The most difficult thing I find about writing a weekly serial is the editing. Not the pre-post editing but as I advance through the story things I wish I could go back and change. If I knew then what I know now I might’ve had a different first episode, there are places where I think I could improve the prose, things I wish I’d included or taken out, the list goes on.
Despite this if there is one thing you do get from a weekly serial it’s forward momentum because you know you have to have something ready every week, even if you aren’t entirely happy with it. There have been a few last minute revisions and rewrites, but this tends to be the same for any piece of writing. It’s simply that when you know it’s going to be published the next day you feel hyperaware of the fact that if there’s a typo or messy sentence someone’s going to see it.
While there is the possibility of going back to a post and simply changing it, which I have done for typos, that seems like cheating readers by trying to cover mistakes. It also seems unfair if a reader returns to reread and discovers a different story in the place of the original. I’ve got a few ideas for turning there’s editing issues into a revised and expanded edition but these can’t be set in stone until the end of the series.
The problem with not having a complete draft isn’t simply editing changes you’d like to make to earlier episodes it’s also keeping far enough ahead to give yourself a decent amount of time to edit the story before you publish it. Although I mentioned last minute revisions and rewrites these were on episodes written and edited in advance but seemed to be missing something. If I hadn’t had the time to contemplate the episodes then I wouldn’t have got the idea in time.
Although it varies, depending on how my ideas well is doing, I generally like to keep about six episodes ahead. This gives me six weeks to mull the episode and, if necessary, move episodes around or add episodes. There are a few episodes that didn’t happen in the order they do now or simply didn’t happen in the original sequence. So for every idea I had retrospectively there’s one that wouldn’t have happened without an editing window.
Perhaps if I hadn’t written this article series I could’ve pretended that it was all planned out and there were no mistakes but even writers with plans don’t have an infallible creative process.