No, I asked how, not what: Edits. Just...so many edits.
I'm only barely coherent on this blog-shaped thing at the best of times. I could write pages and pages of stuff about my books, the writing process, the weird shiver of pleasure I get when I hit publish on a paperback, or the awesomeness of holding that paperback in my hands.
(Also, the more awesome feeling of knowing there are complete strangers, out there in the real world, who have bought those paperbacks and now have them on their bookshelves. That's a weird one, because I don't get the same feeling from selling an ebook. There's an essay in there about why I think the paperback isn't going away any time soon, but I won't bore you (with that, anyway).)
That isn't what this blog thing is about though. I don't want to write about writing because everyone (for a specific definition of everyone) writes about writing. There is nothing I can add to the conversation. However...
Fuck it. I'm going to do it anyway, if only this once. This is for writer-types, and it's just me blathering. If you don't give a shit, that's cool. Go look at the lovely book pages elsewhere on the site. Click that button in the menu bar up there, the one that says books. Go ahead, click it. Mmmmmmmmmm, books.
We good? The normal people gone? Let's go.
(Warning, there's some swearing coming up. If you're not an adult, read around the "bad" words (I probably should have put this warning higher in the post. Oh well))
A novel has to have structure; a beginning (things are normal, but there's this cloud on the horizon that looks funny), a middle (oh my god why is everything going so fucking badly), and an end (I won? Shit, that was close. Fucking clouds).
I've just finishing putting together Dead Men Season 1. Dead Men is a serial, and not one of those chopped up book kind of serials. Each episode has a slightly truncated version of that novel structure. West's life is ticking along, she gets a job or something happens to annoy her, things escalate, she kills people, she goes home.
The majority of the episodes do that, and there are 8 episodes, so it really doesn't work as a novel. I wrote it live (releasing it as it was written) and I had the idea of structuring it as a TV show, so there are episodes that have nothing to do with the overall story.
Here's my writing tip: Don't do that.
The overall story in Dead Men is great (he says modestly), and ends really well (just...so modest), but there are meandering parts that wouldn't be there in a novel.
If you're going to do a serial (if you are you should probably stick to erotica or something, not science fiction), then plan it in advance and do a tighter structure than I did. Omit episodes that don't add to the whole, because when someone reads the season in one go those episodes will stand out. They'll feel jarring.
You can see this is TV shows that are meant to be watched in one go, compared to regular network shows. Orange Is the New Black is a pretty good example of a show that wouldn't work on a weekly schedule. It works really well if you binge watch it, whereas most regular TV shows don't necessarily.
So here's how you structure a science fiction serial:
Remembering that you'll be releasing it in one go, as a season (or compilation, or boxset, or whatever), work out the shape of the entire thing in advance. You need the same beginning, middle, and end as a novel (or any other story). Things are great, something shitty happens, we persevere (or not).
Now you need to plot out some episodes and have them fall within the arc. When I write Dead Men Season 2 I'll probably only do 5 episodes, and each episode will fill one of the parts of an overall arc. No standalone randomness.
Each episode also needs to have that same structure, for the most part. At the end of the episode there needs to be some closure, or all you're doing is writing a weirdly structured novel. If you're releasing it all in one go you can end it on a cliffhanger without feeling like a complete asshole, but it still needs to have closure.
The last three episodes of Dead Men were written like this and I really liked it. Bad things happened and weren't resolved by the end of the episode, but there was still closure. You still felt like you got a story, you just needed to read the next one.
So now when you write each episode you know what it needs to achieve:
- The first episode needs to set up the world as it is and show us the inciting incident.
- The second episode needs to raise the tension and end with your characters beaten and angry (or beaten and sad. Or beaten and scared. Or anything, as long as they are also beaten).
- The third and/or fourth episode has them rally and take the fight (physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever) to the bad guy. They get destroyed again, ending up more beaten. They think they can't win, but they have no choice.
- The fourth and/or fifth episode has them try again, using some new insight they've gained to formulate a better strategy, or use their desperation to fuel their fight.
- The fifth episode is the final fight and concludes the arc.
And each episode has more or less the same structure.
That's how I'm going to do Season 2 anyway. The episodes stay more or less the same length as Season 1, but I cut out the extra stuff and stick to the core of the story. It means I'll keep writing in a format I'm enjoying, which is the whole point.
Hopefully it also means people will like it more, and so give me all the accolades in the world. I wish to be buried under a sea of trophies (they hand those out if people like your stuff, right?), struggling to keep my already large head from popping.
That's it. I'm done with advice. The next post will be about some game I played or movie I watched, and I'll complain about it. Because I'm old.
Go read a book. (Mmmmmmmm, books)