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I am working on an urban fantasy series. The series is currently divided into a number of episodic chapters that follow a "monster of the week" format. Each one is projected to be about 30-45 typed pages and somewhere between maybe 10 to 15 thousand words each based on my calculations. There are about 15-18 chapters, so this would be approximately 600 manuscript pages all together.

The chapters themselves can almost function as their own self-contained short story but contribute to an overarching plot and long-term character development that ties them all together as a single story. The reason the story is set up this way is I originally wrote it as a screenplay for a 13 episode television series, but switched to making it a written series when I realized it played better to my writing abilities and gave me more creative control.

However, I have run into some problems with the structure of my story. First, I've noticed that "monster of the week" plots, while working very well in television, don't work well in written fiction because they give the reader places to stop reading and don't encourage them to read the whole book. At worst it gives them plot whiplash due to constantly starting a semi-new conflict each chapter. But perhaps more importantly I have found out that urban fantasy books tend to be quite a bit shorter than your average fantasy novel, most of them tend to be 400-450 printed pages in length. Publishers don't like to consider longer urban fantasy stories unless they are broken up into smaller chunks, and it costs a lot more to publish them.

I'm not really keen on the idea of removing whole chapters of the story or stripping them to their bare bones and ruining the pacing in order to get the story to fit within a 450 page limit. There is a good spot to break the first book into two books, but it would essentially be leaving the plot on a cliffhanger and starting the second split-off book right in the middle of the action. I've heard readers hate cliffhangers in general, and in this case it would mean each book would be only half of a plot.

I suppose one potential option would be to send the various chapters to various magazines as short stories and then publish the series as a whole as an anthology, but I'm not even sure if people read fantasy/sci-fi magazines anymore.

The structure of the series is almost perfect for a web serial given its "each chapter is a semi-independent adventure" format, but I've heard from several places that publishing your work online basically kills any chance of it being published in any other format and it would be nice to be able to publish my work in a higher-profile and potentially more marketable manner than simply posting it on Wattpad.

Given this, what I'm trying to figure out is what is the best way to structure my story. Is there some way to salvage what I have, or do I need to burn it all down and totally re-structure it from the very beginning? Should I just focus on writing the dang thing and then think about rewrites, or should I be fixing this problem now before it becomes a bigger issue?

  • Since you describe it as fitting better as a web serial, have you considered posting it in chapter installments on Archive of our Own or Wattpad? Urban fantasy is especially popular there. – Sciborg Sep 11 '20 at 23:20
  • Don't discount the short story route - you should retain rights to the works, and novelizing short stories is legitimate technique. Plus, once you publish something, publishing more becomes easier. – DWKraus Sep 11 '20 at 23:57
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A collection of episodic stories is not a novel, nor should you try to make it into one. Publishing these as individual stories is definitely the right way to go. The short story market can be easier to break into as an unknown, and it's a good way to build a fan base and a resume. In addition, Fantasy and Science Fiction is one of the healthier short story markets --it's definitely easier to find places to publish genre stories than "literary" ones.

While all print media is struggling in the modern era, F & SF magazines do still exist, and there's also a wide variety of online outlets of all kinds, even including some, as you mentioned, that operate on an "episodes" model. Establishing a name with short stories and then transitioning to novels is the most time-honored path to success for a fantasy or SF writer. I wouldn't worry too much about ruining your future print chances by publishing online. The only way you'll ever be anthologized is by building a fan base. Also, you're planning on keeping on writing, right? These won't be the last stories you ever write. With that said, there's definitely a hierarchy of prestige to publishing credits. The higher the barriers to getting published, the more credibility it garners. That usually means print is top, with online outlets that pay up front coming in next. (Self-publishing credits, by themselves, buy you nothing, but healthy sales or readership figures do.)

When you do write your novel, it's probably a better idea to use these stories as back-story or inspiration than to try to convert them directly. As you've learned, there are big structural differences between novels and stories, and transitioning from one to the other can often be clumsy and betray signs of filler, scaffolding, and other unappealing tricks. Or, when it does work, it's usually because the writer has utterly reimagined the shorter work, making it something completely new.

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Monster of the weak structure could work, you just need to inject a continuos plot that carry from chapter to chapter. Western TV is incredibility bad at it because each episode have no connection with each other...

So you need to look at japanese tv series for this, they are pretty much the master of this format..

The TV series Kamen Rider Zero One for example, each episode focus on the MC fighting corrupted andriod to save the day, but in each episode, we slowly learn more about the badguy, the truth behind the andriod corruption and it's connection with MC.

So each monster of the week isnt just a self contain episode, but it also slowly build toward the actual plot which keep viewer watching.

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