What we are doing here is an iteration of the serial fiction, pulp fiction, the penny dreadfuls, and dime novels. It’s not a new idea, and even on the net it’s been done before already many times. We are taking part in an existing tradition.

Some famous long running series:

  • Tarzan: 24+
  • Dray Prescot: 52+
  • Conan: 50+
  • Casca: 53+
  • Mack Bolan: 586+

People may wonder if everything published here is all written out at once, edited, and then published piece by piece over time. It’s mostly not. For some works, we may have months of chapters already produced, but there isn’t any with everything already written until it is.

We’re playing with fire, going fast and loose. Chapter by chapter. Of course there are plans and outlines, careful documentation of ideas to come, but it’s also a wild experience. A beautiful and terrifying frenzy of ideas and effort.

When I think of the old kinds of works published as serials (the serial novel / serial fiction) I’m first reminded of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This book was originally published in various forms as serials. 18 segments over 2 years. When I first read this book years ago and learned about its serial publishing format it really got me thinking that it was a cool way to do it.

Of course people like to binge read. Or binge watch. TV shows are traditionally produced one season at a time and then aired over time. Though now there is a trend of publishing all of a season at once - the people demand it! It’s sort of full circle.

Dropping a whole book at once is that same sort of thing. But periodic publishing over time is still more appealing to me right now. I know the pain of having to wait, and I know the joy of having something great to binge. Over time, people will be able to binge read everything that’s there. But we won’t be dropping whole books at once unless it’s something really special, or we’re just selling it outright.

Another example of serials which makes my mind bright is of Robert E. Howard with his Conan stories. Truly legendary, revolutionary. To this day, awe inspiring. Pivotal in the world of fiction. That he died so young is a severe tragedy.

I will work until I’m dead! But that doesn’t mean living dangerously. I have no death wish! I will keep my health cared for so I can get as much as I want to get before I do die.

A lesson from Robert E. Howard is that serial works don’t have to be in chronological order, and they don’t have to be progressions. Each small story can be self contained. Many kinds of TV fiction follow this pattern. Each episode is a nicely wrapped story with a beginning, middle, and end. But over episodes there is a greater story being told with questions waiting to be answered. The TV show Monk comes to mind (which as a show has many valuable story telling lessons). The immediate lesson still is flexibility. We’re not just publishing novels one chapter at a time. We can do anything.

Of course there is manga and anime. All published serially, usually.

There is the web novel -> light novel -> manga -> anime pipeline. This is an entire process of iterative serial publishing. You know if something made it through this process, it’s probably worth your time. It seems like most popular manga / anime of today at least had a light novel it was based on.

But there are manga authors who write their chapters more on the fly too. They write with their illustrations. All artists have a different process. Some of them do write out a draft of text in advance of starting their first drawings. But how long do they plan their plots out? Hopefully they are at least thinking about the endings when creating their serial works. https://www.naokiurasawa.com/ has some English translations of documentary works of manga authors. It’s very interesting! Takumi Nagayasu for example does produce everything all at once.

Making a project you publish weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even daily instead of all at once seems like a genuine performance compared to writing all at once and publishing all at once.

One thing I hate about serial publishing formats is the idea of the “mystery box” that isn’t actually planned out by the author from the start. You can make very compelling mysteries, but if you don’t have a good plan you’re going to lose all of your credibility later on if you can’t think of something amazing to go with the original idea! This is something people like J.J. Abrams are criminally guilty of. Not only because he did it, but because he popularized it to others who then too dropped the ball.

The idea of these mysteries and their related questions are powerful for serial fiction published over time. Because you have to wait, it gives you time to think about and discuss ideas yourself. It’s fun, and often fans come up with better more, compelling ideas with their theories thanks to the collective energy put into it.

An example of J.J. Abrams doing the mystery box wrong is with Snoke. This character was interesting and mysterious, he came out of nowhere, there were many cool theories about him. And the fans were told their Snoke theories sucked. But it turned out that Snoke as a character sucked and J.J. Abrams didn’t actually have a good plan for him. Snoke was some dumb clone puppet the emperor was controlling? Give me a break. And at the same time J.J. Abrams / Rian Craig Johnson (famous for playing the telephone game with Star Wars) thought it good to subvert the character and story of Luke and his father in the process by making the emperor not actually dead. Terrible writers, terrible people. Simple as. What they did was so bad I don’t even consider any of the Star Wars film canon anymore, the franchise is dead to me and replacements must be made. Shame on you too Kathleen Kennedy for putting that trash into emotion.

Making mysteries for others to solve is the worst kind of serial writing.

The whole Rey is a Palpatine is also total trash. The ending of 9 sucked. They should have had the guts to make Rey go evil. That alone maybe could have redeemed everything else. The whole Rey LARPing as a Skywalker is also cringe. I remember thinking 1-3 were not great at the time, but in perspective of 7-9 the first 3 were masterpieces. If you love 7-9 we can’t be friends, you don’t belong here, I hate you, get off this site now and never come back.

You see how dangerous messing with mysteries in serial projects is? Not only can it put things off the rails and harm the appeal of early fans, but it can allow indulgent ideologues to do unspeakable things to corpses. It’s already dead. Leave it alone! You’re only making it worse! The lust for cash isn’t worth it! Of course Disney will forever milk it for all its worth until there are no fans left, not even the ones who collect thousands of Funko Pops will tolerate the garbage forever. Everyone has a breaking point.

The mystery box is still powerful but so are many evil things. With the one ring, Gandalf could have done great things. Great and terrible things. It can work to help you print money, but it can also make people hate you. So use it with care. Have a good plan that doesn’t suck if you’re going to stick compelling mysteries into your serials.

Serial fiction is cool. Life is a journey. Fiction is too.

We’re taking some risks with serial fiction. We’ll still play it safe sometimes.

For the most important projects, we will have many chapters lined up waiting to auto-publish. We already do. This article was even auto-published.

The ideal for projects is if anything happens to us, like getting sick, or losing power, chapters can still auto-publish for a while at least. Building up to a year of daily releases would be cool, right?

It’s work to do. But it’s the mission, so it’s what will be done.

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