calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

I’ve noted many times that I’m a sucker for a reading challenge. The very first one I participated in was Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon back in April 2010 (wow, has it been that long already?). That was how I met Andi Miller. Andi is an amazing facilitator of community, particularly amongst fellow book bloggers. Today I’ve asked her to share a bit about Dewey’s Readathon and the community that surrounds it.


 

I am an introvert. I am perfectly happy, when I’m not forced to be out relating to people, to sit around my house and read. Having found the online community of readers 14 years ago, I do know for certain that I am eternally thankful for being part of something bigger. I relish the feeling of a community of readers thriving around me, even if I can’t always see or experience the gathering in a tangible way. I can read the Tweets, see the photos on Instagram, or visit friends on their blogs. I can wiggle my way through streams of hashtag posts. I can experience the interaction even if it isn’t a festival or a conference. The community is so real and so electrifying even though it’s scattered.

Three years ago my best friend Heather and I were asked to take the reins of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon which was founded by an amazing community-builder, Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf,  in 2007. Sadly, Dewey passed away in 2008, but the Readathon has endured, a testament to Dewey’s forethought and community-boosting skills as well as the need for interactive events for our very large, and ever-expanding community here in the online book world.

Not only is the Readathon still going strong, it’s growing exponentially. Whereas the event used to be located across a series of blogs, we now see greater numbers of participants on Twitter, Instagram, and a thriving Goodreads group with over 1,000 members. While the ways we communicate may have shifted and changed, the lively spirit of it all has only expanded. If you ever thought about participating in something on Twitter, the Readathon is a must! By simply searching for the #dewey #readathon hashtags on Twitter, you’re catapulted into a teeming swirl of readers in the act of celebrating their favorite pastime. It’s nothing short of breathtaking…and sometimes a bit overwhelming. All you have to do is jump in to be a part of it. A comment to a friend, or even a stranger, is enough to spark a conversation and fuel the celebration.

With another Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon coming up on October 17, 2015, it’s time that the wheels behind the scenes begin to turn. Another testament to the online reading community is the amazing amount of volunteers who make this event happen. It’s truly humbling to see thousands of readers sign up to participate, but it tugs at our heartstrings even more that hundreds of you mobilize twice a year to make this circus of reading happen at all:

  • Goodreads group moderators
  • Cheerleaders who send their good words and best wishes out to the participants
  • Mini-challenge hosts who put on games in their favorite online spaces
  • Hourly co-hosts who keep the main website updated with good cheer
  • Prize donors who give of their own pockets and book stashes

Heather and I are facilitators more than anything. We’re blessed that the reading community answers this call and keeps this event fresh. We are thankful to you, readers, and you, volunteers, for bringing this whole thing to life.

We are thankful every day for this community.

headshot

Andi Miller is a proponent of fauxhawks, gaudy jewelry, country music, and writing. When she’s not publicly relating at her day job or teaching university English courses online, she’s a hardcore reader, social media addict, and a 10-year book blogging veteran at Estella’s Revenge

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

 

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You may remember Lynn from the book discussion we had last month on Some Kind of Fairy TaleShe recently released her novel A Promise Broken, which first appeared in serial form on her blog. In honour of the occasion, I have invited her to share a bit about her experiences with serialised fiction.

Serialised fiction isn’t a new concept. One of the earliest forms of serial fiction may be The Tale of Genji (源氏物語) written in the 11th century, but it is uncertain whether the novel was published in instalments. In Western society, serialised fiction was made popular in about the 19th century, though novels such as Tristram Shandy were already being published in volumes a little before this time. More, ah, traditional examples of serialised fiction authors include Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Poetry could also be found published in serialised form, such as Lord Byron’s Don Juan.

The rise of serialised fiction in the West coincided with several societal changes that made fiction more widely available. Simplistically seen, these changes all stem from the Industrial Revolution and many of them still influence us to this day. The Revolution is when compulsory school attendance laws were passed and, in the UK, when local boroughs could start their own free library. Paper (and thus books and magazines) became easier and cheaper to produce.

