Writing a serial: Nickel and dime-ing your way through fiction publishing

On the way to pick up one of my kids at school on Friday afternoon, one of the other moms pulled me aside.

“We’re really enjoying your new serial in Binah,” she said.

I got a little extra bounce in my step. “Thanks!”

“But getting just one chapter a week is driving us crazy! It’s so hard to wait for the next one!’ she added.

“Sorry!” I replied.

There really isn’t anything I can do to help her, but I feel her pain. Usually, I’m the reader throwing my arms up in frustration at the end of a serial episode screaming, “I have to know what happens next! Argh!”

What’s really funny, is that now as a writer, I’m throwing my arms up screaming, “I have to know what happened five episodes ago! Argh!”

Like most writers whose serials have only just started to run, I haven’t yet finished writing Glixman in a Fix. I wrote summaries of the plot, major conflicts, and themes, and then created profiles of all the characters. Next, I outlined the entire thing, estimating a run-time of fifty episodes.

After approval by the editors, I began to write the episodes, turning them in batches of three every two weeks or so. I finished almost three months’ worth ahead of time, because I knew Passover was coming, and I’d need to take some time off.

But now, I’m back to writing episodes of my serial. This morning, I consulted the next couple pages of my outline and then had to go back and re-read the last couple chapters.

Why? The outline told me what needed to happen in Episode 13, but I couldn’t remember how the narrator sounded. Since I’d last written in the voice of Mendel Glixman, I’d written several other stories — and none of their narrators sounded like Mendel.

Okay, so I read a couple chapters (Episodes 11 & 12, to be exact) and then started writing. And then had to stop again, this time to consult Episode 8 to figure out how much Mendel might know about Aunt Rina’s research. Except I didn’t know it was Episode 8 I wanted. I couldn’t remember which episode to consult because on a couple of occasions I’d ignored the order of scenes in my outline. So I ended up reading 10 and 9 before finding what I needed in 8.

I spent another hour writing, and the cycle kept repeating myself: write a couple paragraphs, couldn’t remember who said what or what had happened, rush back to previous chapters to locate the answer, resume writing.

I’m exhausted.

So now, I’m taking a little break. But not a long one. I don’t want to re-forget everything I just looked up.

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