72 Days of Serialized Hell: PART 3

Halifax April 21 continued-29

(New to The Weekly Man? Click here.)

Blogging the world’s first daily serialized coffee break novel is no small feat. It takes months of planning and preparation. It takes groaning and swearing and long periods of staring at walls with your mind blissfully blanked out. But it had to be done.

After dividing the novel, The Weekly Man, into 72 coffee break sized episodes, I set up a schedule in my daily planner. The serialization would begin on September 7 and run every day until November 18…72 days, including weekends.

Now, you might say something like, “Biff, you bearded buffoon, people don’t go to work on the weekends, not the ones who have coffee breaks. They sit at their desks five days a week and do important things deserving of a coffee break. On weekends they do unimportant things that don’t earn them a coffee break.

I was getting death threats from extreme know-it-alls on an hourly basis…and I hadn’t even started the serialization. My final solution: Start working seven days a week, slackers!

Or they could just take unearned coffee breaks on Saturday and Sunday.

It’s the way the book unfolds…from Monday to Sunday. Each of those days was a logical episode. If you ever decide to read it, you’ll see why.

That done, it was time to do other things, like figure out how to publish the novel. I published the 31 day photo project on my personal blog, Silence Says It All, but this was an entire novel, deserving of its own platform. So I settled on a blog just for the novel and decided to call it The Weekly Man, which seemed more manageable than The World’s First Free Daily Serialized Coffee Break Novel.

I started testing it well before September 3 and discovered that the blog would support just one font, unless I wanted to get into a shit pile of technical stuff. Nothing drives me crazy faster than technical stuff. The problem here was all the emails in the story, lots of them, were Arial 10. And the rest was Times Roman 12 except for one really weird email font used by one really weird character.

I spent days under my bed, drinking wine, crying, worrying, complaining about my lot in life until I came up with an idea. (Yes, I have ideas.) I decided to publish the novel somewhere where the fonts would unfold faultlessly. That turned out be my website, biffmitchell.com. So I went back to testing, posting and reviewing, and seeking perfection. But perfection didn’t come. I ran into more technical problems.

But then, I thought about my original idea for the novel. I was going to do it every day for 72 days, like the 31 day photo project. It had to be on my blog. So I did screen cuts of every email, all 345,253,346 of them. Well, maybe less. I turned them into jpegs that could be inserted into the post wherever they appeared. Given that there were no more than five or six emails in any one post, I figured this would be manageable.

And then I tested it on my phone. The blog wasn’t going to work, at least not on phones. Back to my website with a new idea: Convert the episodes into PDFs and put them on my website as cell phone friendly downloads. Of course, that meant creating 72 PDFs and 72 button graphics for people to click on to get the PDFs.

The horrifying truth was becoming apparent: I would have to publish everyday on both platforms: my blog and my website. This was becoming complicated and I was spending increasingly more days and nights under my bed, running out of wine. But I still had over a month to prepare, so I ventured out from under the bed more frequently.

Next came the cover art. No novel is complete without a cover, even if it’s not actually published with several hundred pages of words between the front and back. I needed a header image on the blog and website, something visual that would grab people’s eyes and permeate their brains with a dire need to read the novel.

There’s a park in the novel that plays a key symbolic role. I figured the entrance to the park would make a great graphic but I didn’t have any photos of park entrances that matched the idea and to tell the truth, I couldn’t settle on any one type of entrance. I worried about this until my hair fell out. About an hour later, I was looking at pictures that I’d taken during my last trip to Cuba and I came across one that practically screamed to be a cover photo. Plus, wonder of wonders, it was at least loosely connected to the novel…very loosely…but connected.

Here’s what it looked like….

Book Cover Verticall

There was something about this image that reflected the mood of the novel and it was easily resized and cropped for any number of graphical needs, like thumbnail buttons and page headers.

So…I had a cover graphic and a novel. What I needed now was a hook, something that would make people say: “Hey! What the hell is going on here? I need to investigate!” Something like that.

The best way to do this is to grab the potential reader’s sense of mystery. I asked myself, “Is there a mystery in The Weekly Man? And the answer was…yes…and more than one…and they could all be summed up with a phrase everybody in the entire world already knows: Nothing is as it seems.

And nothing in The Weekly Man is as it seems.

The only question now was: If you build the world’s first daily serialized coffee shop novel, will they come and read it?

To be continued…

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