To serialize or not to serialize

Another writer I know is about to launch a serialized novel. It will release with two chapters a week. It’s free. Ilona Andrews has done the same thing with her Innkeeper series, at the end of which, she pulls it all together into a full book, revising and producing a a final, polished version. Personally,  I don’t read them in serial. I can’t stand to wait for the next entry. I do buy the books when they are complete and available for sale. Some writers do this sort of serialization on Patreon to reward the support of generous readers.

I have contemplated the serial novel. It’s a truly daring thing to do, because frequently the story changes as you progress and the beginning must be radically changed. Or you take a wrong turn and you have to back out. I did that recently, cutting almost 15K out of novel in progress. How would I have felt if I did that in front of readers? I’d be letting everybody behind the curtain and it’s a messy, ugly, strange place back there.

Then there’s the feedback question. Do you want it at that point? Sometimes it’s crushing to get feedback during the creative process. Personally, it could very well bog me down and make me unsure of the characters and the story.

At the same time, I kind of want to try it. Part of it is because of deadline. You have to get the weekly chunk done. I would think it would also make you form a really solid plot so that you didn’t wander too much. That plot might not hold up, but you’d want to develop one that had a good chance. Another benefit is that readers would tell you if you struck a cool idea, or if you went way off base. They’d let you know if your characters were engrossing and compelling. At the end, you’d have something you could publish. I also know a writer who posted something in serial and was approached by a publisher to publish it. It’s rare, but it’s possible

Writing happens in a vacuum most of the time, where you don’t know until the work is done whether it’s a good story. Writing in serial would get rid of the vacuum in both positive and negative ways.

The question, why do it at all? If you’re hoping to interest an editor . . . I’m not sure you’re on the right track. I don’t have much expertise on that subject, however, so if anybody does, please chime in. As I said above, it gives you a deadline and makes you work, or else you have to answer to directly to your readers. It brings people to your website for regular visits, allowing you to sign them up for a newsletter, let them know about appearances, or better engage them to keep them coming back. Then there are all the potential improvements to the story and writing. You could even put a “tip” jar on the site for people to make donations. Hopefully it will win you new readers.

I’m still not sure if I can manage it. It would be far more comfortable to have the story complete and post it in pieces. But then I’d lose the possibility of changes as I write. Of course I can and would revise, but when you’re writing and the story shifts and you race with it, the creative energy is powerful and very different from the revising brain. Plus it feels at that point that you have all sorts of options that might get closed off by the time you hit revisions.giphy

I’ve written about half of my next Mission: Magic book. I’m thinking of starting to post it and then try to keep ahead of the writing until I can finish.

Now, the big question is this: Do you lose sales giving it away free on your blog? Do the benefits outweigh any losses? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I’m always afraid I’ll throw a party and no one will come. What an ego-buster. That no readers end up being interested enough to keep coming back to read.

Still, I am very very tempted.

Does anybody out there have experiences writing or reading serials? Care to share your thoughts on them?


Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her author pic francisaward-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.

Magical Words Roundup 09-21-2016

Joshua Palmatier’s series on creating anthologies continues with Step Two: Authors

Chuck Wendig tells how to Finish That $^&ing Book!
Warning: he uses naughty grown-up words. A lot of them.

I once tried to write a scene in which a character had a shoulder knocked out of joint, but I had only ever seen it happen in movies. Then my husband suffered that injury, and I learned how wrong I was. offers a few more tips on Violence You’re Picturing Wrong, Thanks To Movies.

Want to see some of your favorite Magical Words people? Come out on Saturday September 24 to Con2, a minicon at the Cabarrus County Library!

Stephen King compares Donald Trump to Cthulhu. Cthulhu is offended.

Slippery Words’ Joelle Reizes interviews Patricia Briggs.

Rachel Aaron shares Three Strategies to Creating a Better Fictional World

Remember the Geek Gala I mentioned yesterday? They’re holding a Flash Fiction contest! But don’t wait – the deadline is Friday, the 23!

Magical Words Roundup 9-20-2016

You can purchase Harry Potter’s house! But I wouldn’t wait too long.

