...and then everything falls apart.
Your story was going great. Your characters were running the show. Sure, your life was getting a little out of hand, but as long as you keep writing, you're in good shape.
Then, without warning, you cannot write anymore.
Maybe you get in a car accident. Maybe there's a death in your family. Maybe there's a fire or something so catastrophic that the simple act of writing is too much for you to do.
If you're writing a novel, you can set the work aside for a while. If your editor or agent are waiting for the novel, you send them panicked emails or beg for more time. Even the firmest book deadline is flexible. After all, your publisher doesn't expect to publish your book until at least six months after it's done.
If you write serial fiction, your timelines are firm. Your readers are waiting for you. There's no leeway. You need to get that chapter out.
What can you do?
Your first line of defense is the techniques discussed in Help! Life is Attacking. Be sure to check out the comments section as there are suggestions listed that which might work.
These techniques are awesome to use in a pinch.
But what if you incapacitate your right hand, bash your head, and have a close family member die? (Yes, it's been an interesting year.)
Or what if you simply cannot write your story?
It's now time to talk to your readers.
Serial fiction is one part story and one part crowd control. On the one hand, it's important to write compelling, intriguing, heart pounding fiction that makes your readers feel something. You want your readers to want desperately to read more.
On the other hand, your job is to interact with your readers. Talk to them. Respond to their comments on Facebook. Ask them where they want the story to go. Listen to their complaints.
Whether you post your serial fiction to the Internet or only your subscribers read it, your readers are the other half of the serial fiction equation.
If you are unable to write, your readers need to hear from you as soon as possible.
Your story could very easily be the rock in which your readers have built lives upon. If you cannot write the story, you must:
- Tell your readers what is happening - "I am unable to finish the chapter this week." Use plain language and be clear. Any sugar coating is simply for your ego, not for them.
- Be honest - "(Fill in the blank) happened, and I simply cannot write." Sure, you promised them you'd do something, and you're backing out on that promise. Yes, it's embarrassing. Your readers don't care about your embarrassment. They only care about "their" story.
- Don't whine or cry or say it's awful. Tell your mother how awful it is. Talk to your dog or your preacher or your best friend or your spouse. Don't whine to your readers. When you tell your readers that you cannot fulfill your promise, your readers first thought is: "When am I getting my story?" Period.
Keep in touch until you're feeling better. Facebook and Twitter are great for this. When you are feeling better, get back to writing as soon as you can. Don't use your tragedy as an excuse to quit writing serial fiction.
We'll talk more about engaging your audience in later posts.
Looking for inspiration on how to deal with your readers? I highly recommend reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. In the book, she talks about how she engages her audience via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Personally, I think the audiobook is better because she includes a variety of songs and poems.
Until next time!