Awesome Serial Fiction

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I didn’t do very well with my serial web fiction Honor&Truth, but now that I’ve decided to begin again with the tale, I know what mistakes I’ve made.  That said, there are some pretty awesome web serials out there and I thought I’d take the time to tell you about the ones I most admire.

1.  Steal Tomorrow by Ann Pino – This is one of the first web serials I’ve ever read and one of the best by far.  You can read the entire story along with multiple extra short stories.

When her parents died in a global pandemic, seventeen-year-old Cassie Thompson thought her biggest problem was finding her next meal. But “Telo” is a virally-transmitted genetic disease that targets adults, and no one is immune. Surviving to adulthood isn’t looking very good as her city succumbs to food shortages, sanitation problems, and gang violence. When Cassie accepts an invitation to join a group of young people living in a luxury hotel, she thinks her most immediate troubles are over. Her new tribe appears committed to alliance-building, order, and civility. She soon finds, however, that her new friends have dark secrets and the boy she is falling in love with might be the most dangerous of them all.

Steal Tomorrow can be purchased for Kindle on Amazon.  You can see more of Ann Pino’s writing at http://www.ampino.com/.

2.  Caught Somewhere In Time by David Schick – I started reading CSiT over a year ago and unfortunately never finished (something I intend to do soon), but that is certainly not an indication of how incredibly awesome this story is.  This glossy professional tale combines cool hard science, space, and aliens.  It is so very worth the read.

In the twenty-third century, humanity will live in colonies on many different worlds, all of them still within this Solar system. We will not be part of any league of alien cultures living peacefully among the stars, because even though we can move around the solar system in a matter of hours or days, the next nearest star is not close enough to reach in a human’s lifetime, or even a hundred generations. We are caught somewhere in space, unable to leave this part of the galaxy, and no one ever really comes here for a visit.

The recent discovery of our ability to move through time presents alternate ideas on how to reach alien cultures. The prevailing idea is that we could feasibly go back in time and meet any extraterrestrial culture that might have previously visited us, maybe at a time in our history when we were simply not evolved enough to understand the implications of such a meeting.  The most likely candidate is the alleged crash of an alien ship outside of Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

Caught Somewhere in Time follows a team of humans as they embark on a journey to encounter alien life in our own past, while discovering the seeds of a project called The Children of Time.

3.  Dark Roads by Lazlo Azavaar – I read this story to completion in a short period of time.  I loved the swift pace and this story is about as unpredictable as they come.

Alex Abian (Also on flickr.com/alexabian) / Foter

Two runaways, their psycho dad, and an unseen enemy.  No longer able to withstand his abuse any longer, Callie Longstreet, in a fit of anger, takes a frying pan to the back of her father’s head and knocks him out cold. Now, she and her older brother Michael must ride the dark roads, pursued by nightmares, their psychotic father, and an unseen enemy who watches their every move.

There is a sequel called The War of the Ma’jai.  Lazlo Azavaar says it’s stalled.  Perhaps if you went over to the site and made some noise you’d prompt him to get a move on…

4.  Starwalker by Melanie Edmonds – Like CSiT, Starwalker is one of those ubber slick and professional looking serial blogs.  The writing is just as terrific.  I found Starwalker around the same time I started my blog as well and was unable to finish it.  Again, the fact that I didn’t finish reading is absolutely no indication of how wonderfully smart and tightly written this piece of serial fiction is.  It is simply golden and is on my list to go back and complete.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video / Foter

The Starwalker is a starship with an experimental star-stepping drive. Designed to use the gravity wells of stars to fold space, she can travel between star systems faster than FTL. That is, if they can get it to work.

She is run by a sophisticated AI who doesn’t always follow her programming. She has only just been born, and she has a lot to figure out. She is often torn between the needs of the crew and the demands of the scientists responsible for running the tests on the new drive. There are politics surrounding this new drive of hers that she has to get a grip on before they get a grip on her.

Most of all, she needs to track down and explain the glitches in her software before someone notices and wipes her memory drives. What she doesn’t know is that it wouldn’t be the first time.

5.  The Apocalypse Blog – also by Melanie Edmonds – The end of the world, zombies, and a girl who blogs about it…nuf said.  Zombies are always a good addition, or a bad one, depending on the situation you’re in.

