Thursday, 30 August 2012

Writing a blog serial and lessons learnt

It seems like a long time ago that I started my blog serial, The Twilight Zone.  My wedding anniversary was fast approaching when inspiration hit.  We married at Bristol Zoo during its 175th year which meant that a lot of the zoo’s history was being publicised.  Why not honour this?
Unfortunately it was only a week to our anniversary date so the writing of this blog serial didn’t go exactly to plan...

I have learnt a lot from writing this serial.  It has been an interesting experience and one that I hope to repeat, although perhaps a little differently next time...


Due to the tight time constraints, I didn’t do a lot of research as such on blog serials.  I googled it, found one that looked a lot like how I thought mine would look anyway and that was it.

I spent more time trying to work out how to make the story available for download from the blog, see below for this.

The majority of the research, perhaps as it should be, was spent on Bristol Zoo itself.  There is a lot of information on their website.  The book, ‘An illustrated history of Bristol Zoo Gardens’, was the most helpful piece of research however.  A beautiful book full of stunning photos from across the decades and all of the maps, showing the layout of the zoo .  The maps were the most helpful part, and allowed me to choose a decade and orientate myself.

A trip to the zoo to celebrate our wedding anniversary also proved endlessly helpful, although I’m sure I looked a little mad trying to write notes in the darkness of the nocturnal house.

A lot of what is in The Twilight Zone is fictional and the research already carried out by the zoo, along with a few internet searches, made it easy to figure out where I need to add in my own ideas and which parts I needed to change.  I can’t find any evidence of there ever being a bat-eared fox at Bristol Zoo, I have also never been backstage at the nocturnal house so had to base these scenes on backstage zoo programmes on television.

I wanted something different for this story.  No werewolves or vampires or ghosts or zombies.  It took me a while to find the kitsune but once I did, I got very excited.  I held my breath as I searched for nocturnal foxes but thankfully didn’t have to wait long for the bat-eared fox to pop up.  I did quite a bit of research on the kitsune, there are so many different mythologies around this creature, so many stories and variations.  I read as many as I could before choosing a variation that best suited the story.

In the future, I would prefer to do more research before starting to write.  Writing The Twilight Zone was stressful, purely because I was looking things up as I went and I left myself very open to getting silly things wrong.


Erm, yes, well...there was none really.  Other than what I’ve already mentioned.

For my next blog serial I will write the whole thing before I post any instalments.  That had been the plan for this one but, as I say, time got away from me.

For The Twilight Zone, I wrote each instalment the week it would be posted which means that the end product will need heavy editing.

On the other hand, this meant that during a time when I am editing one novel and contemplating the editing of another novel, I was still writing at least 1000 words a week.  Definitely not a bad thing.


Right, it took me a while to figure this out.  To make documents available to download on your Blogger blog, follow these instructions;

1.       Log in/sign up with Google Groups -  If you have a Blogger account for your blog, you should be able to just sign in with the same details.
2.       Click on New Group.
3.       Create a New Group.  I kept mine restricted to E-mail List but left everything else open so that it can be discovered but I mainly wanted people to find the documents through my blog.
4.       Click Create Group and your group now exists!
5.       Go into your group and click New Topic in the top left.
6.       Enter a subject and attached the document as a PDF (or whatever file you want to make available).
7.       Click post!  This will be e-mailed to you, it’s annoying but I haven’t spent much time figuring this out yet.
8.       Now go into the posted message and right click over ‘Download’.
9.       Select ‘Copy Link Location’.
10.   Then write your blog post/page and insert the link you just copied into hyperlink option.
11.   Ta da!


My Friday blog serial posts are the least read posts of my blog.  There.  I admitted it.  I don’t have figures for how many people have visited the page but the post figures are quite depressing.

I wanted to get some of my writing onto this blog.  Which isn’t such a stupid idea.  I have a pile of short stories but they were all involved in competitions and couldn’t be posted elsewhere, which is why I thought this would be an interesting venture.

The feedback I have received from friends and family has been very positive.

I have tried to push it out towards non-friends and family and the only response I seem to have had is basically ‘I’ll read it if you finish it.’  To be honest I found this a little insulting, although I didn’t rise to it.  So while many don't seem to be interested at the moment, I wonder how many will read it once it is complete?

For future blog serials I hope to be a little more established and so will have a steady marketing strategy in place.


Writing this blog serial has been a very interesting experience and I feel that I’ve learnt a lot.

The Twilight Zone will be edited and brought together into one document for free download. 
Originally I considered this serial to be a part way novelette, between the first and second Emily May books.  However, since writing I have started rethinking the existing first Emily May book (The-Book-Previously-Known-As-Silver) and have been recently thinking about incorporating The Twilight Zone, in some format, actually into one of the books.

For my next blog serial, I vow to prepare, research and write and edit the whole thing before I start posting.  I already have an idea and it will hopefully make an appearance in the summer of 2013.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading The Twilight Zone.  Check out the final instalment tomorrow.

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