Serialization: Pros and Cons for a Publisher

The first few months of this year found me in the throes of writing 15,000 words a week and staying about three episodes ahead of my readers. I was in the middle of a 13-episode serialization called Hidden Falls.Think of a television series, with continuous storylines and characters but presented in individual episode that connect to each other.

I was collaborating with the publisher (Shiloh Run Studios, a new imprint of Barbour) in a grand experiment. None of us knew exactly what would happen.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to the local ACFW chapter about the experience. We had a rousing discussion about the challenges and opportunities of digital-first publishing in general and serializations in particular. We looked at pros and cons of serialization for the publisher, the writer, and the reader.

In this space for the next three months, I invite you in to some of our conversation. Let’s start with why a publisher would try a strategy of releasing one long story (200,000 words) in episodes.

Here’s what I come up with.

1. Digital-first publishing connects with the wider context of our highly visual culture that rapidly consumes entertainment.

2. Digital-first publishing capitalizes on growing trends for how people consume fiction.

3. Digital-first publishing allows a publisher to wade into innovative waters and benefit from a shorter cycle of evaluation and adjustment than traditional print publishing.

4. Digital-first publishing gets new projects to market faster, helping to keep readers connected to writers they enjoy.

5. A serialization, as a particular form of digital-first publishing, presents an old format (think Dickens) to a modern audience.

6. Innovation keeps a business going.

There’s always a flip side. What are the cons a publisher must be mindful of with a serialization in particular? Here’s my list.

1. If the publisher has no track record for selling serializations, which is likely with a traditional CBA publisher at this point in time, they face a greater degree of uncertainty in predicting business outcomes.

2. Publishing systems must be more nimble, able to adjust to new information as it arrives and making adjustments to product development and marketing even in the midst of releasing the episodes of the series.

3. In a new format, the publisher must find afresh the balance between the length and form of a product and profitable pricing, a particular challenge in an environment where many readers believe digital formats should be less expensive than print.

4. Despite clear labeling, there’s a risk that readers who begin the first episode may not realize they are beginning a serialization with ongoing storylines and cliffhangers.

Serializations are only one form of digital-first publishing, but they raise new challenges to a publisher’s business model. At the same time, serialization offers challenges for the writer (which we’ll look at in August) and adjustments for readers (which we’ll look at in September).

• As someone interested in writing fiction, in what ways do you think serializations could change the landscape of fiction in the future?

Olivia Newport is the author of the Avenue of Dreams series, the Valley of Choice series, Hidden Falls, and the forthcoming Amish Turns of Time series beginning with Wonderful Lonesome in September.

Member Monday: Spunk and Spirit Christian Writers Group

By Kathy Brasby, President Spunk and spirit Christian Writers Group

spunkandspiritwriterslogo1Because several of our members are newer or younger writers, we’re trying some new things this year at Spunk and Spirit Christian Writers Group.

Our July meeting (Monday, July 21, 6:30-8 pm at Life Fellowship in Fort Morgan) gives our members an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for their projects as well as discuss some tips and thoughts on writing flash fiction.

We plan to write to some prompts, just to get the creative juices warmed up, and then take time to write on our own projects.

In August, we’ll have Chris Richards as our guest speaker, talking on It Came from Where?  She’ll discuss the use of myth, religion, literature, politics, history, and social unrest in your writing increases its appeal to readers. Using StarWars and other movies as examples learn how authors can tap into the culture of the reader.

Our September meeting will give writers an opportunity to submit their projects for critique.

Dues (only $10 a year) can be sent to our treasurer: Becky Brasby, 21267 Co. Rd. 20.5, Fort Morgan, CO 80701.  We welcome associate memberships at $5 a year, too.

You can connect with us at our website  http://spunkandspirit.acfwcolorado.com/ or  on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/spunkandspirit

ACFW Colorado Author Spotlight – on vacation

Hi, All! Author Spotlight will be taking the summer off. I hope you all have a wonderful summer! See you on the second Wednesday in September for a new Author Spotlight!

Just a reminder that if you are a member of one of our local chapters and have published books, we’d love to spotlight you on our monthly feature. We love to tell others about the wonderful authors we have here Colorado. To be considered for the Spotlight, you do need to list your books on the ACFW Colorado web site.  If you are an ACFW member residing in the State of Colorado, and would like to have your fiction release listed, visit the ACFW Colorado web site, click on the Members Only link, login, then follow the instructions under “Books & Short Stories.”

A Passion for the Story

In a recent conversation with my agent, Terrie Wolf, she mentioned she talks to editors occasionally who are looking for a specific book to fit a particular publishing slot. My response? “If you get any requests, let me know. Maybe I can write that book.”

