6.19.2013

Digital Serial Fiction


Back in April, the seed for a story began to germinate in the back of my mind. I wanted to take advantage of the hypertextual nature of the Internet as a storytelling medium, and I wanted to write another novella to (perhaps) anchor an upcoming collection of stories. 

QUICK TANGENT: I like novellas. I like reading them and I like writing them. I read a lot of negative, one-star reviews on Amazon and similar sites which bemoan the length of a given tale, but the novella lends itself nicely to some stories, and the Internet lends itself nicely to the novella. Outside of the occasional novella in Fantasy & Science Fiction, I just don't see them much anymore in print. Additionally, it seems that more people should, in theory, be enjoying the novella just based on some of the thoughts expressed in this excellent article by Nicholas Carr.

Here's a quote: 
Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”
We are re-wiring some important mental processes, and I think shorter seems to be the general trend...
END OF TANGENT

So this story--a bit of a dystopian middle-grade cannibalism disaster story told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old survivor--spilled out of me pretty quick...at least initially. I came into it knowing I wanted to write a serial, and I was mindful of how I wanted to pace it out. I designed a site, opened a WattPad account, and dusted off my old Scribd. account. I thought I'd write ten chapters consisting roughly of 2,000 words, and I'd release a new chapter every Monday. 

You can read the story here, by the way.

How did it do? Well, I received almost no interest on WattPad. I might try another tale on that medium, or I might not. At this point in time, I think it's important to maybe identify and nourish the dozen (or so) digital spaces that best suit your needs, and then just let the rest go. I had a few readers there, though, so that is always gratifying.

Scribd. was much better. At last count, the story was looked at 487 times. I had, on a weekly basis, about 100 page views for the different chapters on Blogger. It still gets some good traffic, and a lot of people come over here, to this woefully neglected little blog, from the Remnants site. 

I've sold about fifty total copies since the story went up on Amazon in trade paperback and digital. Folks have e-mailed me kind words on it, and I always appreciate the encouragement. It makes getting back to the word processor much easier, to be sure...

In terms of the writing process, I wrote the first four chapters in full and worked with some of my friends at the college on revisions. For the rest of the story, I purposely chose to write on a weekly deadline. It was positive pressure--that knowledge that, come hell or high water, something had to get done if the story was going to move forward (whether it did or not is always up to you, dear reader...). I think the immediacy of the medium and the ability to connect a story to artifacts outside it's diegetic boundaries can make the digital serial a practically limitless artistic artifact.

Some of my favorite writers have penned great articles and essays on their love for the serials of their youth. There is just something delicious about the anticipation of waiting for the next installment in a series. I just polished off thirty hours of Game of Thrones, folks, and believe me--that little-kid, I-can't-wait-another-minute-to-open-these-presents fever was on me in full when I was watching that show. My initial appraisal fell far short. It's the best television I've seen in years. 

So, all in all I enjoyed writing Remnants: A Record of Our Survival very much, and I hope it provides an entertaining escape for those that stumble upon it. I'll definitely revisit the genre in the future when the right project presents itself.

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