After Action Report – Run, Digger, Run!

If you’re not in the mood for self-indulgent authorial navel-gazing, this post might not be for you. I just want to discuss some of the things I intended for Run, Digger, Run! (the serial adventure I just finished), what I learned, and what lessons I plan to apply going forward.

A little background for those who are new or came in in the middle: before Run, Digger, Run!, I serialized my novel Hero Go Home! in weekly chapters (and if you don’t have a copy, it would be awesome for me if you would buy one, or Death Wave or Digger Breaks Through!, or all three). And though I did gain a few loyal readers, I noticed many readers would join for a few weeks and then drop off.

It occurred to me that one reason might be that one chapter a week was just too infrequent an update schedule. Now, I was also publishing two other weekly features at the time–Out of the Vault and Super Movie Mondays, both of which will be returning in October–but the audiences didn’t really overlap. People reading the comics and movie features weren’t reading the novel and vice-versa (which is a problem I still need to find a way to overcome).

So I decided to try something different: a daily feature of mini-episodes just 500 words long, structured more like a TV show arc or like the old daily stripped radio series like The Adventures of Superman. Five hundred words a day would equal 2500 words a week, which is what my average chapters on Hero Go Home! ran, so the workload should be manageable. And with the site updating literally seven days a week, the site would hopefully become a daily destination.

So I came up with my idea and I ran with it, starting at the first of October last year. Some of you might remember the trailer I ran beforehand (an idea I stole from my friends at Adventurotica, who are currently trying to raise funds on for their new project, The Golden Mask–they are awesome writers, and if your reading tastes lean toward the NSFW, you should check them out).

You’ll notice that the trailer contained many scenes right out of the final story. However, other scenes either weren’t in the finished product, or turned out differently. Part of this was by design, a joke about movie trailers with scenes that end up being deleted or altered in the finished film; the dinosaur scene was never going to appear in the story.

But the other bits just reflect the way the project grew and developed and changed focus over the weeks, so that, for instance, Ghost Dragon not only changed sex, but became a much more central part of the plot than you would think from the trailer.

So how do I feel now that it’s all over? Tired, mainly. Five hundred words a day may not be mathematically more than I was writing before, but writing five 500-word episodes with five natural breaks and five cliffhangers is a lot more work than writing one 2,500-word chapter. Not to mention the cool, but entirely too-much-strain-on-my-creative-batteries, challenge of coming up with a special header graphic every week. I love the idea in concept, and I’m sorry that I had to drop the graphics so far into the project, but it was just too much, and the final product was suffering under the strain.

And then there is the very strange mixture of enjoyment and embarrassment that came from detailing the story’s twists and turns. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to make every day’s episode entertaining. I learned some valuable lessons about writing minor characters, for instance, And I really enjoyed snowballing incidents like Defcon 5’s battle with Professor Exotherm into major action set-pieces.

But on the other hand, having mainly come from writing self-contained works like novels, short-stories and feature film screenplays (unproduced, so don’t go looking), I often felt like the story was meandering too much. And I’m not proud that I fell so far behind that most days, you were reading the raw first draft moments after I wrote it.

So would I ever do such a project again? Probably not. Never say never, but if I were to do so, I would have to be actually making money off the site, so that this were actually my job; I don’t have enough mental horsepower to make it go every day, otherwise. And it would help to have a collaborator: at the least, an artist to make the graphics while I concentrate on the words.

But even then, I don’t know. Although I enjoyed working on the story, I feel in some ways as if this is a year lost from my life. I could probably have written two books with the time and effort expended on this project. I’m not entirely sorry I did it, but I’m really glad to be shifting gears to something different now.

So as for the future: I don’t know what’s going to happen with the site. October is going to be our month-long Halloween extravaganza, culminating with yet another audio presentation from the Frazier’s Brain Theater of the Ear, but after October, I don’t know.

And if you’re wondering about Run, Digger, Run! being collected into novel form, I don’t know about that either. As I said, it was structured more like a daily adventure strip, so I don’t know if it would work as one long story. And right now, I just need to get some distance from it so I can think about it clearly. If you’re interested, ask me again after Halloween.

And as for my next project? I’m still developing ideas. It’s too early to give you any details, other than to say that right now, I’m leaning toward a steampunk Frankenstein meets Cinderella story. If that sounds interesting, let me know.

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One Response to After Action Report – Run, Digger, Run!

  1. Sargon says:

    That sounds TOTALLY interesting.

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