Monday, March 7, 2011
Planning my summer vacation (and maybe yours)
How would you guys like some free story?
It occurred to me the other day that I really miss doing serial fiction. I loved it when I was younger—the sense of progress that came of posting chapters regularly, the glee of watching readers drive themselves crazy speculating what would happen next, the challenge of improvising on the fly when a given character or plotline wasn’t working. And I had a dream, long ago, that someday I could walk into the office of a major publisher and say, “Here’s my new novel and a list of the umpty-gazillion people who signed up to read my last one. How would you like to be the one selling them what they desperately want to buy?” Granted, this was the sort of thing you fantasize about when you’re bored in freshman health class and never actually do, but it was a nice dream. I miss having it.
Mostly, I miss the sense that I was regularly doing something nice for people who were nice to me. I’m pretty much back to square one, as far as the old writing career goes, which is understandably distressing, and I long ago figured out that the best way to deal with my own problems (particularly the ones I couldn’t do much about very soon) was to help someone else. Stories were always my favorite way of doing that. Well, that and food. But I can’t bake you all cookies—some of you are in places like Mongolia or Ukraine, and the cookies would arrive as crumbs, if they arrived at all. So I’m considering writing you all some stories instead.
I’ll be honest—I’m contemplating this in part because it will give me an excuse to learn some basic web design and figure out how serialization works nowadays. The old email model I used in the late ‘90s just won’t fly anymore. I want to figure out how to set up an RSS feed, and format my stories to be read on smartphones and tablets, and all that good stuff. I also expect the series to drive a bit of traffic to my new website when I get it up and running, because—and this is the important part—if I do it at all, the entire serialized novel will be available for free.
Yep. You read that right. Free. Gratis. Costing zip, nada, and zilch, except whatever you pay to connect to the Web and download it in bite-sized weekly chapters. Basically, I’m asking you to put up with my inevitable technical fumbles in exchange for some kickass free entertainment. Well, put up with my technical fumbles and invite everyone you know to laugh at them with you.
You see, whatever book I write next (and there are a few in the hopper) is easily a year or more away from being purchased by a publisher, and that’s if the stars align and I take someone’s firstborn child hostage. And in my last attempt to get published, one of the most consistent criticisms of my work had nothing to do with my work—it was that I didn’t have enough “name recognition.” Basically, I wasn’t famous enough to be worth anyone’s time. So it occurs to me that if I spend that year or two not only writing and pimping the new book, but building up a fanbase for a serial … suddenly I’m in a much stronger bargaining position. And you guys are entertained. Win-win.
So I’m kicking around ideas for a serial. I’ve got it about halfway through the plotting process while all the other books are in a temporary holding pattern. I hope to start banging out chapters soon, and then revising them and sending them out to a reading circle sometime in late spring. Since the serial isn’t going to my agent, or anyone else who requires a four- to ten-week window to respond, I hope to have something ready to post by summer. July, maybe.
The serial’s shaping up as a nice summer vacation for me. Based on the outline, it will have action, and romance, and humor, and a little bit of magic. It will involve a few characters I’ve talked about on this blog, and a few I haven’t. People will laugh, people will cry, stuff will blow up. I’m enjoying my time spent in this particular fictional world, and I think you’ll like it too.
But … getting a serial going depends on you guys. In the bad old days I could recruit readers out of my high school, stuffing chapters into their lockers before first period. I don’t exactly have that option anymore, so I’ll need some help drawing eyeballs to the project.
This is where you come in.
If I write it, will you come? Will you subscribe to the RSS, and bug your friends, and post links all over Twitter and Facebook and your blogs? You guys are the early adopters here, so I need you on board if this is going to work. Will you check the serial out on your iPads and smartphones, and tell me if I screwed something up with the formatting?
Most importantly—will you read it? Will you enjoy it? Will you share it?
I await your answer …