You see, I’ve long been a fan of superhero comics. My first experiences in writing were writing superhero stories, initially in elementary school crafting tales about my friends and I gaining powers and later writing Marvel and DC fanfiction for a variety of websites.
But when I made the decision to break into writing original stories, I didn’t even think about doing a superhero series. I’m not sure if it was fear or lack of desire or what, but the thought just never entered into my head. So when I did get the idea of an original team of superheroes, I began scribbling out ideas for characters.
When I sat down to write the very first Vanguard novel, I hit a roadblock about 10,000 words in. There was something missing. I knew I wanted to write something that was influenced by the X-Men and Avengers comics of the Bronze Age that I loved so much, but something just wasn’t clicking. I felt like my major villain was being introduced far too early. I felt like he needed more build-up behind the scenes, but how could I do that when a novel is supposed to be one complete story?
Then I thought I’ll just save that villain for a later novel and in this first one, I’ll find another threat. But all the other threats I came up with just didn’t seem grand enough for the first novel. They were all perfectly good for a build-up, but as the central plot in a whole novel dedicated to them? It just didn’t fit.
Around this time, I discovered Write, Publish, Repeat, a book on self-publishing by Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright, the hosts of the Self Publishing Podcast. One of the things they did, especially early on, was write serials. Instead of doing a novel, they would write shorter episodes and release them only in ebook form on a weekly schedule. Then once all the episodes were out, they’d collect them in a season set and publish that in both print and digital formats.
Suddenly, everything clicked.
The reason the novel format wasn’t working for me is because it’s not what I wanted to do. The superhero comics I loved and wanted to pay homage to were serialized. I was doing a disservice to myself by trying to force a format on it that didn’t fit.
But the serial format, that opened a whole new world for me. Now I could write those smaller stories about these smaller threats. Not enough to fill a novel, sure. But they provided the perfect amount of story for the shorter episodes. And that would also allow me to build up a larger threat in the background which would culminate in the final episode of the season.
The result was the first season of Vanguard, and I’m very proud of the result. Writing in this format has given me a new appreciation for different styles of storytelling. I feel like I have a lot more freedom when writing a serial to explore the characters bit by bit, to switch perspectives, and to take risks. The second season (launching September 21st) doesn’t even feature all the characters of the team. Now that they’ve all been introduced, I can take the time to phase out some characters for an episode or two in order to focus on others. I can bring back villains I’d like to use again even if they’re not intended as a major threat.
And it’s given me the chance to play with some longer-form storytelling. I’ve got an overarching five-season plan for Vanguard. Now that I’ve finished the second season, that plan is beginning to take larger shape. And with each episode, I get deeper and deeper into that plan. As I do, I get even more excited about this series.