As I thought about this later, I wondered if I’d spoken hastily or foolishly. After all, what if they wanted a (gulp) bonnet story? Or a (double gulp) category romance? Did I really think I could write such a book? I came up with lots of reasons why I couldn’t – not my genre, not my area of specialty or knowledge, never wrote one before.

And then I was reminded of the wise words spoken to me at one time, not in this context, but which I will paraphrase: Don’t look for a reason not to write the story; look for a reason to write the story.

So I put on my thinking cap again. Why would I want to write a bonnet story or a category romance or a western or a sci-fi or any of the other genres I don’t write? And the answer I came up with was: passion. And I’m not talking about relationship-type passion.

The kind of passion I’m talking about is the essence that starts a writer’s creative juices flowing, forcing us to work past the first What if? And deeper into the next, Then What? And the next.

I would need a passion for the setting, for the characters, or for the story.

That passion would ignite the story ideas, flesh out the characters, and help me choose (or create) a believable setting. That passion would keep me writing when the words seemed blah, would keep me plotting when I didn’t think anybody would want to read this story, would keep me enthused enough to press on until I typed, “The End”.

Passion has nothing to do with the book as a whole, but everything to do with the components of the story. Passion is also called our Muse, that je ne sais quoi that propels us to our computer and causes our fingers to fly over the keys, the words appearing on the screen as if by osmosis.

Passion also helps us take a teensy idea and expand the details into a full-length novel. Let’s take an example. Cinderella is a short story fairy tale, yet in the hands of another, become the basis for over 30 movies (based on an article on Wikipedia). No doubt each one of these movies contained details that were not included in the original story.

If we take the Cinderella story, let’s go through some What If? Questions to come out to a completely different story: What if Cinderella lived with her father and siblings instead of her step-mother and step-sisters, but they were jealous of her? We’d have a story like Joseph and his coat of many colors. What if Cinderella was an orphan? We’d have a story like Oliver Twist. What if Cinderella was raised in a happy family but went her own way and left home? Prodigal son story.

So let’s take the example of the (gulp) bonnet story. First I need to remember what my passion is: writing stories that show a God who is bigger than our past. My story might be about a woman journalist who decided to do a story on the Amish, falls in love with an Amish man, and marries him. “Accidentally Amish”. In another story, maybe my character flees to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, because she’s on the run from the mob. “Sister Act”.

Your passion for the story, characters, and setting will be different than mine, because your writing passion, that thing inside you that keeps you writing, is different. Take a few minutes and look at the theme of the stories you write and the stories you want to write. What is the common thread running through these stories? Summarize that theme, or passion, in a single sentence and leave it in the comments section. Your passion is NOT: My story is about a girl who runs away from home and gets involved in drugs and then gets saved. Your passion might be: I write stories about prodigals and their families.

Now, back to the plotting board. Let’s see. A (double gulp) category romance. My female lead is a bounty hunter sent to bring back a bail jumper. My male lead is the bail jumper, an angry man, who recognizes my bounty hunter as the woman seen driving away from the scene of a bank robbery that led to a fatal car crash twenty years before where his wife was killed. Nobody was ever prosecuted for this terrible accident or for the robbery. Will she be able to convince him she isn’t the person she was back then? Will he be able to see the grace and mercy of God in his own life and extend forgiveness to the woman he blames for ruining his life?

Hmmm. Might be able to make that work…


Author bio: Donna writes historical suspense, which you can check out at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com or www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com, and her alter ego, Leeann Betts, writes contemporary suspense, which you can check out at www.LeeannBetts.com or www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary, LLC (www.AKALiteraryLLC.com). Check out Donna’s story at www.livebytheword.com.

 

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How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

Two questions I get on a steady basis are:

1. How long does it take to write a book?

2. Do you do all the research before you start writing?

Whether you’re published, contracted, or aspiring, I suspect these questions are familiar to you.

The answer I give to the first question is, “Deadlines are very motivating.” When I started publishing steadily, writing became regulated. I know how many months remain until the next contracted book is due, and that’s how long it takes to write it (sometimes less). I often feel like people ask how long it takes because they think there is a right answer for how long it should take to write a book, which of course is not true.

The answer I give to the second question is, “I wish.” I don’t know what I don’t know until the story is underway, so I’m constantly dipping back into research mode.

Five years later after writing the first novel that saw publication, I’m finally finding a groove. But the groove has not come because I know for certain how long it takes to write a book or because research gets easier. It comes from developing tools and systems that have kept me producing.

1. Calendar. I print out calendars for the months available for a project and schedule writing goals in pencil with an eraser handy. I calculate the minimum number of weeks it will take and the maximum available and then try to strike a balance that sets a sustainable pace. By “sustainable” I mean both steady enough to keep me engaged with the story and flexible enough to allow for an unscheduled break if I need one.

2. Scrivener. If you haven’t tried this writing tool yet, it’s worth investigating to see if it’s right for you. Many writers put off trying Scrivener; few who have tried it would give it up willingly.

