245. Serializing

I’ve been doing a lot of serializing lately. In fact, I’ve been at it for over a year, but lately it has become intense.

Publishing novels serially in periodicals is a very old idea. Most of Charles Dickens work came out that way. What I’m doing is a bit different though, because Dickens wrote his novels to be serialized. The size of each chunk was known to him when he wrote. And the chunks were bigger.

David Copperfield was a novel of 358,551 words. I know this by downloading it from Project Gutenberg, transferring it to my word processor, and using the word count function. You might make note of that; it is a useful technique. David Copperfield was published in twenty monthly installments. That makes each installment was about 18,000 words. In SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) terms, each installment was of novella length.

My typical serial post is about 600 words.

Dickens serialized in order to sell to those who could not afford his books, and at the same time, to boost sales of those books when they came out after they appeared in periodicals. Most successful nineteenth century authors followed the same pattern. So did the big names in twentieth century science fiction, although they wrote smaller novels and presented them in fewer, but longer installments. Often they didn’t sell their books for serialization until they were already completed.

That is also my situation. Nothing I have presented in Serial was in progress at the time it was serialized. I’m too slow and picky a writer for that. Some of the things presented had been published, some had not, one was presented as a excerpt from a completed novel, and one was a fragment from a novel I’ll probably never finish. Jandrax was annotated to such a degree that it almost forms a writing primer, and How to Build a Culture was entirely a how-to.

Everything I have presented in Serial has been to assure continued readership of the website. It’s a trick. Leave ‘em hanging, and they’ll come back. And the whole website is to assure a readership for my upcoming novel Cyan, and for others that will follow.

But man, it has been fun.

I’ve enjoyed revisiting old friends. I’ve learned a lot from a close re-reading of old material, especially regarding pacing. Since I post four days a week, each post has to be relatively short, both to keep from running out of material too soon and to keep each reading experience brief for the sake of the daily reader. I didn’t originally choose 600 words; that just evolved.

The actual process of taking a novel and breaking it into pieces has been fascinating, frustrating, and a rewarding learning experience. It begins with a completed novel, which may be decades old, and which will already have been polished to a high shine. Still, I find errors from time to time.

First, using a word processor version, I have to re-read the novel, looking for natural breaks in the action every two and a half to three manuscript pages. I type a nonsense word at each break. I use breakbreak, as one word, which has meaning to me but would never appear in the actual text. This will allow me to use the find function to jump from break to break if I should need to. After typing breakbreak, I highlight what I have chosen, use the word count function, then type in the number of words. If it seems too short or too long, I adjust.

That takes care of post #1. Now to repeat. Jandrax required 92 posts. Raven’s Run will require 150. Some posts make sense on their own, but some require that I start with a sentence or two from the previous day’s post. I use bold-italic to denote this repeat.

All this takes place on a single word processor document. I then make individual documents of each post-to-be. This is a backup to what will actually appear on the website. At this point, I run the spell checker one last time and face the two-space conundrum.

I learned touch typing in high school in the mid-sixties on a mechanical (not even electric) typewriter. This was overseen by Mrs. Worden (AKA the warden) who pounded (pun intended) the rules into our heads. One rule was that you put two spaces between sentences.

Over the years I went from mechanical typewriters, to electric typewriters, to computers, but the rule stuck with me – even after everyone else had stopped using it. Raven’s Run was written before I kicked the two space habit, so now I have to go through each document removing the second space.

The last step is copying from word processor file to website.

Tedious? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. If you write, and you don’t enjoy reading your own work, why bother?


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