Amazon even launched a program for serialized fiction. Before any of this happened, Maryanne Wells was publishing her stories on her blog and building a following all her own. Now she's taken those stories and self-published them!
She must go.
I stare at the computer screen and sigh. I don't want her to leave. She's such a great character, colorful and well-developed.
When I first wrote stories, on a blog, I used a shotgun approach for character introduction. I packed a bunch of 'em into a shell, aimed at a story, and fired.
Now, I'm transitioning from blog to books. I've carefully plotted out the entire Undead Bar Association series. I have time to spread out the introduction of new characters, and given how much happens in each book, the character intros must be spread out. It's just too confusing if everyone appears at once.
I looked again at the blog story. It's going into Book 3 of the published book series. Though blog readers will be familiar with the characters and setting, it's new to many of my book readers. And looking at this story as a new reader, I realize that someone has to go.
“Sorry, Absola,” I say to the character on screen. “Your entrance is pushed out to Book 5. No were-plant zombies for you. But, I promise some wicked ghosts and a run-in with the sorcerers for your Book 5 appearance. Also, I will try to preserve the best of your one-liners. You have my word.”
With that, I begin the painful edit.
Going from blog to book is trekking into the unknown. Some writers have done a fairly direct transition, turning each blog post into a rough book chapter. I decided to do a series, some of it based on old blog stories and some, like recently published Shadowed Demise, written completely from scratch. There's no pre-existing map or formula for what I'm doing; it's a journey of trial and error.
Here's some of the things I've learned so far:
Positives about going from blog to book
- Established audience – There wouldn't be a book series if it wasn't for my original blog readers. They're the ones who pushed me to make the format change. And, it's comforting to know that I already have people familiar with my work who want to read more.
- Feedback about what works and what doesn't – Thank God for blog readers! They gave me a lot of feedback about the early stories that impacted the plan for the book series. Specific example: one old blog story included flashbacks to the story of Maryanne and Absola meeting in Romania. Blog readers told me it didn't work; it broke the flow of the main story. I listened. Those flashback scenes will be pulled from the story, when it's included in a book. They'll be in a separate book, one devoted solely to Absola's back story.
Readers also told me they enjoyed stories told from new perspectives, instead of hearing from Maryanne all the time. Y'all want it; y'all got it. Book 4 will be told from Robert's perspective (Robert's the bartendar in Book 3, coming out this spring. He's connected to certain vampires in ways even he doesn't realize...yet). For Book 5, the main voice will be Charles, one of the original Undead Bar Association members from Book 1, Matriculated Death .
- Time to see how you want the story line to develop – When I wrote each blog story, I had loose ideas about the fictional universe being created. With each story I finished, my vision cleared. Now I see the whole world and the complete story arc. The trial and error writing of the blog enabled my draft of a complete series outline.
- Writing discipline / scheduling – When you say a new story chapter will be up on the blog by a certain time, then dang it, you'd better get it done. Now that I'm writing books, I don't publish every other day, but I act like that's still the game plan. It keeps me on a strong writing schedule, and insures good output.
- Write in order – This may be the greatest lesson writing a blog taught me. Before the blog, I jumped around in my stories when I wrote. Write these two scenes in the middle, this bit of end, a smidgen of opening...you get the idea. The problem with jumping around when you write, is that it's really hard to finish.
Want to know the secret to writing a book? Finish a rough draft. That means a complete copy of the book, butt ugly and stinking of grammatical errors, finished and sitting on your desk.
Want to know the fastest way to getting a rough draft? Write straight, without hopping around. When you hop around, you waste time and energy. You end up re-writing scenes, because the plot / character development inevitably takes a turn you didn't expect.
Writing stories on a blog, each chapter in order, forced me to write straight through. I'm a hundred times better a writer now than I was pre-blog. And, best of all, I get the books done!
Drawbacks about going from blog to book
Emotional attachment to characters, etc. – The opening of this post offers an example of the emotional attachment you can have for characters. I have deep attachments for people who some of my book readers haven't met. But in going from blog to book, like going from book rough draft to first draft, you can't be ruled by emotions. If a chapter / scene / character / setting doesn't work, you cut it out. Obviously this isn't easy; I just apologized to a fictional character and made her promises in this blog post. But when it's time, it's time. Take the cap off the pen and let the red ink flow.
- Learning the new medium – You cannot just take a blog story and copy/paste it into a book, if you want the story to breathe in a new medium. Things change – pacing, character development, chapter endings – and if you don't react to the changes, your work suffers. Sometimes I wish I could just copy/paste, but I know I can't. Going from blog to book isn't a shortcut to writing.
- Spoiler risk – This is my biggest frustration about going from blog to book. I know what happens in every book and in the series, and I want to tell you all of it right now! But if I do, it kills the suspense. So, every time someone asks me a question about future books / the series, I have to think very carefully about my answer. See, it's really cool to me that in Book ___ the heroine runs into ______ at the ______, because I know that in Book ___ she will ____ in the basement of _____, and ______ will have to _____, or else the heroine ______. Part of me would love to fill in those blanks for you, but the rest of me is acutely aware that my editor will hunt me down and wack me upside the head with a laptop if I say another word. So, you'll just have to wait until Book __ comes out.
I'll be waiting, too.