Marc Turner offers his thoughts about Five Fantasy Tropes That Should Be Consigned To History

The writing life isn’t easy. Merrit Tierce says I Published My Debut Novel To Critical Acclaim – And Promptly Went Broke

Joshua Palmatier, of Zombies Need Brains, with the first in his series How To Create An Anthology Step One: Concept (and hey, if you didn’t know already, he’s running a great Kickstarter campaign for his latest anthologies! Robots, Water and Death!)

HoldOntoTheLightis a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by more than 90 fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues.

Lawless Lands: Tales From The Weird Frontier is accepting submissions until September 30. Don’t wait!

Looking for something fun to do in October? Come to the Geek Gala! Tickets are still available.

Quick-Tip Tuesday: Fixing a Broken Manuscript

David B. Coe/ D.B. JacksonConfession time: There are times when I will find myself ignoring advice that I have given here on Magical Words, or in other teaching situations. For whatever reason — convenience, time, laziness, the sense, right or wrong, that I’ve “outgrown” some of the things I believe writers with less experience ought to do — I will cut a corner here or there. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. For instance, despite what I’ve said here recently about self-editing being most effective when I separate myself from the writing experience in all ways, including reading from a paper copy of my manuscript, I don’t always do this. Paper and ink are expensive. Printing out a book-length manuscript is time consuming. Sometimes — most time, if I’m being honest — I will simply edit on the screen.

But this past week I took my own advice in a couple of ways, and benefitted enormously from doing so.

The book I’ve been working on is actually one I began just over a year ago. I love the idea, the main characters, the magic system, the world. It’s epic fantasy with a YA twist, a time-travel element, and the pacing of a thriller. I worked on it throughout the fall and early winter of 2015, writing nearly 110,000 words in the span of about three months. It started off as the best thing I’d ever done. The writing was crisp and lean, yet evocative of the world I’d created. The narrative promised to be complex and compelling. The development and exploration of my point of view character was powerful and poignant. In short, I was psyched.

And then I wasn’t. Something happened in the course of the writing that steered the project off the rails. The one problem I’d had from the start was with my plotting. I tried to outline the story, but I found I couldn’t work out where I wanted to take it. I had ideas, but no single one asserted itself and said, “This is it: I’m the plot thread you want to pursue.” So, I wrote without an outline, something I don’t usually do. It worked for a little while, but eventually fell apart.

The Outlanders, by David B. Coe (jacket art by Romas Kukalis)At 110,000 words, I stopped writing. The story wasn’t complete — far from it. But I didn’t know what to do and I had other work that needed my attention. I did some non-fiction work — research and writing — for the university here in town, I wrote several pieces of short fiction, I edited my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle, for re-release. (By the way, the Author’s Edit of The Outlanders, book II in that debut series, should be available for purchase in the next few weeks. Just sayin’.)

Put another way, I put the book away, as we so often tell you to do. I didn’t look at it for three-quarters of the year. I thought about it. Storylines and editing ideas bounced around in my hind-brain. I spent a productive morning with Faith brainstorming approaches that might solve the manuscript’s problems. But I did all this from memory. I didn’t look at the book or make any attempt to write more. I let it sit.

Until right after DragonCon, when I pulled it out again and read through it, editing as I went, but more to the point, trying to figure out what went wrong. And on my very first read-through, I found it: the spot where I steered the story off the path into a narrative wilderness. It couldn’t have been more clear. For twelve chapters, everything goes really well. And then I make a single plotting choice, and it all goes to hell. The story bogs down, the writing grows more stilted, the characters grow dull and unconvincing. It’s as if my writing held up a sign that read: “Yo, idiot! Here it is! This is where you f@#%ed everything up!”

I know how to fix it. I’m excited to be working on it again. I think it could be truly amazing when done. All it took to find the answers were a pair of solutions we’ve suggested to you before.

So, if you have a manuscript that feels broken, that has lost direction or energy or momentum or purpose, or all of those things, put it away. Work on other stuff. Let it percolate in the dark recesses of your mind for a few months — three, six, nine? Whatever. Then take it out and read through it again. Look for the place where that crackling energy it had in the early pages vanishes. Look for the place where your characters lose their way, and your narrative stalls. Chances are, finding that point will tell you what you need to fix in order to reinvigorate the story.

It worked for me. It might work for you.

Keep writing!

Making Money Mondays – Saying Yes

My current working environment.

My current working environment.

