As so often is the case these days, a Kickstarter campaign marks the pivot point from tinkering in the garage to hitting the streets. This time, the project is Fiction Vortex, an experimental effort to allow digital, written storytelling to discover its native format.
Ebooks were a first step. What next?
I don’t believe electronic books will be the final say. Ebooks were the natural first step. Where to next? Fiction Vortex is betting on some form of serial, episodic, collaborative content. Here is why.
The demand to keep a reader’s attention is no longer tenable by a single author. No matter how prolific the writer, readers will move on and forget about all but their very favorite authors unless that author is able to keep pushing new content into the market month after month after month. This takes a team. This takes collaboration.
Discovering new storyworlds and new authors takes time and energy. Good characters demand investment. Curation is the nightmare of the 21st century when it comes to written content. When (most) readers find a story and characters they love, they want to be able to keep going back to the well. For the last decades, this has meant creating content in “series.” Those days are now transitioning to creating content in “serial.” But I’m not a fan of serial just for serial sake (taking a finished product and chopping it into pieces for practical reasons beyond the story). That leads us to my third bullet point.
Collaborative serial fiction allows a group of authors to publish new stories on a weekly basis–never allowing readers to forget about the story. While that system could work in and of itself, I think episodic story structure will be critical to success. Television is a good source to look for proof. The weekly episode has become ubiquitous. Can such a model work with the written word? I believe so. This means readers could enjoy a new, complete story from beloved storyworlds every week.
What exactly does such a combination look like?
What length will prove viable for these episodes? I’m not sure. I prefer to work with around 10,000 words (40 pages). Most readers will read a story of that length in 30 to 50 minutes. Seems about right for digital reading attention spans these days. And if a reader chooses to binge read several episodes, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. A long commute to work? Just put the kids to bed? Lunch break? Our lives are divided into 30-50 minute chunks.
Will readers frequent fiction platforms not named Amazon? Because selling such serial fiction would never work on the established retailers. There are many questions left to answer. I’d love to hear from you. What questions pop into your mind?
Fiction Vortex is pushing off into these waters with a kickstarter that we hope will help us gather a community of folk who want to answer these questions and enjoy some great collaborative, serial, episodic fiction along the way.