Saturday, 20 April 2013

WRI: Mind The Gap


Have you ever worked a twelve hour day? Now take it and multiply by a five day work week. Still with me? Okay, now picture trying to update a web serial at the same time.

Could you do it? I'm here to tell you about how you might pull it off.

Pull it ALL off.


BUSY SIGNAL


First, let's kill the notion that people who put up webcomics and web serials have lots of spare time on their hands. Either they're employed elsewhere (to pay the bills and such), or they're unemployed and finding a job is taking up a lot of their time (and certainly their mental energy, as the stress of needing a job can sap your will). Ergo, it's rare that web efforts themselves are the sole activity of the author.

So what happens on those occasions where you're supposed to post something up... and you don't have anything ready?



I was recently faced with such a situation.  I even lied a little above - I didn't work 12 hours for 5 days. I worked an average of 12 hours for SEVEN days, including the weekend. That's 84 hours, folks! Yet only 15 of those were on the weekend. Do the math to get my actual five day work week.

The key is, I saw this coming. From a mile away. Because report cards were due in, on the SAME week I was helping with the school play. Don't often get the double whammy, normally performances are later in the month. (For the record, I'm not even the director, you should see her hours, as she's also a department head!)

What I DIDN'T quite see coming was that this was also happening right when my math personified web serial decided to wrap up Series 4, and move into Series 5.


EVEN INSERTING SERIES 4.5 WOULD REQUIRE MATERIAL

I had a choice. 1) Push on through into Series 5 using random clip art, meaning by today my buffer would be empty, and I might have done a shoddy job at a possible pivotal point in my story line. 2) Go on hiatus for a couple weeks in between the two Series', and risk losing what few readers I might have gained over the last few months.

Naturally, I took the third option.


CHEESECAKE


Yeah, I know. You're thinking about this. But it can just as easily be something like this. The author calls that second "Filler", but isn't cheesecake also filler of a sort? It's a creative way of filling in a gap, and more to the point, it's something you have the ability to prepare in advance, then pull out of your hat in a time of need. Besides, we all have different likes and dislikes, so I'm re-appropriating the term "cheesecake" to represent any diversion that makes the reader smile.


Now, you may be thinking that's easier to do with images... and you're probably right. As an aside, publishing images along with a text serial is a good move; maybe I'll blog about that in future. But "cheesecake" can be done with text too. As far as my serial writing goes, I use mathematical song parodies.

It was simultaneously quite brilliant and very stupid of me. 

Brilliant because:
1) They were written a month ago, and could be easily dropped in.
2) There's precedent, I bridged Series 2 and Series 3 with a set of Trig Song parodies.
3) It gave me the time I needed to set Series 5 properly in my head.
4) I could cheat. Since I don't post the songs on my main blog page, I could set them up in advance, and then simply Tweet and Link the posts on the day of the update.

Stupid because:
1) Since the songs DO have a separate archive, a casual reader could have missed the links going live.
2) To do it properly, songs require more specialized images. I was cropping photo files in the week previous, and doing added inking and scanning last Sunday night.

There's also the fact that it's sucked up my song buffer, meaning I now have no fallback position in event of an UNSCHEDULED problem in my life. The last time that happened, I went on hiatus for over two months. That said, it's made me think about what other things someone could potentially do, aside from songs.


FILL THE VOID


I'll conclude by offering ideas that can be trotted out for those times when you just don't have the ability to write new material. The key is these can be written at any time, and might even give you more insight into the characters and world that you've created.

A) Character Diary Entry. Their thoughts on current events. Easily put into the serial any time after the fact too, as the character 'finds' the diary or 'recalls' events/emotions just when you need them to. Alternatively, if your character doesn't do diaries, maybe they do fanfic? Maybe they're even shipping your other characters together?? (Oh my.)

B) Commercial Break. Is your series taking place in a fantasy or futuristic setting? Pick an item. How would a commercial scan for a "Jedi Lightsaber"? Or a "Sonic Screwdriver"? Alternatively, you've gotta figure there's a black market for knockoffs, what features do they have that you might not have necessarily anticipated? Because one day, when you're terribly busy, the main character of your story could simply run into this shady guy in a trenchcoat, and he pulls it open to offer something...

C) Origin Story. Where/When DID that item first get discovered anyway? And what ARE the origins of that girl's superpower? Alternatively, who was REALLY the best kisser? Two characters debate it. Maybe they're both wrong. Maybe this sparks an idea for later, maybe this is never used - or maybe it's useful filler. A more cheesecake flavoured supplemental can involve re-enactments.

D) Omake. Meaning "extra" in Japanese, it may be extra material (like a follow-up explanation, or a parody), but can extend right up to another story within your story. Use this with care, as it's an undertaking in and of itself, and you don't want it to get away from you. For instance, "Gekigangar III" in the anime "Martian Successor Nadesico".

Notice also that these are things you could do to get your creativity rolling, to the point that you feel energized enough to return to the main story. So happy writing!



All this, and still no re-edits on the second book of "Time Trippers"! Readers, you have NO idea how displeased I am with the author right now...

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