Monday, December 3, 2012

I Could Use Some Feedback

I'm thinking about making some changes in direction in the blog.  These are big picture changes that are further out there, although maybe not as far away as you or I think.

I would like some perspective from the readers.

Here's the thing: I want this blog to be like a magazine, with fiction, art and non-fiction, commentary and information.  But the serial is the center of my writing life.  And my writing life just expanded to fill my life.  That threw the balance of everything off.

Now that I'm coming out of my wild spin, I realize that I set up the blog serial to work with my old life.  The story I'm doing now, Test of Freedom, was chosen mainly because it was the best option for both me and the story at the time.

But but times have changed now I'm having doubts about whether this blog is the right venue for it, and whether it's the right kind of story for this blog.

Not that I'm going to drop it, I'll finish it here, and probably at a faster rate than I'm doing now. I'm thinking bigger picture for the whole series and also for what should go on this blog.

And that's why I want feedback, because a part of this is driven by the Writer Jitters.  Just going by my blog and RSS stats, people are accessing this story differently than they did with Misplaced Hero. Should I react to that? Can I even read anything out of it to react to?

This is a bigger question than whether you guys like it, or whether it is a success. (I'll be talking about the creative, technical and even marketing issues involved later on.)  It's a bigger question even than that particular story.  So I want to hear from people who follow the blog in general, or just like the pretty pictures, and not just people who follow the story.

What I'm considering:

*I will accelerate the posting of Test of Freedom.  I will start on Thursday with longer episodes -- at least for those longer scenes which  I broke into several episodes.  I might also start posting three times a week, and the story will be complete in January.

*I might create a separate blog just for the Adventures of Mary Alwyn. It would have longer episodes, posted once a week -- more suited to the story. It would be completely devoted to that series and nothing else.  I might have "story notes" or publication announcements.  And I would still announce publications of episodes on the Sunday Review-Preview posts here.

If I do this separate blog, I would post Wife of Freedom there, and move Test of Freedom there once it's completed here  (with possible rewriting to fit the new format of longer episodes).  AND... the story would be continuous. I might take breaks once in a while, and I'll collect the sub-stories into ebooks, but it would be more of an ongoing soap opera than it would be discrete stories.

This is what I feel I should have done from the start, but I couldn't while I had a day job. I simply didn't have the time.  I couldn't continue the Misplaced Hero series into the fall.  I was worn out and overburdened.

*When ToF is done posting here, I will probably serialize The Scenic Route.  It has a lighter, quirkier tone.  It's more adult than Misplaced Hero, but I think it suits the overall tone of this blog better.  And since I am adapting it from a screenplay, I have more leeway to make it work better with the short-episode serial format. If that's not ready I'll probably do a couple of Mick and Casey short stories.

*Alternatively I might jump straight into Misplaced Baroness.  Next week or the week after I'm going to tell you some about some of my plans for that. I'm excited about it. But... it might not be ready to start before March or April.

The big issue is going to be workload. I would like to get to more stories, faster.  I have SO many stories on my plate and one thing I've learned is that serializing them makes me get them out there.

What I'd love to do is start posting three times a week -- Mon, Thu, Sat -- and otherwise keep the blog the same.  That would allow me to get through three long novellas a year, rather than two.  But if I'm also doing an Alwyn blog, that makes four episodes a week. And I want to do art for them all.  Yikes.  Maybe not a good idea... but maybe it is.

But that's not your problem.

What I really want from you is:

What do you look forward to on this blog?  It doesn't matter if it's the fiction or the art or the Friday Favorites or posts about controversies in the publishing world, or writing theory.  Or something else. It also doesn't matter whether I'll ever do what you want me to. (I will always do what works for me.)

I just need some perspective from the readers.

Thanks, and see you in the comments section.


Liana Mir said...

