How To Serialize Flash Fiction Stories #flash fiction

Flash fiction doesn’t require some exclusive deliverable to be read. You can post flash fiction stories anywhere. They can be shared anytime, any place. They can be read on your lunch hour, on a subway, perhaps even on a long elevator ride. And you can read some of the most profound, interesting, provocative, status-quo-challenging stories from start to finish in just a few minutes.

Novels still circulate vastly online, but in the form of serials.  Authors post bit by bit, generating an audience as they do so, and fans are given manageable chunks to read before the authors release next the next one.  Most of the literature in the Victorian era was published this way, the era famous for it’s “triple-deckers,” or three-part novels, which were all serialized. The modern novel going in retro as indie authors have embraced the serial form online.

If they weren’t serialized, they probably wouldn’t be read. Copy on web pages tends to be around 600 words. Blogs, newsletters, and other web content tend to stay between 2-3 pages. E-books are the only digital format that can deliver long-form text, and they are problematic for reasons discussed, such as usability and the exclusivity of Amazon’s platform. Short form content, like flash fiction, can be disseminated anywhere, with plain HTML.

One thing we want to do on Neat Prose is to stretch the limits of short form creative content. This is where the flash serial story  comes in. It is a serialized story of  a certain length, perhaps 7,000 words, divided into 1,000 word flash-length parts, which are posted in the necessary intervals to generate an audience. Each part is a whole story unto itself, and each week, or whenever the next part is published, readers get to experience a whole new story, although it will have direct ties to the plot, sequence, and characters of the entire narrative. The plot will progress throughout the story, though not in a linear way. Consider the following visual model of a what a flash serial would look like:


See the gaps in between each diamond. The serial parts aren’t entirely complete, and there are gaps between each story. That could mean chronology, character development, or any number of elements. What’s different about them, from any other form or attempt on this idea, is that they are flash stories. Many novel series have been written, with a similar concept in mind, but theses are 1,000 word serials, and no more than ten of them to make up a short story length work. Why limit them? No one wants to read twenty serial flash stories. The flash serial has its limitations, too.

My process to produce these serials is not to sit and write seven or ten flash fiction stories without knowing their relation. The trick will be in the editing. I will write a short story first, and use an intensive editing process cut the diamonds that I have visualized, resulting in complete, although interdependent stories.  The form that I am inventing, the flash-serial, will be largely a edit/revision process, unless I decide to adopt a more economical process in writing them.

The serial will be posted on this blog in certain intervals, hopefully to garner a readership, and I will also host an archive of the stories featured here, in non-serial format. Yes, you may have thought, why don’t I just post serialized short stories, or at least call these that. I hope you will see a demonstrable difference between both ideas. It would be rather difficult to serialize a short story, since it is already compact. A flash serial breaks the boundaries of flash, and it capitalizes on the possibilities of short form creative web content.

But, I can say no more. I must demonstrate the concept here. Very soon, I will be releasing fiction and publishing it.  My work serves merely an example of what can be done with the format, and I hope better writers can adopt it and use it on their own sites. I invite you to try.








The Value of Writing Fan Fiction

I stayed in a barn this weekend. I was on vacation in the Berkshires, a rural part of Massachusetts, for a family event. The barn, in fact, had been converted into an inn. Such was my relief when I realized I had a bed with a queen mattress instead of  a bale of hay to sleep on.

A few days before I went on this journey, I had started writing a fan fiction story. I brought my notepad with me, hoping there would be time to work on it. My family occupied the entire inn, and we were isolated from nosy strangers.

The inn seemed like an excellent setting for writing. It was practically in the middle of nowhere. A long, winding drive through the mountains led to town. Amenities were sparse- no television, no cell service. There was wi-fi, but only if you stood in certain spots in the barn. The snow added to the isolation. There was lots of snow in the Berkeshires at this time of year. I found the climate welcoming. Winter had bypassed Detroit, and I was glad it was still winter, somewhere.

The only problem with the barn was the draft. While rooms  were temperature controlled, the lobbies were not, and you could really feel the cold. That’s where I intended to do writing.

We had left on Friday for the Berkshires at a brutal hour of the morning, and I was actually working on my story at 2 am the night before, feeling restless. I was exhausted Friday and fell asleep early that night. I woke up feeling refreshed Saturday morning at around 6 am, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some writing. My girlfriend was still asleep, and I hoped my family was still in slumber as well. I wanted my cherished solitude to work on my erotic fan fiction.

