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Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Announcements and Shameless Plugs | 41 comments

Is Serial Fiction Dead? (Hopefully not, ‘cuz I’m writing one.)

Is Serial Fiction Dead? (Hopefully not, ‘cuz I’m writing one.)

 

A little while ago, I was listening to a podcast in which the subject of serial webfiction was brought up. One of the authors being interviewed said that it was great in theory, but that the online serial format just didn’t really work for written fiction. 

I was kind of taken aback. I really enjoy a good serial story—the excitement of waiting for the next installment, watching a well-written character arc play out over an extended period of time, and even the world-shattering heartbreak and denial when it’s finally OVER. It’s a great story experience, and while the online serial seems pretty much ruled by comics and video webseries, I’ve always thought that it would be a fantastic way to deliver written fiction as well.

A vast majority of fiction used to be serial, back in the day. Most of Charles Dickens’s novels were written and published in short installments, keeping Victorian England breathlessly speculating and fangirling while they waited for the next “episode”. (Imagine, if you will, a bearded Victorian gentleman in a top hat and monocle, wildly FANGURLING over the latest episode of the Pickwick Papers. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you must be having a really bad day.)

And while there aren’t just a ton of really great or popular webfics out there in cyberspace, there are a few online serial writers (like the notorious Wildbow) who have achieved fame and loyal followings. Andy Weir first published his novel The Martian in serial form on his blog, and it garnered a huge response that led to a publishing contract, and now a movie starring Matt Damon.

So it can be done. And soon, I’m hoping to try my hand at it with my upcoming serial webfic, The Firewall Saga.

Some of you have heard me dropping hints on social media about this project, and I’m happy to say that, although I’m not sure when exactly it will be happening, it will be happening in the not-too-distant future. Right after I’m finished with the third draft of my current project.

 

The idea is that it will be organized into multiple “episodes”, which will be somewhere around novella length. Here’s a summary of the first episode:

 

Soon after cybernetic neural implants became mandatory for all global citizens, the Weedly computer virus was unleashed. Allegedly designed by an underground anti-Cybernetics cult, Weedly swept the nation, turning anyone equipped with neural cybernetics into an Infect–a mindless killer drone. 

Now, the remaining population of the world huddles behind the Firewalls, areas of the globe that are protected by teams of engineers who work around the clock to keep Weedly out. Outside, the only living are the Infects and a few surviving anti-Cybernetic cults.

 

Lyan has spent his seventeen years isolated in a secure cell behind Firewall Three, being trained to fight Infects. He possesses powerful cybernetics that enhance his ability for combat, but the real weapon is the experimental minature Firewall in his brain that, theoretically, makes him immune to Weedly.

Bored and lonely, connected to the outside world only by a video feed, Lyan has used his neural implants to discover a new world—the StratosGrid. Here he finds a dazzling new frontier, and a wealth of forgotten information free for the taking. He also finds a girl named Jazzy, who seems to have found the Grid in much the same way he has.

A fast friendship develops, but Lyan soon learns that Jazzy may harbor a terrible secret. Something in the Grid is keeping her prisoner—something that doesn’t like Lyan.

When Jazzy disappears, Lyan is determined to find her, even if it means scouring the depths of a virtual reality that wants him dead.

 

Decker is a former member of the largest anti-Cybernetic cult on the North American continent, and now a Firewall-hired mercenary whose lack of cybernetics allows him to travel without fear of infection. After a nightmarish Infect encounter which cost him his partner and a little of his sanity, he has spent almost a year recovering behind Firewall Zero. Now, the Firewall wants him to go on one last mission—one they tell him could bring an end to the virus once and for all.

Things may not be as they seem, though, and as Decker begins to uncover the truth behind what happened to him a year ago, he can’t help but wonder if the Firewall, the last bastion of humanity, can really be trusted.

 

Demo knows that he used to be one of them, one of the men in white coats who now torture him in the name of science. He doesn’t remember what happened to him, but he does know that if he got out of the chains, all of the others would be dead in seconds.

He has an ally, someone only he can see, who has a plan for his escape. In return, all Demo has to do is kill a boy named Lyan.

Escape. Kill the boy. It’ll be easy, Weedly says.

 

I really like this story, and I’m excited to share this experiment with you guys.

And I’m curious—do any of you read serial webfiction?

