Doing exactly what you've done is what I am intending to do with my novel. "Writing in public" is a scary thought, but also exhilarating. A couple of years ago, I committed to writing a post every week (on Facebook) which was basically a short true-ish short story about every year of my life (I was turning 52, so 52 weeks-52 years-52 stories). It turned out to be a huge success for me, just from a turning off the procrastination button. Knowing I'd committed to posting it every week made me not be so obsessed with making it perfect. Plus knowing people were (theoretically) waiting for it kept me totally on track for the whole year (this in spite of the onset of the Pandemic, and two hurricanes directly hitting my town, Lake Charles, Louisiana). Best of all, I realized that I didn't care if there were typos (fixable) or other things I wanted to change, because I could. What I'd put out there wasn't the permanent version.

So Substack's features and structure seem perfect for what I want to do. A chapter a week, no matter how rough. Plus some background lore, behind-the-scenes, "casting" discussions, or any other process posts in a side stack that I might make the experiment at paid content.

All this said, what are the more practical downsides to doing it this way? Have you gotten any nibbles of anyone (publishers or otherwise) interested in doing anything more with your work? Or more specifically, anyone saying that putting it up there is a bad idea for XYZ reasons? What about the always-lingering fear of someone stealing your work and just publishing a pdf they cut and pasted on Amazon? I don't have that fear, but surely someone has done some actual research into the reality of that happening.

One thing I'm really interested in experimenting with is developing a community of fans, even if it's just a handful, who are interested in semi-actively participating in the journey. Helping decide between two options of a character name, feedback on a potential long-term plot point, insight into an aspect of my story (like a profession or hobby) that I may lack, etc. Have you had any experience with this type of engagement, or have you heard about anyone doing it?

I've written stuff forever in isolation. I'm really looking forward to the experiment of doing it where it has the chance to both gain fans, but also gain people who hate it, lol. All feedback is great and valuable.

Expand full comment

Boldly publishing first drafts of serialized fiction as a “productivity hack” is a genius idea. I enjoy seeing your words at work

I on the other hand am an intensely private writer, drafting multiple versions of even my short micros! Weekly publishing with the launch of my newsletter this year has, thankfully, helped move me to a happy medium between the two.

As always, I appreciate how you share your writing process.

Expand full comment

These are some great points and have given me something to think upon. I’ve been struggling with not putting out enough stories because they just aren’t “ready”, but maybe the point of putting it out there is to gauge the reaction to it in the first place and build on it from there. Obviously there’s no one size fits all approach, but do what keeps you moving forward. Thanks for this, Simon!

Expand full comment

It depends. My San Nico Slayers series is drafted entirely in private and I only post the final version on Wattpad. Meanwhile, WHAT THEY WROUGHT was an ONC entry last year, very much a first draft, and is posted. HOUNDS UNLEASHED started as a fanfic, which is on my profile and completely unedited (I never edit my fanfic, which people clutch their pearls at). The initial draft rewrite that I posted as I went is completed and on my profile. I’ll finish it in private before posting the final probably as a separate book. I generally don’t like posting drafts just because mine are so messy since I’m a pantser. At the same time, especially as it pertains to Wattpad, it’s good for feedback and may give me something to think about that I wasn’t otherwise seeing while writing it that I can take back to editing.

Expand full comment

I tend to write clean first drafts. Some of that comes from years of experience, but the other piece is that I also work from some sort of organization--it varies from a scene matrix to jotted notes to chapter synopses. But it also comes from a process where I draft in Word, then move the chapter to Scrivener. That allows multiple reviews. I also go back and edit while drafting--usually the previous day's work, to get my head into the flow of the story.

Of course, serialization also works much better once you can get ahead of the flow of the story! I was writing pretty close to the edge this summer with my Kindle Vella serial, but I still feel pretty good about it. Revision will involve some rewriting and expanding of scenes that I kinda brushed over while writing.

I also will not necessarily post a single chapter in either Substack or Vella. I'll break up the chapter into scenes and post them. I find that works better as part of my process, especially since my chapters tend to run to around 5000 words--far too long for any serial posting. The process of drafting that chapter also means it's been lightly edited before I put it up.

I've been pretty happy with the process of serializing my work. I may continue to do so. Several stories on Vella have earned me some nice bonus money, which has made up for the lack of editing work that I've done this year. It's been nice.

Expand full comment

This chimes a lot with how I feel. I started serialising partly because I was so excited about what I was writing but also because I wanted to essentially have it as an open beta read.

I’ve heard writers talking about 1st drafts and getting it down before you edit and the like, but I do so much tweaking as I write and re-read and I won’t even publish a chapter until I feel it’s good enough.

So yeah, I concur with a lot of this.

Expand full comment

I mean, whatever works for you, him, her and/or them is the proper way to write.

Which doesn't mean don't listen to others, cuz you can learn from other's approaches.

Of course, elsewhere you've outlined your benefits from this writing style in detail.

Expand full comment

check out my substack, I have found pro writer helpful, also I think it is important to listen to your writing. I believe this helps with editing.

Expand full comment