Scabeater / Foter

On 24 December 2008, a bomb was detonated over Faith’s home city and her world ended. This blog is the chronicle of her struggle to survive and make sense of the broken remains left behind by the bomb, told in real-time.

She must battle through acid rain, sickness, and the descent of her own society. Then, the dead start shambling. With a small group of like-minded survivors, Faith has to find a way to live without losing all sight of who she is in a world ready to devour her.

You can read the Apocalypse Blog online or you can purchase it at Amazon.  Melanie Edmonds can also be found on Twitter and Goodreads.

 

(All descriptions come from author websites or other places they are visible.)

Loco Lazlo Talks About Outlining

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I was new to the blogging world and had just started my web-serial Honor&Truth.  I was searching for other web-serials to read and learn from, and also authors to support and commiserate with.  I found a fun easy reading web-serial in Dark Roads, and a supportive fellow writer in the author, Lazlo Azavaar.  Laz agreed to pen this guest post about outlining, something I’ve been working on recently with the rewrite of H&T.  With some very definite ideas on the subject of outlining, this is what Laz has to say…

 

hawkexpress / Foter

The Outline Question

When I first started out, long ago, trying to write (and “trying to write” is still a good descriptor of what I do), I did what every good subscriber to Writer’s Digest was told to do: outline, outline, outline. Every piece of work, but especially potential novels we were told, needed to be planned down to every detail. I remember a column suggesting filling out card files with settings, character descriptions, motivations, psychological quirks, etc. Something as complex as a novel wasn’t just going to pop out on its own, it needed to be planned. You wouldn’t go out hiking in the woods without detailed maps, unless you wanted to turn out like the Blair Witch kids.

I did as told and outlined the heck out of everything. Then, when time came to start writing, I found myself flailing (well…I always flail, it’s my process; what I mean is more than usual). I could not set one sentence after another in sequence without furiously scratching everything out and trying anew, to no avail. Whatever idea or characters that had excited me upon conception seemed sapped of all vitality upon the attempt at getting them down in story form. They existed, only in the outline.

That’s when I discovered the others. Those like Stephen King and Peter Straub, who suggested that there was a difference between inventing and discovering. That outlining and planning ahead was the purview of the creative typist; that a WRITER (yes, all capitals!) just wrote, and worked out where his story wanted to go along the way.

In a recent comment to this site (that prompted the invitation to write this already bloated and self-serving guest post), I may have given the impression of being in this camp of anti-outlining writers. That’s not entirely the truth, and I’ll tell you why…

My first attempt at writing in this manner was incredibly freeing. I could produce page after page after page, where before I had stopped and stalled at every sentence. Sure it was utter crap, but it was something I could work with; something I could potentially improve upon. The vitality and excitement of my ideas (charmingly idiotic as they were, and possibly, still are) had been channeled into the work and not the outline. Moreover, the actual process of writing was at long last fun, where before it had been a soul-sucking, love-killing, sentence-stacking chore (so much so that I actually swore it off for many years, having come to the conclusion that I was just not fit to be a writer—a conclusion I’m sure some of you may be agreeing with about now).

Upon re-reading of what I had wrote, however; I discovered something important. Without direction, without a rudder, my writing tended to run in concentric circles. I tried to fool myself with the old “Oh well, I’ll fix it in the rewrite”, but the randomness was too extensive. It could not be repaired…it would need thorough rebuilding; not rewriting, but starting over from the ground up.

striatic / Foter

I needed some sort of structure; a happy medium, between outlining and free-form writing. Not a road map, but certainly directions; the sort of thing you draw on a napkin to help someone drive somewhere they’re not familiar with; depicting the major landmarks.

The solution I came up with was simple, absurdly simple (and sure as heck not worth all the wordage I’ve made you put up with so far). It is the method I used to help me keep Dark Roads, my webserial and first completed novel, under control as I wrote it.

It is simply this: I construct a Table of Contents for my story before I write it. Instead of an outline, I come up with titles that serve as placeholders for things I know are going to happen, but not yet sure how; and ideas I have not yet thought up. You don’t have to be clever or original with these titles as they are not meant to see the light of day; they are mere tools to help you keep track of where you’re going, like Paul McCartney’s dummy lyrics. When ex-Beatle Paul McCartney hears that music in his head, he immediately writes down dummy lyrics to help him remember the tune. He doesn’t have to expend any thought on these lyrics because they’re just holding the place for the true lyrics to come later, so they can be total gibberish. Thus Scrambled Eggs becomes the classic Yesterday, once he gets down to work on it.

