Wednesday, 11 September 2013

WRI: Serial Rewrite Recap

As Series 5 has concluded on my maths personified Web Serial, I thought I'd take a quick look back at how that plot, and previous editions, went completely off the rails from earlier plans. This kind of thing, by the way, is why I simply cannot fathom writing in any way other than chronologically. If I'd written the climax first, it wouldn't have existed by the end.

Didn't expect to be here. Give me a moment.

Incidentally, the blog location for this post isn't an error... I think it relates enough to serial writing in general to be here, rather than specific to "Taylor's Polynomials" itself. That said, the existence of some spoilers below should be obvious.

Before we start though, if you already know what happened in my serial (or have at least seen the recap videos), do me (and yourself?) a favour before you start reading about behind-the-scenes... rank the five series to date in order from what you think was BEST to WORST. I wonder if your opinion will change after reading. I'll provide my list at the end.


The topics for Series' 1 through 3 were known from the outset. Even though I had designed all the characters on this character page from the start, I knew trigonometry wouldn't be appearing for quite some time.

Series 1: Introductions
Idea: Introduce the main functions. Show some transformations.
Execution: Same. Only called them "form changes".

The line had to be the first thing (Grade 9), then the parabola (Grade 10). Root was a natural extension, being the inverse, or at least a recognizable operation. (You don't actually graph him unless you go to Grade 11 University level.) I was just starting out here, not even aware I was writing a serial, so not much to say.

Series 2: Para Gone
One of my first "clip art" drawings
to have no real reusability.
Idea: Conics. Deal with the parabola being in two families. Culminate with a second parabola character.
Execution: Same.

ParaB was always a foregone conclusion. I didn't know how it would be done, but a parametric equation followed naturally enough once I hit on the idea of a Z-Axis Points Module (ZPM). Lyn's standard form being used for infiltration was, if memory serves, always in mind. Another case of the plan coming out more or less as envisioned.

Series 3: Try Angles
Idea: Trigonometry. Tangent leaves Trig, and is thus the only one unaffected by a 'Gradient Mode' virus.
Execution: Tangent leaves Trig, then has to return when Versine tries to blow up the more popular Trig functions.

That was different! The 'Gradient Mode' thing is still in the back of my mind as a possible future idea, but early research changed my direction shortly after I started. As I stumbled on all the former functions (Versine used to have her own trig tables!), I felt like it held potential for a better story.

Similar to Series 2, I also had no idea precisely what would occur at the climax. The story actually sat for weeks, it's buffer being slowly eaten away with every update, until the mind meld idea came to me. One thing unchanged in this series was the ending - I'd planned for the Maud/Modulus reveal to be either at the end of this part, or the beginning of the next. With the decision to shift to a blog, and episode 100 being imminent, it made the most sense here.


Series 4: After Math
"Always have a backup!"
Idea: Explore math in other subject areas, try to expand the universe.
Execution: As wishy-washy as it sounds.

After a trilogy within math, it made sense for me to expand beyond. Bad move. Try not to repeat my mistake. I did it far too soon, and it backfired, for the following reasons:
1) I hadn't even fully mapped out within the math world, only exhausted initial ideas. Why expand?
2) Expanding properly would have required more extensive research in other subjects. Although some colleagues did fire ideas at me after an email prompt, I didn't really have enough to work with.
3) I split the party, to see which group would garner the most reader interest. Before I had enough readers to express interest! So they were all met with an equal amount of seeming ambivalence, and I wasn't sure what to do. I had no backup. Also, splitting them up here was a bad idea.

I must elaborate. When writing a serial, splitting the party is GOOD (I've written about that before), but only if you have a reason for them to cross paths again on occasion - something I've been trying to FIX now for quite a while. The only thing saving me is the psychic link between Para and ParaB, so 20/20 foresight in sending ParaB along. I also made sure there was a representative from every mathematical section in each group, which has helped. But I'm having serious intersection problems.

Series 4 was also when my buffer ran out, and my wife was in the hospital, and I figured hell with it, if not even a dozen people care about this meandering nonsense, why am I still going on with it. Perversely, if it hadn't been for the Ontario Government screwing around with teachers, causing me to take a good look at how much extra curricular work I was doing, it might have remained shelved far longer than it did.

Though I think I always would have come back to it.

"How am I supposed to fix this mess?!"
The first thing I did upon resuming was wrap up the "other subject areas" arc. It's been my most colossal misstep. The second thing was to give the characters the goal of reuniting with Logan's crew, and the third was to get said crew to Signum's location, and have a plot. Research on step functions helped here.

At the same time, my real life antics of "singing in class" were coming up short as far as my statistics course was concerned - I wanted more statistics in my serial. So closing off Series 4 with a quest for probability made sense. The other thing I drew from my classes was the problems with parabolas - seriously, despite seeing it in Grade 10, students are still making crazy mistakes with her in Grade 11.

I have no idea how obvious any of my problems seemed from the outside. But, moving into series 5, I was back to planning things a lot more definitively.


Series 5: Sign Change
"This scene never existed in the draft!"
Idea: Explore depression gradually through the parabola. Have Logan's crew find statistics and probability personifications, and end with the destruction of their ship, with only Sine on board, as they're restored to maths.
Execution: Well, not that.

I've previously written about "Why I Write Series 5", and the depression angle DID remain a focal point of the arc. Which was good. Except I'd wanted the depression to play out over weeks, not days. The timing issue came from the realization that I couldn't tell Para's story and Logan's simultaneously - because his was longer, while Para's was so much more interesting to me.

Here's the OTHER thing about splitting the party - when ONE group has their climax and plotline wrap up, you kind of need the OTHER group to reach some sort of resolution too. It didn't help that the Hyper/Nisano and Csc/Radik subplots demanded screen time too, as I saw ways I could wrap them up.

I think Logan's plot could have fit the timelines if I hadn't detoured via Mink and Con... but too late for that, I publish as I go. I'd put them in partly because I hadn't had time to create any of the other functions I wanted yet, partly because I was hoping someone out there might suggest one. A good rule of thumb is now sinking in: If anyone had anything to say, they'd have done it in the first 24 hours. Assume you're on your own.

I could also have resolved Logan's plot simply by having the crew arrive at Fractal City and settle in... except the Series was called 'Sign Change' for a reason. SINE HAD TO DIE. It was the third layer of meaning, after Para's depression and my own renewed enthusiasm for the project.

More art with little reuse value.
Para doesn't go Factored Form much.
So I was tripped up by my own climax, which I had to retool. Para ended up out by the cliffs much earlier than originally intended, and look, a Hilbert Curve! What to you was (hopefully) clever plotting, to me was pretty much a deus ex machina, so that I could kill a character on schedule. Cosine is now throttling me in my sleep. If it's any consolation to her, as a byproduct I ended up destroying the Cone of Science, to contain the initial Fractal Fallout to a select set of people. So my groups are STILL SEPARATE. >headdesk<

I kind of needed Sine out of the way though, for plot ideas to work going forwards in Series 6. Yes, that's a hook. Also, my main idea this time around is going to connect statistics back to my posting about Diversity.

So that's some behind-the-scenes from the first couple years of serial writing. Only time will tell as to whether my next expectations will match final execution. For now, back to the rankings I mentioned at the start! My preferences are: 2, 5, 3, 1, 4. Roughly a match to the amount of planning done, which seems like more than coincidence. The shorter ones are also higher, generally speaking, which may or may not be relevant.

What did you come up with for ranks? Was any of this background a surprise? Let me know below!

No comments:

Post a Comment