Sunday, November 9, 2014

Waiting for the Saucer to Come

Although online serialization has shown to be a very promising  way for aspiring and established authors to present a novel, it is not without its downsides. One is the possibility that a serial may stall or founder altogether. This problem can arise for a number of reasons.

Most obviously, the author may have a personal crisis or emergency that makes it impossible to write further chapters, or if they are written, to get them posted. Most writers are doing it in their spare time after job and family obligations, so it's completely possible that a sudden increase in the time demands of some other responsibility leaves nothing left for writing, and the serial is left hanging until things settle down.

Other authors may become discouraged when they do not see much interest in their serial and decide to pursue some other interest. Even when an author loves the fictional world and characters, it can be hard to keep going when nobody seems to be reading it. The doubts begin to assail the mind -- what if it really is crap? What if everybody thinks it stupid? What if the few readers who have been following it were just friends and family members reading to be polite? And thus the energy and enthusiasm drain away and it becomes harder and harder to tackle the next chapter.

It's also possible that the author may have encountered the dreaded writer's block and be unable to proceed with the serial. This can happen when the author has not planned the overall structure of the story in advance, and thus comes to the point of having no idea of what comes next. Alternatively, authors sometimes write themselves into a corner, cutting off options they'll later need to exercise and leaving their characters with nowhere to go.

Whatever the cause may be, as readers most of us know only that a long time has gone by since the last chapter went up. At first it doesn't seem to be that much of a problem, but after a while we look through our bookmark list and try to think just when the last chapter of that one went up, and wonder whether any  more will ever come out.

One serial that I'd been enjoying earlier this year but hasn't had any new chapters posted in several months is Frank Nemecek's Roswell Chronicles. It's the story of a family with a secret, and the people who want to steal that secret for nefarious purposes.

Most of us probably have some awareness of the role of Roswell, New Mexico in UFO lore, since the basic outlines of it have entered popular culture through movies and television. We know something crashed out there, and government agencies moved quickly to deal with it -- so the story goes that it was in fact a spacecraft from another world, crewed by intelligent beings like yet unlike Terrestrial humanity.

In Nemecek's take on the story, the protagonists are guarding a family secret -- a notebook by their ancestor, who was in fact one of the pilots of that crashed craft and who stayed behind to raise a family (presumably the aliens are in fact another branch of humanity who left Earth for some reason to settle among the stars ages ago, and now have returned), and who retained knowledge about materials the US government returned to the aliens as part of some kind of deal.

However, another group has found out about that hidden diary and is trying to steal it. So we have several ugly confrontations -- and then we come to Chapter 15, in which Carlos and Sean have decided to deal with some trouble when the next paycheck comes, and there the story stops. Now that JukePop Serials no longer makes public the date at which the author last updated a serial, it's hard to say exactly how long it's been, but I'm fairly sure it's been several months, and I'd really like to know what happens next.

Given that there are many possible reasons why a serial has stalled, and I haven't heard any public pronouncements from the author, I'd rather not speculate. It does have 75 +votes, which is an average of five +votes per chapter -- not bad, but not extraordinarily good either. So it's possible that the writer has become discouraged, especially if he's also been dealing with other obstacles that have made it difficult to get the next chapter written.

So please take a look at it, and if you read through to the end and want to see more, click that link on the final page that says to let the author know you'd like to see more. It's not a guarantee, but it's always possible that knowing people are eagerly awaiting the next installment will be just the encouragement the author needs to get the creative juices flowing again.

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