Let’s face it: writing a novel intended for traditional publication is quite different from writing a webserial. Those of us who do the latter (whether instead of or in addition to the former) probably know that the challenges we face are unique—starting with that very first decision to post our work online in installments.
Webserials come in many different formats, from a closed-ended serialized novel to a continuing serial intended to build a world that keeps growing while developing either the same characters or an evolving cast. We decide which of those we want to create, the frequency with which we publish installments, and even what the word “installment” means. A scene? A chapter? A video journal? An illustration or sketch? An episode consisting of a screenplay? Some writers choose more than one medium with which to tell their webserials, and so “installments” can take on any variety of formats.
It’s a unique form of writing, and deserves its own community and resources. Fortunately, many such sites exist, as you know since you’re on one of the best right now. Of the webserial resources out there, the oldest is the EpiGuide, the longest-running active hub for serialized webfiction and webseries writers, artists, producers and audience members, founded in 1998 with a mandate to promote the diversity of online serialized storytelling.
Our forum-based community offers categories where writers can promote their work through posting news announcements or weekly updates, find or offer writing tips, get technical advice on web design, and even have their own hosted message board. Readers get to talk about the world of webserials in general (and their favorites specifically), read previews of what’s happening in multiple webserials of any format, and participate in discussions within those hosted webserial boards.
There are also monthly EpiCasts, podcasts where listeners get the scoop on upcoming storylines, learn about new serials, catch up on what they’ve missed via installment recaps, and hear the co-hosts chat about topics related to specific plots, ideas on character development, writing dos and don’ts, reviews of website designs… basically any topic related to the world of webserials.
With such devotion to this relatively new form of publishing (though not all that new, relative to the online world itself: webserials have been around at least as far back as 1995), it’s not a surprise that we—I’m one of the EpiGuide’s cofounders and have been running the place for more than a decade—have founded the first month-long writing marathon specifically aimed at serialized fiction authors.
This year marks the seventh annual Web Serial Writing Month, or WeSeWriMo as we call it. Throughout August, writers of webfiction serials are challenged to write their fingers blue to meet their ambitious goal—whatever it may be.
Wait, what? Did I just write whatever it may be?
Yes, hypothetical version of Kira who’s asking herself this question, I did indeed write that. Because unlike the justifiably famous NaNoWriMo and its summer spin-off Camp NaNoWriMo, Web Serial Writing Month encourages each writer to create his or her own unique definition of “challenge” and “ambition” and “goal.” We don’t tell you to write 50,000 words. That challenge is great for a novelist, but for a webserial creator, whose work might be published in a screenplay format, in a graphic-text hybrid, or any other variety of forms, such a goal isn’t all that meaningful.
So each participant in WeSeWriMo gets to come up with a goal unique to his or her needs. A thousand words written each day? Two installments each week? Ten chapters for the month, plus a redesign of the serial’s website? Anything goes—yes, even (as seen in the last example) multiple goals!
Some people may find this idea daunting. How do you come up with a goal that’s challenging enough? What I’ve always suggested to WeSeWriMo newcomers is to use a formula that represents 150% of your usual output. Usually write 10,000 words a week? Aim for 15,000 words. Produce four episodes each month? Choose a six-episode goal. Have a usual “buffer” of seven posts? Push yourself to add at least three extra to your backlog.
Sometimes just continuing your regular output, plus adding an extra goal, is a big enough challenge. Continue your regular 1,000-word installments each day output, but resolve that in addition to this, you’ll create a Wiki for your serial, or add character profiles, or write a one-off short story prequel for your serial to use as an eBook download, or build a Facebook page for your serial, or… well, the possibilities are as varied as your imagination and what works best for your personal ambitions—and, of course, for your webserial itself.
By the way, WeSeWriMo is also perfect for people who haven’t yet begun their webserial. What better way to jumpstart your project than such an open-ended challenge? You get to decide what you need to begin your webserial—writing an outline for your serial (either the entire thing if you’re writing a serialized novel, or just a “bible” for the first season/first few months’ worth of installments if you’re planning an open-ended webserial), producing a certain number of installments to have a buffer before you begin posting, setting up your website, creating promo banners or trailer videos…
Again, the options are incredibly varied, and if you need help in figuring out what your goal should be, you can always ask us! Post in the EpiGuide forum asking for help and the EpiGuide community will rally around you and offer you plenty of ideas if you need them!
Now, unlike NaNoWriMo, our marathon is very low-tech and low-key. We don’t have the bells and whistles offered by the high profile NaNoWriMo. We offer a community forum where folks can talk about their individual challenges, as well as a weekly official check-in thread that asks people “hey, how are you doing so far?” We give you a simple blog, a tool to update your word count manually (which you can add to your own website to show off your progress), and—when the month is over—we offer buttons and badges and even a certificate to reward you for your win.
Since the goals are so diverse, we don’t have an automated way to judge whether you’ve “won” or not; we trust our participants and as administrator of the project I’ve yet to find anyone who didn’t deserve that trust. Or you can send us a link or your Word documents or whatever your output has been to verify that you’ve met the challenge. Those who do will have their websites linked on the official WeSeWriMo.org website Wall of Champions.
You can sign up as late as August 1, which simply consists of getting yourself a free EpiGuide account, then posting your goal in public on the official Registration topic in our forum.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t settle for being an outsider or rebel – at the EpiGuide, we think of the writers in our community as pioneers, staking a claim in the untamed realm of serialized webfiction. Go forth and find out just how ambitious you really are: take part in WeSeWriMo!
WeSeWriMo registration runs through August 1, 2013. Learn more at http://www.wesewrimo.org, sign up for your EpiGuide account at http://www.epiguide.com/forums/register.php, and post your goal at http://bit.ly/wese2013.
About the author: Kira Lerner is the cofounder and administrator of the EpiGuide Webfiction Community and the driving force behind WeSeWriMo. Her own webserial, About Schuyler Falls, premiered in 1997 and weaves tales of psychological drama, mystery, humor and romance as seen in a troubled upstate New York town. Her traditionally-published works include the paranormal / gaslight romance novel Fierce Moon and the comic romance Tropical Treasure. She’s also collaborating on a series of YA fantasy novels, and freelances as a proofreader, copy editor, book doctor and web designer via Falling Sky Web Design, Editing and Content Services.
Official Sign-up Thread: http://bit.ly/wese2013
About Schuyler Falls – http://skyfalls.com
Kira’s Facebook page: http://facebook.com/AuthorKiraLerner
Falling Sky: http://falling-sky.com