I usually skip the beginnings of your serials: I can't get into them on-screen but I can usually pick up somewhere in the middle of the serial and enjoy it thoroughly. I prefer once weekly serials. Beyond that and it gets real hard to keep up with.

I do like the serials. I like the art stuff posts and the comic a lot a lot and the writing posts interest me, but your waxing philosophical posts more. I skip most of the movie posts, though I've read one or two. And I don't really agree with your genre posts, seeing as when I read your stuff, it's very genre to me. Example: Misplaced Hero is very pulp fantasy adventure to me. It's an older genre, but a genre nevertheless.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks Liana: yes, it is my goal to have the serials be fun to jump into in the middle.

And as for genre, you misread my point on several levels. There is no shelf for "pulp fantasy adventure." It's not a genre. Never was. It's a descriptor. That's my issue, in a nutshell. Also, I inserted the fantasy bit -- the magic ring -- specifically to make it palatable to people who need things defined by genre. It's actually just pulp adventure, which was a genre. But again, that's actually my point. Might have to go into that again.)

Carradee said...

I read pretty much every post but the serials—but that's because I'd rather sit down and read it all at the end rather than reading it in-progress.

Nothing wrong with either format. When I had an office job, I liked reading serials on break. Now that I write and edit full-time as a day job, the snippets I work on each day themselves function as serials, so I want a complete story when I unwind.

As someone who has serialized a novel, if you do make a separate website for the one story, I recommend purposing it for that story's world. I set up a blog for the novel I serialized, and once the story was over, I had to repurpose the blog to figure out how to use it for more than just the purpose that had been completed.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, Carradee. I know that there are also people here who don't read the serials or the full book version, but follow my adventure in writing them very closely. That's a part of the blog too.

As for the other site: yes, it would be for the whole series. If it were just this story, there wouldn't be much point. I can't say for sure that I would keep going after I finish all four books, but there are unfinished threads, and so I would expect that the story will go on as long as I'm interseted.

Paula said...

I read your blog for the voice. I enjoy comparing it in your fiction to the way it sounds when you write in a more relaxed way. I can't prioritize the kinds of writing here for me, but I like the discussions of your writing and use of time, especially as I am retired and have large bunches of time. I like the serials because I know the story will return in a single form and the double experience is interesting. Your philosophizing is fun because I don't have to agree, so I use the discussion as jumping off points for ruminating about the ideas you mention. I would find a second blog easy to accept if you would link each blog post to the other blog's current post so the connection between the blogs is kept. I hope that the story blog would not become entirely separated from the current blog's interests. I also enjoy hearing a bit of Michigan in your voice as I lived the first half of my life there.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks Paula!

If I do a separate blog for the Alwyn series, I would still do the the twice a week serial on other stories here. To me that is the center of this blog. I just don't know if this particular story fits the short episode, comic-book tone of this blog.

I would also post links to the Freedom episodes in the Sunday "week in review" post here.

But I'm already thinking that the need to CHANGE things might be just writer jitters.

Liana Mir said...

I didn't miss your point. I disagree with it. It would have been shelved on pulp adventure or fantasy, both of which are still shelves. So just 'cause you include elements of multiple genres doesn't non-genre your work. And a genre by definition is a descriptor. So yeah. I've started skipping those posts. I grew up in a library and read voraciously and never had trouble finding books I liked or knowing their genres. And I can't think of a single good reason to get rid of such a simple way to describe and find books as genre.

The Daring Novelist said...

Actually, you still did miss the point. Utterly and completely.

Your arguments "against" my point actually ARE my point.

I never said we should get rid of genre. I never ever ever said we shouldn't have labels - because I completely agree, labels are necessary and useful and I said so! (And honestly, I do not get at all how you got that impression from what I said.)

I said that the nature of genre - as a marketing category - is changing. It's changing more to how _you__ are using the word, which is the natural way to use it, and the way everyone outside of publishing uses it.

