Generally when we think of fantasy novels, we think of epic volumes similar to the 1500 page Brandon Sanderson novels or the 14 book Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (later taken over by Brandon Sanderson). So when I wrote my first draft of Falls of Redemption several years ago and it came out to 160,000 words (roughly 600 pages), I thought I was off to a good start. I was keeping it short-ish, since this is recommended for new authors, and yet it was long enough to meet the standards of fantasy novels.
Over the years of the revision process, my book changed drastically (as a book should), even to the point that I decided to publish it as 6 "Episodes," of about 100 pages each.
"What-the-what?" you may ask. Here's my logic:
Two main influences on my decision to go the episodic route were the "Self-Publishing Podcast" and watching how gaming companies are making a successful model out of episodic games.
If you read my books (Creative Writing Career) or blog posts (CreativeWritingCareer.com), you know I'm a big fan of the Self-Publishing Podcast. The guys over there are prolific and amazingly open with their process and advice. They advise pushing out your episodes every week or two, but for many of us, that is a tight schedule. Since I am not as well known as them, I'm starting off with once a month for my Falls of Redemption serial, though I'll consider their schedule in the future as I pick up traction. My reasoning here is that this will allow me to properly market each book as they come out, and I can always push my last 3 or 4 books to a weekly or bi-weekly schedule if the demand is there.
Some good points they make is that you have to still do proper editing and find professional looking covers, because you want to showcase yourself as a professional. The hard part there will be that if you are publishing 5 or 6 books in your "season," as serial books are often broken into, you don't want to have to pay someone to do 5 or 6 covers. Instead consider one cover with different color schemes, different enough to make it clear that they are different books. The Chronicles of Steele: Raven books do a great job of this, and I'd love to work with the cover artist of those.
One main reason I see episodic games being successful is that they break up the level of commitment into chunks. Some of us feel that a 40 hour game, or even a 15 hour game, is too much time to spend in front of the television hacking away at pixels. But if you give me 1.5 to 2 hours a month? Sure, I can manage that. So it works for parents and people with jobs, anyone really who finds that time is scarce. Maybe it works better for kids with lower attention spans? Like a game, fantasy novels can be huge commitments, but if you tell me I only have to read 100 pages and I'll be done with the first episode, I'm intrigued. I can give you enough time to read 100 pages, and if I don't like it, I don't read the rest.
But it also works better for the producer of the material, because instead of waiting until the whole 12 hour game is developed, which would likely take a year or two, now the company can publish something every couple of months, and keep the audience engaged and excited. Likewise with a novel, instead of trying to edit a massive beast, now you can edit 100 page chunks -- and I would argue this could make your story better, because you're considering the pacing and plot in a specific part of your story. Like the screenwriter, you really should give this kind of attention to each scene, while keeping the bigger picture in mind the whole time.
Pricing is another factor here. With an episodic game I may have only spent $4.99 an episode, compared to as much as $60 for a traditional style game. While $10 for a novel may not sound like a lot, if I read a lot I'm going to go broke after a while. With serials I can charge $0.99 to $2.99 an episode, and give people a fun experience for much less money, time, and commitment. Now it's up to my story to pull them in and get them hooked.
Returning to Your Roots:
But if you want that massive fantasy novel, or whatever other genre novel, don't worry. After publishing your serial, or episodes, you can follow what other authors are doing and publish them all as one. If you do this, you'll have your 5 or 6 episodes, plus your book that contains them all, for a grand total of 6 or 7 books on Amazon helping you to get exposure. Serials may not be the way you want to present your book, but I hope I have given you something to think about. As an author who has done both, I can say there are some books that work better for it, and some that are great as standalone pieces. You have to make the call as the artist.
To follow my adventures in the serial business, check out Falls of Redemption on Amazon. My other novels and non-fiction books can be found on Amazon as well, and the audiobooks are available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.com. Enjoy!
About Justin M Sloan
Justin Sloan is a video game writer at Telltale Games, where he writes on Game of Thrones. As a novelist, Justin has published several MG and YA novels, and is about to publish his first literary novel. He is also an optioned screenwriter. Justin studied writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television's Professional Program in Screenwriting.
Justin was in the Marines for five years and has lived in Japan, Korea, and Italy. He currently lives with his amazing wife and children in the Bay Area, where he writes and enjoys life.
During a recent interview I was asked what I do if I get writer's block. At the time I didn't have an answer because it had never happened to me; writing had always come easily, although some days more easily than others. But a few months later–after I put my first young adult novel out in the world–I suddenly found myself either staring at a blank page or feeling like I was squeezing words out drop by drop.
What had changed? I asked myself. It wasn't an issue of process; I'd already written several books before. It wasn't an issue of time; I had the same amount of time as I'd always had. I finally realized that the “block” was all in my head. My mind was literally getting in the way of the creative process.
The truth is it's a scary process putting your work out into the world, particularly a novel like WISH, which is a very personal story. The book received wonderful reviews for the most part but there were a few that were not-so-stellar. After reading a couple of them, my inner critics went wild and the results were crippling: every time I sat down to write, nasty thought bombs were going off in my head:
The bombs just kept coming. No wonder I couldn't get anything done. I couldn't even hear myself think over the noise.
Something had to change.
I gave myself a few days off and did things that make me happy: yoga, dance, walks along the beach, other kinds of creative projects. I talked to other artist friends about how they keep going in the face of criticism. I noticed that every author gets bunk reviews–even those I most admire (award-winning authors!). Lastly, I revisited the reasons why I write in the first place. Although writing is hard work, there's a special kind of magic that happens in the process. It's amazing to experience... and highly addictive. Writing is like painting with words; each story an opportunity to spread more light in the world.
