Last week, I gave a purely personal update on how I was doing after a long silence. This week’s check-in is a more nuts and bolts talk about something I write frequently and post a lot of on this blog and elsewhere: Microfiction.
I’ve begun a new approach to my weekday microfiction writing. Up to now, these have been inspired by Twitter writing prompts that I often don’t know the themes/keywords of until the morning I need to write the micro. Generally, I think-up something over breakfast and write it after. This method was of little consequence when I had a long carpool of deadtime to fill getting to the day job. But it become disruptive mentally and timewise to getting down to work on my larger goals— such as finishing A Contract in Azure and Indigo— in the new pandemic paradigm I find myself in. So a month ago, I started making five pairs of random prompt words on my own.
Doing it this way enables me to write the micros ahead of time over a weekend afternoon. Making the change was simple, and just as I’d hoped, it greatly reduced the interruptions in my weekday mornings thus far. I even made a new hashtag prompt to go with it so others could write along if they like: #2WordPrompt.
The change has hurt my exposure/visibility on Twitter because my new hashtag doesn’t have the followings of the established ones I used previously. Yet the impact hasn’t been as severe as I thought it might be. The trade for better focus on important projects like Azure & Indigo is a good one.
As part of the restructuring I made a searchable database-archive of all my microfictions going back to November of 2017, when Twitter entered the 280-character tweeting era and my posts started becoming popular. It took over two days to hunt them all down and consolidate the documents, but it was worth it. Afterwards, I was surprised to learn that I’d written about 56,000 words of microfiction, divided between over 1,200 individual pieces to date. That’s a lot!
The searchable archive was needed in part because I’ve started rerunning older micros on Twitter a few times a week to help lessen my visibility drop. More importantly, it was needed because of a heavy, painful decision I’ve made to help my writing: I’m going to cease writing my microfiction serials.
I’ve been running weekend installments of Ice & Ash and The Brownies for well over a year now. And my weeknightly Night Wings serial that I ran on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook got to 281 installments before I put the series on hiatus last year. But running two or three ongoing and independent storylines in addition to my weekday micriofiction and large, important projects like finishing Azure & Indigo at the same time is draining. It divides my efforts, and really hurts my ability to make reasonable progress on big things like books.
It’s also not like I’m going to ever finish any of the micro serials with once-weekly installments in my lifetime. Even with Night Wings going five-days a week, the story would have taken years and years of effort. And for all the effort I put into the serials— all the continuity, plotting and production— they are the worst preforming features on my social media. My one-shot micros consistently perform at least twice as well as they do. Even reruns of the one-shot micros will outperform them on the same level. As I have a catalogue of daily standalone microfiction going back three years now, running those instead of leaving them idle makes much more sense. Doing that will also not require much creative time and effort, and that’s time I can invest in writing and finishing books instead.
It isn’t that I don’t believe in the stories I’m telling in the serials, or feel that they aren’t any good. In fact, my decision is a painful one because I feel quite the opposite. The issue is that I just don’t feel that the medium of breaking a long story into flash fiction episodes effectively reaches an audience. If the readers don’t get into the opening installments, new readers finding the later episodes on social media simply pass them by. What I’ve learned is that if readers want to read a short story or a book, give them one. Don’t break it up into tweets and micros, even if you’re making efforts to do it in style. The lynchpin of my social media is free, bite-sized offerings of my writing and style that are whole unto themselves. The goal is to entice the reader with the sample so they feel comfortable spending money on the entrée of a book.
Therefore, rather than continuing to chop these stories into serial snack nibblins on a platter, I’m going to put them aside for now. Instead, I’ll work on making them into fully realized stories and books of their own at some point down the road. :-) For any that may miss my serials, or want to check them out now that they are done, I’ve created complete and easy to navigate archive pages for The Brownies, Ice & Ash and Night Wings.
In the meantime, this change allows me to cast off another chain hindering my progress to making my bigger goals a reality. After the initial effort to set up the shift last week, things are now much more streamlined and less stressful on my social media side. Even only writing new micros for weekdays, I’m adding a short story’s worth of 5,500 words of them by year’s end. If I wasn’t cutting back by dropping the serials, that amount would be more than doubled… plus tons more time spent on plotting and production. I’m eager to see the fruits of redirecting my efforts into finishing Azure instead, and the publishing projects waiting in line after it.
Take care everyone. Be safe, and keep writing!
~Jason H. Abbott
I know it’s hard to be so scattered. It was hard for me to keep track of what had happened previously in the serial stories.
I think these days we’re all re-assessing what we need to focus our energy on.
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I think many people had a hard time with continuity of the serials. They did perform best here on the blog, but even then they did not return the effort I expended on them.
Like I said in the update, I don’t think it’s the fault of the stories but rather the serial style combined with the medium. They need to be redone and presented in a longer format. I couldn’t find any other examples of strict continuity microfiction serials by other authors, and after my experiments I think I know why. But I tried something new, put in a lot of effort and learned things… I don’t see it as a loss. :-)
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You have to protect your writing time, and while a sacrifice, it’s a well thought out one. Social media can be so rewarding, but so draining!
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What you say is true. I’ve been making an effort to organize my social media efforts. The exposure is rewarding, as are the contacts I make. But if it prevents me from progressing on my books, I think I’m kind of forgetting about the baby to make sure the bath-water is perfect. :-)
Change was needed. I’m still restructuring today and haven’t restarted the book yet, but damn am I getting on top of things! Now I’m finishing small stuff left and right, and clearing a large swath of space to write in once I’m done.