I decided to do something a little different with my sixth novel. I’ve written novels with absolutely nothing but an idea for a first scene and let it go where it went. I’ve written with an outline that I thought was a whole book, but turned out to be just a quarter of a novel’s worth of idea (and then I “pantsed” it from there). I’ve written with a quarter outline, wrote that quarter, outlined the next quarter, and so on.
This time, I decided that I wasn’t allowed to start writing until I had a full 100 scenes outlined. (A scene is one set of characters, one place, one plot point, written in one sitting, average of 850 words. 100 of those is 85K words—a novel.) It took months. I got the main story arc done pretty quickly with about 40 scenes, but then I needed to think of subplots and character development mini-arcs that would fill 60 more scenes. Turns out that’s incredibly hard when you haven’t met the characters yet. But I did it! And then I started writing, and it’s going incredibly well. I’m averaging 1.6 scenes per day.
I have two alpha readers who get the scenes as I write them. They are invaluable to my process, because they help me understand what the reader is thinking. (They also find typos.) My alphas have always told me they love getting a new scene every day, so I was thinking I might launch that way. Finish the book, get it all edited and ready for publication, and then send it out one scene per day.
And then COVID-19 happened.
A lot of people are stuck at home. A lot of people are extremely stressed. As much as we love the idea of alone time, forced social isolation turns out to be extremely difficult. People need something to look forward to. They need a distraction.
So I decided that I’d launch now. The book is half-written (I wrote scene 50 yesterday). I set up a website at perplexitybook.com where people can read the scenes as I post them. It’s a WordPress site, so if you subscribe, you can get the new scenes right in your email. If I keep up the scene-a-day pace, I’ll be able to stay well ahead of the scene-a-day distribution pace. It’s super weird publishing a half-finished novel, but I have faith in my outline.
I went to social media, and various email lists that I participate in, and even to the other employees of my company (gulp!) and encouraged people to sign up. This novel is appropriate for teens, so I also encouraged people to have their teens sign up to read along. (An 850 word scene only takes a few minutes to read, so as long as they keep up, I suspect even reluctant readers will stay with it to the end.)
Scene 1 is on the site now, and scene 2 will go out tomorrow (March 19) at 7am. (I’ll use WordPress’s delayed publish feature so I can get a few queued up to go out on schedule.)
Go sign up at perplexitybook.com to follow along with everyone else. Use the #perplexitybook hashtag to find other readers on social media. It’s a thriller/mystery, so there will be lots to talk about along the way.
Update: Results are in!