough- but lately I’ve discovered that less really is more. I’m looking forward to reading this new story. Does it have a name?

    • Candy

      I think one of the BIG upsides of electronic publishing is the end of the 300 page tome. Yes, some stories require 300 pages to tell and some require many, many, many more BUT other require many fewer. I’ve read so many books — especially mysteries — that were padded to bulk up to the conventional size. Too much words can get in the way.

      Of course sagas — big rambling tales of multiple generations and wars and fantasy civilizations — can take hundreds of pages to tell. Writing is not one-size-fits all.

      I’m not going to publish the name until I’m ready to roll with it. At this rate it’ll be soon, but I’m sure that rate will slow. It’s only natural.

  2. Ok Candy, it does sound interesting and I’d be happy to read the entries as they come. But for horror/terror why not Edgar Allan Poe? Did you know he has the same birthday as Robert E. Lee? Significant only because it is the same as mine! Best,

    • Candy

      It’s so funny that you should mention Poe. The third ebook in my Candy’s Monsters series is POED. POED is my contemporary gothic inspired by the master of classic horror. It’s already out — only .99 on Amazon (.77 in the UK).

      My candidate for serialization is more of a straight out mystery. I’ve got 30 pages in three days — it’s going fast.

      Get POED!

      As for sharing your birthday with Poe and Robert E. Lee — that’s just plain wonderful! I share mine with Martin Luther King Jr. This year, I’ll be celebrating my January 15 birthday on the 17th with another Poe/Lee birthday boy. He hosts a Tango dance that night so why not have a birthday dance two days after my birthday & two days before his?

      Happy Birthday!

  3. It’s funny how inspiration can just come to you. I had a similar thing happen on a long walk and it was like a revelation, it was a revelation. I am happy you were able to make such progress and were happy about the outcome. 🙂

    BTW: came via Jeri’s blog.

    • Candy

      Yeah! A migrant from Jeri’s blog!!!

      And the progress on this idea has been rapid — practically aerobic pace for writing. At this rate, I’ll have a credible first draft, with chapters for serializing done in less than a week. I’m a fast writer but this is crazy fast.

      I hope your revelation leads to a great writing experience too!

  4. Making a blog into a book – or posting chapters of a book as a blog – is a great idea. As you say, it’s been done by Dickens and others, and this digital world makes it easy for us to do now – but it has its pitfalls. Writing the book first – and going through the editing process – seems to me the best way of doing it. Otherwise you run the risk of annoying your readers and getting lots of negative feedback.- not good for any writer’s reputation! I’ve looked at several indie books on Amazon and been turned off by elementary mistakes that should have been sorted before the book was published. But that’s the downside of ‘DIY’ publishing. I guess Dickens – brilliant though he is – would have benefited from a little ‘less is more’ approach!

    • Candy

      I am completely with you on the a “little less is more” and that basic copyediting must be done in advance of any exposure. I managed to write the entire thing — a little less than 50 pages in 16 short chapters — in four days. Crazy writing pace. I’ve put is aside for a bit, will have one or two trusted readers look at it, then a basic proofing and fixing, then and only then will I figure out when to start the serialization. Part of this will be soliciting input for the story, but you are right if all the feedback is about typos it’s not helpful, or fun, for anyone.

  5. What a wonderful idea! I’ll be looking forward to see how it turns out. Finishing BEFORE you post seems the best tactic. When I first started blogging, I looked into blogs written from a fictionalized POV, but came across very few. I have this idea lurking in my brain to have a supernatural creature write a blog about their life and times, but don’t know if there is much of an audience. However, your idea seems fantastic in that the reader would know they’re getting installments of one of your stories.

    • Candy

      I LOVE the idea of a blog from the POV of a supernatural creature! I would be in your audience and I’m sure there are others out there.

      As for finishing the soon-to-be-serialized novella, I marathon-ed it and finished the draft in 4 days. I need to put some more time into it, but at this rate I’ll start posting it bit-by-bit sometime in February.

    • Candy

      I wrote the first draft in four days! This means I had better give it a very in-depth look over before I start sharing it here. I’m aiming for February.