What I Learned from Writing A Serialized Novel And What’s Next

It’s been eleven weeks but today I published the final chapter of the serialized novel (or novella, I suppose, thanks arbitrary length limits…). I learned a lot of things over the past three months and I’d just like to ramble about that for a while so bear with me please.

First of all: Pick a title beforehand that isn’t a mouth-full. I mean, “The Very Model of a Modern Starship Captain” is a nice little homage to Gilbert and Sullivan, sure, but once you’re done writing it, the entire tweet will already be done and it makes for one lousy hashtag. Also, it doesn’t really tell you anything. So I have since decided that I will rename the book to “The Historian’s Crusade”, though I’m sure it will probably be “A Historian’s Crusade” at some point next week and then “Crusading Historian” once this is picked up as a limited superhero book by Darkhorse or some bullshit like this… yeah, self-publishing is truly a backbreaking job.

All joking aside though, the past three months have taught me more about writing than the previous ten years combined, I believe. Back in 2014 I took a creative writing class during my undergraduate phase that tried to teach you how to write for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The goal? Write 50.000 words in four weeks. This has ruined writing for me for two years. As hard as it may sound, but I just can’t bring myself to ever vomit up 50.000 words in a month. In the end, you will not be left with a halfway decent first draft on which to build a successful book, you will be left with just that: alphabet diarrhea. What is the point of wasting four weeks on a novel when you will have to completely throw it away afterwards. And that’s exactly what I did, I threw that script away in mid-2015 and only kept a basic premise tangentially related to “What if Archer from Enterprise was a tragic character?” and instead went with: “what if there was a Star Trek history book?”I mean, John Scalzi can do brilliant post-modern Star Trek pastiches and he is only one of the most gifted writers of the last decade so I might as well give it the old college try.

Afterwards I did the cardinal mistake of any writer and got lost in the world building. I collaborated with my current editor/guy I grabbed off the streets on the matter and it quickly ballooned into something that was completely different from the original premise of either a fictional history book or an earnest retelling/expy of Star Trek Enterprise. The world building was very good and very fun, but at the end of the day it doesn’t get you anywhere. If you want to write you need to write.

Doing the whole thing serialized was a choice I ended up making because I had previously had my biggest successes in the Stargate Fanfiction community by writing against a weekly deadline and audience. It ended up working out and by the time of chapter 9’s posting I was already done with the entire project.

The novel ended up being more of a novella, but that’s fine to me. I don’t need to brag with word count and there has been a worrying trend towards overtly long scifi books over the past few decade. Which is fine and good if you have a big story to tell or an interesting universe to explore, but it always seemed to me that most people should stick to one or two ideas to convey and then explore those. Additionally, I had written a book that very much played with Star Trek and general science fiction clichés and tropes that you can afford to use shorthand. The book was also being written as an in-universe object and that always leads to an unbearable amount of “as you know”s if you’re not cautious, so that didn’t hurt. But really, the most important aspect is and remains that I am just lazy.

So yeah, now that the book is done I’m looking forward to what’s coming next: editing for a final draft and eventual publication. The first draft is and always will be free, there is nothing I will ever do against it. Yet I do also want to see the entire thing available for download on Amazon with a nice cover and all polished up, so that’s coming up later in the year. I have decided against adding more material to the book because it would be just that: padding. Perfection is when you can no longer take anything away, not add new stuff. The book as it stands already exceeded most of my expectations of what I would turn out when I started writing so from my perspective there is not much to do besides cleaning up grammar and spelling, logical consistency, and create overall cohesion.  I know that it’s not the best idea in the world when you want to sell some copies, but the quality of the book takes precedent.

Rambling over. I really want to thank everyone who liked and shared the chapters over the last little while and especially those who gave feedback over Facebook and other means. Now it’s back to terrible essays for the time being on the blog so good luck on sticking around past this.


Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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