From my experience, and that of other published writer’s I know, one of the most common questions readers, friends, and family ask is: “When’s your next book coming out?” While this question is inherently harmless, sometimes it can feel like your work has been cheapened. But it can also do something else, it can also be motivating. While I’d prefer people ask me about my current work, thinking about what I’ll be writing in the future is an exciting prospect. “What’s next?” is a question I ask myself every day, which can be disheartening when you simply don’t know the answer.
That point is one of the numerous reasons why I wanted to do an episodic series. I’ve had a few people ask me: “Why do short stories instead of another novel?” Well, the answer to that is simple. I’m not. I’m doing short stories, or a series of short stories while I’m working on my next novel. For some writers, they need to focus on one project and see it through until the end. That’s an admirable way to ensure your work is of the highest quality before you move forward. At the same time, I’ve seen that take a very long time to complete a project. Me personally, I have a bit of writer’s ADD. I’ve been experiencing and telling stories my entire life; I can read books quickly (when I sit down to do something other than writing and actually focus), I binge watch seasons and movies in quick succession, and I’m a multi-screen-tasker.
What all that means is that, for me, working on my next novel (that could potentially take a very long time to finish) is all well and good, but I need something for when my attention shifts, when my mind gets bored of staring at the same page for hours while editing, or for when I get so frustrated at my writer’s block that I want to hurl my laptop through the living room window. But, I think we all know that wouldn’t solve my problem, would it? So, I divert that pent-up energy. I shift my focus to something completely different to stir the creative pot and get the metaphorical gears spinning again. I have to do this. I want to do this. But that might raise issues of quality vs. quantity. I can pump out a lot more content than a few other writers I know, but how do I know that I am not sacrificing quality by doing so?
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
Simply put, I don’t. To be entirely honest, when I power through a project, I do so to get a first draft done as quickly as possible. I need those bare bones, that foundation to build upon, and when I go back and re-read it, it’s usually riddled with poor grammar, misspelled words, and ridiculously obvious plot holes and inconsistencies. But that’s just the first draft, you all (the readers) don’t get to read that pile of garbage. I spend, in my own opinion, way too long rewriting and editing even the shortest stories before I even consider it something worth publishing. As you can imagine, with “full-length” novels, that takes a God-awful amount of time to do. I have been working on a science fiction novel since before the release of The Drive Home and I’m somewhere in the eight draft and I’m still scraping off all the worthless bits. It’s a long process and if you’re not careful, you could put something out that casts a grim assumption over your future work.
Which finally brings my back to my actual point and the question…well, in question. Why work on an episodic series while I work on my next novel? I’ve put together a collection of answers covering some of the most prominent reasons:
- First and foremost, as I mentioned, it keeps me focused and keeps me writing. With each piece I write I am thinking ahead, planning for potential release plans, thinking about where it fits around the novel I’m working on. And that gets me back to wanting to work on that big novel project. Which lets me provide something for readers to enjoy while I make headway on that forthcoming novel.
- Secondly, it allows me to play with form and presentation. It keeps me guessing and experimenting, even when I think I know what the hell I’m doing. A novel can be a one-off project, or, it can be a series of epic novels. Short stories are similar, in that one can stand on its own or it can be part of something bigger. But episodic, that’s something different. You have to further the over-arching story with each episode and further the character arcs while leaving enough out to intrigue readers to pick up the next episode. All in a small number of pages. It’s a delicate process. You have to think ahead, not just to the next episode, but to every episode, including multiple seasons, if you’re so inclined.
- I’m a new and, hopefully, rising author. Why should someone pick up my full priced novel if they’ve never heard of me before? Or never read anything I’ve written? With any episodic series I pursue, I’ve chosen to make the first episode absolutely FREE. Like with my current series, For a Ghost-Free Time, Call, the first episode introduces readers to my characters, my story, and my writing at no risk to them. This gives readers the opportunity to experience the story and decide for themselves if it is something they would enjoy. This also provides me with the opportunity to hook the reader and convince them to pick up the next episode. If I’m not convincing you to pick up episode two when it gets released, I’m not doing something right and that gives me the chance to improve my writing for the next one. It’s a learning process.
- Working on an episodic series also helps improve my abilities as a publisher. I’m improving my knowledge of the process through Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing. For each new episode, I’ve decided that I would like to make a fresh, yet simplistic cover to assist with convincing readers to continue with the series. By deciding this, I’ve been able to improve my abilities as a digital artist with Photoshop. I would love to be able to assist fellow writer’s with the publishing process, cover creation, or any aspect of creating written works. Hell, that’s what Emerald Inkwell is all about. That’s why we’ve chosen to brand ourselves as a “PNW Publishing Community.” We want to help independent writers get their work out there just like we’re doing for ourselves. So, if I can improve my skills with Photoshop and help a friend throw together a unique cover for their work, that motivates me. What can I say, I’m a “helper.” With For a Ghost-Free Time, Call’s first episode cover (pictured below) I wanted a simple cover that got the point across and related to the content in the writing. Much like you might see for some of Stephen King’s books (also pictured below). But since that first cover design I’ve been working on my abilities and I look at my W.I.P., sample covers for episode two and three, I find them much more visually intriguing than the first episode cover. Which gives me ideas for a future “updated” cover for that first episode. I’m learning. And that excites and motivates me further.
- The final thing I’ll touch on that I find great about the episodic format is that it is inexpensive for the reader and allows me to work on something that is “full-length” over time. So far, the episodes of “Ghost-Free Time“ are around 45 pages each, give or take. Once each season is finished, I look forward to offering a full season collection or a series collection, depending on the longevity of the IP. And if each episode is approximately 45 pages a single season collection could range from 275 to 400 pages. That’s a lengthy novel right there. So, while currently writing in a short story format, each episode is the catalyst for something larger.
So, if you were to ask me again: “Why work on an episodic series instead of a full-length novel?” I would kindly direct you to read the above, but I would simply respond by saying two things. 1: Because I can and I enjoy it (that counts as one, calm down). And 2: I’m not only working on an episodic series. I’m actually working on that “full-length” novel you’re asking for while providing you with a steady stream of content to keep readers entertained and to keep myself writing. And, in the end, when all is said and done, that’s all I really want out of all this. To keep readers entertained and to keep myself writing. And that sounds damn good to me.
Episode Two is on the way soon! Pick up Episode One to catch up before it drops!