kate: Kate Winslet is wryly amused (Default)
[personal profile] kate
So, back in 2014, I posted about my experience with writing a 12-chapter serial fic, and concluded, basically, that it's not for me. I did it once, and I might try it again, I thought, purposefully – to use the lessons I learned the first time around.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Well, the Christmas before last, I posted a few thousand word Team Free Will gift exchange fic called We Three Kings that was... odd. It just... felt incomplete. Within a couple of weeks, I'd added a couple of chapters to it because I wanted to write other POVs, and not too long after that, the damn thing developed a plot, and then more of a plot, and then a hook – I was writing it on holidays. Suddenly I was 20 chapters in, and I was looking for a timeline/interesting or funny holidays that would allow me to write the plot points I thought I wanted, and I decided it was going to be 80 chapters long and end on Christmas Eve, one year later. I don't know why I thought I could stick to that kind of timeline or schedule (a year. of posting regularly, on holidays. what. the actual. fuck.), but I did. I DID IT. 80 chapters, finished a little late (New Year's Eve) but I DID IT. I'm so proud of sticking (mostly) to the schedule and sticking (exactly) to the number of chapters I COMPLETELY ARBITRARILY DECIDED ON.

I wrote that fic serially for a year. I had a couple of slips, a minor one in the spring and a bigger one in the fall, but that fic kept me writing through a really tough time, and it meant that I wasn't able to set writing down for a week because I had a chapter due in there somewhere. It was super-good for keeping me going when things were hard. I will always treasure WTK for that.

Hilariously, when I said I wanted to write a more thoughtful serial, I DID actually have one in mind. Dean Winchester and the Deck of Many Things. I've got the start of a massive spreadsheet. I have an artist lined up to make the card deck. But I want to get a fair amount of it in my back pocket before I start, and also I want to start it on Halloween and be on a weekly posting schedule until it's finished. (I use a tarot deck for the deck of many things, so that's 72 cards, so like 16 months or something.) Who knows, maybe I'll start it this year. You never know. But I certainly hadn't expected to fall into a year-long serial based on holidays. Funny, how life works sometimes.

But you know, I went back and read that post and the comments from the last time I talked about serials, and there was this in the comments from [personal profile] nagasvoice: What I'm wondering: If you give a warning note for it, would it be okay with the community to fix larger problems? Is anybody going to hate it if you edit earlier chapters when you've run into snags that need changing?

And dude, THAT HAPPENED TO ME WITH WE THREE KINGS.

So one of the really great things about serial fic, or maybe just We Three Kings, is that sometimes lightning would strike, and the most brilliant idea would drop in my lap (roughly half from my brain and half from my commenters), and I was like... whoa. So as a whole (unlike my last serial fic, the subject of the previous post, Apologies and Other Disasters), We Three Kings hangs together more cohesively as a story, though the characterization is a step or two further away from canon characterization than I prefer. One of the best lightning strikes I got was that the reason Sam was being so squirrelly was that he couldn't be sure he wasn't still in the cage with Lucifer. That led to a whole lot of delicious angst, but also led to Sam finally falling, which, for most of the summer, I was not entirely certain was going to happen. (The pairing was Destiel for more than the first half of the fic, and I was determined to get it to Wincestiel by the end.)

Then there was a moment, a chapter 70 – TEN MEASLY CHAPTERS FROM THE END – where the readers took something I wrote not quite as I planned it, and basically went "DDDDDD: NOOOOO TELL ME IT'S NOT ACTUALLY SAM STILL IN HELL!!!" And I was like... ??? Whut, no?!

But then my brain went: HOLY CRAP BUT WHAT IF HE WAS!!! And I suddenly decided to throw out my final 10 chapters of fluff and restructure the end to be massive angst with a hopeful ending (instead of super-fluffy rainbows and unicorns ending I originally had planned).

And I stayed up two nights in a row writing feverishly on this new tangent, SO DARKLY EXCITED BECAUSE IT WAS EVIL, and then I finally posted two chapters (one from the original timeline and then the one that deviated from the original idea) and went to work, exhausted, but feeling accomplished.

By the end of the work day, I was nauseous. WHAT HAD I DONE. WHY WAS I TORTURING SAM??? OH MY GOD, I WAS SO STUPID, BUT NOW IT WAS POSTED WHAT WAS I GOING TO DOOOOOOOOOOO?!! And the comments my readers left were the same - they were all dumbfounded, and many of them, while indicating that they trusted me to get them to a happy place (which I had promised), were heartbroken. I had undermined a year of the relationship I'd built between my main characters to do something "edgy" and it was terrible.

