Serial Overview: The Homestead

Yesterday saw the conclusion of my longest serial so far, ‘The Homestead’.

Spanning a period from 1864 until 1957, as you might imagine this took a great deal of careful research. Set in America, a country I have never visited, it included the Civil War, The Wild West, The Cattle Ranch explosion, The Oil Boom, and both world wars.

Not only that, it featured numerous real people, alongside my own cast of fictional characters. And they included Conferderate veterans, northerners from New York State, Native Americans, former slaves, as well as a gambler from Louisiana. I had to consider their accents, phrases, speech patterns, life experiences, and aspirations, getting that all across to the readers as best as I could.

And remembering that 65% of my readers are Americans, I had to make sure to be as accurate as possible.

This saga presented me with many problems, some of which were geographical. How long does it take to travel from Virginia to Kansas in a wagon pulled by two horses? And in 1865, with no major roads, only trails? How far is is from Topeka to Wichita? How long can horses pull a wagon before needing water?

What is the range of a hunting rifle? One loaded through the muzzle, and discharged by use of a percussion cap. When did a railroad arrive in Kansas? And when did that get to Wichita? How long did Wyatt Earp work as a policeman in that city, and why did he leave?

Every paragraph presented a research problem, most of which were fortunately solved through the wonders of Google Search. I can only imagine how hard it was to write a piece like this before the Internet, having to use contmporary writing as a source, and physically travelling to view the archives of newspapers in the western states.

Over such a long period, dates are also a problem. How old was Phin in 1890? If Julian was born when his mother was 35 years old, what year was that? Two full pages of notes, and a lot of subtraction and additon were required to keep an accurate track of events. The research took as long as writing each episode, and developed its own form of ‘reference library’ on those notebook pages.

As the writer, it was an immensely satisfying experience, and something of an achievement. But as a blogger, it was disappointing. After so much work, this serial proved to be the least attractive to readers. Rareley getting more than 50 views for each episode, and never exceeding 60 on the best day, total views amounted to around 2,600. Considering the 48 episodes, that was my least read serial so far. Comments were low as well, restricted to much the same core of regular readers every day.

There were times during this serial when I seriously thought about abandoning fiction completely, and wondered if I had any skill at it whatsoever.

But I continued to write it, because I love the daily discipline of writing a serial.

From episode 36, two thirds of the way through the story, there was a ‘time jump’ combined with a new ‘narrator’ who entered unannounced. This sudden change of scene proved to be too much for some readers, and at least 10 people abandoned the serial, going by the by the daily views.

I feel that warrants some explanation.

The story was based on a photo seen on Maggie’s blog.
Like my photo-prompt short stories, this was a serial prompted by an idea after seeing a photo, and that photo appeared at the head of each episode. It is dated ‘Sep 57’, and shows a house. So my story started in my head in 1957, and was worked back 93 years to get to the start in a circular fashion. In my mind, there was no ‘time jump’. But I knew that might confuse readers, so did my best to issue a few warnings in the comments.

There was also a possible ‘secret’ in the life of the main character. I had an idea that readers would expect that to be revealed, pehaps anticipating a last minute twist. But that would have been contrived and unrealistic, so I did not succumb to inventing a solution to that secret.

As usual, I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who read this serial, and especially those who read every single episode. With a word count of around 800-900 words every day, for 48 episodes, that is a huge ask of anyone. And we were still in the throes of a pandemic, as well as including the approach to Christmas, followed by New Year.

Thank you all. That means a great deal to me, more than you know. Thanks also to everyone who shared parts on social media, took the time to leave regular comments and likes, and a few who also reblogged some parts.

The complete story will be available soon, in one very long blog post. I hope that still works for those of you who like to read the whole thing as one long story.

Another serial will undoubtedly follow in due course, afte a short rest.

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

36 thoughts on “Serial Overview: The Homestead

  1. I must speak up here. First, this is your best serial by far. Your research, combined with outstanding writing that brings the reader ‘there’ and develops a relationship with the characters, is impressive. This is worthy of publishing. Don’t let the lower number of readers and comments dissuade you. Phin would say, “It ain’t you, and it ain’t the story.” The timing could have much to do with that. Your instinct told you it was good. That’s what you need to follow.

    I was a little lost when you jumped in time, but soon figured it out. Darlene’s idea of Part 1 and Part 2 is a good one. I read every episode (lucky me), not because I follow your blog, but because it was good. I agree that a shorter episode was a good idea. 700 or 800 words is comfortable to read. 1,500 is not. Thanks again for this serial, Pete. I’m a bit down that it’s over…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t know about anyone else, but two things have to be true for me to stick with a longer series like this: (1) I have to get invested in the story right from the start. In other words, to get hooked. That was true of this one. Your characters were interesting, and the plot moved along fast enough to keep me engaged. (2) How much time do I have to blog that month? The way I’m wired is I like to keep up each day. Falling behind more than a couple of days feels discouraging to me. Partway through, I had many things going on that made me realize I wouldn’t be able to keep up this time.

    Reading a long serial is an investment, and I’m willing to make it if I’m into the story and have the time. Another issue comes with following so many blogs. It’s easier to keep up with those that aren’t dependent on reading all the earlier posts. That said, I hope you continue to write your serials, Pete. I know you started this story in November, and lots of people are invested in NaNoWriMo during that time. That might account for why you had fewer readers with this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Pete. This serial was unusually long, and led me into the build up to Christmas. I hadn’t really considered that at all when I started. Worth considering for later this year.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was most appreciative of the research you did for this story. Of course it once would have required many hours in the library and many books from inter-library loan. That was how I was introduced to research. I am very frustrated by inaccuracies in historical writing. I just put down a biography of the chef James Beard when the author placed an Oregon river about 500 miles from its true location. It made me question the other details.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You know I enjoyed it, Pete. I wasn’t always able to read each episode on the day you published it but rather liked reading two or three at a time. I’m full of admiration for the amount of research you did and it certainly seemed completely authentic to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Finally the whole kit and caboodle! I like to have it all in front of me, I’m too scattered to keep up on series, and I don’t know why! Christmas is the most likely culprit (Bah humbug)! Anyhoo…I’m diving in this week! Thanks Pete, C

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was a great serial Pete. I got thrown with the time jump but got back into it very quickly, as Darlene said, part 1 and 2 if in a book. Sorry you are disappointed with the viewing figures, I wonder if people’s attention spans went haywire with how things were last year. Don’t give up. Your serials make my days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, FR. I think the serial continued too close to Christmas, and people had things to do. I won’t give up though. Even if nobody reads them, I enjoy the daily routine of writing a serial. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am very happy to have been one of the regular readers, Pete, and I reiterate that the short daily instalments were a distinct advantage for me, because I only have so much time to allocate to reading, so longer instalments would not have been so attractive. Keep up the good work! Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought this was one of your best efforts. I was thrown off by the change in narrator at first, but in a book form, it would just be Part 1 and Part 2. It didn´t take long to catch on. I think the lack of readers/commenters may have been to the time of year. The attention to detail was evident and I loved the characters. I thought perhaps his daughter was ashamed of her mixed heritage and therefore didn´t contact her family. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I thought this was one of your best efforts. I was thrown off by the change in narrator at first, but in a book form, it would just be Part 1 and Part 2. It didn´t take long to catch on. I think the lack of readers/commenters may have been to the time of year. The attention to detail was evident and I loved the characters. I thought perhaps his daughter was ashamed of her mixed heritage and therefore didn´t contact her family. Keep writing.

    Liked by 2 people

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