Oh, I forgot to mention, it is an erotic story, similar to a lot of fan fiction. What’s unique about my story is that it’s erotica for men, mostly. It takes place in a universe that I have never seen in fan fiction, which is the He-Man and She-Ra universe. Netflix revived these cartoons recently, and I am a bit of a toon fanatic.

I watched a handful of them, especially the She-Ra series. What I created is not fan fiction in the literal sense, in that I am using original characters that I have adapted. However, I use names like “Manskull,” and call the world “Saturnia,” and anyone familiar with the cartoons would recognize the universe instantly.

I was writing that morning in the drafty barn resting my notebook on a pillow. Minutes later, family members started appearing. I hadn’t woken up early enough. What I thought would be an hour of calm and solitude turned out to be a very noisy and disturbing hour. Nevertheless, I got a significant portion of a scene done.

That afternoon, I was blessed with a few more hours of alone time, which I utilized for writing. I found a desk with a chair, so I didn’t have to prop my notebook on a pillow. I opened it and started crafting my He-Man/She-Ra erotica. Unfortunately, my little cousins were making tons of noise in the room next door. My one cousin was actually playing rock music on his phone. One of the most annoying sounds to me as a writer. Not the rock music- the crappy, semi-audible sound that comes a smartphone when someone plays sounds on it from the other side of the room. If shit had a sound, that’s what it would sound like.

That afternoon was no better than the morning, even if I was in a barn in an idyllic, peaceful countryside. There was no escaping the tyranny of the smartphones. Nevertheless, I managed to write a scene.

One family member did ask me what I was writing on my trip, and I said I was writing fan fiction. That’s it. There was no discussion about it. Not about the theme, or anything. The word “fan fiction” tells all.

Of course, it doesn’t. There’s a whole world of fan fiction. It’s a pleasure to write, and to share. And it’s worth it, even if there is no hope of remunerations. I don’t write fan fiction because I want money or notoriety. I do it because it’s fun. If I wanted those things, I wouldn’t be a fiction writer. Few fiction writers can make it in the publishing world and have full time careers. That is much rarer nowadays, if not impossible.

Fan fiction is about writing for the thrill of it and belonging to a community of other writers who share the same interests. The pay off is the likes, comments- knowing that your work is shared, and is being discussed. I don’t know who is going to read this He-Man/She-Ra story. All I know is that I will have enjoyed writing and sharing it, without being concerned about “getting published.” Isn’t that what creativity is all about?


The Wattpad Problem

I first learned about Wattpad from followers on Twitter, when I still used that service. I was not impressed. It was the work of amateurs, and bad amateurs at that (with glittering cover graphics). Also, I did not seem to fit the demographic, which appeared to be mostly young women. And there was the flotsam and jetsam masquerading as “fiction” that some of the writers posted. For example, a collection of “true horror stories” that merely consisted of poorly summarized news stories found on the Internet. Not exactly what I would define as literature.

I deleted the app from my phone, and did not return to the site, for a while. Still, I remained interested because of the Wattpad’s potential for online publishing. It is a very large, active community. With very high visibility for some of its authors. The only problem is the demographics. I’m not sure how could reach Wattpad’s demographic base effectively (while remaining true to myself).

I revisited Wattpad recently, just to give it another try. I hoped to find  content on it that was more suitable for my tastes. I did a search for “Lovecraft,” hoping to find some Cthulu Mythos stories, and to steer myself away from the plethora of teen romance novels. I came to a story titled H.P. Lovecraft, and took note of the odd summary: “Lovecraft owns these stories, not me. Enjoy.” I then discovered an anthology’s worth of Lovecraft stories, including some of his classics like “The Dunwich Horror”, and the complete novella, “At The Mountains of Madness”. Just posted there, for no reason. I asked myself, why? Why would anyone just want to rip off an anthology they downloaded somewhere else and post it all on their Wattpad page?

I was concerned about copyright issues and I did some research, hoping to put a stop to this. Unfortunately, I learned that Lovecraft’s works are largely considered to be in the public domain. This clever user must have known it as well, so no laws were violated. That doesn’t mean that it was right.

So why, after all this would I want to publish on Wattpad? There are significant advantages. I can publish an entire novel. For free. With no strings attached. But I can’t expect anything in return except for the odd chance that a publisher discovers my novel and offers me a book deal, which seems a like a reversion. Why would you take a novel that was published online with current technology, and make it into an antique book?

