Serial Writing: The Beginning of an Adventure

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

It isn't normally my style to start off a blog post with a quote from a book, but this time it feels appropriate. This is both a blog about me and an adventure I'm beginning, as well as a lesson in writing. This lesson, however, is less for you than it is for me.

It didn't take much peer pressure to convince me that writing a serial was a good idea. I have the idea. I believe I have the dedication and the drive. I'd like to think I have the endurance to do it.

But, do I have the skill? Do I have the frightening amount of creativity needed to keep going, without break, week by week?

I'm not sure, and I'm sure about to find out.

The idea for the story came from a dream and a terrible, terrible pun. It started making me ask a series of increasingly uncomfortable ‘what if' questions. The more I thought about these questions, the more I feel I need to set about answering them. That is what sets a speculative fiction writer apart from someone writing other facets of literature. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I know absolutely nothing about the world I'm gearing to dive into, head first. Without benefit of a life vest or net, and I'm not exactly sure how deep the water looks, so I might crack my skull open upon entering the murky depths.

This might be situation of being stuck upstream without a paddle, boat, or river.

I will release the first scene of the serial on Wednesday, January 16, 2013. You may laugh now.

It sure is dangerous business going out your front door.

The Challenge:

Here it is. The challenge. I am going to write a scene per week. Once a month, I'm going to attempt to write a short story dealing with the world and characters that falls outside of the story for the serial. I want to practice short story writing, and this seemed like a fun way to do it. I will be posting a new scene for the serial every Wednesday, and the short story will be posted the first Monday of every month.

The Problems:

  • Little Plot
  • Little World Building / No Story Bible
  • No Character Development done
  • Little Preparation Time
  • Inexperience as the writer. I've played cheerleader for serials many times.

This leads into the conundrum faced with this effort: Serials are final draft. Plotting, Pantsing, and the need (and challenge) or merging them together.

I am not starting this with a buffer.

I am not prepared.

This is also a really good time for me to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of plotting and pantsing a serial, as I see it. I don't have the luxury of plotting like I want. I'll be forced to pants large chunks of this as I go. I'll be making a hybrid of plotting and pantsing as I write the serial.

Enter Charts 1 and 2 found below. These are the major advantages and disadvantages as I see them to plotting and pantsing.

Element Benefit Disadvantage
World Building Consistency – Story Bible Available – Less Stressful Time Consuming – Less Discovery – Less Fun to 'Explore' the world as writer
Characters Developed – Stronger – Familiarity – Details Organized Less Discovery & Excitement – Less fun to write – Risk of Flat characters due to overdevelopment
Plot Fewer Holes – Stronger Story – Stronger Character Development – Stronger Conflict – More cohesive story – Fewer Mistakes Less fun to write – Sense of inflexibility – Characters change and grow through writing – Risk of high amount of plotting work 'lost' – Harder to Continue as 'story is already written'
Element Benefit Disadvantage
World Building Fun of Exploration – Sensation of New Discoveries – Tech on the Fly – Thrill of Risk Taking  No Story Bible Available – High Risk of Plot Holes – High Risk of 'Bad Science' – No time for appropriate research – Must track details from start consistency – Can't go back to fix details that aren't correct (cry)
Characters Characters developed as story develops – Steady Growth – Fun of Discovery – The thrill of 'getting to know' the new characters – Must Track details fanatically – High Risk of Inconsistent Characters and Lost Details
Plot Flexible Plot line – Character driven easier to accomplishment – More side arcs often created for deeper world High Risk of Plot Holes – More Difficult to reach 'end goal' target

I will have to work with a Hybrid System. The below chart shows the basics of what I've had to sacrifice to pantsing and what I'm scrambling to plot:

Hybrid of Plotting and Pantsing
Element Being Plotted Being Pantsed
World Building Name of World – Name of Empire – Basics of Politics –  Motive of Government – World Conflict – Universal Conflicts (Multi-Planet Multi-Universe) – Basic Education levels – Immigration and Emigration The Specifics of the City – Specifics of the Sciences – Specifics of Trade – Culture – Religions – Social Interactions – Professions – The Underground – Nobility and Power Schematics
Characters Name and Basic History of Two Major Characters – Name and Basic History of Intermediate Family of One Major Character – Descriptions of those characters Everything Else
Plot End Game Climax – Character Motivations for Two Main Characters and Antagonist Group Everything Else

Yes, ‘Everything Else' is a cop out. There is a lot that goes into character development and plotting. If I went into all of this now, this post would be twice the length it currently is and I'd sacrifice my main point. Rabid Badger would also get very angry with me.

Can I do this?

I guess I'll find out.

For those curious, this is a soft science fiction that will have some elements of a science fantasy in some parts. The main story revolves around a world that has been forced into the role of the caretakers of all technologies, the controls put on this world to ensure that it doesn't rise up as a super power, and the people who struggle to survive on a world that some believe should be destroyed for the safety of the entire universe.

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1 comment
Heather Dudley says January 13, 2013

I’m still terribly amused that you just plotted your pantising. I think that breaks some kind of law…

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