Now that Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse has been told in serial form, and while you’re waiting for a) the polished version to come out as a whole book or b) the second book of the series to be written (research has now begun) – you, dear reader, might be looking for a new online serialised novel to read.
Enter Tansy Rayner Roberts, stage left, with her new serialised online book project, Muskateer Space. Before rushing off to read it (as I recommend you do) you may want to find out a bit more about Tansy, Muskateer Space and what issues writers face when embarking on these kinds of projects.
What led you to write Musketeer Space?
As with all writing, a big idea took hold and I couldn’t shake it away. It’s rare for me to get such a good ‘elevator pitch’ type story in my head – one that practically sells itself when you explain the premise – so I hugged it deep to my chest and started writing! If anything, I’m even more in love with it now, so trying to write as much as possible before the inevitable ‘falling out of love’ stage which is much harder to write through.
Why did you decide to post it as an online story?
I’ve been in the writing doldrums lately, and wanted to give myself a bit of a kick in the pants with deadlines and an immediate audience. I liked the idea of harnessing adrenalin, guilt and the energy of my readers to strike fear into my own heart and get a novel written at a steady pace. Also I think that it’s good for me to encourage myself away from notions of preciousness about my writing – to take myself a bit less seriously for once. Writing is supposed to be fun as well as work!
I felt that my blog itself had got a bit quiet in the last few months too, and wanted something to perk it up a bit. This seems to be working!
What’s your favourite part of writing the book this way?
I like that this self-imposed deadline is working for me the same way as a ‘real’ publisher deadline – giving myself permission to focus on my writing regularly instead of waiting until all the other weekly domestic tasks are out of the way, adding momentum and strategic panic to the equation, and so on. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have nice comments from readers encouraging me along, or quoting their favourite bits.
The associated blogging – reviews etc – is helping a lot too. I’ve immersed myself in Musketeer and space opera media, which is adding extra charge to my writing. Build you own obsession. I’ve got to the point that writing the next bit of the story is the reward I give myself for completing less fun work, which is a pretty good sign.
What’s the most challenging part of writing and posting an online book?
I don’t think I’ve reached the most challenging part yet. I’m only at week 6, and I started out with a ‘cushion’ of nine chapters drafted. Obviously the most challenging part will be the week where I am horribly behind and need to write, edit and post a chapter from scratch. And/or when I hit the wall at the halfway mark. I’m still in the honeymoon period right now.
What’s been your experience so far? Reader responses?
Modestly positive! I am acquiring new readers every week, and I have received all manner of pleasing comments from readers, from blog comments and emails to private whispers in the bar at Continuum X. I am hoping to get some stern nudges as well when I make a continuity error or a typo, but so far everyone has been very kind.
What makes me happiest is when I see someone – friends and strangers alike – promoting the series off their own bat, simply because they’re enjoying it or they’ve just chosen to sponsor it. It feels like I’m getting back to basics about why write, and why publish – it’s a more intimate reader-writer experience than traditional publishing (not that I’m knocking traditional publishing, or having books in bookshops, which is lovely – but that process doesn’t really allow writers to peer at their readers to see what chapter they’re up to, unless you stalk people on buses).
What I’m actually enjoying most of all is the quilt-as-you-go method of editing – I actually loathe editing whole novels, more and more as I get older, which is very frustrating because it’s such an important part of the writing and publishing process. Taking the structural edit aspect out of the equation is very freeing (though only something I feel is justified for me with this one book, because it’s based on a novel that also had major structural problems) and I’m enjoying the editing process. The further I write ahead, the more edits each chapter gets before I post it, not just for prose and sentences but also for characterisation, worldbuilding, etc.
What other online book projects do you recommend to readers?
I’m not sure if Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making [now on Amazon] is still up online or not, but that is a great example in recent years of a story that started out just being for an author and her fans, and became so much more. There’s a playfulness to it that isn’t as evident in Valente’s other work, and while she’s written many magnificent books I do think this one is her best.
I’ve also only just started reading Scott Lynch’s Queen of the Iron Sands which looks very promising – again, a writer who is professionally published elsewhere choosing to do a for-the-love-and-tips project.
I was trained to read serials via Harry Potter fanfic, of which my favourites were the works of Maya (who went on to write professionally as Sarah Rees Brennan) and Copperbadge/Sam Starbuck who sadly left his great HP work unfinished, but still writes fic in the Marvel Movieverse. That idea of compelling character narratives, and subversions of canon text, is at the heart of what I’m doing with the Musketeers.
The internet allows for serialisation across multiple media, and there’s many that I love. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a brilliant example of the form through vids, while Questionable Content, Shortpacked, Dumbing of Age, Teahouse and Multiplex are ongoing webcomics I really enjoy.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson are brilliant books which were first published in comic serial form – Nimona is still going but has a planned endpoint rushing towards us, and I like to throw everyone in that direction. It’s the story of a supervillain’s teen sidekick who turns out to have massively destructive powers of her own.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is a multi-award winning fantasy novelist, podcaster and pop culture critic. Her books include Love and Romanpunk, Ink Black Magic, and the Creature Court trilogy. Her latest novel, Musketeer Space, is a gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers, serialised on her blog. Tansy is @tansyrr on Twitter.