 

photo credit: Le Jour ni l’Heure 8537 : Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598-1664, L’Annonciation, 1638-1639, dét. (table de lecture de la Vierge), musée de Grenoble, Isère, jeudi 28 juillet 2011, 12:40:20 via photopin (license)

41 Comments

  1. Yes I follow another persons really small blog….. like less than 50 followers easily, and she has a serial fic so does my sister Jane. Actually my sister finished her first one a few weeks ago, and next week is beginning a new one. I enjoy both….. oh and there is a third, but that one is not regular. I can’t wait to read yours! it sounds so cool!

    • Thanks, Clare! Hopefully it will be. 😉 What’s the name of your sister’s serial?

    • Erm, I mean, intelligent response: No, I don’t. But I’ll probably read this one. :p Sounds interesting.

      but Jazzy

      wat

      • YES. Jazzy returneth. B) So does Greg.
        Also, Demo is Faber. So.

        • WAIT IT”S THE SAME JAZZY GAHHH

          I thought it might be but also thought you might be re-using the name.

          THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER

      • That was my exact thought. I can’t wait to see Jazzy in this new story.

      • This… except I don’t know who Jazzy is. (I guess that’s why I have to read it, right?)

  2. I have had a couple on my blog before, but neither really panned out. The first was kind of a “choose your own adventure” when I had only about 5 followers on my blog…including my parents, grandparents, and a couple of friends. The second one I ran out of ideas for and didn’t know how to end it. I wrote both as I went along.

    -Alea

    • Choose your own adventure! I used to do those books. I would always pick the wrong choice and accidentally kill the protagonist, which made me so sad and upset with myself.

  3. I would read your story in a hearbeat! If it’s half as well-written as your blog I would be eagerly awaiting each installment.
    I followed a serial steampunk story for a long time and really enjoyed it, although I thought a month between updates was a little too long (you can forget important things when it’s that long), so I would suggest you have at the most two weeks between each update.
    I’ve actually thought about releasing my current novel in serial form once it’s finished. I don’t see why it should be ‘dead’ (so long as the author isn’t releasing it as he’s writing it; then there’s always the chance it would never be finished. See the second episode of that steampunk serial I was talking about; it’s been well over a year since it was updated).
    So, all that was to say, go for it, please!

    • Well thank ya. ^_^
      Yeah, I’m going to try to stick pretty religiously to a weekly-installment plan. What’s the name of the steampunk serial you were following?

  4. Sweeeeeet…. I’d totally read that! 😀
    I read one (Avengers’ Isle), am reading one (Twinepathy) and am writing another. Definitely love the format! 🙂

    • That’s the second time I’ve heard of Twinepathy! I’ll have to look it up…

      • It’s only 3 episodes in at the moment, but it’s fun. 🙂 here’s the blog: theworldofthewriter.wordpress.com
        She also did the Avengers’ Isle serial. Really fun and clever, though mostly consisting of Marvel in-jokes. 😉

  5. Wow. That sound really exciting. Haven’t read any web series before, but I certainly want to read yours.

  6. One of my friend writes books and sends me each chapter as she finishes it, so that’s KINDA like a serial. I’m not a terribly patient person, so I pester her about when the next chapter will be done a lot. Especially when she ends the chapter on a cliffhanger (which she tends to do a lot). But I would definitely read your story. Then I would have another story that I can impatiently wait for all the time.

    • I have a friend who does the same – sends me a chapter now and then. She already has six books published featuring the same MC, so I know the next one is going to be a hit. She is taking way too long between chapters for my liking though 🙂

    • Haha, know how that goes! I get impatient with my writing buddies for not writing their stories and getting them to me faster, which is super hypocritical since I am the slowest writer ever. Heheh.

  7. Okay, so I don’t normally read serial webfiction, but I will be now. This sounds amazing! It’s a brilliant idea, and I’m sure you’ll do a fine job executing it. (:

    I’m already way beyond serial fiction here, though, just so you know. I wanna see this thing on shelves and in the movie theater. 😉 Seriously. It’s that good. Let me know when the first installment comes out so I can come read it and shout at you for the cliffhanger it will no doubt be.

