Publishing Microfiction

The last few months have been dominated by a particular project, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it to let you know what it is all about.

The Big Idea

Write a “fictitious” daily blog with humorous 500+ word posts for 100 days, and then bundle up the material into a book (ebook and print).

The Project

The construct was to write a blog that represents the daily diary of a fictional international sportsman – in this case an Australian cricketer player.  He is the last man picked in a squad of 17 players – thus the moniker The 17th Man – and with only 11 playing in any game, he has little chance of appearing for his country.

We developed a fictitious team of characters to distance ourselves from “real life” just a little, while the diary operates in a world of the real results.  The project is set in the context of “The Ashes” – the most epic cricketing contest involving five five-day cricket matches between England and Australia.

Each day we wrote at least 500 words, with the average over the cycle ending up about 650 per day.  With the real action happening overnight Australian time, our aim was to publish by 4 pm every day – so Australia subscribers could pick up their notification before leaving work, and UK readers would pick their’s up first thing in the morning on the day following,

Collaboration

With two writers, we settled into the routine of two days on, two days off.  We planned out a number of story lines, and each writer took charge of specific threads, weaving them into the ongoing narrative.  With cross editing, we maintained a reasonably consistent voice, but used a variety of styles of post to keep the reading experience fresh every day.

Through a personal recommendation, we were joined by a cartoonist, who regularly contributed to the blog – sometimes his own response to the action or the post, sometimes in response to a specific commission.

With real life being stranger than fiction, there was never a shortage of events to twist, change and exaggerate as we made up the adventure of the 17th Man and his team mates.  Our fears of running out of material over the long 100 day slog were unfounded – we were left with plenty of unused material we had prepared in advance.

Blog to Book

We copied the material from the blog into Scrivener in chunks whenever we remembered to do it along the way, so the master file for the book grew as we went along.  We decided that we were only going to edit for typos (no small task!) to leave the end product with the day-to-day freshness of the blog.  We had intended to do that along the way, so by the end of the writing period then book file was fairly “mature”, but we soon fell behind.  This meant that the last two weeks of live production were crazy busy as we tried to catch up with editing the book product while still writing and promoting the blog, as well as organizing a cover.

The resulting book is over 70,000 words. Ashes Diary – Summer of the 17th Man – England 2013 is on sale now in ebook.

Blog to Audio

We also settled into a routine of recording the blog posts in twos and threes for a podcast.  This means that the book is already available in audio on itunes.

Next Steps

The ebook is on sale and paperback will hit the market any day – beating any other books (written by real players and commentators) on the Ashes Series by months, we hope. We’re promoting madly, sending out review copies and getting ready to launch into another daily grind come November.

We’ve got two similar previous works on sale, and we’re also developing a version of the cricket “diary” concept for younger readers.

Key Lessons

  • Writing collaboratively can work!
  • Nothing beats a daily deadline for making sure the writing gets done.
  • There is always more to do than there is time to do – do the things that you think will work best for readers.
  • Don’t underestimate the time needed on production if you want to get to market quickly – you can’t afford to short change things like proofreading that effect the readers’ experience.

Checc out the three books in my new project, Live:Fiction, here.