Let’s say you wish to write a vampire novel (just go with me here on this), one of those old-fashioned, non-shimmery, villainous kind. You sort of know what you’re going for, but don’t have all the details. Your Table of Contents might look like this:

1: The Town of Willie’s Bog (description of small town, basic characters)

2: The Darkness Cometh (foreshadowing of bad stuff ahead)

3: Amy and the Professor (teen heroine befriends grouchy teacher)

4: The Arrival of Count Wisenheimer (enter the vampire bad guy)

5: The Disappearance of Molly Peachpepper (things get real, Molly gets munched on)

6: The Miasma of Evil (the bodies start piling up)

7: Revengers Assemble! (the savants start putting two and two together)

And so on.

This is a very basic example, but notice that at no point are any details nailed down, except what little the writer already knows of his idea and its basic structure. The Table can be as loose or detailed as you wish, without the drudgery of outlining and having to think of everything up front. This way you can still discover your story, and it can change as it changes.

In conclusion (the audience weeps with joy), this method has been very helpful to me and if it’s of any help to anyone else caught in the horns of the “to outline or not to outline” dilemma, well that’s something ain’t it?

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I was born and raised and live in the great state of Texas and am not totally right in the head. I sometimes write things and call myself a writer, but at my level of delusion, who knows? I am the author of the riveting webserial Dark Roads; that in just two years has garnered a devoted fan-base of about four or five of my relatives. With this success at hand, I have launched its sequel The War of The Ma’jai, which has been stalled at chapter five since the beginning of the year (I really need to start working on that again soon).

Dark Roads can be found at darkroadtales.blogspot.com

The War of the Ma’jai is at thewarofthemajai.blogspot.com

My crappy poetry can be found at majixi.pandamian.com

Some vestigial short stories can be looked upon with pity at whispere.pandamian.com

My incoherent excuse for a blog can be cautiously observed at lazloskrazyshack.blogspot.com

I don’t Facebook or Twitter or any of that other stuff. If you want to contact me, drop a comment on my blog or something. Or you can visit me at my decrepit shack in the woods. It’s been years since I’ve had company…

HELP! I Have A Serial Dilemma

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In 2010 I started a graphic serial blog called Honor&Truth.  The idea was to write, yeah, but also to inspire and provide a vehicle to The Artist’s fantastic art.  I conceived the story on the fly.  I did absolutely no outlining or pre-writing.

Honor

I just envisioned this character, a tough, brown-skinned  young woman with a chip on her shoulder and an anger management problem, who was on a mission to reunite with her long lost twin brother.  Honor&Truth is a sci-fi fantasy tale with lots of action…and lots of plot holes and inconsistencies.  Due to the nature of it being a live serial, I can’t do anything to fix them, so I’ve been pressing forward with a story that I am increasingly dissatisfied with.

Initially I thought, I’ll finish H&T, regardless of how crappy it is, and then when it is done, I’ll dismantle the blog and do the rewrite and edit.  I know the direction that I want H&T to take.  I can envision the true story that this serial, this draft (because that is essentially what H&T is) will become.  I no longer like the story as it exists now.

I think I’ve made a mistake.  A serial should not be written on the fly with no planning or direction.  Duh!  Double Duh!

Fast forward to now, 2012.  I am busy.  Very, very, extremely, incredibly busy.  I manage this blog.  I post a new chapter to H&T on the 1st and 15th of each month, a schedule that is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with.  I am promoting and networking my novel, An Unproductive Woman.  I work 40+ hours a week as a nurse.  I have a family.  I’m writing other stories but have difficulty completing any of them due to time constraints.

So, I was thinking, maybe I should simplify things for myself and take the unnecessary pressure off.  This is what I came up with:

1. Continue this blog and promotion efforts.

2. Stop all other major writing projects for now.

3. Dismantle the H&T blog now.

4. Dedicate all writing time to creating the H&T that I envision.

Allow me to mention that I feel a sense of guilt regarding H&T.  I would feel like a failure if I didn’t complete this…even though I don’t believe this is going very well.

I’d love to hear what you think.  What do you think I should do?