    • Heh, thanks Emily! Looking forward to getting your feedback on it. 🙂

  8. Ooh, sounds exciting! I will most definitely read it!
    I love serial fiction, actually 🙂 I’ve debated doing it on my blog, but never actually done one. Right now I’m reading C.B. Cook’s Twinepathy serial story & loving it. I can’t think of any others that I’m reading at the moment, but I know there are a couple others… 🙂 Oh well.

    • There’s Twinepathy again. Man, I guess I’ll have to read this thing.

  9. I’ve never actually read any serial webfiction, but I think it’s a great idea, and I’d be interested in reading some! And your serial sounds really interesting. 🙂

    • Thanks! Hopefully it will be…

  10. I’m not a serial reader myself. I even tend to wait until book series are completely published before reading them. :p But I find this interesting–and will be very interested in your reactions once your finished with your experiment–since I’m tossing around the idea of releasing Wayfarer, my current WIP, as an e-book serial.

    • That sounds really cool–would kinda fit with the superhero spin, too. I’m very excited for that story. 🙂

  11. Wow! That sounds really interesting. I would totally read it even though I never have read serial fiction. But just make sure you finish it. I would hate having to go around for the rest of my life wondering what happened to Jazzy . . .

    • I would hate that, too! 😉

  12. I quite like reading serial fiction, so I’d read yours for sure, Braden. LOL it’s a bit like being back in third grade when our teacher would read us a couple of chapters of a book on Friday afternoon if the class had behaved during the week. We really looked forward to it 😀 I’m currently writing a fictionalised story on my blog – not regularly though. I’ve been using flash fiction prompts (if they fit the story line) but I think I’m going to have to forget the prompts and just write an episode every week. I’ve written around eighteen or twenty so far and they’ve been well received.

  13. I’ve never read a serial web novel, but I would if I had a guarantee it would be published regularly. 🙂 I think it’s a great idea!
    I certainly hope the serial novel isn’t dead forever- because I’ve always had this dream of writing a book and releasing it through my local newspaper. I already have the general plot planned out, as well as an outline for the first chapter.

    I think your story sounds really cool, Braden! I would definitely read it.

  14. This idea looks great – sort of a cybernetic The Passage on steroids. Which is meant as a compliment regardless of how you take it.

    One thought, as I stumbled on your lost via Zite, or prismatic or clipboard or some such – and I’m sure you will be lost to me the moment I close this page… Maybe a notification / email me / sign up for notifications would be in order? Regardless, putting my email below in hopes of this cool little idea not to blow away with all the other detritus I stumble onto each day.

    • Well, I haven’t read the Passage, but I’ll take that as a compliment! Thank ya. 🙂

      Hmmm, notification for whenever the webseries starts? I hadn’t thought of that, but that’s a good idea.

  15. Great post! Looking forward to reading your experiment.

    And I salute a fellow serial fiction writer.

  16. I think that the idea of serial fiction is great, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work via the Internet – it’s just a medium, after all. If anything, it should work better, because it’s a medium that can reach the whole world! The trouble, as I see it, is in getting the word out. Magazines and newspapers took care of this in the print model; we need some kind of “hub” where authors of serial fiction can submit links and descriptions to their serial stories, from which visitors can browse and discover new serials. As others have mentioned, the trick is to maintain regular submissions. Audiences will forgive delays due to vacations, or the *occasional* “sorry no update this week, I’ve had a nasty case of the plague that’s knocked me out”. Ideally, the hub site would also indicate how often the story’s supposed to update, and would have some way to keep tabs on whether a story has finished and/or gone dark.

    As an aspiring author who would be interested in writing serial fiction, I have a question: What do you think is the best range of length for an update? Many people dislike reading on the computer screen, so I would think there’s an upper limit to how long you can hope to keep a reader invested. At the same time, you want to give enough to immerse the reader into your world with each visit … a paragraph certainly won’t cut it!

    • For my ongoing serial, each update I do (I call them “installments”) run somewhere between 800 and 1200 words, more or less.

      In terms of “hubs,” the two I’m aware of are Web Fiction Guide and EpiGuide.

      • I’ll check those out, Abner! Also checking out your serial. Looks cool!

    • A hub site is definitely a good idea, I’ve seen a few websites that are trying to be that, but I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not.

      Hmm, as far as word count goes, I dunno. I’m going to try to keep my installments as close to 1,000 words as I can, and not go over by too much. That may be difficult, though.

      • 1,000 words sounds like a good amount- I’m fond of sections approximately that length.

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