Blog Guest: Beth Raymond, author of “Secrets of the Conclave”

In this post, Online Novel continues highlighting authors who are part of the Jukepop Serials family.  

The third of the Jukepop authors to be featured is Beth Raymond, author of “Secrets of the Conclave” (http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/63), a story of political control and rebellion in a matriarchal society, with a little magic on the side.

bethraymondI’m not a professional writer. Well, I am, sort of—I’m a lawyer, and I write in that capacity. But the writing I do in my day job is far from creative. So, on the side, I write fiction. I realize it is rather cliché to be a lawyer and an author of fiction, but I had been writing fiction long before I ever became a lawyer. Indeed, I’ve written stories off-and-on throughout my life and I’ve taken courses in fiction writing both in college and as a pre-law school, working adult. Yet all of my previous work was in the short story format. I’d never tackled a novel, nor had I ever submitted anything for publication.

In 2005, I finally decided to try writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. The product of this effort became the first draft of my serial, Secrets of the Conclave, now published at JukePop Serials. Admittedly, it wasn’t a very good draft—at times, it was downright cringe-worthy—but that’s not really the goal of NaNoWriMo, as participants like to call it. Instead, the goal is to write 50,000 words in a single month, and I succeeded in that. At the time, I had intended to edit that first draft, expand it, and try to publish it in some fashion—but then real life got in the way. And by real life, I mean law school, clerking, and my first job as a lawyer.

Almost seven (!) years later, in the spring of 2012, someone I follow on Twitter—now a fellow JukePop author, K.R. Cross (check out his serial, Daggers)—tweeted that JukePop Serials was looking for submissions in preparation for its site launch later that year. Transitioning Secrets of the Conclave to a serial format seemed like a great way to edit (finally) my initial manuscript from 2005. I also liked the idea of developing a readership over time and receiving immediate feedback from those readers. The prospect of getting paid didn’t hurt, either! What’s more, it seemed like a low-stress way to submit my work for publication for the first time. Instead of spending months (or years) toiling away at a manuscript with an uncertain future, I only had to perfect a single chapter. So, I revised what had been the prologue in my original draft and sent it to JukePop Serials as Chapter One of Secrets of the Conclave. I was pleased to receive an acceptance after about a month.

Transforming a story intended to be a stand-alone novel into a serial format has been challenging at times. I can’t count on my readers remembering events that happened many chapters ago, so I have to include information in each chapter that I probably wouldn’t include otherwise. I also try to end each chapter with something that will make my readers want to come back in two weeks for the next chapter. Yet I don’t end every chapter with a cliff-hanger, and because I’ve written Secrets of the Conclave using multiple point-of-view characters—rotating by chapter—the cliff-hangers I do include often aren’t resolved right away. This may not be the best methodology for a serial novel, because that resolution then requires much more backstory to remind my readers of the issue. If I published more frequently, however, the reminders might not be as necessary.

That said, the effort of editing (and much of the time, wholesale re-writing) Secrets of the Conclave has resulted in a positive, new writing ritual for me. Because my day job keeps me quite busy, my preferred writing time is in the early morning hours. I still don’t know how it happened, but I’ve morphed from a night owl into an early bird! I usually get up around 5:30 AM so I can write for a few hours and still have time to exercise before getting ready for work. So long as I avoid the Internet (I’m looking at you, Twitter), I am incredibly productive in the morning. When I used to commute to work by train, I also would write scenes on my iPhone and transfer them to Scrivener once I got home. I still write in the evenings on occasion, but not as often as I once did.

This new writing ritual has paid off—literally! Not only did JukePop Serials pay me for my first chapter, but I’ve been fortunate to receive varying amounts of compensation each month because Secrets of the Conclave is a Top 30 serial as determined by the number of reader votes. I’ve flirted with being in the Top 10 a couple of times, though really only by attrition when authors of top-voted serials don’t publish a new chapter in a month or have indicated that their serial is complete. I’ve also developed a small audience for my writing—some of whom I didn’t already know, which was my primary goal. One of those strangers even gave Secrets of the Conclave a nice review over at Web Fiction Guide.

