Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Guest Post - Jamie Debree: From Serial Story to Novella: The Evolution of Tempest

Thanks so much for hosting me, Dolly. I always love visiting your blog. :-)

When I first came back to writing after a long hiatus, I looked hard at why I wanted – needed - to write. I determined after some serious soul searching that not only did I need to write for myself, but I also wanted to entertain people. Would I write if no one was reading? Probably not. So I decided to launch a serial story on my blog, for anyone who happened by to read. That first one wasn't very good, but I learned a lot writing it, and determined to do better with the second.

So the next time, I used the free Create-A-Plot course ( from Holly Lisle's web site to literally pluck a plot out of thin air and create my first scene outline. That's how Tempest was born.

From reading other serial works online, I knew that the most important part of writing a serial novel was to hook the reader both coming and going. I needed to draw them in at the beginning of the scene, and leave them wanting at the end so they'd come back again for the next installment. That had to be blended with a sentence or two of "reorientation" for each new installment so readers wouldn't have to go back and read the last chapter to jump  right in. It seemed to work well – readers were commenting, and coming back for more week after week. I loved drafting Tempest and I decided to clean it up for publishing after the draft was finished. Because the entire draft had already been published on my blog, it wasn't eligible for traditional publishing – so I decided to self-publish.

Naturally, those scene transitions that work so well in serial writing to reorient readers who have, in essence, walked away from the book and come back don't really work at all in a more traditional format. I basically had to rewrite each transition between scenes to remove repetitive names, actions, and extra information that was no longer necessary. In some cases, this just meant cutting a sentence or two, but in others, it gave me the opportunity to expand descriptions make the prose both richer and tighter. Description is not my strong suit, and I have to add a lot when I revise my own work.

Something else came from those serial transitions that I wasn't expecting. By far one of the most common comments I get about Tempest is that it moves so fast – people can't put it down. I guess I sort of planned it that way, but only insofar as I wanted people to come back each week for the next scene. I wasn't thinking about a linear book when I wrote it, but the same transitions that kept people coming back to the serial apparently pull people along through the book. Basically, I "fell" into that writing style through serializing the story, and I'm glad I did. 

I'm very pleased with how Tempest turned out, though I can't read it again because I'm absolutely certain I'll find more things I wish I'd changed or improved or fleshed out. One thing is for certain though – I'll keep serializing drafts for as long as people will read them. Aside from allowing me to share my work with those who might just surf by the blog, it's been an excellent learning tool to help improve my writing.

Tempest is available in ebook and paperback at Amazon:
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  1. Great post Jamie! I've always admired the way you can pack so much action into each installment of your serials, and it's been great being able to follow your journey from serial draft to published author.

  2. Thanks Carol! :-)

    And thanks again for hosting me, the new site layout, by the way...

  3. Great post! Good stuff here. I agree with Carol. I need to get reading TEMPEST, just been so dang busy with the day job and guitar ;o)

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jamie! And of course, Dolly for always having fab guest posts!

  4. Jamie, thanks. I can't even remember how often this blog's changed layouts :P

    Erica / Carol, thanks for your comments.

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