My whole life, two identities have vied for control of my brain: artist and entrepreneur. As a steampunk and fantasy writer, my artist side experienced a long struggle with perfectionism that nearly shut down my creativity. I denied my entrepreneurial itch for years, too, until I finally left my day job to start a business.
Strangely, entrepreneurship was the best thing I ever did for overcoming my perfectionism. I soon learned the entrepreneur mantra of “fail hard and fail fast in order to succeed.” Good entrepreneurs launch products quickly, gauge their audience’s reaction, and create a more valuable product based on the feedback.
I realized this could be a smart way to write my fiction, too.
So I started serializing my stories—putting them out in real time for an audience to respond to. Sometimes I use graphic novel format, sometime traditional prose. To date I’ve released two stories (one fantasy novel, one steampunk comic) and managed a serial web show. My fourth serial will launch this month.
I release my stories weekly on my website and spend as much time marketing and interacting with readers as I do writing, drawing and editing. By interacting with my audience in real time, I learn what’s working or not. I pay attention to reader preferences and try new things all the time.
Serialization is a way for me to enjoy the storytelling experience instead of being consumed by perfectionism. I plot my serials in advance but don’t micromanage the details. Then, I create each episode in real time, as it comes due. Along the way I discover as much about the story as the readers do!
I love the challenge of holding myself to the details I established on page 10, even if they’ve become inconvenient on page 100. This challenge keeps me on my toes. I get to “live in” and “discover” the story while I’m sharing it.
At the end of the day, I get lots of audience feedback while simultaneously disrupting my own perfectionism.
Finally, my inner artist and my inner entrepreneur are friends.
Lisa England loves deadlines and cliffhangers—which is why she writes serial fiction as The Scrappy Storyteller. Read the first volume of her steampunk serial The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey and peek at her second novel, The League of Marvelosities, coming out in November.