In all honesty, however, there are a few things that haven’t turned out quite as I expected. First, I haven’t had much reader interaction on the site itself. I’ve received only a few chapter comments since last fall, and when I once tried to spark some conversation myself, no one took the bait. Other authors have had more interaction with readers, though, so my experience may be atypical. I will say that interaction amongst JukePop Serial authors is fabulous; everyone is quite supportive of everyone else, especially when it comes to getting the word out about our serials through social media channels. There is a lot of JukePop author chatter on Twitter.

Second, I’m on the fence about the voting mechanism at JukePop Serials. On the one hand, the voting has resulted in my serial’s ranking, which in turn has resulted in monthly compensation. Yet sometimes, voting seems more a reflection of how many people you know on the Internet than a reflection of readers’ enjoyment of your work. Therefore, as a reader, I’m not sure how helpful the voting mechanism is for discovering new content. The voting does help, at times, to motivate me as an author, but I pay less attention to the number of votes I have now than I did at the beginning.

I’m also not certain how to interpret the number of votes I have—or even if I should be trying to do so. For example, at present, I have 729 votes and 73 unique voters for 22 chapters. Obviously, those 73 unique voters haven’t voted for each chapter, else I’d have over 1600 votes! But does the mismatch mean more people started to read Secrets of the Conclave and then stopped, or vice versa? If it’s the former, then I need to modify what I’m doing to retain my readership. If it’s the latter, though, then no corrective action is necessary. Or maybe some of those 73 voters intend to read more chapters, but just haven’t gotten around to it—or forget to click the “+Vote” button when they do! I don’t know what it all means, though maybe if I’d analyzed the voting patterns over time, I’d have a better idea.

Minor quibbles aside, writing for JukePop Serials has been a great experience. I’ve connected with a lot of great writers, I’ve developed a small readership, and the experience has kept me motivated to finish my story. I anticipate adding another 10-15 chapters to the current 22 before the story concludes. I know how the story ends—I think—and while I have drafts of some of the remaining chapters from my original manuscript, they need significant re-writes, and I need to write several new chapters as well. The edits I made to Chapter One spawned a large number of changes to the story—mostly because I turned a character I’d killed off in the original manuscript into a point-of-view character. That tends to change the story a bit!

Once I’ve finished publishing Secrets of the Conclave at JukePop Serials, I plan to re-edit the manuscript as a whole. For example, I’ll remove a lot of the redundancy that serves only to remind readers of things that happened in previous chapters I published months ago. I’ll also fix some plot holes that have crept in over time. I then intend to self-publish the completed work. Because JukePop retains exclusive rights to publish the story for six months and non-exclusive rights thereafter, I assume no other publisher will be interested in a completed manuscript, even if it’s different from the serialized version. Therefore, self-publishing seems to be the way to go.

Once I’ve self-published, I don’t have any great expectations, though I do anticipate that I’ll sell at least a few more copies than I would have had I not first published at JukePop Serials. Other JukePop authors are going this route with their completed serials, like M. P. Ness with White Leaves (E.L.F.). I will be watching and learning from them.

Because of my experience with Secrets of the Conclave, I am likely to do another serial in the future. I like that serial publishing gives me mini-deadlines to keep me on track, and it would be fun to try a serial in a different genre or style. I’m not certain at this point, however, whether my next serial will be published on my own site or through JukePop (or another publisher). My audience, thus far, is connected to JukePop Serials, so publishing a second serial there would make the most sense. Yet each submission is judged on its own merits, so just because I’ve published once with JukePop Serials doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed a future spot. I’ll have to see what the future brings!

Secrets_of_the_Conclave_cover

Beth’s story “Secrets of the Conclave” can be read at https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/63

Connect with Beth on Twitter and Facebook. She also provides chapter updates and other writing-related posts at bethraymond.blogspot.com.

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