But marketing category and descriptive genre (how you use it) are two very different things. The first is exclusive, the second inclusive. You could say it's splitters and lumpers.

I'll be doing more posts on genre, but I think that I need to do a post on the four meanings of the word "genre" -- because I think when people talk about genre, they often miscommunicate because they are talking about different meanings of the word.

The one place where we actually do differ, is not a matter of opinion -- it's demonstrable. (Even if I agree that it SHOULD be how you say it is): There is no shelf for "pulp adventure." Not in any bookstore, not in a check box at Amazon.

Pulp adventure, depending on the nature of the story, is shelved all over the bookstore and library -- some in fiction, some in fantasy/science fiction, some in mystery. Some in children's fiction. The Scarlet Pimpernel is shelved in fiction. James Bond might be shelved in several places - usually fiction or thriller.

So if you have a pulp adventure of any kind, you have to put it into keywords and description. Along with other keywords to make it clear it's not what people today think "pulp" means -- which is hard-boiled crime fiction. (Unless it is hard-boiled crime fiction.)

I think you may be confused about my point because I talk about my fiction being "cross-genre" or "non-genre." I'm not using those words in the way you do, I think. I'm not saying they aren't "genre" as in low-brow non-literary fiction built of popular tropes. I'm saying that they don't fit neatly into current marketing categories.

And The Misplaced Hero isn't one of those stories. I created that story intentionally as classic fantasy so the series would fit into the modern marketing category of fantasy. The series doesn't have magic, and I very reluctantly put it in an alternate universe. I really would have preferred it to be a Ruritanian - but that audience is pretty much the fantasy audience anyway, so I might as well make it clear.

Melissa Yuan-Innes said...

I'm a selfish writer, so I love your blog posts about writing, publishing, covers, story analysis via movies--everything like that. Please keep them up! You help me understand storytelling, industry, and marketing in a unique, clear way.

Now I'm a fan of your Miss Leach cartoons as well. Hee hee.

Liana Mir said...

Not to be contentious, and thus, this is where I will end, but:

Pulp is a style/publishing method. Action & Adventure hasn't moved off the genre list ever: Fantasy, as I said before, was a perfectly good place to dump it as well.

And perhaps you simply don't make your points well. My impression of your view of genre began intensely with your extensive comments on Dean Wesley Smith's genre post, in which you felt a name could be a genre. You followed this up with a post about movie genres and how things were sorted by description but not really their genre. Which is perhaps why finding movies I'll is such a frustrating enterprise.

Book genres make sense. Your fiction may have two (as does most traditional and independent fiction). Your other posts may have started talking more about the usefulness of genre and how it's becoming more inclusive, but that certainly isn't the general impression given in your first comments/posts on the matter, and after that, I quit reading.

The Daring Novelist said...

Liana, you're not being contentious. (I am.) I was about to say that I think that the problem here is in the nature of short comments made as aside: you were being quick and so was I, so neither were able to be exact enough.

I didn't mean to disrespect your disagreement by saying you don't disagree with me at all -- only that the statements you were making here actually agreed with me. This is a difficult place to have a real discussion -- and from what you've said, you aren't really interested.

I really do think the problem is a combination of semantics and, frankly, interest. From my perspective, neither one of us is wrong -- it's not possible to be wrong on this subject. Where we disagree is in what we think is important.

If you are interested in the discussion, we should probably take this up next time I do a genre thread (or on one of the old ones -- I really think the relevant one is the Part 1 where I talk about Casablanca.)

The idea that a person cannot be a genre, btw, goes to the heart of the disagreement, I think. People are actually officially genres in film and video. Video stores actually do have official permanent shelves based on director or actor. Year of production is also a genre in the movie business. You aren't a movie person so you probably aren't familiar with that.

The thing I'm saying about genre is not that you are wrong, or that Dean is wrong, but that your definitions of various genres is only useful when you're talking to people who agree with you.

