Writing Tokyo Nights: Season One was always going to be challenge. Pushing myself to write, edit, publish and promote a story via instalments every two weeks, especially when each instalment – episode – averaged about nine thousand words. Releasing a story by instalments in of itself wasn’t new to me, I’d written plenty of fanfiction posting it up chapter by chapter before I turned my attention to original work. But still, Tokyo Nights differed from this earlier writing with each story released reading as a novel once completed, whereas even if I collated Tokyo Nights together it still wouldn’t have the flow of a traditional novel, the formatting of each episode not equal to that of a chapter or chapters.
It isn’t just the length of the episodes being released that makes Tokyo Nights more challenging than my earlier fanfiction pieces. There is one story I wrote that I averaged about five thousand words per chapter and I released it every three or four days, but I’ll be the first to admit it was only wiped over lightly with the editing brush. Of course, I’ve learnt more about editing since then and I never needed to worry too much about promoting it. It’s the nature of writing a serialised fiction piece that makes it stand out more from a chapter by chapter release.
Each episode can be made up of several chapters, all contributing toward the overall story arc that is the season, but each one also involves their own minor conflict arcs alongside the main plot. A few episodes even have cliff-hanger like endings that leave you hanging out for the next episode and this isn’t entirely unusual for serials either. At least not for the style I chose to go with.
And this is where it gets interesting.
Before I started writing Tokyo Nights, I researched what a serial fiction was, and what made it different to chapter-by-chapter releases or an interconnected series in terms of plot structure for each episode. Curious to know if there was an ideal length for each episode and how often it should be released. Turns out there isn’t a right or wrong way, at least regarding length. The structuring of episodes still obeyed the basic ideas of plot arcs except on a smaller scale – if you are working with smaller sized episodes on a frequent release – though not as simple as writing a full-length novel and drip feeding to your readers.
Most websites I discovered on the subject described it as being comparable to a television series and this is where the fun – frustration – begins as there is no standard format of storytelling for television series, with the genre, episode length and narrative style all affecting how the programme you watch is created. Imagine how Firefly might have turned out like if it had been written in a narrative style like that of Coronation Street or Days of Our Lives…. Actually, that might have been amusing.
An easy way to look at serialised fiction is to look at two major type of television series, with the first being akin to the crime dramas, CSI etc. These are usually an hour longish, give or take the number of ads placed in the show, and follow one crime each episode, with one over-arching plot line for the season. For serialised fiction this would equate to a full-length novel being released monthly, where each as its own major plot arc, but the over-arching plot would stop them from standing alone. I mean you could, but the minor details given in each for the season conflict arc wouldn’t make much sense.
The second type is the social dramas – both comedy and soaps – where each episode might have a minor conflict arc, but ultimately builds upon each other toward the resolution of the season major plot arc. Sometimes this arc or one of the minor sub plots can stretch over several seasons. With soap dramas there is also the addition of a larger cast and overlapping conflict arcs between them. They are all produced in bite-sized chunks and released more regularly, some nightly.
Tokyo Nights falls into the second category with its bite-sized episodes; drama styled narrative and quick release time-frame.
But what have I learned?
I know that when push comes to shove I can write ten thousand words in a week. It isn’t always sustainable and the buffer of episodes I’d created in the early stages were soon eroded as my pace slowed. So, for Season two I think I might try to draft all of it before I begin to publish it.
It has helped refocus the way I write scenes by homing in on mundane actions that also help build character without slowing the pace of the plot. Also, this serial format allows me to focus on more than one point of view where it benefits the story which in a novel I might not do. But just like the novels I’ve written I have grown attached to a minor character… and so plan to write a novella for Jun Sagaki – he deserves a little bit of happiness after getting caught up in Hisato’s schemes.
Tokyo Nights: Season One
Sagaki: A Tokyo Nights Novella – Coming Soon