As I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, wiping sleep from my eyes and trying to get the cat situated on the desk in a way that interferes with neither my typing nor my Pop-Tart ingestion (a pretty critical part of my morning), I was wondering what to write today. I’m also sitting here for a few minutes writing while I let my back rest from lugging boxes of books down from the front room to my office so I can prep for a small appearance/signing I’m doing this afternoon with Gail Z. Martin, J. Matthew Saunders, and Stuart Jaffe at a library here in town.

So my aching back got me to thinking, as I often do, “What’s the point of all these appearances?” It’s not like I make a ton of money at them. Wouldn’t I be better off sitting at home writing more? After all, I have to get three novellas written and the first draft of one novel completed by the end of the year (really, two and a half novellas, but that’s neither here nor there). And that’s not even thinking about all the stuff I need to do for Falstaff Books releases that aren’t mine. So it’s not like I don’t need the time to write and do publisher-type stuff. Plus I have a podcast to do, bi-weekly blog posts here on MW, bi-weekly blog posts on my website, and bi-weekly writing craft advice blogs on my Patreon feed.

So with all that going on, why am I taking the vast majority of a day to go to a library and talk to maybe two dozen people if we’re really lucky?

Because I say yes.

I say yes to almost all invitations to conventions, signings, appearances, anthologies, guest blogs, podcasts, and pretty much whatever else I get asked to be a part of. I say yes to ebook box sets. I say yes to podcast appearances. I say yes to interviews for any website or magazine. I say yes to signings and readings. Almost always, unless I am already booked for the day and time that you are asking me to be somewhere, or I can’t afford the travel, if someone asks me to put on my writer hat and be somewhere – I say yes.


Because obscurity is the greatest enemy a writer can have. You can have the greatest book in the world, with the most beautiful cover, blurbs from Jesus Christ and Buddha themselves, but if nobody knows it exists, you won’t sell any books. I need to be out there putting my face in front of people. I need to be present, and I need to be memorable (for the right reasons), and I need to be on my game. But I need to be there.

That’s why I’m doing a panel and signing this afternoon with an unknown potential audience. That’s why I’m doing a mini-con at the Cabarrus County Library next weekend with AJ Hartley, Gail Martin (another one who is almost notorious for saying yes to any appearance request – Gail and I are very much on the same page in that regard), and a host of other people. That’s why I’m going to be appearing at Big Fandom Greenville in November, a first-year convention where I have no idea if anyone will show up (although given the historical tendencies of Upstate SC fandom, it’ll be a very good show).

I said yes when a writer I knew slightly from the interwebs and Facebook asked me to be part of a podcast where we play Pathfinder on Skype and record our ridiculous antics. That idea turned into Authors & Dragons, and now will be a live podcast from Contraflow in New Orleans in a couple weeks where I finally get to meet these guys who I’ve been playing a game with for a year! It also turned into a trip to Los Angeles this week, but I’ll tell you more about that on my blog after i get home.

I said yes when Darin Kennedy invited me to sweat my butt off in the summer sun in Lincolnton a few months ago, and that led to a great dinner with Darin, Matthew, Gail, Brian Rathbone, and Jake Bible, where Jake told me about his podcast Writing in Suburbia. Listening to Writing in Suburbia led to me having the idea to launch a new podcast, Writing Rants.

None of these things that I’ve said yes to put words on the page, or put dollars directly into my pocket (except for the signing in Lincolnton, which pretty much covered dinner). But they all expanded my visibility, put me in front of more people, made connections to other writers, and did work to expand my brand.

You have to say yes. You have to say yes, because if you say no enough times, people will stop asking. And if they aren’t asking you, they’re asking somebody else. While I don’t think that writing is a zero-sum game, and I certainly don’t feel like a book sold by one of my friends is a sale that I’ve “lost,” I do think that it’s my job to put myself in front of as many people as possible and give as many people as possible the opportunity to know how awesome I am and how much they’d love my books if they just plopped down their entire paycheck on my table.

So get out there and say yes. Don’t worry about your word count, you’ll get that done. You might not get much sleep, but you’ll get it done. And eventually, you’ll be able to tell your boss to shove it and then you can live the life of leisure of a professional writer! Then you can be the one working seven days a week hauling books across scalding parking lots, setting up tables, doing panels until the wee hours while your buddies are in the bar drinking and having fun, and then holing up in your room instead of going to other panels because you have to get your words in. Yeah, that glamorous life of a writer. :)

I never said it would be easy. But I say every day that it’s 100% worth it and that I wouldn’t want to do life any other way. See y’all in a couple weeks!