3. Research records. I used to Google something, get my answer, and move on. Then if an editor questioned something, I’d have to find it all over again. Whether you keep research in Scrivener (a terrific feature) or keep printouts and photocopies in a binder, make sure you keep the source, not just the information. This seems fundamental, but it’s surprisingly easy to trip up on this.

4. Routine. Yes, routine is a tool. I don’t wait for inspiration. When it’s time to write, I write. But when routine ceases to be a tool for productivity (see #1) I step back, regroup, and refresh.

5. Balance. Back to back to back deadlines do not cultivate creativity for me. I schedule breaks—a catch-up lunch with a friend; a weekend when I intentionally don’t write; a trip to visit my mother, sans manuscript; a month when I’ll paint kitchen cabinets. When I feel my life swinging out of balance, my writing suffers.

• What tools and systems keep you writing and feeling good about your life at the same time?

Olivia Newport is the author of the Avenue of Dreams series, the Valley of Choice series, Hidden Falls serialized novel, and the forthcoming Amish Turns of Time series beginning with Wonderful Lonesome in September 2014. 

ACFW Author Spotlight – on vacation

Hi, All! Author Spotlight will be taking the summer off. I hope you all have a wonderful summer! See you on the second Wednesday in September for a new Author Spotlight!

Just a reminder that if you are a member of one of our local chapters and have published books, we’d love to spotlight you on our monthly feature. We love to tell others about the wonderful authors we have here Colorado. To be considered for the Spotlight, you do need to list your books on the ACFW Colorado web site.  If you are an ACFW member residing in the State of Colorado, and would like to have your fiction release listed, visit the ACFW Colorado web site, click on the Members Only link, login, then follow the instructions under “Books & Short Stories.”

Member Monday: Spunk and Spirit Christian Writers Group

Kathy Brasby, President, Spunk and Spirit Christian Writers Group

spunkandspiritwriterslogo1Spunk and Spirit Christian Writers Group will be examining works in progress at our June 16 meeting. A variety of scheduling conflicts reduced our numbers last month so we decided to do the critique meeting again.

That’s the advantage of a small group.

We continue to have younger writers interested in the group and we are exploring the idea of a writing contest aimed at ages groups, including the younger set.

Spunk and Spirit meetings on the third Monday of every month from 6:30- 8 pm at Life Fellowship in Fort Morgan.

You’re welcome to join us in person and via Skype or FaceTime. We’d love to have experienced writers or readers give critiques to our writers.

Dues (only $10 a year) can be sent to our treasurer: Becky Brasby, 21267 Co. Rd. 20.5, Fort Morgan, CO 80701.  We welcome associate memberships at $5 a year, too.

You can connect with us at our website  http://spunkandspirit.acfwcolorado.com/ or  on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/spunkandspirit.

Those Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

I keep promising myself that one of these years, I’m going to enjoy summer. Instead of spending the months of June, July, and August cooped up indoors writing and revising and researching, I’m going to spend the time in a mountain retreat, on the front verandah, surrounded by trees and a babbling brook. Writing and revising and researching.

So I guess the truth is, it isn’t the work that I resent as much as the being indoors. Seems such a waste of great weather not to be outside enjoying it. I don’t have any problems staying indoors in the winter. I am not a fan of cold and snow. But summer …

And then I heard those words from my agent, Terrie Wolf, that every writer longs to hear. “Take some time off. You’ve been working hard lately. You deserve a rest.”

My mind raced. Which mountain did I want to go to? Which tree would I see beneath? Which babbling brook would sing to me, inspire me as my fingers flew across the keyboard?

Nothing came to mind.

Okay, maybe I don’t need a mountain. Maybe I need a cruise. Sitting on the deck, the sun warming me from the outside, my story plot heating up inside. Perfect.

Except I’m prone to seasickness.

Okay, how about a quaint bed and breakfast retreat in a sleepy little town. Where do I want to set my next book? Let’s go there.

I’m drawing a blank.

And then I realize my problem. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas of what to write next. I do. Dozens of ideas. It isn’t that there I can’t choose a mountain or a town or a cruise — my problem is I like to write in my office in the basement. I have a peaceful moss green paint on the walls along with peaceful pictures of the outdoors. I have a great desk and a comfy chair. I can have music on in the background, or not. I can stop and pop in a load of laundry or stir dinner in the crockpot. Or not.

And so, despite my agent’s advice, I’m going to stay home. And write. And outline. And research.

Sure, I’ll go out once in a while and see what I’m missing. Sunshine. Flowers. Heat.

I’ll take pictures and keep writing.

Maybe I’ll write a summer story. That way, I don’t miss anything.


