Starting over – Thoughts on Serials the Second Time Around

Less than 48 hours in to the start of my second official serial fiction, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this experience.

The pause effect

In a best case scenario, when “Red Riding Hood”  completed in February, I would have taken a week or two off and launched immediately into a new book. This would have avoided the web audience attrition that happens during long breaks and also avoided a problem I anticipated would occur.  For two years, I had used analytics data to examine the habits of  my website readership. The majority of my readers had always been fairly quiet.  Less than 5% of them participated on the blog  in form of comments during a very good week and the majority did not use any method of social media (or RSS) to track for updates to the serial.  A good majority relied on direct surfing to the webpage.

Ending the last serial meant we were saying goodbye with only a vague idea that I would be back, lurking the web, at some point in 2013 (specified “summerish”).  School would be back in session, but no one had idea when (including myself.)

However, in spite of this concern, I felt I had to just take the time off and gamble.  After two years and some months of writing with little break except for family emergencies and vacations, I didn’t feel ready to jump into another one to two year commitment.   My first serial had a lot more forethought and preparatory work behind it. A second based on a character that appeared only in a short story and with cameos in the main serial felt really risky.  I didn’t have a good sense of this new character and I wanted time to pick through her major narrative arc and her past.

Granted, I could have possibly launched the second serial with better planning at the end of 2012. If I had a bigger buffer, I might have been able to end one serial while quickly planning another. However, with pressures outside with work and home life, it was not easy to divide my thoughts among a finishing serial and launching a new one.

What this meant is that with the serial launching this week and little way to connect back with many fans, I have found myself really starting over like a good many serial writers. While I am not quite starting at ground zero like first time serializers, I am not jumping in with any momentum. My readership isn’t zero on the website (as I’ve posted some intermittent content for the most committed visitors,), but that traffic is significantly reduced from what I had in February.

And yet, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic about this.

I had really nothing of a network when I started two years ago.  I had no listing on the webfiction sites and did not know about Project Wonderful until I looked more carefully at a now-defunct webcomic.  My first readers were Deviantart friends and watchers and perhaps a few random people from Livejournal.   I wasn’t even on Wattpad until a few weeks or months after my story had gotten together.

So I’m a little better off this time.  Forty-eight hours in, the serial is not listed anywhere other than Tuesdayserial and at Comics Rocket.  (Comics Rocket is awesome in my book, for it did send traffic my way already.And it speaks to me about the comics vs. fiction audience quite loudly.)

What I hope to learn

A few weeks ago I had some deep reservations about running the second volume as a free serial on the web and even considered backtracking and going with another story (Sleeping Prince) so I could fully exploit an illustrated format that would bring it in line with webcomics.

However, my sense of duty compelled me to stick to the plan.

This time around,  I’ll be interested to track the impact of muses-success.info and webfictionguide.com once and if a listing eventually comes online. I’ll also be interested to see if I can gain any traction on Wattpad.  I’m a bit skeptical there will be any benefit for me this time around as both TE Waters and I have observed completely uncorrelated numbers for our other stories compared to the more successful ones.

In a way, I think this second serial will tell me if I have to change my model for future serials.

That said, if I can’t regain momentum with Volume 2, I don’t think I’ll be giving up. Rather — I think I can take what I’ve learned and move on.

I’ve always hedged on the premise that I would do better with a serial with more of a comic/illustrations focus . But I’ve also considered serializing through some other aggregation site  with a different genre of fiction.  I want to try my hand at a “publisher” like JukePop and Chromatic Press.

It’s all about finding readers for me, and if I can’t bring them to me, I must go to them.

Even so, I still like you, serials.

From February to May of this year I’ve been writing but mostly on a technical level.  My creative writing has been completely missing.

It’s been an interesting time off period from me. I am the sort of artist who has to take breaks from work to explore other things as part of my overall process. As such, I have spent a lot of time reading and dissecting movies and television from multiple popular fandoms – from Game of Thrones, Sherlock, and numerous anime. I’ve been catching up with a lot of manga and comics as well.

At times I have questioned my sanity in pursuing a second possibly long-form serial, but I thought about these various forms of entertainment formats and realized that for me, a person who enjoys character drama, that the long-form serial is a good vehicle for the kind of storytelling I enjoy.

Movies and short works tend to want to spend a lot more time on plot and theme/feeling.  If you do get into characters you have to be economical about their appearances and such.  I think serials (at least the way I perceive them) are great for giving yourself a bit of breathing room.  I have certainly been long-winded in both fan and original fiction, but I  can spend time on two characters conversing about something not wholly important (although not irrelevant) and not feel like someone is going to be screaming at me about the dollars of animation or film I just wasted.

I think I’m still sold on serials and the idea that the format is the best way for me to shape my creative universe.

So serials, I’m still a fan. I just hope that we can find an audience together.

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