I've already written a few posts about serials (On Serials, and the older-but-still-relevant Indie=Dime Novels of 2012?), but writer-friend Heather Sutherlin had a few more questions...
...so, this post is for you, Heather!
How did you schedule in writing, editing, revising, etc?
I wrote the first three episodes before I launched the series, then wrote as I went. Mostly the pace was "write crazy fast," driven by the episode release schedule of every two weeks, with a little lead time (given by the pre-written episodes). Once the first draft of an episode was done, I did a quick second draft, then sent it off to my three critique partners. As soon as that episode was off, I started writing the next one. My crit partners were wicked fast in turning the eps around - I seriously couldn't have done this without them. Once I had their feedback, I revised - there were only a couple episodes where entire chapters had to be rewritten, so for the most part, revisions went quickly. Then I read through once more out-loud for line editing, formatted and read the episode on my kindle for proofing, and it was time to upload. Episodes took from a week to three weeks to draft, depending on my level of discipline. Overall, it was 125k over nine episodes in about 4 months (my fastest prior pace being about 85k in 5 months).
So I was writing constantly.
- Swapping pages with a friend every Monday helped keep me on track.
- The pace I set for writing wasn't completely outrageous, just very challenging.
What about cover art? How did you handle having to create/purchase new covers so frequently?!
I had a great partner in creating cover art with Steven Novak. The first thing I wrestled with was the general "brand" or "look" to the series: dark, gritty, future-noir. I actually struggled for some time before I came up with a concept that I liked, namely black-and-white photos branded with fonts and background. Then I spent a ton of time trolling stock-art sites looking for just the right images. Finally, I decided that quality covers pay for themselves, and brought Steven on board to make the covers awesome (he did the covers for fellow Indelible RaShelle Workman's 12 part serial, so I knew he could execute on it). He totally "got" my concept, and making covers with him was a dream. But it was time-intensive. Writing the serials at the pace I set was challenging enough; I underestimated how much time I would spend creating covers and formatting and uploading as well (even though I had done these things before). I could have outsourced the formatting part, but that would have slowed things down, so in the end, I think the process worked well.
But it was intense.
But it was intense.
- Stock art site trolling can suck up your time if you're not careful
- All that stock art trolling will come in handy when you make a trailer
- A nine part serial actually requires about 15 covers - the individual episodes, the collections, the print and audio versions
How did you handle the actual plotting? Did you plot the whole series to begin with and then sit down to write each episode? Or did you plot a few and then add to it as you went?
Once I had written the first three episodes, I had a general plot direction for the series. But I also left lots of room for pantsing my way through - partly because I wanted to listen to reader feedback and have the chance to incorporate it (which I did on several occasions), and partly because I was still discovering the world as I wrote the series. One of my favorite characters (Valac), I didn't plan on having at all until he showed up on the pages. His story arc drove much of Episodes 4-6. I wasn't completely certain about the story arc of Episodes 7-9 until Episode 6 was written. So, I mostly pantsed my way through, with the caveat that at this point (having written several books, including a complete trilogy), I have a pretty firm grasp on the rhythm of a story that will (hopefully) be satisfying to the reader.
- A strong, character-driven premise makes storytelling easier
- A rich story-world makes creating the details easier
- Every episode doesn't have to be plotted out, but getting feedback as I went (from CPs) was extremely valuable for keeping me on-track
More questions? Throw them in the comments and I'll give them a stab. :)