So what to do? I spent a fair while thinking about it, and what I did was to post a non-chapter, basically saying "hey, readers, I want to take this back. I hate it, and I think you hate it, and I just want to go back to my unicorns and rainbows and would you mind if I deleted the last chapter and tried again?"

And guess what! Almost unanimously, they were like, "YES, OMG PLEASE YES!" There were a few "hey, it's your story, do what you like," thrown in there too. So I did! There were a couple readers that were confused (I tried to warn anyone that had commented on the huuuugely angsty chapter, but some of them didn't have accounts and didn't answer the email), but mostly the comments on the newest chapter were RELIEF, SWEET RELIEF.

So basically – I had expected to be trolled or worse, but people were super nice and happy to let me do takebacks… which was super cool.

Some screencaps of my post and the comments on it (which had to be deleted for me to continue on with the story chapters). I couldn't help taking screencaps - my readers were so sweet and supportive, I'm pretty sure I was crying in my hotel room as I rewrote those fluffy chapter.







So that 's my story about how I actually went back and fixed a massive left turn by checking in with my readers and deleting/rewriting an already-posted chapter.

And final thoughts about serials – which amounts to basically 'I have changed my mind, and only partially because SPN is a fandom of serials.'

So, I have an epic in the works right now. I think it's going to be roughly 150-180k of fic (it's currently 55k). It's going to be a triptych with one section in each of the main characters' POVs. When I originally conceptualized this story, I expected I would post it in three chapters, and all at once: Dean POV, Cas POV, Sam POV.

But what I realized as I read through it again was… it fell almost naturally into bite-sized chapters between 3-5k. And when I organized it that way, I could see where some of my transitions fell down, or where I needed more to shore up the plot, and it has become structurally much more sound.

I'm still writing it straight through. I won't post a single word until I have completed the whole story and it has been properly betaed. But you know, before, I would've posted it as a single fic. Now? Definitely posting it in chapters on a schedule.

And while I understand hating WIPs, I am still going to post in chapters. Probably one a day, or one every two days, for all the reasons mentioned in the comments of that post from 3 years ago. More bookmarks and comments. More specific comments. That thrill of feedback nearly every day. I've been converted. I still won't read WIPs, and I don't begrudge anyone who won't read mine, either, but there's just a serial culture in my fandom right now, and what used to be not-that-important pros are much more important these days, and the previously super-important cons don't put me off the way they used to. Funny what a couple of years in a fandom can do to you.

So what do y'all think? Still feel the same about serials? Have different thoughts? Don’t really care one way or another?

*chinhands* Come talk to me.

on 2/25/17 08:24 am (UTC)
mific: (SPN-towels)
Posted by [personal profile] mific
That's fascinating, and I'm glad you were able to fix the wrong turn, with the readers' encouragement.
I've only ever written one serial, a novel-length epic in my first fandom, way back when. That was a serial-oriented fandom as well, and I was a newbie so tended to do what others did, and TBH I was on a mild high, as I'd discovered fandom for the first time and was in love with it. I wrote a chapter a week for about 28 chapters. I had a rough idea where I wanted it to go, but no outline, and I wrote each 3-5000 word chapter off the cuff each week. Most of that was due to ignorance and naievity, and I'd be far too terrified these days to attempt it, but like I said, I was in a slightly altered state. At the time I was kind of interested in the process, somewhat grandiosely likening it in my musings to Dickens writing his serialised novels, heh. Those were also the days before I knew about betas, although the site's mods betaed everything submitted to a minor degree. I think I was lucky that in the end the structure was reasonable, even if it was full of newbie fanwriter cliches and chapter-intro notes I now find embarrassing in the extreme! It's true that serials gather a lot more readers and fans, more comments, and more specific comments, and that's pretty heady. Someone even made a playlist for the fic :)
There's also nothing worse than an abandoned WIP, especially in sites unlike AO3 where you don't know that going in. I'd been burned a couple of times, so I was stubbornly determined to wrap it up and end it properly, and my fandom high lasted just long enough to get there.
I don't think I noticed lightning strikes more with the serial than in my other fics. I get them a bit anyway as I don't generally plan or outline all that much, so unexpected links, brainwaves and serendipity do at times happen. I was thinking of doing another serial in SGA, but as ever I got sidetracked and busy. Still might, but if so there'd be a lot of planning and outlining, even if I wrote each chapter on the hoof. I haven't your patience, to write a super long fic and get it fully completed before even posting, but I would want more of a road map, if I try it again.

on 2/25/17 08:21 pm (UTC)
msilverstar: (they say)
Posted by [personal profile] msilverstar
There's a whole Serials Are The New Thing going on how, that podcast "Serial" and an app/site called https://www.serialbox.com/ that is great fun. You are tuned into the zeitgeist!

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