Serial Overview: “Come And See”

My recent serial “Come And See” concluded on Sunday. As usual, I am publishing an overview of the process and results, for anyone interested.

In most cases, I start with the ending, and work backwards, and I did this with “Come And See”. Covering a time period from 1967-2019, I needed some research into disease outbreaks during that period, leading up to the Coronavirus pandemic beginning in China at the end of 2019. As this is easily available online, it was no hardship to get the factual elements correct.

As for Jimmy’s work at Porton Down, and the involvement of the British government in the deliberate spread of disease, this was mostly guesswork and invention. For his early experiences with his very religious mother, and his reading of the whole of The Bible, I did need some research into the order of the books of The Bible. It has been a very long time since I opened mine!

(I do have one, a very old one given to me as a child.)

Reader response for this series was immediately good, which was encouraging. Comments were regular and varied, and daily views stayed at around 115 for each episode, with no drop off noticed. This gave a total of 3,450 views for the thirty episodes, with more to come, allowing for time differences and ‘binge-readers’.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and satisfying writing experience for me, and I was happy to see it well-received. Once again, I thank everyone who also shared parts on Twitter, and other social media. The complete story, all thirty episodes in one post, will follow one day this week.

Guests Posts This Month

I have published the last of the guest posts received following my recent offer to host them. I am extremely happy to report that they have topped the lists of my most-read posts every day, and have received great feedback and good engagement from readers.

There are some more to come later in the year, from bloggers who want to take time to compose them, or are currently too busy.

As I mentioned previously, the offer is not time-limited, so if you have an idea for a guest post, or want to use one of your favourite posts to connect with bloggers, just follow the instructions in this post.

Guests Posts: Another Try

Thanks to everyone who participated this time. I hope you enjoyed the process.

3:17 A Serial Overview

Yesterday saw the publication of the final part of my fiction serial, ‘3:17’. Some readers may not have been aware that this was prompted by two actual events that happened to me this year, when I woke up from a very bad dream to find the time was exactly 3:17 am. On another occasion, I woke up feeling overwhelmingly hot, despite the cold room, and had a strange sense something was wrong. Checking the time, it was 3:17.

After blogging about that, some readers suggested it would be a good background for one of my serials, and I took up those suggestions to create a similar experience for my main character over a 28-part serial.

For this serial, the stats indicate that all the early readers stayed with the story to the end. Daily views were exactly 100 every day, and did not drop below that at all. That gave a total viewing figure for the serial of 2,800 views. There were lots of positive comments too, which is very rewarding for me as the writer.

Also today, I am publishing the complete story in one blog post. This is because I can still continue to access the Classic Editor at the moment.

I would like to thank everyone who read the serial, stuck with it to the end, and left those much-valued comments. Also anyone who shared the daily post on Twitter, or any other social media platform.

A Serial Reflection

My recent serial, ‘My Bundle Of Joy’ ended yesterday, after 44 episodes.

I usually look back over my fiction serials, and this one is no exception

It started well, with more than 110 views per episode. But then the theme of the story turned ‘dark’, and views and readers dropped away.

Some told me why, others just disappeared. Then it settled into just over 80 views per episode, some 3,600 in total.

It was a big challenge for me as the writer. I had to ‘become’ a reasonably successful 30-something woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Then I had to deal with the fact that her baby was brain-damaged, and she had little help or support.

I did this by drawing on my 22 years of experience as an EMT in London. You may well be surprised by how common it is, to find a single woman left to cope with such difficulties. But you have to take my word for the fact that it is true. I gave my character a lot of financial advantages that are in fact rare. I did this to make it easier to write the story, and make no apologies for that.

Comments were few, which is usual with my serials. But on this occasion, shares on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media were very low. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. The main thing for me is the core of readers who stayed with it from the start.

I thank everyone who did that. It is always appreciated more than you know.

And I changed the potentially ‘gloomy’ ending. I left it for the readers to decide how they wanted it to end. That will not always be the case, but I think it suited this story.

Today, I will also publish all the parts in one complete story, for those of you that prefer to read it that way.

Thanks again, Pete.

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. https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/about-this-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.

Fiction and Serials: Some Thoughts

I have just published the complete version of my last serial, ‘Vera’s Life’. That story was very personal to me, as the characters were based on people I knew well; family, friends, and neighbours. It did not initially capture the imagination of many readers, though views built up halfway through, with some catching up on the parts they had missed previously. Unlike most of my stories, this wasn’t completely fictional, though I changed the names and jobs of some characters to avoid any unwanted direct comparison.