I am skeptical whether Wattpad has any other promotional value for a writer like myself. Then there is thought of toiling day and night over a novel, and then posting it, for free, on a social media site. Is it me, or does that not seem like a plain waste of time?

As I have said, I will attempt to publish fiction on this blog, although my options are limited here. I cannot publish novels. I am limited to short, unserialized works that would be difficult to market on this platform. I may decide to setup a sister site with a better format for online literature. Perhaps I could get other writers to join me. Let’s face it, we can do better than Wattpad.



What Is Neat Prose?

I cannot buy books where I live. I am forced to choose between a new wave book chain that sidelines serious literature for board games and YA. Or a used bookstore that caters only only to the old and dusty. I live in a veritable book desert, and I wonder if literature will ever survive here. Kurt Vonnegut once said “you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” There are fewer readers now in book deserts like the one I live in, and they will dry up.

I don’t believe there is a new form of online literature out there that can take the place of publishing. Which is why I need to invent one. Fan fiction, for example, depends entirely on published works.  It cannot survive without those characters. Fan fiction also sneaks readers away from publishing to the free works that can be read online. So, it is part of the problem. Social media, blogging, texting, YouTube, and on demand television are all serious time munchers. Fan fiction is also dread competition for actual books. Such is the amateur society that encompasses us.

I don’t aim to write fan fiction on this site. Fan fiction tends to be written mostly for women, anyway, and I would like to bring both men and women here. I would also like to create my own characters and not piggyback on another author’s work. But at the same time, I like the sexuality in fan fiction. I also like the breeziness with which it is written, which is a quality that lends itself to Internet writing. I would not write anything too dense here. However, I would want to retain a sense of professionalism. There are too many bad stories on the Web.

Internet prose should be short. Flash fiction is an ideal length for the new kind of online literature. Rather than writing epics, I would write stories that that could be read on-the-g0. Flash fiction has never found any profitable avenue since the form was popularized about a decade ago. It is written mostly for promotional reasons, not for any serious hopes of compensation. Flash fiction has the potential to make money. And as suitable as it is for Internet reading, there is no reason why it shouldn’t.

I’ll confess, neat prose isn’t about neat, or “tidy” prose. The idea came to me when thinking about a shot of liquor. It’s neat. There’s no bulk. It’s straight and to the point. And it comes in just the right size. Internet prose should have this brevity to it. No one wants to spend an hour reading a story online. They don’t want to struggle through dense, challenging sentences on their phones or laptops. That’s why online lit mags keep disappearing. This will be a different kind of lit mag. Blogs never feature fiction, buy why shouldn’t they? Why not publish flash fiction on a blog?

As soon as I can develop something, I will begin to post my stories. I offer invitations to men and women, but not children. I will not write anything YA. No teen romance. Nothing of that sort. I will not go on Twitter and make enticing posts to market my blog. I don’t know how anyone will even find this blog, or read any of these words. I just want to write something.


It’s Time To Give Up On Publishing…

I went to a Books-A-Million today. It is on a corner of where a brilliant Borders store used to be, in happier times. I don’t like Books-A-Million. There’s no substance. Just games, graphic novels, YA books, Christian Inspiration- knickknacks and such. More of a literature curiosity store than an actual book store.

There are prototypes of such stores, under different names, that I’ve seen in other places. Like the mall. A games, books, and fun! type of store. That’s what Books-A-Million is. I decided to go there with an idea to buy a graphic novel, since I know they are well stocked with numerous titles, rivaling a comic book store. However, they had changed the layout of the store, and where the comic books used to be was a shelf of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

My eyes honed in on a Phillip K. Dick title. It was a short story collection. The store had none of his novels, like Do Androids Dream of  Electric Sheep, which I have always wanted to read ( I’m a Blade Runner fan). The titles on the shelves were collections of his earlier works (maybe not his best) and they looked like snippets of easy reading, something they could sell to readers who were too superficial to get into Dick’s serious writing.

Window dressing.

The real goods was the board game I ended up buying. It had a fairly large price tag compared to a book. I didn’t leave empty handed.

This is the reality of book shopping in the American suburbs. In the big cities stores still survive. But out in the suburbs, the only way to buy a decent book is to order one through Amazon.

However, I don’t really care to order a book on Amazon unless it is an eBook. If all my titles were available electronically I would never order a printed book. But then, I don’t really enjoy reading eBooks. They make my eyes hurt, they run out of batteries, and you can’t read them under a lamp because of the glare. They suck.