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.

Latest Release News – Man in Black, Book #6 of the Black Knight Chronicles is available now wherever books are sold!

Queen of Kats Book II – Survival is available now exclusively on Amazon! 

Heaven Sent, Quincy Harker Book #5 is available now exclusively on Amazon! 

Remember, if you love a book, leave a review! It helps books appear higher in Amazon searches and adds to recommendation lists! 


Starting the Conversation—A #HoldOnToTheLight Update

By Gail Z. Martin

100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

We’ve also been talking with conventions to encourage them to add, expand or promote their panel programming about mental wellness issues. ConCarolinas, GenCon, Capricon and ContraFlow have let us know that panels are in the works for 2017, and both Capclave and Atomacon are looking at options!

How can you help spread the message and broaden the conversation?

–Read the blog posts by our participating authors and share on your own blogs and social media

–The links below to the newest author blog posts double as tweets you can cut and paste. Easy!

–Visit the authors’ blogs and like, comment

–Tweet or email about the campaign and tag bloggers, podcasters and genre media

–Ask your favorite genre convention to add panels on mental wellness

–Volunteer with or donate to one of the campaign charities listed at the bottom of this post

–Join the #HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group.

Latest blog posts/shareable tweets

One step at a time #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by RowenaCoryDaniells @Rebellionpub

Gaslighting myself #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness. @LAGilman on #PTSD

Ride the storm surge #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness. @JimMacAuth #PTSD

#HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @GailZMartin on #PTSD in epic fantasy

Helping a loved one cope #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @Emily_Leverett

Becoming the mean girl #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness @Jean_Marie_Ward

Fighting the urge to jump #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @ChrisKennedy110

Anxiety & asking for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @JoshVogt

The black dog of depression #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @MistyMassey

Suicide leaves scars. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @Mudepoz

The bittersweet sustains. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by  @bishopmoconnell

Focus on the good, and fight for that. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness  post by @LS_Taylor

How do you tell someone what it feels like? #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SFF authors blog on #MentalWellness @JenniferBrozek

Identity and masks. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @RickGaultieri

Fandom takes care of its own. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @GailZMartin

I wrote my way out until I couldn’t. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @nataniabarron

You are not alone #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @almaalexander

The courage to ask for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @jreizes

Among the authors participating so far are: Robin Hobb, Jody Lynn Nye, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Laura Anne Gilman, Chuck Gannon, Kameron Hurley, Catherine Asaro, Gaie Siebold, Karen Miller, Rowena Cory Daniels, David B. Coe, Marc Tassin, Jonathan Oliver, Jeanne Adams, Nancy Northcott, Aaron Rosenberg, Jennifer St. Giles, Mark Van Name, Juliet McKenna, Jennifer Brozek, Darynda Jones, Christopher Golden, Clay and Susan Griffith, Gregory Wilson, Josh Vogt, Darin Kennedy, Jon Sprunk, James Maxey, Karen E. Taylor, Justin Gustainis, Misty Massey, John G. Hartness, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Jaym Gates, Laura Taylor, Weston Ochse, Ron Garner, Kathy Lyons, Mari Mancusi, Leanna Renee Hieber, Davey Beauchamp, Cheryl Wilson, Rod Belcher, Travis Heermann, Cara Santa Maria, Michael J. Allen, Trisha Wooldridge, Alyssa Day, J. F. Lewis, Joshua Palmatier, Keith DeCandido Mindy Mimudes, Emily Leverett, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Tera Fulbright, Tamsin Silver, Stuart Jaffe, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Eric Asher, Rick Gualtieri, Chris Kennedy, Ken Schrader, Samantha Dunaway Bryant, Valerie Willis, Alexandra Christian, Jake Bible, Matthew Saunders, Jay Requard, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly Harmon, Sascha Illyvich, Kelly Swails, Bishop O’Connell, Sherwood Smith, Peter Prellwitz, Tracy Chowdhury, Trevor Curtis, Leo Champion, Alma Alexander, Natania Barron, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Addie J. King, Joelle Reizes, Gabrielle Faust, Selah Janel, Whitney Evans, Tom Leveen Deborah J. Ross, Tally Johnson, Calandra Usher, Jada Diaz, Harry Markov, Brian Rathbone, Robert Greenberger, Linda Robertson and more.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to Recaps will also be posted on and


Making Money Mondays — Cost Vs Benefit

Morning Y’all. Or afternoon. Or night. Whenever you read this. Yes, has a new format of writers posting at most any time, but I wanted to keep to Mondays most of the time simply because I’m used to it.

