• Joshua Blaylock

On Writing Serial

Over the past few weeks, aside from working my way through the second draft of my novel (which now is up to 70,000 words and has, I feel, a fairly solid first three parts), I have been working on something a little bit different - a serial release.

Specifically, I have been working on a story I'm calling The Nectar of Power, which takes place in the same universe as Baile, and releasing it chapter by chapter on Wattpad. The story, unlike Baile, is a fantasy story that's told from the third person and follows two characters that live in different parts of the world.

Pretty much every aspect of this is different for me that Baile - the only thing they share is their world - so I wanted to take a few minutes to compare and contrast the two.

Serial vs Traditional

I know there are people who release serial works by writing the entire story and then releasing it a chapter at a time. But most of the work that's done on Wattpad is not handled that way, and I wanted to emulate the way it is often done. Therefore, I am writing only slightly ahead, just enough to be able to keep a consistent release without stressing myself to have to write more every week (plus, I get inspired and just have to write more sometimes).

Overall, I don't prefer this method of writing. I feel like I'm a little more constrained and need to try harder to make sure everything is right the first time. With Baile, I know that there are characters missing from parts of the book where I want them to be, and there are a few inconsistencies because I changed my mind while writing a later part. I just let the story tell itself, flowing from brain to keyboard in whatever way felt most natural at the moment. I knew full well that when I went through again, I would need to add parts and take parts out. I even skipped parts on purpose because I didn't need them for the story to go on, and I didn't feel inspired to write them at the time.

With the new project, I can't skip things and just come back whenever I want. I can't write in pieces that are inconsistent knowing I'll catch it later and fix it then. I have to make sure that everything that I write lines up with what I've already released, and what I haven't released gets updated immediately if a later chapter alters it.

My writing every week has to be divided up between adding new material to keep ahead and editing the material that I'm about to release. It's nice letting the story unfold slowly, unlike Baile, which had 60,000 words written in 2 weeks. I write a couple of new chapters from time to time and spend a few hours a week polishing the next chapter to be released, occasionally tweaking it slightly to flow better with the stuff I know is coming up. It's also nice that I get a little bit of feedback from the chapters that I've release and can then use that feedback to improve the work that's not yet released.

Fantasy vs SciFi

This is one area where I probably like everything about writing the new story better. There are elements of Baile that made it easier to write - the narrator and characters used more informal speech, for instance - but with fantasy, I feel a lot more freedom to make up my own rules and explore the characters and the world. In sci-fi, there's a scientific feasibility limitation, which means that everything that I need to be able to explain how everything is scientifically possible. Since scientifically advanced societies are more complex, this compounds the issue of trying to find meaningful, believable things to populate their society with. In a fantasy world, thousands of years in the past, people's tasks and other aspects of their society can more easily be as simple or complex as the story needs them to be.

When it comes to world building, one could make the argument that sci-fi puts you on a planet that you can populate with whatever life or natural structures you want. But I can't reconcile in my head that a foreign planet would have horses or dogs or apples. A fantasy world can have all of those things, but it can also have any other animals that don't exist in our world, just as a sci-fi world would.

Finally, I just like the down-to-earth nature of the societies that I'm building in the fantasy world. There is no technology, and everything the use is made with basic, natural materials. Even in Baile, there's heavy usage of a bow and arrow, because I prefer the imagery and like the idea of people who have access to guns still choosing such a quiet, personal weapon.

First vs Third Person

This is probably the biggest difference for me. In Baile, there are multiple people who are being followed, but the narrative is always in first person. Any given story piece is always told solely from one person's perspective. In The Nectar of Power, everything is told from third person, and, at the moment, it alternates between 2 different stories about people of a different race who live in different parts of the world. Other than their age, the two people have little in common.

What I like better about the third person perspective is that I can switch back and forth between characters in a scene, occasionally telling information that the primary character doesn't know, like how someone else is feeling or even things that are happening in another room or otherwise out of their eye-line. I make heavy use of this in a chapter that I haven't released yet, where one character is observing another character hunt, switching between the observer and the hunter to tell the story from both perspectives. There were various times in Baile where I felt limited by the fact that I couldn't tell the story of what was happening apart from the main character, except by adding a conversation where some other character who observed it talks about it.

What I prefer about the first person perspective is the deeper connection that you have to the character. I'm more free to tell the story from an observational perspective, telling the persons feelings the way the experience them, telling what the person observes others doing. I also dislike, in third person, constantly having to use he/she/they. When the main character interacts with another character of the same gender, it really gets annoying making sure the reader can keep track of which one "he" is referring to. You also have to balance the use of the character's name with their pronoun. True, this is still something you have to deal with in a first person narrative if there are any characters other than the main character, but it's far more often when "I" is not the main character.

A Shared World

One of the reasons I chose to write The Nectar of Power while finishing Baile is because it tells a story of the two non-human races that exist in Baile and how they lived 2,000 years before they left earth. I already had some interesting bits to go off of that I had come up with while writing Baile, which informed the new story from the first sentence. Writing this new story is helping me to build and explore the societies and traditions of these races, which, in turn, has helped me build out new elements in Baile.

It's interesting watching these stories evolve together, and the experience of writing a serial story is very enlightening. I'm not sure if I will do it again, though, once this one's done. I prefer the freedom to write badly and then fix it later that comes from traditional writing. I love watching the story rebuild itself as I work through the second draft. There are some things I may take away from this, though. I feel like the first draft of each piece is of a better quality than the first draft of Baile. Part of that is likely due to the pacing of my writing it. Part may also be because of the mindset I put myself in for all of the editing that I've been doing. And I imagine that part of it is also just because of how much I'm enjoying the setting, characters and freedoms and challenges of switching to a third person perspective.

I will be releasing the first 3 chapters of The Nectar of Power on here this week, and I will continue to release the chapters here every week. On Wattpad, they are typically split into 2 parts, released Tuesday and Friday. On here, I will be releasing the entire chapter in a single part on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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