Author bio: Donna writes historical suspense, which you can check out at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com or www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com, and her alter ego, Leeann Betts, writes contemporary suspense, which you can check out at www.LeeannBetts.com or www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary, LLC (www.AKALiteraryLLC.com). Check out Donna’s story at www.livebytheword.com.

June 2014: News from ACFW Colorado Springs Chapter

Bird Song confidence quote rsz Maya Angelou 11.5.13

Taking a few moments at the start of this post to honor poet and novelist Maya Angelou, who died last week. An inspiring woman for so many reasons, I hope this quote reminds us all that we write because we have a story to tell . . . and along the way, we find answers to questions that we and our readers are asking.  

ACFW Colorado Springs meets the first Saturday of the month from 10 AM to noon at the First Evangelical Free Church on 30th Street in Colorado Springs.

It’s summertime! We have two fun and informative workshops lined up for June and July:

This Saturday June 7: Author Evangeline Denmark will present a workshop Help! I’m addicted to YA!

The Young Adult (YA) genre has exploded in recent years, with almost equal popularity amongst teen and adult readers. Is there a formula? Common themes? A man behind a curtain who accepts bribes? Let’s take a look at what really works in those addictive YA novels and discover how we can apply the same tools to our own manuscripts. Even if you don’t read, write, or inhale YA fiction, you can pick up tricks from the genre to deepen characters and increase tension. We’ll also delve into the concept of authenticity, an integral component of YA novels and a direct path to reader connection in any genre.

July 12: (PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE DUE TO THE JULY 4th WEEKEND) Multi-published author Olivia Newport will present a workshop Serializations: The New Fiction Landscapes?

Olivia Newport provides a glimpse into the process that resulted in Hidden Falls, a 13-episode serialized story that released weekly between January and April in digital formats, and explores how writing a serialization for the digital-first market is distinct from writing for the traditional print-first market.

Stay tuned for what we have planned for the rest of the year!

Member News:

Congratulations to Jeanne Takenaka who finaled in the My Book Therapy Frasier contest for the second year in a row!

Scoti Domeij taught an early bird workshop at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park: Targeting a Publication for Your Writing.

Opportunity for ACFW Colorado Springs Members:

ACFW Colorado Springs critique group: Join the weekly critique group on Tuesday nights from 6-9 PM. The group meets at the First Evangelical Free Church on 30th Street (the same location as our monthly meeting). You can bring 10 double-spaced pages of your work-in-progress (WIP), to be critiqued when you attend.

Are You Wearing Your Emotions on Your Sleeve?

Sometimes I absolutely amaze myself. Wow, can I ever pack a scene full of emotion! I’m laughing. I’m crying. I’m deep sighing. I close my laptop feeling drenched in the scene I just wrote.

Then comes the time to open the first round of editorial notes. Invariably in each manuscript, there’s a comment that goes something like this about a scene I thought was over the top:

“Can you work on deepening the emotion in this scene? Make it more of a turning point in the story?”

What? I didn’t do that?

I’m in the middle of a new manuscript and find myself trying to be preemptive on this question. For my brain, which is split fairly evenly between creative and analytical, that means stepping back and figuring out how I missed the target in the past. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. I might feel it, but I didn’t show it. When I’m writing, I’m inside the story. I’m feeling the story. Of course I know which scenes the plot turns on, including when a character is changing internally or making a decision where there is no going back. Whether I’m in an exercise class, pulling weeds in my yard, starting a load of laundry, the story consumes my brain just as much as it does when I’m at the computer. However, I have to remind myself that the reader is reading my words, not my mind. If I don’t translate what I feel into what the reader feels, I’ve fallen short.

2. I have to step outside of my writer self and put on the editor hat. Now what exactly did I do with it? I tossed it … somewhere. What cues are there for the reader about how the character is feeling? This could come down to word choice, pacing, body language, dialogue beats. I don’t want to say how the character feels as a piece of information. I want the reader to feel what the character feels.

3. Elegance matters. Sure, I can clunk around the question of adding emotion to the scene and even highlight the places where I have. But if the way I’ve done it is inelegant, then the reader will be outside the scene looking in, rather than inside the scene experiencing it.

I don’t claim to have an infallible checklist about how to add emotion to a scene or a proprietary bag of tricks. Many books and blogs about the craft of writing fiction address the question. Neither will I claim that I’ve mastered this element of craft. Not by a long shot.

My point here is simply that this is an element in which it is easy to become overconfident. Part of being a working writer is being a learning writer. So the next time I find myself too easily impressed by something I wrote, I hope I’ll use that as a cue to go back and translate with more clarity, edit with more care, and write with more elegance.

Olivia Newport is the author of the Avenue of Dreams series, the Valley of Choice series, Hidden Falls, a serialized novel, and the forthcoming Amish Turns of Time series, which begins with Wonderful Lonesome in September 2014.