It was also my longest serial to date; a big ask for readers at forty episodes, though I kept the word count down in each one deliberately. Average views worked out at around eighty per episode, giving the serial a total number of views of 3,200. Comments were complimentary I am pleased to say, as many readers fortunately invested in my ‘real-life’ characters, and their hardships in London during the war years of 1939-1945. Historical dates and details were all fact-checked before being used, and I stuck to the time-line of real events during the war too.

I would like to thank everyone who stayed with the story to the end, and those who also shared on Twitter and any other social media.

Following my recent decision to cut back on the amount of posting I do on this blog, I will be taking an extended break from serialised fiction for the foreseeable future. It takes a lot of time to work out a serial in many parts, as well as the necessary note-taking and research required.

If any new followers would like to catch up with earlier stories, they are all available in the ‘Fiction’ category on my blog menu. Every serial has been compiled into a complete story, and there are numerous short stories and photo-prompt stories to find there too.

An Unpopular Serial

Yesterday, I concluded my latest serial, ‘The Fear’. It will be published in one complete story soon, but meanwhile I will give this overview, as I always do.

I was asked by my good blogging friend Suzan to write a ‘straight horror’ serial, as that is her favourite genre. I thought about that for a while, as I had previously written ‘Little Annie’, which had a supernatural theme bordering on horror. Also ‘Moving Day’, which was more of a conventional ghost story.

In the end, I had the idea to examine the theme of fears and phobias, and the unfortunate young man who was attracted to studying them. With the ending already written up as notes, I worked back from there to show how he arrived at that conclusion by Part 30.

On the way, there were some unpleasant scenes that immediately put off quite a few readers. Most of those who chose not to continue to read the serial let me know in the comments. That’s fine, and I understand how disturbing psychological horror is not to everyone’s taste. The daily views also soon showed other readers bailing out in significant numbers; either bored with the story, or uneasy with the theme.

But as we all know, we write for ourselves, (and in this case for Suzan) so I do not let falling views stop me continuing with a serial I had started. There were many with the opposite opinion too, and I receieved some positive and enthusiastic comments as the story continued.

However, I cannot get away from the fact that this was my least popular serial so far.

Starting with around 70 views a day, this dropped as low as 30 some days, before settling into an average of 45 a day. Over the 30 parts, total views to this date are just 1,350. Comments were fewer than usual, as were likes.

Perhaps I do not write that well in the horror genre? Or maybe the pandemic has delivered enough real horror that people don’t need to read more? Whatever the reason, I am still glad I tried this theme, and send my thanks to everyone who stuck with it to the end, and shared parts on social media.

Serial Overview: The Block

Whenever I complete a fiction serial, I always look back on the process, and how it was received. This interests me, and some readers like to read about it.
But if you don’t care about that, you can skip this post, with my blessing.

I had an idea about an ending, the ending that appeared in Part Twenty-Five. It was potentially shocking, and also had the benefit of leaving the story open-ended for a sequel. Or better still, readers could choose their own version of what happened, and therefore decide their own conclusion to the serial.

Once that ending was down in my notes, I had to ‘work back’, and decide how to start off a serial that would arrive at its predestined conclusion.

This story had an intentional ‘London’ feel, and characters based on people similar to (or exactly like) some people I had met during the sixty years I lived in that city. Although many regular readers embraced it happily, it did not get the same level of readership as the last three serials, and some violence in graphic detail in later episodes did disturb some readers too.

Despite that, readership actually increased as the serial went on, and the last episode had the biggest number of views. As of today, total views of the twenty-five parts stand at just over 1900. Comments were fairly high this time, with individual characters attracting many remarks, along with the change of pace toward the end which caught some readers off guard.

I really enjoyed writing it. When I write something set in London, heavily based on personal experience, it does give me an interest above my more regular fiction. If I did something like this again, I would consider adding a content warning for the scenes that some people found hard to read. If you are considering writing something with murders described in some detail, then you might want to think about that too.

There was some research involved, but nothing at the level required with historical fiction. I looked up some Law questions, and some of the history of Rampton Hospital, the maximum security psychiatric hospital involved in the story. The rest was all based on my experiences as an EMT, and from working for the Police in London for twelve years after that.

The serial will be available as a complete story in one long post, later this week.

Thanks as always to everyone who read, liked, commented, and shared on social media.

Fiction Serial: The Most Popular One So Far

***If you haven’t finished reading the latest serial yet, then don’t read this post***

 

HOUSE

Now that my recent serial ‘Home About Six’ has concluded, I am writing an overview of the process, as I usually do.

