Monday, 30 December 2013

WRI: Putting My Serial Together


There are many articles out there talking about how to write a serial. So many. I have NOT found as many talking about how a single individual actually DOES it - it's mostly summary tips for others. Tips, suggestions, pitfalls... heck, I even wrote my own post with tips.


My cup runneth over

So this will be a post about how I actually ASSEMBLE my serial. I'm doing this partly as a window for other writers, but I'm also hoping:
1) That you'll comment if it's different from your creative process. Be it serial writing, math blogging to a schedule, what have you.
2) That you'll comment if you see ways I could be more efficient, or how I might improve the process.


STEP ONE: WRITE


I have a text file where I place the ongoing story. I like to have a buffer of at least a couple weeks, so in theory, every two weeks I'll go in and write four more episodes. In practice, there's times when I write more, and times when I'm scrambling to get a few episodes in on the day before I need to publish. I just published #203. I've written through #208.

What makes the writing tricky is bringing each scene to a stopping point after about 10 paragraphs. Effectively trimming out all the florid details and cutting to the heart of the matter. I think this is something I'm fairly good at; for a teaching analogy, it's sort of like highlighting the core ideas of a unit. No idea if the big picture is emerging though, as that's up to the readers.

At the bottom of the file I have a bunch of miscellaneous ideas, links, and aborted dialogue, which I turn to when I get stuck. As the file fills up (every half arc, which is 15 episodes or so), I store it, transfer the ideas, and continue the process in another file. Back when I split the party (in Series 4), I tried having a file for each group, but the back and forth became too difficult to manage.

I also edit when I write, in the sense that I reread at least two prior entries before beginning my next one. Partly to pick up the threads of where I was, but also to catch silly grammar errors. So when it comes to edits in step two, most of the basic stuff has already been caught.


STEP TWO: EDITS


This requires a different mindset. This pass isn't even for spelling and grammar so much as it is for titles and links. Every episode needs it's own title, something more interesting than "Episode 17". And every episode I do includes at least one weblink, be it to a math blog or a funny YouTube video. I like to think this distinguishes me from your average serial.


Head shot of a "bunny girl"
Sometimes where to place a link is obvious. But more often than not, it isn't, which requires doing some online searches - and I don't want to pick the first hit, I want to pick the one that might be the most useful. Titles are also harder to come up with than you think, as I tend to enjoy wordplay. I even keep a separate file that includes all my titles to date, as I have this worry that I'll end up repeating an idea.

The other thing I (try to) do at this step is see that I'm not abusing pronouns, and that referring to Para as a "bunny girl" has enough surrounding context for new readers. This gives me a titled, linked episode. I'm halfway there.


STEP THREE: DRAWING


I've previously blogged about why you should draw for your story. I've also gone in depth about drawing for a webcomic (aka serial), to illustrate my process. For me, there are 3 types of pictures:


Body shot, more "factors" to consider
1) Head shots. Pretty easy, maybe a half hour from start to finish.

2) Body shots. Harder, because proportion comes into play, and I have to figure out what people are doing with their arms and hands. At least an hour for those; harder to draw, longer to colour.

3) Group shots. These take hours. I have to figure out relative heights, often going back into my archives to see how tall I made a character previously. Or this means sketching out a setting, which requires some perspective work and online research.


Group shot. Why do I torture myself?
I try not to do group shots that often, but sometimes the serial necessitates having one, or I simply want to challenge myself a bit. There's also the matter of synching the writing to the image. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I'll have drawn something slightly different from the narrative - it was easier to show the character with their hands behind their back rather than gesturing, for instance. So I tweak a couple of words.

I'm very much into reusing art clips where possible, which is why a lot of the images are generic, and why new art is only featured in every other update - if that.


STEP FOUR: POSTING


With all the pieces together, it's time to post. I generally give the entry a final read first, then cut and paste. Then alter the font defaults to be what I use. One additional consideration is where the picture is located - for instance, if you have a picture on the right, staring off TO the right, you're leading the reader off of your page. I take care to avoid that; put a right facing image to the left.

This is also when I give captions to the images - it's rare that I had any plan for those. Of late, I only tend to caption the larger images. Back when I started, this would all be done on a publishing day; since shifting to the blog, I can schedule ahead. I only schedule a couple updates in advance though... perhaps living in eternal hope of a remark altering a future update.


Do you see things as I intended or not?

One slight hassle at this step is that I created the serial blog with my mathtans account, but started the original series (and it's index pages) back on my personal google account. So I have to change mail accounts in order to update the index page. That's why the index update is often done a day or two after the fact.


IN SUMMARY


That's pretty much how it goes! In fact, my blogging procedure is somewhat similar. Any insights, suggestions, or offers of assistance are now welcome. For other reading about my serial, check out:
-Rewrite recaps. Highlighting when execution has differed from idea.
-Why I write series 5. And why math is suicidal.
-Author Explains: Word Wide Web. More about the wordplay itself.

You're also welcome to read the serial too! It's a mathematical personification fantasy story. Yeah. Let me know if you find my audience.

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