Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Wed Apr 11 2012

Writerly Wednesday

Right about now, I am lying perfectly still in a tiny chamber, listening to muzak while being resonated with magnets. Or something. I don’t really know how it works, but my doctor ordered an MRI to check out my knee. I still can’t fully straighten or bend it, but after two weeks of RICE — rest, ice, compression, elevation — I can finally “walk” in a way that looks normal. Well, mostly normal. As long as I’m going slow.

(Yeah, I do know how pathetic that sounds. That’s why I’m getting the MRI.)

While I spend my morning bored and claustrophobic at the hospital, why don’t you enjoy these lovely links? They’ve been sitting in my Drafts folder for a while. I keep thinking I’ll write full posts about them, but then it never happens. Oops…

“Literary vs. Commercial Fiction” by S.E. Sinkhorn

Some stories are pretty clearly commercial, but still contain great character development. However, developed characters don’t make a story character-driven. Likewise, a functional plot does not necessarily make a story plot-driven. It’s all about the point of the story. Is the point to tell a tale, or learn something about a character or the human condition? Neither is superior to the other and both have their place in literature.

“Do You Know What Business You’re In?” by Rachelle Gardner

Analysts seem to agree that Kodak operated as if they perceived themselves as being in the film business, long after film had been pushed out of the way in favor of digital. … In fact, Kodak was really in the business of “moments.” The Kodak Moment. Had they embraced this larger truth, they would have been asking themselves “How can we continue to help people capture and share their Kodak moments?” But instead they were asking “How can we get people to continue printing out their photos using our products?”

Publishers, agents and authors need to start from this very important truth: We are not in the “book” business. We are in the business of storytelling.

As we figure out ways to move into the future, we will only be successful if we stay focused on remembering exactly what our business is.

“Experimenting With Serials For Fun and Profit” by Jane Friedman (via Shari)

Bring up the topic of serials in the writing community (either online or off), and it doesn’t take long for someone to invoke the success of Charles Dickens. But does a strategy that surged in popularity during the Victorian Era still have relevance to today’s writers and readers?

Both new and established authors are finding the answer is a resounding yes, and point to a growing demand for serial work, in part due to a burgeoning number of e-readers and new distribution methods for the form.

Not all serials are alike, however. While you can find many practitioners of the traditional serial that Dickens was known for — writing installments on deadline and taking audience feedback into consideration — authors are also slicing and dicing a complete work into segments as a marketing tool.

“Feedback from readers has solidified my feeling against this practice. Books as a unit or package of media work well in the long form, and readers by and large want to immerse themselves in the experience of reading long form.” Coker says this applies to full-length novels divided into chunks after completion, or works in progress.

As you may remember, I originally wrote Twenty-Somewhere as a weekly serial here on the blog. When Amazon opened up their epublishing platform, I decided to see if people would pay to read 20SW on their Kindles. They did, but they made it clear (through reviews, reader forums, and eventually sales) that they would prefer to have it all in one chunk as opposed to having to buy the episodes separately.

So while I do think serial fiction has a place, and a future, I’m not sure the correct mechanisms are in place. I would love to see someone experiment with a subscription model, where a reader pays by the episode, but is not responsible for checking back for new episodes all time. Maybe a notice is automatically delivered to their e-reader, and then they either approve or reject the download.

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11 Comments
  1. rose says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 4:25 PM

    loved the kodak bit! great post kristan.

  2. Mieke Zamora-Mackay says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Hi Kristan, that model for serialized fiction is already available, but not in a paid format. The sites fictionpress, figment, wattpad, and inkpop allow for a reader to subscribe to a story, and be automatically informed of a new chapter/episode. It’s all online though and none automatically deliver to an e-reader. Unless you’re reading from a tablet like the IPad or Kindle Fire or Nook, where you can go directly to the website to read.

    I think that would be a great idea, and I’m sure that’s coming sooner than you think.

    Thanks for the links, and I hope your knee feels better soon.

  3. Laura says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 5:19 PM

    The business of storytelling…I like it! Hope your knee gets better soon!

  4. linda says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 9:24 PM

    Oh no! Knee problems suck. Hope you feel better soon!

  5. Shari says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 9:26 PM

    I absolutely love the thought of a subscription model – kind of like a cross between a magazine subscription, an episodic soap opera, and a novel. Such a wonderful idea! :)

    I hope all went well with the MRI and that you get some answers about your knee soon. FEEL BETTER!!

  6. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Wed Apr 11 2012 at 9:57 PM

    Good luck with the knee. I do hate MRIs.

    Serials obviously work fine online (I’ve been doing them since before the web existed), but the big question has always been how to make money from them. I wrote about this a few months ago (http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2761) and I so think it has to be clear that the story is divided up for some reason intrinsic to the story (as, for example, with The Green Mile), rather than cutting up a whole to make more money from it. Anyway, my post links to a couple of good posts from Audry Taylor, who is much more professional than I am. :-)

  7. Elissa J. Hoole says:
    Thu Apr 12 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Cool links, and good luck on the knee! I am interested in this business of storytelling idea. storytelling is something that has always been with us as humans, and I can’t see that changing. hmm. as usual, you provide lots to think about!

  8. Kristan says:
    Thu Apr 12 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Thanks for all the well wishes re: the knee. I’ll keep y’all posted!

    rose-
    Thanks! And hi again. Didn’t know you were still lurking around here! :)

    Mieke-
    I think putting the onus on the reader is the big problem, though. So hopefully those sites, and/or others in the future, learn how to take advantage of technology to offer greater convenience. That’s what it’s all about, IMO.

    Anthony-
    Yep, “superficial” segmentation vs. necessary serialization was discussed in that piece too. Even so, I think contemporary audiences are fairly removed from the idea of waiting for installments. SO many people wait until the end of a TV season — or even the end of an entire TV series — to watch the whole thing straight through. Unless we can make it convenient and pleasant to tune in each week (like with DVR).

    Elissa-
    Exactly: storytelling will endure, so if publishers want to stick around, they need to figure out how they can revise their business models to focus on what they’re actually selling! So simple, and yet looking at some of the precedents, you can see that not everyone pays attention to the writing on the wall.

  9. Jon says:
    Fri Apr 13 2012 at 1:39 AM

    Great links; I think you’re absolutely right about storytelling. I just hope the lingua franca is not something I don’t know how to write like video games.

    Hope your knee is OK. When do you find out what’s wrong?

  10. Sonje says:
    Fri Apr 13 2012 at 7:41 PM

    I know serial fiction used to be huge, and I’ve heard rumblings on the net about it making a comeback, but I can’t wrap my head around waiting for monthly installments. I suppose it’s because I grew up reading books and am now used to/expecting to “immerse [myself] in the experience of reading long form.” But maybe I just haven’t met the correct serial yet. After all, I do enjoy episodic television, and that’s sort of the same thing. Although, now that I think about it, I even prefer to watch TV shows on DVDs so I can watch as much as I want at one time.

  11. Kristan says:
    Mon Apr 16 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Jon-
    My follow-up appt is on Fri.

    Sonje-
    I think most readers would agree with you, myself included. Frankly, lots of readers are fatigued from regular book trilogies/series, too. They don’t want to be artificially dragged along.

    But if we do assume serialization, then weekly installments might be more tolerable than monthly, precisely b/c we are used to that with television (as you said). Even so, I think the only way weekly succeeds (or monthly works at all) is with some sort of automated subscription, to help keep people hooked and up-to-date.

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