Writing Lessons from Blogging a Serial Novel
Much like the end of my serial novel, I had planned on making this post a lot sooner than this. Unfortunately, life happens sometimes and creates delays. But I still wanted to take the time to reflect back upon the things I learned by writing a serial novel on my blog.
1. Writing with a schedule helps - For the first thirteen installments, I was making a post every week. Sure, I didn’t have a specific enough schedule to make each post fall on the same day of the week, but by the time Sunday rolled around I knew that I needed to get a post going because the weekend was almost over. There were weeks where I wanted to do other things but I chose to prioritize writing instead. Without a deadline (real or imagined), it is easy to put the writing off until another day.
2. Blogging makes it a social task – While comments were few and far between, I knew I had a small handful of people looking forward to reading the next installment each week. This readership, along with the schedule, kept me from waiting too long to write the next part. Because I didn’t want to risk losing the readers I had already gained. If I was just keeping this saved on my hard drive I probably wouldn’t have made it thirteen weeks, even with a schedule. So even if I don’t want to put something on my blog, finding a small group of people who would read my writing each week would be a motivator to keep writing.
3. A plan is helpful but not essential – When I started, I didn’t have a title much less an idea of where this story was going. It was just a guy who was captured and being dragged into the capital, and then he was forced to fight for his survival. My initial thoughts, after writing part two, were that Slate would survive the first battle. As a writer, I was surprised to find that I killed him off, bringing Jerek into the role of a main character instead. After a while I was challenged in a writing prompt to write a synopsis, which made me stop and think about where it was heading. And once I finished that, I had a very clear idea of where things were going. I didn’t need a plan to start things off, and if I didn’t write until I knew exactly what would happen I would probably never start, but thinking it through helped a lot.
4. Regular writing breeds better writing – There is a noticeable trend in my blog posts. Over thirteen weeks my writing improved at a pretty steady pace. Not just the serial novel, either. All of my posts, as well as the poems I was writing for my summer class, got better when I was writing regularly. I can compare this to running. When I started running my body struggled to endure the distance but, as I ran more often, I was slowly able to go further and it wasn’t as taxing on my body. My writing endurance increased over those months, allowing me to do more writing and to produce better writing in the process.
5. Writing a novel isn’t a contest – I could have written more words each week, or made more than one post per week, but I chose to pace myself instead. I wanted to be able to focus on other things in my life, as well as make other blog posts along the way. In the past I tried forcing myself to write 500-1000 words on a single project each day, and it usually went great for about a week. And then I felt drained and took a break from it, never returning to that project. Writing a novel is like running a marathon: you can’t go all out in the beginning and expect to endure until the end at that pace. There might be miles where you can go faster, but you want to try and find a steady rhythm that you can maintain for the long haul. If you try to go too hard the whole way, you won’t reach the end.