Everything you need is missing?
I just had the worst experience: I accidentally got pulled into reading my own book, Pride’s Children, in an arbitrary spot.
To backtrack: I’m being serialized on VentureGalleries.com (as well as on TuesdaySerial.com and my own blog – Pride’s Children tab). Every week on VentureGalleries, a new 1000-1200 word chunk is put up three times a week (MWF) for those who are reading serials in convenient pieces, say, on a phone or tablet.
This is the wave of the future, but PC wasn’t written that way, so Caleb Pirtle is carving up the full chapters I’ve sent him (and doing a good job of it, too), and creating a title for that segment, which he then tweets.
All that’s left is the writing – or is it?
I hadn’t realized until I got an email today which indicates I’ve been featured – that it is a very bad idea to jump into a story in the middle.
All that setup that the author does at the beginning to draw you into a novel, its characters, and its setting – is not there. The plot which got you to this point – gone.
All you’re left with is the writing – and the ability of an author to pull you into a scene (in today’s case … it-was-a-gigantic-letdown-when-it-was-over/) the chunk starts at the beginning of a scene, but not the beginning of a chapter).
I read it as IF it were the beginning of a novel – and started freaking out at all the things that didn’t make sense.
Do you miss out by coming in halfway?
Of course not! By this point the reader who has decided to find out what happens in this particular fictional world has already absorbed thousands of details which have built up a picture in the reader’s mind – and all these details added in this chunk should connect to what has gone before, and make sense.
It is a kind of shorthand – I don’t have to explain the character, her attitudes, or why she is peeved: the reader who got here the normal way already has all that.
But in this scene, I have to provide NEW information about the character, take the plot on a NEW twist, show what’s NEW about the setting and how that influences the action.
The wave of the future
OTOH, in this new world of publishing and marketing, if a reader happens to try out Pride’s Children from VentureGalleries.com as a new segment, I now have to think about whether the chunk will make enough sense to intrigue this reader who joined us already in progress.
The whole point of serializing this way is to gain new readers.
When I settled down and stopped panicking, I realized that even this particular chunk COULD draw a reader in to checking out the rest:
there are unanswered questions;
the character has a very definite mindset that she isn’t afraid to use;
we can see how her method of dealing with life is to be sweet to everyone on the outside while her thoughts indicate a very different attitude than her actions;
we get a tiny bit of the idea of where she is and why;
we get her views on two secondary characters, and a couple of minor ones;
there is a plot advancement regarding another main character who is mysteriously missing…
But it definitely would take a few chapters further to get more of a feel for the whole story – sort of like coming in to a TV show or movie halfway through.
It reminds me again to make the story in the present ALWAYS compelling, always conflicted.
And I think I like this new way of thinking.
Readers are smart
After all, my mantra is: TRUST THE INTELLIGENCE OF READERS – THEY CAN HANDLE THIS STUFF.
It’ll take a bit longer if they missed the start of the show, but they should be able to tell if they want to come along for the ride, even from an excerpt in the middle of the book. And they should be able to enjoy and understand the end – if I’ve done my job.