When it comes to my own personal work, I view deadlines as more of a guideline than hard law. I’m not bad at time or project management, I just have 0 accountability when I know I only have myself relying on me to finish. Mountain Sound was one part testing my ability to start and finish an on-going project, one part forcing myself to share creative writing, and one part actually making myself consistently write my own story.
My initial goals were to post chapters on time and to write a story I could be proud of. Whether or not it gained an audience wasn’t part of my plans, so when people did read and enjoy Mountain Sound, that was just a super cool bonus!
Deadlines! Having established and public deadlines (posting the chapters every three weeks) gave me the push needed to stick to my project and keep going. While deadlines are something that I find easy to work to professionally, my gosh am I good at ignoring ones I set for myself. This was good practice, because ostensibly having readers relying on me producing chapters on time meant that I learned to finish chapters at least a week early! In short: deadlines are amazing for my own productivity.
An editor! My good pal Danny was an amazing editor for Mountain Sound, and it would not have been anywhere near as polished without him. He caught the million times I accidentally swapped Harper and Efa’s names, pointed out ridiculous typos, and tirelessly worked through some of my weirder sentences to give me sorely-needed advice. I am endlessly thankful that I had Danny to help.
Scope! I’m not sure it’s a thing that people talk about outside of game development—I’m not particularly involved in any serial fiction communities—but when embarking on a project like a blog serial, scope is important to consider. Plan a story too big? There’s a chance you could get lost and abandon the project. I know this happens far too often for first-time novel writers.
Planning for Mountain Sound to be around ten chapters (even if I only outlined the chapters near halfway) meant that I knew approximately when to introduce different aspects of the narrative. Having a loose idea of what I wanted meant that 1. I knew what I was working towards, but 2. I didn’t have to force the story into a numbered box. Now that I’ve done it once, I can plan chapters easier next time. For the first time, I picked a path that worked surprisingly well for me.
Scope is hard when it comes to creative stories. Often, an idea grows too large and there’s a desire to explore it further than necessary, or to make the plot too complex. But to make something too short can also be an issue; finding the balance between saying too much and saying too little is tough.
Which leads to…
Not planning enough! Though, for the most part, my short three-sentence chapter outlines worked for me, the final two chapters didn’t work exactly how I wanted. Efa’s part was too short action-wise, Harper’s part too long. In hindsight, I should have planned out the final two chapters more thoroughly so I might have balanced them better, or even added another chapter.
This is one of my worst shortfalls with my own creative writing, I don’t like outlines! I am someone who writes (and lives life) by the seat of my pants, and it’s especially the story’s climax that suffers because of this.
But it’s a lesson that needed to be learnt, and now that I know it I’ll be making a much more concerted effort to think about the layout and pacing of my chapters more seriously for my next serial (and longer stories in general).
Life! There were two pre-update weeks in particular that I was so busy with professional work that Mountain Sound fell by the wayside. I didn’t miss a single site update, but there was one week where I had to post the unedited chapter for Patrons. This was entirely my own fault, brought about from not thinking about how new medication and life changes would affect my day-to-day life.
Real life is hard to predict, and sometimes things will get thrown off, whether you want them to or not. Being chronically and mentally ill means that this happens more often than I would like, but it also means that I need to learn to plan ahead for these issues and make sure I have the time and energy to finish what I need.
What I’ve learned/advice for other newbies:
- Make sure to set out established and reasonable deadlines.
- Consider the scope of the story.
- Outline! Think of pacing and thematic/character balance.
- Find an editor/beta reader who will give you considered and useful feedback.
- There’s an initial gut-reaction of fear that comes with letting someone edit your creative work, as opposed to non-fiction writing. It’s important to work through this anxiety, because your writing will be so much better off.
- Plan ahead! Figure out things that could become a problem in the future and find a way to lessen that potential issue’s impact on your productivity.
I’m planning my first attempt at an ebook, combining Mountain Sound into one with a bonus short story that will be sold through Gumroad and maybe Amazon? I have to figure out what I’m doing there still! More info on that next month.
I’m also going to start a new serial late next month called Tourist. More info on that later, too. Hopefully what I’ve learned from Mountain Sound will make Tourist even better.
Now that Mountain Sound is over, you can read it straight through from the start! I do hope readers enjoy the story, it’s been a lot of fun for me and a good learning experience. I can’t wait for more adventures like this in the near future!
What did you like about Mountain Sound? What would you like to see me do differently? Tell me in the comments below!
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