This week author Crys Cain is joined by special guest Christine Daigle. They discuss what goes into writing serials and how it differs from writing novels.
Crys: Hello friends, and welcome to The Author Life Podcast. Once more, this week I am recording with a guest who is Christine Daigle, who is one of our three story method editors.
Christine has been publishing two serials for over a year now. I think you launched hard when Vella came out. You’ve pursued traditional publishing. Do you have some books?
Christine: I have one traditional published book that with a small press. Yeah so two Vellas and one trad pub.
Crys: And today we’re gonna talk about serials because J and I talked about it when Vella came out. He’s been working on some projects that are in serial format that aren’t public. But Christine has been consistent for over a year, right? On both of these or on just one? Have they both been going strong for the whole year?
Christine: They both have been going strong for most of the So I write with a co-author, and we just wrapped up the horror after the second season and have been focusing on the sci-fi serial, just because it’s been more popular. So that’s where we’ve been putting our effort. And it’s tough to do two serials, so yeah, we kind of depleted the episode bank, so we’ve been focusing on the more popular one.
Crys: So, what have you discovered is different about writing a serial than writing a novel?
Christine: A lot. So you know, you want to have shorter episodes, so you can’t have these like long flowy chapters with lots of expositions. They’re a little bit quicker, faster paced, so you want to have a lot more dialogue, little bit less exposition, lots of white space, shorter paragraphs to counteract scroll fatigue, which is a real thing. Short episodes, so like 1500 to 2,500 words, five to 10 minutes of reading time so your reader’s not getting tired. Get your conflict, get a little bit of a cliffhanger or something visual to pull your reader to the next episode, because you’re going often days or more in between episodes. So it’s definitely a different format.
Crys: And how does that change the planning for you? Because you’re writing and releasing on a completely different schedule than if you were writing an entire book and releasing it. So how does that change the planning for you?
Christine: It changes it a lot. So my co-author and I are outliners. We outlined our first season, outlined our second season, and at some point now we’re just pantsing because you can’t meticulously outline and edit and revise everything the way that you would with a novel. Yeah, so it’s been just quick conversations on the fly and then get an episode in and get it out.
So it’s been very different because you can’t do the revision piece. So when you’ve done a novel, you do your first draft and you don’t really care if it’s the best, and then you can go back and revise it and shape it. And it’s just something you can’t do with serial fiction. So it’s really more focused on the episode level than kind of the overall shape.
We still do have overall shapes and like an overall umbrella and seasons that have story arcs. I’ve found that you just can’t meticulously plan and revise the way that you can with a novel, which as an outliner for me has been a bit more stressful.
Crys: Sure. So how do you plan the arcs and such and make sure that you stay with that for each episode? Is that part of having the co-author relationship is that one of you is catching the strays?
Christine: Yeah. Started out that I was first drafting and my co-author was second drafting. And then at some point we flipped, and so now he’s first drafting and I’m second drafting. And we just have chats about it on discord about where we’re heading. And we did the whole kind of novel outline that you would for any traditional novel for the first one. And we use three story methods, so for sure, we just had those points, we did that for the second season.
And the third season, we have an end point in line, but no real roadmap for how to get there. So it’s just been discussions online over, okay, this is where we both see it going and how are we gonna get there as we’re going a couple episodes of chunks at a time? But so far it seemed to work out. We haven’t screwed anything up too badly. So just gonna keep on going like that.
Crys: Yeah, I was gonna ask about the planning, because with semi writing into the dark, you’ve got some headlights, you know like the destination, do you tend to chunk the writing? So you guys will write and edit a few episodes at a time and then have them ready?
Christine: Yeah. So we’re usually a few episodes ahead at a time. So we’re writing them in chunks and then just discussing where the next few are going. So that’s the point that we’re at now.
Crys: Yeah, because the thing about writing as you go with serials that always makes me nervous is, what if you get sick? What if something happens? That is nerve-wracking. So that makes a lot of sense that you’re writing ahead.
Christine: Yeah. Yeah, it definitely is nerve wracking. So yeah, we had a lot of episodes ahead when we started. So now we’re on the bubble. We’re only a few episodes ahead in first draft and right on it in second draft with publishing time. But we haven’t missed one yet. We’ve done two episodes a week for just over a year and have not missed yet. So hopefully that doesn’t happen.
Crys: And where have you been distributing the episodes?
