Just over a year ago Goran Zidar started up the Story-time website where authors can post serial novels a chapter at a time and readers choose what happens in the following chapters. A great opportunity to write a novel-length piece and get directional feedback almost in real time. Well, novel-writing real time!
Rochelle’s Briefcase began its life about five years ago as a short story. From quite early I had a fairly clear idea of where it was going but felt the story would be too long to be short, if you know what I mean. So I abandoned it temporarily. When Story-time came up and I was thinking of ideas, I realised RB would be a good fit.
There are some key things I was aware were essential in a serial novel, or probably any novel, really, and one of them was that the goal must be established early so the reader knows roughly where the story is going. The danger with starting to read a serial novel is that you don’t see the end. You have no idea how much you’ve invested in and you can’t picture the journey ahead. Unlike a physical book with 300 pages or an ebook that’s got a percentage you can see slowly approaching 100, a serial novel is like walking across a dark patch of grass. It could be a small yard or it could be a football stadium. You don’t know. And I think that might put some people off serial novels.
There is also the stop-start of the single chapter releases that could frustrate readers. I know when I read I like to read in my time. I don’t want to wait for the writer to put out the next chapter. Putting up with a series of books is bad enough (think Stephen King’s Dark Tower series), let alone a series of chapters!
Anyway, back to Rochelle’s Briefcase. I identified the problem and the time frame early in the first chapter so it was a suitable candidate for expanding to a novel length story in serial form. Readers knew what they were getting into. Sort of.
So I launched into the rest of the story, carefully picking poll questions that wouldn’t cause the story to stray too far away from my predetermined destination. Maybe I cheated.
I wondered how may people would read it. There were about half a dozen other authors contributing their own story chapters, one at a time over the months. Sadly I noticed the view counts and votes gradually dropping. Then other stories simply lay abandoned. I was enjoying them and was disappointed to see them simply stop. Goran’s Hunter which is now available as an ebook on Amazon, was the only exception.
Back to Rochelle’s Briefcase. In response to the lower votes, I’d leave longer times for people to vote just to get enough numbers for a meaningful decision. But I wanted to get on with it! Hence the decision to end the story the way I did. Yeah, not great, I know. It was expected to take place over one week from Wednesday to Wednesday, but it took a year to get about halfway through the story and I was getting impatient!
So now what? I wound it up on Story-time so I can work on RB V2.0. It will be a major rewrite of the story. Looking at it now I see potential for more romance. I see potential for more spy thriller. It could also do with a bit more family history, especially Rochelle’s and perhaps Steve’s. More back story. And I will probably keep Rochelle alive in V2.0. Some people’s motives also need addressing. And the writing in general could be vastly improved. The to-do list is quite long.
But the aim is to clean it up and improve it by the end of the year.
To everyone who read Rochelle’s Briefcase and voted and otherwise, thank you for your contributions and rest assured, you did play an important role in shaping the story and I will try to stay true to your votes during the rewrite stage.
Onwards to V2.0 and beyond!