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Discussion: Dickens in Space

Is it just me, or is the serial approach to posting stories working really well? It’s a great way to keep a story in front of people’s eyes over several days, and posting what’s done is a strong encouragement to finish what’s not. It helps Oort Cloud by ensuring there’s something new to read every day. And it helps the author by calling close attention to each part of the story, which is the best way to find out if that part needs work.

Seeing this happen brings me to a (slightly non sequitur) prediction: the net will prove to be the best environment for the serial novel since the nineteenth century, when Dickens and his contemporaries wrote for Victorian magazines and newspapers.

Of course, the twentieth century had its serials too, though most of them were not as written text. Instead they thrived on radio, film, and—after the pilot episode of Hill Street Blues, if not before--on TV as well. True, there were also the pulp magazines, and it's hard to overstate their importance, especially to science fiction and fantasy. But the potential online audience dwarfs even the largest pulp print run, and all the installments of a story posted here will stay where readers can find them far longer than a month. I’d say the future looks bright for the online serial.

People are experimenting with online serials already. Before Overclocked became a book, Cory Doctorow read all its (great) stories in installments on his podcast, Craphound. And a few authors have posted chapters of unfinished novels (though in some cases those chapters have been taken down once the story is published).

Oort Cloud might be able to raise this to another level. A community of writers can offer a more sustained and varied experience than any one author. (Of course, those authors are more than welcome to join the fun.) And a community of readers can offer feedback or collaboration, recommend books for inspiration, and put stories in the context of discussions about science fiction and fantasy as genres, as engagements with ideas, and as ways of understanding the world we live in and the worlds we might live in some day.

More to the point, though, serials keep 'em coming back for more.

It's pretty much how we work...

In general terms writing chunks and moving from start to finish. At least it feels serialized to me.

That Stalling Thing

I agree. And there's also that problem of stalling, of getting stuck at one part of the story and ultimately putting in on the shelf because you can't figure out what to do next. But with a serial, you have to come up with something because there's that next post that has to go up.

I suspect that might help a writer reach a breakthrough (s)he might not have had otherwise.

I couldn't agree more

I've just discovered Oort Cloud through a partner at another fiction site, Dead Channel (, where a couple of us have been posting serials for a little over a year now. It's been a great learning experience as a writer, and readers seem to like it as well.
It's a challenge to keep marching ahead through the story, but that's the challenge of writing anyway, isn't it? I think the serial novel may be the best training tool there is for a writer, given that constant interaction with the audience and motivation to continue, or to tweak, and yes, the way it discourages perfectionism in initial drafts.
I hope to see you around. My longest-running serial at Dead Channel is "Break to Bind." I may be reposting it here to experiment with the whole Oort Cloud phenom...

Please do!

If the goal is to have your work seen by as many people as possible, then reposting only makes sense. Obviously, we hope people will post as many stories, recommendations, reviews, and discussion topics as they can here at Oort Cloud, but we're certainly not insisting on exclusivity.

Right on, Write On

Writing a segment a day in a series is a wonderful way to write a story. I have found by approaching a project in this way, I am forced (by time) to not OVERTHINK what I am doing, just write what seems right, and be done with it (for now). Add to it the feedback and response of Oort-cloud, and I really look foward to turning it in for peer review. My plan is, after the entire project is done its initial round (v1) I will move into a re-edit and flesh things out a bit, and then return it to oort-cloud for people to read and critique (v2).Thanks to everyone for posting your works, I enjoy them! Cheers!

Thats the idea behind OpenLit, right?;)

Re-editing = good

That sort of collaboration among readers and writers is definitely in the spirit of Oort Cloud.

We've already seen one story posted at different stages of editing, and you could see the progression. That sort of thing helps the writer of the story, but I'm sure it also helps other writers who can see how others go about revising their stories and might be able to pick up some tips from that.