Writing a Serialized Fantasy

My Lapis of Nicodem story is a bi-weekly dark fantasy serial. Why did I decide to write a chapter every two weeks? Well, I liked the story, but I didn’t think it would become one of my books. What to do with it, then?

I decided to create a serial with it.

By August 2020, I had published the first two books in my Wellspring Dragons series, and needed a break from the story. I still wanted to write, and while I have other tales that will eventually become books, I didn’t wish to undertake another one so soon. A serial seemed the perfect format for my situation.

World Anvil had just come out with their Manuscripts software, and made a space on their site for authors to post the books published with it. It seemed like a great way to attract readers and keep myself writing while on a brief hiatus from my other tale. But how, exactly, would I accomplish it?

as Shanda Nelson, I do all the illustrations for my stories

I set some ground rules for the serial. The chapters would be around 15 pages each, no less than 12, no more than 20. I would publish a chapter every two weeks, and I would publish even if I did not feel quite ready to do so. Why? I didn’t want to worry on a chapter for weeks on end–basically, falling to the “perfect is the downfall of the good” mentality. I would have the first draft completed by the end of the first week, edit it through the second, and re-read it the night before and the morning of publishing, over and over again. I would publish by 2:00 PM Pacific Time every other Friday. The entire project would be free to read, and I would create a world wiki to accompany it.

Writing on the timetable has been a challenge. There were weeks where I sat before my computer screen the Thursday before publishing, with a few words written and a complete creative block. Sure, I (mostly) knew what needed to happen. That didn’t make writing about it any easier. I would discuss my story with my husband, and sometimes that would be enough to prick my brain into writing mode. Sometimes I scanned artwork, listened to music, read, while trying to write words and make them sound like a coherent story. I hated those weeks, because I like to re-read my edits twenty to thirty times, and pushing the deadline made certain those re-reads did not happen.

Other weeks, I had already completed and edited the chapter by the first weekend. It allowed me to write ahead, so to speak. But mostly, I stick to my original schedule.

Feedback is not the same, either. If my deadline is the next day, having someone scan my chapter isn’t going to happen. And I’m OK with that. I find it liberating. I’m writing a story that I like, the way I want to write it. Maybe it is for an audience of one–me–but that hardly means no one else will enjoy it. Yes, mistakes are inevitable, but not as many as one might assume (I still use Aeon Timeline to keep track of dates and the like, and run spell/grammar check software. And yes, people–your editor uses the same spell/grammar software to check your work. I really don’t need an editor telling me to use the Oxford comma when the software does that just fine on its own, and I can ignore it without feeling guilty).

I’ve made certain to keep in mind, that each chapter needs to move the plot along. That’s good writing anyway, but it becomes really important when you are creating installments instead of handing readers a completely finished product. If you have a couple hundred pages of story, you can be slower in revealing the story because the wait to reach resolutions are only a few page-turns away. Part of this is a rethinking of cliff hangers. I look at them in a different way for my serial, because the next installment is not just a page-turn away, but two weeks distant. I need to create ways to keep readers interested in returning for more.

This has led me to craft individual chapters as entities unto themselves. They are far more self-contained than those present in my longer books. That being said, I still have a longer story to tell through the shorter ones that populate the chapters, and this keeps the flow between them. I know where the serial is going to end up. Getting there is the journey every pantser loves.

Overall, I’m pleased with how the story is progressing. It hasn’t always been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. So check out Lapis of Nicodem and while you’re over at World Anvil, look at some of the other writing going on there.

Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available in Kindle format. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

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