All of these things helped me recalibrate and get the creative flow moving.
It simply isn't possible to satisfy everyone... some will like it, some won't. Who's really qualified to say whether something is good or not? It's all subjective. But digging deep within myself to find the heart of the story, saying it with unwavering honesty, finding pleasure in the act of writing...that's what keeps me coming back.
As long as I keep going, I know I'll get somewhere.
About Grier Cooper
Grier Cooper has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer.
She blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse
collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of the new ballet-based young adult novel, WISH. Grier can be reached through her website at http://www.griercooper.com
You may imagine that writers are similar to any other person when it comes to dating. You probably believe that we’re just artsy people who like to read a lot. Well that is true but that is not all that we are. Remember… don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
We zone out a lot
We’re daydreamers. Where do you suppose our stories come from? Our heads are filled with many different worlds where we can escape to, as we then to often do.
We’re possessive of our stationary
Do not move our pens! We have favourite pens and notebooks. Don’t write in our notebook… or read it unless we show you
Give us space
Many writers tend to be introverted. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to spend time with you but it means you need to let us have a bit of alone time so that we can wind down. Especially if we are tired from socializing.
Read our books… once we’re happy with them
We want you to read our work. Our writing is a way of expressing ourselves and we want to share that with you. We want to be able to chat about our stories and have you understand what we’re jabbering about.
Don’t say, “I’m not going to read it because I don’t read”
If you don’t read you won’t be a writer’s partner for long.
When we are excited about an idea, don’t put it down or criticize it.
We’re likely to try bouncing ideas around with you and occasionally there will be an idea we are really excited about. We’re going to tell you about these ideas and talk about how we will work it into our story. Our minds are made up about it. So don’t you trample our dreams with your criticism.
Only ‘help’ us when we ask for it. Don’t assume that we’ll take all of your advice though.
If we trust you as a partner we also respect your opinion on our work. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly our god of good literature. We’ll listen to your feedback and make the changes we believe will be of benefit. Don’t feel like we don’t care what you think when we don’t follow your advice.
We love to hear a good story
We love to spend time with people who like to talk about their lives. Even if it is just one small, interesting thing that has happened to you or around you. We expect you to listen when we tell you our stories too.
We’re insane… isn’t that right Freddy?
If you’re partner suddenly starts muttering to themselves or make strange faces, don’t be alarmed. They’re likely imagining a scene from one of their stories and getting overly involved. Not saying that some of us aren’t actually crazy.
We’re pretty public with our lives… Google me
Most people in the 1st world can discover a fair bit about us. If you’re wondering about what’s significant in our lives at the moment (and aren’t going to ask for some reason) then just check our blog. You can also read our biographies on our websites. Just use Google and you’ll find a lot of info on us!
Expect characters in our writings who seem suspiciously similar to you
We don’t necessarily go out of our way to base our characters on people we know. However, our writing can reflect our own lives and interests. If you’re an interest to us (which you would hope you were) then one of our characters might just find themselves with similar physical or psychological traits to you.
We reeeeally like pyjamas… don’t expect us to change unless we’re leaving the house.
Seriously, why should we change if we don’t have to? They’re comfier than any other clothing.
When we say we have “Writer’s Block” it is a serious problem
Don’t shrug us off when we’re having a mini break down, saying, “Calm down, you’ll be fine.” To a writer, not being able to write even though we want to, is like an athlete breaking their legs. The best way to help us would be to help us find inspiration. Running us a bath is a good start.
Make us hot beverages
We love hot drinks, whether it’s coffee, tea, or chocolate. We’ll think it’s super sweet if you place a cuppa next to us while were writing. It’s a good way to show you care about us.
Don’t piss us off
Make us angry and you might be killed off in our next book. We’ll be pretty imaginative with it as well!
Hope you guys enjoyed this post! If you have any other tid-bits about dating a writer that you would like to share please comment below :D
Scarlett Van Dijk
Have you ever been good at something without knowing how? ‘How’ is the right question because you know why you’re good. You’re good because you stay up all night working, and re-working scene after scene. You’re good because editing is something that you have to do. It just has to be right. The ‘why’ is easy, though it would be embarrassing if people knew how much effort you had to put into a short story to be this good.
I began writing with just enough grammar knowledge to know a subject, verb and predicate. Just the stuff you could pick up from School House Rock – Lolly Lolly Lolly get your adverbs here. I was good though. No degree, or any special classes, but I had a “good ear” Mike told me. Mike was my boss, and my job was to write Copy.
Copy is extreme. I’m sure that Mike knew I barely finished high-school at the time, and knew nothing about grammar, but he never mentioned it, and maybe he didn’t know. He told me that Copy was the edge of writing. It wasn’t literature, it wasn’t poetry (unless that was what was going to sell), but it was the edge of fast hard writing that lived or died within five seconds of the reader’s eyes touching on the text. It was the art of the 30 second seduction. Within that moment my job was to make an emotional connection, push aside your disbelief, deny all doubt, remove all hesitation and make This Puppy Chow, the only Chow Tappy’s mother would ever consider.
Everything you want to put into a novel, in 350 words or less – except it’s not a dark handsome stranger holding the evils of the world at bay – it’s dog food.
Like every armature, the Idea stressed me. For hours at work and until 4AM, I hunted for the twist, the angle, the nuance of human nature to ‘make it happen.’ Two ads a day came off my desk -- three if I was lucky while Mike was kicking out eight to fifteen every day. And they were good too.
“Just follow the rules and write,” he would tell me. “You’re good enough. Stop stressing and make it happen.”
The rules were easy to read, a little hard to understand.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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