My only solace is a small, independent used bookstore that may not be there for very long. If the resale market dries up, and it absolutely has to- there soon won’t be any books left to resell- I’m not sure where I will buy books, or if I will even read at all.

I misplaced a copy of the The Aeneid recently. I was a quarter of the way through it, set it down, and never saw it again. It is a beautiful, decorative hardcover edition, the Robert Fagles translation. I could purchase another copy. Search for it on Amazon, pay extra to have it shipped and pay way more than than the eBook version. Wait a week and a half for it to arrive. Fun.

I could pick up a copy at my used bookstore, one that probably has lines and highlight marks in it. And get the wrong translation.

I’m sure Books-A-Million sells it, yet I am skeptical of what kind of edition they would sell. More window-dressing, probably. I hope I find that copy in my house somewhere. Before it’s too late.

Some time in the future, perhaps not very far from now, that copy will most likely be irreplaceable. Not just the edition itself, or the translation. But any printed copy of Virgil at all. The poet may cease to be, at least in print.

He may survive for a while online, yet, I can’t imagine myself reading Virgil on my phone. The white space, the line spacing, character spacing. The font, even the texture and color of the paper. They are just as much a part of the experience as the words. An eBook cannot duplicate this.

Perhaps that’s why my affinity for print is so strong. I fear literature will not survive without it. There are alternatives out there. Literature as a genus will not die. But the old forms that we know may be replaced a new kind of literature, which I  touched on in my last blog.

I hope, on this site, to present a new, online form of literature, in an effort to shake off the doom that I feel, constantly, about literature and everything else. But I’ll try not to be too pessimistic. I view myself as a realist, and always have, although, they sometimes tend to be the same thing. I do not apologize.


Wattpad and Fan Fiction

Literature is one of the first expressions of art. It began with myths, songs, and oral literature, and evolved into written literature and books, but not until very recently in our history. Literature is one of the oldest forms of culture that we know, and I do not think it will disappear, although the current mode of literature may not stand the test of time. Novels, short stories, plays and such are becoming obsolete, yet teleplays have ingeniously rose to the height of American culture, and other forms of literature, such as fan fiction, are ever popular on the Internet. So literature is not by any means disappearing, but the mode by which we tell stories is evolving.

One phenomenon that I have noticed on the Internet is what was once called “vanity” publications, which have now become the norm. Sites like Wattpad and Quotev, among others, are publishing the works of thousands of enthusiastic writers who have chosen to share their works by non-traditional means-  by routing the publishing industry. Works of fiction, from short stories to novellas, even serial novels, are being published online by authors seeking no compensation for their work, other than the opportunity to have their works read. They are amateurs, for sure, and their works show their amateurism, yet, this has become a new way to tell stories, and share them, to a broad audience.

Wattpad and Quotev and outgrowths of a fan fiction audience that has long been on the web. I am a reader, and occasional writer of fan fiction, and what is interesting is how suitable fan fiction seems to be for the Internet. The Internet is not known to host long works, and people have notoriously short attention spans for reading long blocks of text. Yet, when it comes to fan fiction, there are no such limitations. I have read novella length fan fiction masterpieces without the slightest amount of impatience, which I would otherwise have for any other type of web text. Even literary short stories on e-zines seem cumbersome; I would rather read those in a printed journal than online. But fan fiction is a whole other animal, and it is curious that the genre is so developed for the Internet, perhaps because of pacing,  or depth, that makes it more readable.

Now fan fiction authors are finding homes in sites like Wattpad. The writings aren’t specifically fan fiction but they have the feel of fan fiction; the crispness of adaptation. They aren’t original, which is why they lack professional authorship, but in the world of adaptative literature amateurs thrive on spinning tales from pre-defined story molds, much like they did with the characters that were the source of fan fiction epics. I believe this new kind of literature may be the future, as much as purists would like to bite their tongues. Speaking as a purist, and a lover of professional artists, I sense a great tragedy is coming, with respect to art, particularly professional art. But this new found genre on the Internet holds the promise of keeping the tradition of literature alive. I would hope that in time, some gifted artists may join the frock and help transform online literature to make it less amateurish. Surely, compensation can be found for authors outside of publishing (and Amazon), and perhaps in the future amateurism will give way to a new kind of professionalism.


The Reason Why We Stopped Reading Books

I used to be passionate about books. If they were edible, I would have used them as a substitute for food. If they could be sown together, I would have worn them.  But then, something happened. The way books are marketed has changed drastically, and it may not be for the best.

