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.