Friday, January 11, 2013


Serial fiction reached its peak in the 19th century, and that’s a shame.  We’re missing out on something.  When Charles Dickens published The Pickwick Papers in twenty installments in 1836 and 1837, he pioneered a new way of delivering and consuming literature.  

Dickens’ work, and that of his contemporaries, gave rise to the cliffhanger.  Weekly or monthly installments of mystery and adventure left readers wanting more.  And that’s what every writer wants.

The format jumped to TV in the 1960s and 1970s as soap operas became the new serialized rage.  But it’s time the literary world reclaimed the serial.  It’s good for writers and readers alike.  

Serial fiction allows the writer an opportunity to get the work out while it’s fresh, and to invite feedback useful for shaping and reshaping the project.  The deadlines keep you on your toes, and there’s no such thing as a first draft any more -- chapter one goes live even before chapter two is written.

Serial fiction allows the reader the opportunity to get in on something brand new.  For a small time commitment, you can read a fresh, new, free, fast-paced adventure.  And if you do’t like something, you can say so.  Comment, and you can be sure the writer is paying attention.

I started writing serialized fiction on my blog over a year ago, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.  My current project - MedicineLand is now in it’s seventeenth weekly installment.  Have a look if you get a chance -

2010 -  California’s Central Valley becomes the nation’s methamphetamine production hub, unleashing a wave of addiction and crime.  Prison populations soar.  

The state bleeds money and resources as two formidable players ascend - the ruthless drug cartels, and the powerful prison guards union.  There’s a fortune at stake as the world’s eighth largest economy becomes a battlefield.

It’s up to the governor now to keep everything from boiling over.  Unless the governor has other ideas.


Dr. Julia Beltran is a geneticist searching for the master control gene for human aging.  If she finds it, you’ll never die.

Adam LaPorte is a former methamphetamine super-lab cook.  Why is he now being paid a small fortune to bake snack cakes for the California Department of Corrections?

Ruth Black runs a private holistic medicine facility.  Her patients shouldn’t even be alive.  Maybe they aren’t.

Governor Schwarzenegger doesn’t like to lose.

MedicineLand - delivered weekly to your e-doorstop, for your e-reading pleasure.

What if a new strain of methamphetamine could shut down the master control gene for aging?  What if it could also shut down much of the frontal cortex?  Eternal life or a chemical lobotomy - it’s all in the application.

Somewhere in the capitol building, some thought is given to bold new ways of pacifying a burgeoning prison population.  Because if those felons can be reduced to mindless zombies, it might not matter if they live forever.

Finding the secret to eternal life was the easy part.  The hard part is keeping it out of the governor’s hands.


KeVin K. said...

One of my favorite writers-don't-edit *and* playing-chicken-with-deadlines stories is Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. The paper hired boys to act as runners; they took each page as he finished it and dashed to the typesetter. Unless he had copies of the paper so he could refer to published installments, Dickens wrote the entire book in one draft without being able to look back at previous pages.

I wrote a serial for the now defunct WizKids site as was part of the build-up to their introduction of DarkAge: Fortress Republic role-playing game. It presented a street-level view of the new universe. I really enjoyed it and from what I heard a lot of players enjoyed the format.

Something to consider for future projects. Particularly in these days of independent publishing. Any format is possible.

William Doonan said...

That sounds really cool, Kevin. Maybe I need to hire some runners to carry my USB drives!

I like your addition of varying views to your imagined landscape. Is that visible anywhere on the internet? I'd love to take a look at it.

Eugenia O'Neal said...

Wow, that's really interesting, William! Will definitely pay a visit.

Liane Spicer said...

Love the premise. The Governator, huh. I need to read this--Arnie never fails to entertain.

William Doonan said...

Living in California during the Governator's tenure was an interesting experience. My goal in this project is to interpret it justly and honestly, albeit with zombies.

KeVin K. said...

Unfortunately, William, Topps (those baseball card people) bought Wizkids and cancelled all fiction related to the games - including the website. Try to find my serial ("Tides of Change") and you get a 404. I did not keep a copy, thought I did but it's just my installments' outlines. I just spent 10 minutes looking and found a couple of mentions on fan sites - one as recent as this past September - but no one has a copy. It's gone.

Charles Gramlich said...

The first two Talera books originally appeared as magazine serials. I've always enjoyed that kind of fiction. I wouldn't mind seeing more, but I don't even get to see too much serialized TV as it is.

William Doonan said...

That's a bummer, KeVin. It sounds like corporate greed/stupidity. And the idea of losing something I've written, no matter how bad, is terrifying. I'm going to head out now to buy some carbon paper!

Charles, I'm going to look into that. I've always enjoyed that kind of fiction as well. And there is some great serialized TV out there - like The Walking Dead, which began life as a serialized comic book.