Things I’m learning from my first foray into serial fiction.

I posted a little while ago about DinoLand, my sci-fi novel which will be serialized, starting this Sunday, over at Geek Eccentric.

photo credit: Scott Kinmartin via photopin cc

photo credit: Scott Kinmartin via photopin cc

Well, it’s almost dinosaur time and I’m as nervous as an attorney staring down a T-Rex in the rain. Since this is a brand new  process for me, I thought I’d write a little bit about what I’ve been learning so far.  Here are some of my first take-aways:

 Starting out with a lot of material doesn’t necessarily mean you have less work to do.

I started this project with more than 200 pages of DinoLand, written over a period of two or three National Novel Writing Months, including a ridiculous amount of backstory. When I started importing all that into Scrivener, I realized that unless I write a prequel, I’m not going to use all of this material. Also, the work that I am using needed several rounds of edits. So while I have six months of DinoLand written and outlined, months 3 through 6 still need edits and work. (Chapter 2, for April, is already edited and turned in to the artist.) Speaking of which…

Working with an artist is an incredible experience. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by that.

Working with Max Farinato has been my favorite part of the DinoLand project so far. It’s amazing to watch his sketches develop, and even more amazing is the way I’ve seen the world I invented taking shape in his art. Every time Max sends me a sketch, I gush uncontrollably about how much I love his work, which is true, but maybe not helpful to him.
There should be some sort of guideline for working with an illustrator, because I suspect that I haven’t been easy to work with. For example, I probably should have sent him rough ideas of what my principal characters look like so that the art and my prose will match. I forget that I haven’t described everyone on page one of chapter one. I should probably also ask more often what he needs from me to make his job easier.

Oh my god. The comment section. Oh my god, the comment section.

Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for a long time, it has somehow just occurred to me that people will be able to comment directly after reading my chapter. It’s not like I haven’t gotten comments on fiction before — short pieces of mine have been published in journals with comment sections — but I think of novels as something that are put out to the public as a whole. If a novel receives criticism, it’s in the form of a review on another site, not in a comment section. So despite the fact that I consider myself a Big Damn Progressive Child of the Internet, I’ve still been thinking about fiction and novels in a very old-fashioned way.

And lastly, Does serial fiction work differently from a novel? I’m not sure.

While comment sections are relatively new, serial fiction is not. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two years reading novels that were originally published as serial fiction: Anna Karenina, The Count of Montecristo, Bleak House, Great Expectations. I don’t know if anything was changed before they were compiled into novels, but it seems to me that there has to be some repetition if a novel is released serially. If you’re releasing a chapter every week or month, you need to remind your readers of certain things that they can’t just flip back and check if they’re holding the book in their hands. Of course, now we have links – I can just link chapter two to chapter one – it’s the one thing I can do that Dickens could not, Still, every chapter should be able to stand alone, right? That way, if someone stumbles on chapter three before reading one and two, the reader won’t be totally lost. How do comic writers do this? How do television writers do this? Am I overthinking this? I might be overthinking this.

Those are my thoughts so far, at least until Sunday, when the fictional dinosaurs stampede out of the gate at Geek Eccentric. I’m sure I’ll have more to say then.

Reading on Enders Island.

Fairfield MFA

Reading today at Enders Island. If it looks like I’m on an altar, that’s because I am. Enders is a religious retreat, hence the cross and pulpit and stained glass. There’s also a relic in that church, but that’s another story entirely.

I’m back from my MFA program’s alumni day, which welcomes alums back to Enders Island for a meal and a hangout and allows us to attend a seminar and pretend that we’re still in school. Today I took a poetry seminar. I’m not a poet, but the teacher of the seminar I took is Baron Wormser, and he’s incredible, as you’d expect a poet laureate of Maine to be.  I’ve now taken two of his seminars, and just like the first seminar I took with him, this one – which explored argument in poetry – simultaneously inspired me and made my brain hurt.

The administration also very graciously allows us alumni authors to come back and read from our work during a special reading period, which is followed by a group book signing. I didn’t expect to be invited as a reader this residency, since I read last residency, but I was delighted to be invited back to the island to read alongside novelist Chris Belden and poet Colin Halloran.  Being a part of that line-up is no joke.

It’s also really cool for me for another reason: although I read primarily from Beware the Hawk, I was also able to read a taster from the upcoming book, The Eagle and the Arrow. One of the beautiful things about being part of the Fairfield MFA program is that it’s a safe place to share new work, and all three of us did that.

My husband was on camera duty for the reading, and I’m posting the fruits of his labors on my Facebook page. We had some technical difficulties with the lens, but he managed to get photos of the other readers as well. Feel free to visit, like the photos, comment, tag yourself and whatnot.

What my MFA program gave me.

This is where our residencies are held.

On Saturday, I graduated from my MFA program in Mystic, Connecticut. We had one more day at the residency, and now, I’m settling down to eat some lunch and do some laundry at home. I want to reflect on the program in a post, but because I’m still a little fried from 10 days of workshops, seminars, heavy drinking and various other writing-related activities, a proper blog post is beyond my abilities.

Luckily, yesterday I took a seminar, given by Porochista Khakpour, on experimental writing, and now I don’t feel the need to adhere to traditional forms.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of some of  of the things I’ve gained from Fairfield University’s Master of Fine Arts program on Enders Island in Mystic:


An MFA in Creative Writing, with a concentration in creative fiction

Five pounds

At least 100 Facebook friends

At least 10 really close friends

The pleasure of working with four talented published authors, who mentored me and read my work

The pleasure of having workshops with nine other published professors, and of taking seminars from many more

The honor of drinking a lot of Crane Lake table wine with almost every professor in the program, whether I worked with them or not

The company of poets

Several short stories that I might be able to publish

Two that I did/will publish

A trio of ill-conceived poems, inspired by Crane Lake table wine, sleepless nights and the company of poets

An article

Writing groups

Hundreds of bug bites

Dark circles under my eyes

A deep aversion to salads

The knowledge that my liver can still take abuse

A rudimentary understanding of LinkedIn

A first draft of a novel

The understanding that there is a big difference between the first draft of a novel and something that is good enough to show to an agent/publisher/my mother

The knowledge that I have to interview at least six drag queens in order for my novel to work

A funny-looking cap and gown and hood

Resilience during workshops

The ability to at least be quiet during workshop if I can’t be resilient

A love of strong verbs

An almost Pavlovian response to seeing bottles of Crane Lake table wine

50 other ideas for other novels that I can’t pursue until I hand this piece to an agent/publisher/my mother

Student loans that will come due any second now

A few connections

Some pointers on living my life after the MFA

A suspicion that life post-MFA will be a lot like life during the MFA, only without monthly packets and with student loans

The chance to see Wally Lamb, Sue Silverman, Mary Karr, Charles Simic, Philip Schultz and Rick Moody as they read from their work.

The haunting phrase, “Go get the eggs, you dwarf,” courtesy of Rick Moody’s reading in 2009.

An aversion to adverbs

A very, very long list of books I want to read

A long list of books that I have read

The knowledge that I may die at a very old age without having been able to read every book mentioned by every person I met at the program

The experience of being a fiction reader for Mason’s Road journal

The experience of being a T.A.

Two years of predetermined plans on New Year’s Eve

An ability to follow my bliss

Thank you, Fairfield University. This was exactly what I needed.