Christine: Mostly Vella. So we’ve tried a couple of other fiction sites. We were on Laterpress and Fiction 8, but Vellas kind of been our main platform. We only did the first season on fiction eight and I’m not up to date on later press.
Christine: Just with the way that the money is right now, Vella has been the main focus because it’s the most profitable.
Crys: And what else do you do? Do you bundle it up? Do you have thoughts about doing Patreon at some point? What are all the options that you think works for you?
Christine: Yeah, we were playing with Patreon for a little bit. Haven’t had a lot of interest in that at the moment, but that’s still an avenue we might keep open. Probably are going to put them out in book form because they do have story arcs. So if we were to put these out in traditional novel format right now, we probably have the equivalent of two- and three-quarter books written, so we are gonna do that at some point. As an indie,, you don’t want to just put one out and not have the next one ready. So yeah, probably when we have three ready, we’re gonna put them out and then we’ll see how that goes. Yeah.
Crys: Now for folks who are considering writing a serial, what would be your best advice to get them set on the right track?
Christine: Read serials because they are very different in format than the novels. That was probably the biggest mistake I had made is starting it out a little bit more like a novel, a bit more character development, little too subtle, a little taking too much time. Like it’s okay to have bigger characters, more dialogue, faster start. So those would be some of the things that I would definitely suggest. And then I would suggest writing ahead as many episodes as you can before you start, I would say at least 10 before you start putting it up cause Vella wants you to have three episodes at least for them to start with and your fourth one is where you start getting paid if you’re on Vella. It’s different on different platforms.
So I would definitely say write ahead as much as you can, before you get eager to get it out there. I’m glad we did it at launch, but it’s not launch now, So there’s no reason to try and scramble to get launched. But yeah, that would definitely be the best advice that I would have is write ahead and read serials.
Crys: Do you think you would start another serial at some point?
Christine: I don’t know, we might. But I don’t want to do another one consecutively, because it’s a lot, like it’s a big commitment. It’s a lot of work. So if this one came to a natural conclusion and we wrapped it up and we’re like, I don’t know what else to write with us, then yeah, we might start another one.
Crys: How do you advertise for a serial? I think that’s been one of the big questions that a lot of folks have had.
Christine: It’s a challenge. And again, it depends where you’re on. Radish has some better visibility than kind of Vella, you have more chance to get seen. I don’t write romance, so it’s not an option for me. So really it’s only been Facebook because there are no AMS ads right now. So it’s been Facebook advertising that has mostly been the best for me, as well as newsletters, just trying to get on other people’s newsletters through book funnels, story origin, book sprout, those type of things has been the best visibility. Social media doesn’t really bring in readers for me, in my experience. It’s good for engaging the readers you have to remind them to read, but I haven’t really found that it’s been bringing in new readers.
Crys: Excellent. And I forgot to say in the intro that you and JP Rindfleisch are shared co-hosts who also run kind of two podcasts, like one podcast with an A side and a B side is how I’ve been explaining. It called The Serial Fiction show. And one side is the fiction for people who want to listen to first episodes and get exposed to serials, see what they’re about. And the other side is on the writer’s side, which is talking with the author about that reader’s episode.
Christine: And we have serial authors from different platforms, getting different experiences, people doing different things. So you can learn a lot that way. As we’re recording this it’s July 18th, I don’t know when this is coming out, but our anniversary episode is coming out tomorrow and it has a bunch of authors who are very successful at serial fiction. So that would be a good one to come listen to, if you want to learn some things.
Crys: Yeah, I think this episode will air the same day, it’ll air tomorrow. So you can hop right over to the Serial Fiction Show and listen to that podcast for sure.
Crys: All right. For a question for our listeners, I would like to ask if you have ever considered writing a serial if you read them? I read the most in comic form. I really like web comics, which is a form of serialization. But I also read textual only forms, and sometimes they’re exactly what my brain needs.
Thank you so much, Christine, for joining me for this episode. Could you share with our listeners where they can find you on the internet?
Christine: Yeah, you can find me at christinedaiglebooks.com. All my stuff is there.
Crys: And that’s her as an editor, an author, a podcaster, all the things.
Christine: All the things. Thanks so much for having me.
Crys: Thank you so much for joining us this and every week. If you like the kinds of conversations that we have on this podcast and would like to have them in real life, you can check out the Author Life Community at www.theauthorlife.com.