Four things I’ve learned writing a fiction blog

Since launching this blog I’ve now published over one hundred fiction posts. They have, for the most part, been the story of Scarlet, the Life Without Tumblr series. I have loved posting it, not least because I’ve stuck to my guns with regards to not having to blog the same way as everyone else. I’ve also loved it because I’ve received some genuinely lovely, supportive feedback, which has made all the difference to my continued posting.

But the real boon of posting fiction three times a week is the learning I’ve taken away from it. Without further ado, here are four things writing my blog has taught me.

 

1. Every post matters. I’ve put this first because I believe it counts for non-fiction just as much as fiction, but is less obvious. It’s far too easy when you’re posting three times a week to throw out a quick fix, easy post when the workload builds up. You can’t get away with that in fiction. For the new reader, that one post could send them away, never to return, and for the regular reader, any time they come face to face with a less than scintillating read, they will be more tempted to turn to their possibly more convenient paper back or e-reader.

 

2. The art of the cliffhanger. This wasn’t so true in my earlier posts, but for the last fifty or so, I was determined to end every post with a cliffhanger of one sort or another. So every 1500-2000 words had to not only be a complete scene, but also end in a way that drew the audience back two days later. I pants for the most part, which means figuring it out as I go along. The cliffhanger was a powerful tool for maintaining tension and keeping me focused while enjoying the ride.

 

3. Be organized and prepared. I tend to write my stories well in advance. As a pantser, I want to know what the end is before I publish so I can tweak where necessary, add foreshadowing etc. I always seem to get lucky with these sorts of things, foreshadowing something that happened in the fourth series with a throw-away line in the second. Or maybe the throwaway line gave me inspiration for the fourth… hmm, not sure. Either way, as someone with a full time job, a wife and child and trying to write and publish my books as well, having a couple of months of posts written in advance is essential.

 

4. Edit fast. Writing this blog has essentially meant that I have two projects running concurrently all the time. It also means that I have another set of deadlines overlaying the main ones. In order to get every post ready in time, I’ve developed some really good editing techniques. For example, reading the posts out loud has become standard procedure and had a huge impact. Similarly, my proof-reading has become much better. I have one lovely reader who messages me with any typos she finds, and out of the forty thousand some words of Scarlet’s web, she’s only found about four, which is a good ratio.

The key to this being successful is to give yourself some space from the story and when you return to it, read it through with an eye for the big picture. What is the scene supposed to be achieving? What progress do you want the characters to make, both internal and external? Once you’ve figured that out and ensured it’s occurring, you can then check it line by line for quality and rhythm. Editing fifteen hundred words at a time has helped speed me up because I’m taking each post individually, so rather than thinking about having forty or fifty thousand words to edit, I’m thinking about only two thousand and how to get them perfect.

 

That’s a few things I think can be gained from blogging serialized fiction. Do you do it? Have you thought about doing it? I’d love to know your thoughts and if you’ve been reading Scarlet’s stories, I’d love to know whether you think it works and what you think I should change.

 

I also wanted to give everyone a heads up about what’s coming next on the blog.

I’m starting an entirely new story on Monday. I love writing Scarlet, but I need to do something different and she deserves a break and some down-time with Lara 🙂

The story is called 13 Roses and can be described as a character study/zombie apocalypse/spiritual fantasy…thing.

 

The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge. Maybe they have to make a decision they dread, maybe their world is falling down around them and they are faced with a choice. Or maybe they need to change and don’t realize it. Whatever it may be, the flower seller is there, nudging them in one direction or another and giving them more than a nudge when the need arises.

But who is the flower seller and why is he giving these people roses? And where do the zombies come in?  All will be revealed…

 

That’s the blurb at the moment. Please check out part one on Monday and let me know what you think. See you then.

Cheers

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6 thoughts on “Four things I’ve learned writing a fiction blog

  1. How brave, to be a pantser and post serialized fiction. And inspiring! I’ve written drafts of four and-a-half novels. As a pantser, first drafts are no problem. It’s getting the structure underneath in the rewrites that keeps me from finishing. I get caught up in endless drafts until I’ve written the life out of it.

    Since you’re only rewriting 2000 words a shot, and you haven’t plotted the story, how do you see the big picture? The character arc, and so on. Would love to hear more.

    • Hi Diane
      Thanks so much for the lovely comment. I know what you mean about the rewrites. Fortunately, I keep on top of my structure as I go. I find if i’m heading in the wrong direction I stop enjoying the writing and find it a slog. Normally when I write it flows, so that’s a good alarm for me to stop, backtrack and figure out where I went wrong. It occasionally means trashing a few thousand words, but it’s always worth it.
      With regards to the serialised stuff, there are two things that help with the big picture. The first is that I normally spend a week or so just deciding what cool things Scarlet could get up to. This often gives me the big picture in advance and if I’m really lucky, an ending. 🙂
      The second thing is that I do tend to write up front quite a lot. So for example with this latest story, Scarlet’s Web, I had the first draft done before I started posting. So although I had some quite substantial editing to do before I posted each time, I knew what Scarlet would go through for the entire story. This enabled me to add in whatever I needed to support the character arc and so on.
      Hope that helps. Best of luck with the editing 🙂
      Mike

  2. Now that I know a lot more about blogging and eBooks, if I was to take a different approach I may someday consider serialized fiction or nonfiction. It makes sense in so many ways. But since I haven’t figured out what type of writer I want to be when I grow up, I only post the occasional creative nonfiction piece for now.

    • Hey Jeri
      Thanks for the comment. I love serialised fiction, despite the drag of having to remember to post it!
      I also love the pressure of having to create and finish something on a regular basis. The short format and scheduling doesn’t give me the chance to back out or not finish stuff. It’s a bit risky putting myself out there, but I’d rather do that and get feedback than not publish anything!
      I also find I write quite different stuff when I’m writing for the blog. The story that’s just begun has led to a whole series of zombie apocalypse books. I’m near the end of book three and have ideas for the next two. Without beginning it using the blog style and trying to keep the short story feel to it, I’d probably never have written something like that!
      When you say type of writer, do you mean what genre, or what voice/style/POV or something else?
      cheers
      Mike

  3. Have loved reading Scarlet every step of the way, and look forward to reading the rest of what happens too.

    Good idea to do something different for a bit, keeps things in your mind fresh rather than the “here we go again” which can happen to anyone. (no you haven’t done any of that sort of writing so far 🙂 )

    Been away for a couple of weeks so just finished Scarlet, and will start Roses tomorrow 🙂 See you on twitter

    • Hi Jenny
      Thanks so much for the lovely comments 🙂
      I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying Scarlet. It does feel a bit scary stepping away from her for a bit, but I’m really excited about the new story too.
      Hope you’re enjoying 13 Roses 🙂

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