And I'm asking the question: what happens when you come against an audience who doesn't agree? Who doesn't care? Who has different standards and classifications?

What happens when you are trying to sell Casablanca to an audience who does not see it as an espionage flick (as pretty much none of the audience does) but rather as a Humphrey Bogart flick? That's THEIR classification. Genre is supposed to help the audience by putting the product where they expect it to be. (Again, not talking about scholarly classification here, but about formal marketing category.)

That's what I'm talking about in terms of genre. We're in a world where things aren't neat and clean any more. We're not playing in a sandbox with only our own kind any more. Genre has to match the classification of the audience, not the writer, or the writer's guru.

And frankly, that was Dean's point in that discussion -- that the author's intent and belief isn't what the genre is. That's driven by what the audience believes. He's just very focused on the audience he knows incredibly well, and is interested in. The rest of the audience is invisible to him. (And there is no reason why it shouldn't be.)

The Daring Novelist said...

Melissa, thanks for the response! (And glad you like Miss Leech.)

I do intend to keep up the analytical posts about writing, and I'd like to get the Friday Favorites back to story analysis. (I was getting overloaded for a while and started just doing them as reviews.)

Lee McAulay said...

I read everything BUT the fiction...
As a writer I'm always interested in how other writers work, so those posts are a must-read.
The recent posts on how you are making the transition to full-time writer are fascinating too, as your candour about the process really makes it obvious that it's a REAL transition, not just I-might-as-well-do-this-until-another-Day-Job-comes-up.
The posts on cinema are insightful as your focus is more on the actors and the relationships between characters (when I watch a film, especially an old favourite, I look for the gestures and other tics in body language that the actors use to signal subtle messages to the viewer).
Cover art - you hooked me with your idea of Artisan Writer ages back, so as your cover art develops (and you explain why) it helps me consider my own decisions on the same subject.
I'm in the process of starting another blog, under a pen name, and one thing I would caution is: make sure of your intentions. It's fun to go through the creative motions of starting a new blog - choosing the design, structure, focus - and easy to mistake that activity for creative productivity. Just sayin'. (Been there, heheh).
P.S. Your Writer Jitters might just be a sign that you're doing something right...

Rémi BILLOIR said...

What I've got to say might be pretty useless : as your fan reader, I want to read more of your work. Test of Freedom, Anna's next adventures, Starling and Marquette, Mick and Casey, anything's fine, just keep it coming.

To be more specific, keep it coming on Kobo, but you're already doing that.

The one thing I'll add to my basically simple reader behaviour is that I won't follow a blog, much, unless it's extremely useful (Passive Voice and Rusch, because they gather and process a large quantity of information into pertinent analysises).

I far prefer to read fiction on my e-reader. Not on my computer's screen, because I abuse my eyes over screens far too much anyways. Which kind of makes me irrelevant to your question, I'm afraid : this sort of kills the serial.

The Daring Novelist said...

Lee - You sound like exactly the reader I have in mind when I write the non-fiction posts. (Though I hope they are of interest to non-writers too.)

As for starting new blogs -- you have no idea how many blogs I've had in my lifetime. (Or how many I have now, though I don't maintain any of the others -- two, though, are very popular in spite of having no new posts for years.) You are right, focus is important.

This is the only "generalist" blog I've had. Yes, I focus on fiction, but the posts are a lot more varied than I have done or expect to ever do.

The Daring Novelist said...

Remi: I am ESPECIALLY interested in hearing from fan readers. And I'm so glad you like all my fiction.

I still hope to get the ebook version of Test of Freedom out in December. I'm beginning to settle down and accelerate my writing at last.

I am pleased with Kobo. I distribute to them through Smashwords, so sometimes I have delays and problems with distribution errors, but they really are better than most partners, and I'm excited about how they are growing.

This is one of the reasons I am trying to keep on top of providing links to all the ebook providers and not just Amazon -- I want it to be easy for everyone to find my books.