My point is that serialised fiction isn’t a new concept. The internet, fanfiction and the prevalence of mobile devices have reintroduced us to the format. Like in the Industrial Revolution, the rise of serialised fiction coincides with large changes to our (Western) society. Fans were among the first to embrace these new technologies to write stories and produce digital art. Today serialisation is especially popular among indie authors as well as webcomic artists and, still and ever, the fans who write fiction.

When I started writing long-form for others to read myself in my mid-teens, it was in serialised form. I published pieces as they were finished and, taking on board feedback, would sometimes start over from scratch if something wasn’t working and I’d figured out how to fix it. I published my works for my friends to read and to learn the craft more than anything else. It’s how I met some of my closest friends, like Elizabeth.

Serialising A Promise Broken as a Work-In-Progress was, in some ways, a return to my digital writing roots with the biggest difference that, this time, I wouldn’t be releasing instalments as I finished them but on a schedule. I’d wanted to serialise it as a complete penultimate draft that needed only some mild typocatching starting this year. Running the serial last year was not part of my plan, but idealism and activism ensured that I did. Diversity in our fiction is important. You need only look at projects like Jim C. Hines’ Invisible (now in its second year ) to see how important. The decision to serialise a year early, before I was even done writing the story, followed on an especially awful few months in terms of diversity and representation. (I spoke a little about my reasoning before starting the project.) The story wasn’t done; it wasn’t ready; I’m sure I messed up somewhere. But sharing it was something that I could do as a budding indie-author that I felt might, someday, make a difference to someone.

However, the choice to serialise an unfinished work wasn’t ideal for me. I’m not the fastest writer and I discovered fairly early on that I needed to restrict myself to one post per week to be sure I didn’t have to take any breaks. I’d never done a structured serial before. Other people will have other answers on what works, of course. Faster writers can easily produce three posts per week or even daily!

As far as challenges go, writing speed wasn’t a large factor for me. I caught on to the fact that I was being too ambitious early on. A far bigger challenge was the fact that A Promise Broken wasn’t written to be serialised. Sometimes it proved impossible to find a good transition point between instalments. I’d set the average at between 1,000-1,500 words as that seemed to be the sweet spot for the serialised fiction I’d seen and while less than that isn’t necessarily an issue, much more than that is. Much longer than 1,500 words and people stop reading.

The chapters of A Promise Broken average at about 3,500 words, so roughly every three instalments on the website made up one chapter. Transitions in between them weren’t always as smooth as they could be. Either I picked the wrong paragraph to cut off or information was missing. One of the things that serialising fiction can teach a person is how to write smooth transitions. Reading a story in instalments may highlight issues that reading in one go won’t catch for you.

Sometimes my instalments were just too long for reading comfort. Once, I did that on purpose: in December, when other year-long serials I’d seen had wrapped up their narrative for the year and offered shorter bits of fun and fluff for the holiday hiatus. I bumped up the word count, so that the serial would finish before the Christmas holidays. Obviously, if you publish in a cultural sphere which celebrates other feasts, you may find yourself doing this at different times.

Currently, I’m at work on the sequel to A Promise Broken, which I aim to start serialising in 2016. It still won’t be written specifically for serialisation, but any future serialisation projects I do most likely will be. I’ve got a few ideas, some of which are ideally suited to the format because they’re episodic in nature.

Lyn Thorne-Alder has written a basic (but wonderful) guide on starting your own webserial here .

I’d also like to leave you all with a small list of others authors who produce serialised works :
Elizabeth Barrette (specialises in serial poetry)
Pia Foxhall (features explicit content and is not suitable for all readers)
M.C.A. Hogarth
LB Lee
Clare K.R Miller
K.A. Webb
Sarah Williams

And Shadow Unit is a webserial produced by several authors.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course. There are many authors producing serial works, but hopefully these will give you a good idea of the kinds of stories out there.

And you can find more serialised fiction via sites such as:
http://webfictionguide.com/
http://muses-success.info/

 

Lynn E. O’Connacht has an MA in English literature and creative writing, but wouldn’t call herself an authority on either. She currently resides on the European continent and her idiom and spelling are, despite her best efforts, geographically confused, poor things. Her tastes are equally eclectic, though fantasy will always be her first love. She has been chasing stories one way or another since she was old enough to follow a narrative.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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