I decided that this serial would be approached in a different way to the others.
I would intentionally make it a little ‘silly’, in the hope that I would have fun writing it, and readers would enjoy the change of mood. It seems to have worked, as it is the most-read serial so far, with an average of more than 150 views for each episode, and more comments than previous stories, adding up to 3,750 views in total. Many thanks to everyone who stuck with it, and left great comments.

Thanks also to David Miller for his relentless efforts at punning every episode.

For those of you who like to read the complete story in one sitting, it will be published over the weekend.

Another idea I had was to make fellow bloggers and followers the ‘Stars’ of the story. I used real names in some cases, and partial names in others. This proved to be very popular, and nobody complained, or asked to be removed from the text. I would like to thank all of those who allowed me to use their names.

Anita is Anita Dawes.
Jane is Jaye Marie. They are both British writers and bloggers, who share a website.
Mike is Michael, a German Blogger.
Mick Steeden is a British blogger and writer.
Jude (Judith) Harley is a British blogger and photographer.
Sue Judd is also a blogger and photographer.
Claudia Hyslop used the surname of Fraggle, a British blogger and photographer.

Shaily Agrawal is an Indian blogger. She hasn’t read this story yet!
Richa Soni is also Indian, a blogger based in New Delhi.
Ian Hope is a British blogger. I don’t think he has read this story either
Betsy Pike is Elizabeth Slaughter, an American blogger based in New England.
Pete Springer is a retired American teacher and blogger.
Audrey Driscoll is Canadian, and also writes and has a blog.
David, Mum’s fiance, is David Miller, an American writer, blogger, and punster.

Nick Rossis is a writer and blogger, based in Greece.

And my thanks also to the other ‘characters’ who are all ‘real names’ and writers or bloggers.
Lisa Howeler.
Lorraine Lewis.
Jennie Fitzkee.

Cathy Cade
Don Ostertag.
Joan Hall.
Lucinda Clarke.

 

Some of you have pointed out the over-use of ‘cliffhangers’at the end of each episode. That was deliberate of course, and was reflecting the filmed serials that I used to watch at the cinema as a child. There was also the constant use of 6 pm (and other uses of the number 6) that appeared throughout. Again deliberate, and supposed to be ‘silly’.

The very last line of episode 25 was the original thought for the whole serial, and was worked back from that point, to achieve a ‘circular’ conclusion. Inspiration for the story came from the original ‘Final Destination’ film, as well as a documentary I watched about a real missing person.

As a lady was being interviewed about her missing (never found) husband, she tearfully said, “He left that morning, and said he would be home about six. I never saw him again”.

Story Time: Serials

My most recent serial, ‘Moving Day’, has now ended. As usual, I will give some idea of how well it was received, and the ideas behind it. The ‘Complete Story’ of over 25,000 words has also been published, for everyone who prefers to read it in the ‘Novella’ format.

Setting out to write a Ghost Story serial, I thought it might be interesting to add some more modern, and seemingly popular themes. These included YA and LGBT, alongside the traditional genres of Witchcraft, Betrayal, and Ghosts. I also threw in some genuine legends, and a soupcon of fantasy.

As usual, my aim was to leave readers flummoxed by the ‘twist’ ending. I am pleased to report that on this occasion, I think I confounded everyone! By going down a path strewn with misdirection, and red herrings, I succeeded in surprising everyone who had stuck with the serial over 25 days, at least so far.

The traditional Beetleypete writing policy was applied. Think of a title, then work out the ending. Work back from that ending, inserting characters and timelines that will make it both readable and convincing for someone following the serial format. Each episode was written the day before publication, following on as closely from the previous one as possible. I write them quickly, in around an hour. That includes time to re-read before corrections, and then saving the draft. The serial of 25 episodes took close to 27 hours to write, save, and publish. Given the real-time reading period of 25 days, that is not too much of a demand on my time at all.

As always, I would like to thank the 50+ readers who read each episode, totalling almost 1750 views for the serial at time of writing. Thanks too for the comments, and those of you who had theories and ideas, and invested time in Becky, the principal character. Sorry it didn’t turn out as many of you had hoped. 🙂

I have since published a Photo-Prompt short story, which some of you have read. My next serial will depend on an idea entering my head.

For those of you who shared this on Twitter, or other social media platforms, additional thanks.

I look forward to seeing you all following the next serial, whenever that may be.

Best wishes, Pete. 🙂