Tuesday, December 18, 2012

James Hutchings discusses serialized novels

It’s not easy being a fantasy writer who prefers short stories.

Conan, created by Robert E. Howard in 1932, appeared almost entirely in short stories. The one novel about him was originally published in a short story magazine in several parts.

In the 1960s, Michael Moorcock’s Elric appeared in short stories for several years, and the first ‘novel’ about him was actually several short stories, slightly rewritten to hang together.

Today, however, the dominant form of fantasy is not just novels, but ‘doorstops’ — long, long novels that are often part of long, long series. The fourteen-novel Wheel of Time series is the quintessential example.

One reason for this form is perhaps the dominance of Lord of the Rings. Another is economics: if they like the first book, people will often buy the sequel and its sequel; and many fantasy readers want a world they can be ‘immersed’ in, which translates to a world with a lot of detail, which is to say long books.

I almost exclusively write fantasy, and I much prefer to write short stories. In fact my best story is less than 200 words long. So I don’t fit well into the modern market, where 200 pages is too short (at least for a book aimed at adults: books for children can be shorter, although come to that even the Harry Potter series ‘bloated’ as it went on).

So I was interested in JukePop Serials, a new site which encourages writers to post novels, but chapter by chapter rather than all at once. It’s designed to mimic the way that stories were often published in magazines in smaller parts, and only later collected as a novel. Charles Dickens published this way, as did Jules Verne. It encourages a kind of writing that’s more like a series of short stories — or perhaps like a TV series, where there’s an overall story but also a series of episodic incidents.

I decided to put up a story that I’d started on, but ran out of steam. It’s called The Case of the Syphilitic Sister, and it’s a kind of detective story where the detectives are superheroes. The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been pretty good (either good as in praise, or good as in helpful suggestions of how to change it).

Whether the site survives or not, it’s at least given me some ideas on how I can write novels, which aren’t my preferred form but which you really have to write if you want to get anywhere in my genre.

To check out his story go to http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/13 reading anything after the first chapter requires a free registration.

1 comment:

  1. I post a novel chapter by chapter online and I love the feedback I get. Chapter by chapter is definitely the way to go online BTW.