Today’s post is about fan complaints about the cost of eBooks. A fan (let’s call her Sue Doe, to keep the Jane Doe Yellowrock confusion at bay) sent me a PM (private message) that she would no longer be buying my books because the eBooks cost so much more than other writer’s eBooks. She said I should, “Tell your publisher that they have to lower the costs of the books.” Her claim was that when the eBooks cost more than the paper books (mass-market) the companies are gouging.

We had a polite, long, back-and-forth PM exchange and I ended up telling her I was sorry to lose a fan, but I was finished with the discussion. Why? Sue Doe had a position she was going to keep regardless of my replies.

CurseonLand_WebThis had been similar to a discussion about politics or religion, not something people are willing to change their position over no matter what valid or cogent arguments might be placed before them. No matter what scientific or mathematical or proven physical laws. It was a fact-based versus faith-based argument. As a person of faith, I’ve been on both sides of such arguments and partaking in them is a waste of time. I am not going to change my faith when I am on a faith-based side of the discussion, and no one else is going to change their faith when I am on the fact-based side of the discussion. Discussion is pointless except as a matter of sharing and seeking middle ground. Also difficult, often impossible.

But I realized after the discussion ended, that I was angry. I had been polite and so had she. But my very good manners had left me dissatisfied. My arguments about the marketplace had been dismissed. So I want to say some things here that I said there. Argue with me if you want.

  1. I have no – NO – control over what my publishing house charges for my book. NONE. Only self-published writers and, occasionally, small press writers have the luxury. I have never spoken to my publisher. Never met my publisher. Don’t even know his / her name. And calling him / her would be, literally, the hired help calling the president of the company. The call would not go through. Ever. Traditionally published writers have no price control power.
  2. Cost per word in reissued books doesn’t count. In reissued books that were once traditionally published, and are now out via small press or self-pub, the writer has made his or her nickel (in the advance and any possible royalties) and everything else is gravy. The writer doesn’t have to re-edit them. The cost of covers and formatting are (or can be) very low. All those cheap, reissued, old books out there for $3.99 and $4.99? Don’t count toward this argument. Uh – discussion.
  3. Cost per word for new books. All those new books out there for $3.99 and $4.99? More than 90% of those books have around 60,000 to 80,000 words. I write 120,000 to 140,000 word books. Most traditionally published writers have a word count in the contract and today the standard is around 115,000 words. If you are a product of the US school system and can’t do the math, here it is in simple terms. The cost per word is nearly equal.
  4. The editorial process. In self-pub, the writer pays the editor. In case that didn’t penetrate, here it is again in different words. The editor is paid by the writer to edit the book. If there is something drastically wrong (or maybe lots of little somethings wrong) with a book, the editor has no power to say, “Fix it.” The money goes the wrong way. I want my editor to flagellate my work, to rip it to shreds and advise me how to fix it. And to tell me when a book is not ready. When my talent is not sufficient. No editor, paid by the writer, is ever going to say, “This is a piece of crap. It should never be published and so we won’t buy it and we won’t edit it.” No. Their income depends on satisfying their boss – the writer. And crap often ensues. Not always, no. There are great FANTASTIC self-published books out there. But there are many more that are dreadful. Now you know why.
  5. Money. New York City commercial rental prices. Paying people to work in NYC, and paying them enough that they can afford rent and utilities and food and electricity. Should publishers move out of NYC? It would save them money.
  6. Professional art for cover art. PRICY!!! Don’t you love it??? Didja you see my new book covers???
  7. Paying the HORRENDOUS fees to lawyers to find and shut down prates who steal books. With the presence of eBooks, that cost has gone through the roof. Why? It’s way easier to steal an eBook and pirate it than a paper book.
  8. Promotional money. Koff-koff. Maybe more on that in the next post. I’m at my maximum word count today.

coldreign-coverfinalSue Doe. You are probably a fine woman. But we live in very different worlds.

Until next time,