Reflections on the Web Serial Process: First Act

If you’re coming to this post unaware, I have a web serial I began writing and posting about two months ago. You can go here to learn more. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am discovery writing my way through the story, and with that in mind it’s bound to become a little messy. Hopefully still enjoyable to read (I certainly enjoy writing it), but readers will have to forgive the imperfections and minor inconsistencies.

And yes, I am aware of the inconsistencies.

If you haven’t read the posted chapters to date, most of what I’m going to be writing about below won’t make much sense, and might reveal minor spoilers. For my few readers (thank you), I hope to offer a glimpse into the discovery writing process of first draft writing, and hope it will be interesting and maybe even encouraging to other aspiring writers that even if your first draft isn’t perfect, it can still be good in many ways, and the parts that aren’t so great can always be fixed in later drafts. But you can’t fix what hasn’t been written yet.

Worldbuilding: This is by far my greatest weakness, particularly with a first draft. As I discovery write my story, I’m also discovery writing the world, and I don’t have all the details right away. I began Heroes of Berea by having a princess and her guide disembark from a dirigible. Why do they have dirigibles in this world instead of airplanes? Is this a steampunk? Not really. Later, she rides in a train– more like a light rail system and less like a steam engine, at least that’s what I’m envisioning but I don’t do a very good job of describing it so I don’t know what my readers are picturing. Then later, after she has to evacuate the train, helicopters arrive to bring her to the palace. Does this make any sense at all? I don’t know.

That’s just the first example, and I won’t point them all out here. Suffice it to say, this world is similar but different from our own. Technology has developed a bit differently here. But the main takeaway I hope to give readers is that it is a “modern” world like our own, but it is not our world. For the most part, I try to give some details to flesh out the settings, while also allowing readers to use their imaginations.

Another worldbuilding shortfall: Food. I haven’t been creative with the food at all.

And languages: I realized a few chapters in, that it didn’t make sense that characters from different countries would just all speak the same language without any reference to their native tongues. It does make sense for Oreilin to speak Berean, but she must also have a native Alturian tongue which she could be using when she converses with Rodget, or with her parents. That’s a concept I introduced in Chapter H, but if I were on a second or third draft I would have presented it from the start.

Plot: I don’t have my entire plot worked out yet, and It’s probably obvious. One glaring example: When Oreilin arrives in Berea, she has no idea why she’s there, only that she’s been summoned (or so she’s been told) by the Emperor. Later, in conversing with her parents, it’s revealed that they sent her to serve as their Ambassador after the Emperor requested one (but left the appointment up to the Alturian monarchs). Prior to this, Oreilin has a brief conversation with Vel where she wonders if the Emperor might be meaning to marry her. But if she knew she was being sent as an ambassador chosen by her father and not the Emperor, this thought would have been much less likely to cross her mind. This is something I’ll have to work out in a later draft. But the fact that she’s being observed by the Emperor might still have made her wonder if there might be an ulterior motive– something I could potentially play with in later chapters.

Characters: I love my characters, and for the most part they drive most of what I write. What’s happening to them is secondary– what they do about what’s happening to them is paramount. This is something that can be written well, even in a first draft discovery write. I know my characters better than I know the world or the plot (though even then, my characters can surprise me). And I endeavor to be as consistent as possible with my character portrayals– their insecurities, their motivations, their deep-rooted needs and desires.

Are things a bit messy in places? Yes. Is the story irredeemable? Not at all. And after these instroductory chapters, I’m excited to continue discovering this world and its dynamic characters, and I hope you continue to enjoy it with me.

Regular chapter postings will continue next Saturday. I fell behind this week, due to this thing called Life.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, give a shoutout in the comments if you will; it would be a nice boost to morale 😉

See you next week!

–Sylvia

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