 Earlier this year, I visited a famous bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Co, and I could have lived there (actually, you can.) They had an awesome selection of books, the best I had ever seen. I would have spent my life savings on them, however, I wouldn’t have had any money left over for escargot. I came home with seven books jammed into my suitcase, and I have started reading all of them and haven’t finished any of them (yet). I don’t know why the best English bookstore in the world is in France. Go figure.

 Then, I come back home. I go to a Books-a-Million. There is a YA (young adult fiction) section that takes up half the store, a graphic novel section larger than that in most comic books stores, and there is a section called “Classic Literature” which consists of half a shelf that is made up of three copies of Moby Dick. I go to Barnes and Noble (whatever store is left). I buy a book of crossword puzzles and a board game. Finally, I go to my favorite bookstore in Royal Oak- which only sells used books- which is the only place that I shop for books, because it is the only store that has anything I want. Bookstores in America are determined to sell anything but books, unless they are YA. Barnes and Noble’s new CEO went on record saying that he wanted to focus on selling games and other miscellaneous merchandise. No one wants to go near real literature. Obviously it doesn’t sell.

 I used to order books from Amazon, however, Amazon primarily markets eBooks now. I hate eBooks. My device bothers my eyes when I read for long periods of time, and it would probably make me go blind if I developed a habit. I don’t like having to charge a book, or worry about my book running out of batteries. I like to be able to take a book to the beach without worrying about breaking it. Of course, you can’t even take an eBook to the beach because the glare is impossible, and who ever heard of not being able to read at the beach? I even have problems reading underneath lamps. Then there are proprietary issues I won’t even go into here, like do you actually own any of your eBooks, or can you share an eBook or load it onto a different device. Let’s face it. eBooks suck.

 Worse than the technology is how they are marketed. When I used to go to Borders, I didn’t always know exactly what I wanted, or what my search terms were. I liked to look around, browse the horror section, perhaps pick up an author I never heard of before and take a chance, not knowing that the powers that be were guiding me to make a certain purchasing decision. That’s what was fun about going to a bookstore. It felt like I was in control, but really, some merchandiser with a plan-o-gram generated from company headquarters was helping me all along, making my decision easy. Nothing is more anxiety-provoking than having to make a choice.

 Then, you go on Amazon, and no one is helping you. You have to read reviews, written mostly by narcissistic morons, and that only makes you more anxious about your decisions. You can go by ratings, although the titles are rated by the same idiots who write the reviews. And of course, you have to plug in a search term, even if you’re not sure what you are looking for, and you can’t just type in “horror,” because that will generate a list of irrelevant titles. Browsing by genre on Amazon is absolutely appalling, if not impossible. Unless I know exactly what book I’m looking for, or a specific author, the site is useless, browsing is annoying and frustrating, and I’d rather not do it.

 Another problem is Amazon’s credibility. I know Amazon makes suggestions based on their predictive algorithms, but can I trust them? When I went to Borders, I had instant trust in the books I was selecting. I knew that they had lived up to a certain standard, or Borders wouldn’t risk selling them; shelf space was too valuable there. Borders and other bookstores may have peddled crap like Dean Koontz and Stephen King, but even authors like those still met publishing standards, even if they were very low. Amazon however, has no regard for “shelf space.” Shelf space is utterly meaningless. They can sell as many bad books as they want. And they do; they have no standards. This is different when it comes to the other products Amazon sells, like iPhone cases for example, because those are self-explanatory. But when it comes to books, I can’t trust the recommendations Amazon makes. I spent sixty dollars on a book about the life of Epicurus that I ordered from Amazon. Turns out, the whole book was about Jesus. A book like that, for that price, would have never made it to the shelf at a Borders. This is why I stopped buying books.

 I’m a lazy consumer and I like to be told what to do, and right now, no one is telling me to buy books. I’m actually getting the opposite message. Stay away from books. They are obsolete. They’re weird. The novel is dead. Harry Potter and the Wizard’s Testicle is the greatest book ever written. This YA bubble is going to burst eventually, and that will probably be the end of it. Whether the eBook market could survive without publishing is doubtful, because like I have demonstrated, online sellers like Amazon do a poor job of marketing books. It’s publishing houses that actually do the marketing and make the public enthusiastic about buying books from Amazon; Amazon couldn’t market books on its own, even if they are eBooks. The end of publishing could very well be the end of literature, but we still have some time. Flash fiction might become a thing. If we could reduce literature to 1,000 words or less that would solve everyone’s problems…