Collaboration and Editing in a Storyverse

with Clark Chamberlain and Peter Turley

Listen to the episode:

Fiction Vortex’s David Mark Brown and Michael C Cluff join Clark Chamberlain to discuss their writing collaboration and what it’s like to edit in a storyverse.

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Are you ready to take your writing to the next level then? Welcome to the book. Ed Show joined Clark Chamberlain and Peter Turley each week as they teach you all the tips, tools and techniques you need to move your book from manuscript to market. Visit the book editor, show dotcom for schnooks, links to guest books and extras to make your old novel better than ever. Now, please welcome Clark Chamberlain and Peter Turley. Welcome back to the book at her show.

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I know it’s been a long time, but we are back today. We’ll be talking about collaboration and editing in a story first. And unfortunately, the angelic voice of Peter Turley will not be joining us. But I do have two amazing guests, David Mark Brown and Michael Seacliff.

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Michael attended Boise State University, where he focused on creative writing after multiple classes with author Alan Niekerk. He started editing his book, Boult. It was during that time he discovered his neck and love for editing while Mark R. while David Mark Brown started writing full time in 2010. And at that point he determined that the independent route would be the one for him. That’s where his focus has been ever since. His writing passion quickly landed on short episodic stories around 10000 words each.

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And of course, at that time, the only people he could find doing serial fiction in a similar matter were Sean Platt, Dave and David Wright with yesterday’s gone. And that form made sense to him. And of course, these two in 2010 started small writing Project Journal with two other friends, and it was called Three Words, One Story, and they published Flash Fiction. Nine hundred fifty three words, Max. And this has just turned into some amazing things.

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I had a great opportunity to meet with the fiction vortex while I was at LTV this spring, and I was just blown away with what they’re doing. Plus the fact that you guys are also in Idaho on the other side of the state. But here and I’m just really glad to have you on the show.

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How are you guys doing? Doing good things. Yeah, doing good. Excellent. So what has this year been bringing you? In the world of story, in the world of story, wow, well, this year has been about mostly preparation for launching our version 1.0 of our mobile app. So we have been scaling up and adding authors like crazy. I don’t know. Mike, you want to throw a little bit about some of the story verses and stuff that we’ve been.

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Crying Yeah, a year ago this time, we only had three story verses, one was actually David’s that he’d been working on for a while. Another one was one that was a collaboration between. Together, the basically the David, myself and guys. And then we came across some guys from England that wanted to start one, they’ve already had a script writing website where they just did a bunch of collaborative collaboration on script writing. And that was just a year ago.

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Since that time, we’ve been able to grab a few more story versus we have ashfall, which is an urban paranormal. That’s the one that’s live right now. And then we’re going to have. We have a bunch of them in the hopper right now, that’s the that’s the hard thing to pick up the whole time if we we went over all of them. But we’ve got some cool ones. We got quite a bit. That’s postapocalyptic. We’ve got steampunk one called Gear Gears, Gunpowder and Souls of Metal.

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Magic is just like your classic unicorn versus dragons. And all of these have multiple, multiple series going in them already. So that’s been a big part of our of our last year is just really getting to know these guys and gals that are that are writing for us and helping them develop their story world.

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And that’s really cool. And I think it’s a it’s an interesting way how this all came together. I mean, starting with flash fiction.

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So take me through, you know, where you’re at now, where you’ve got this huge story versus you work with multiple authors on some more episodic type pieces. But it started off with writing under a thousand words. So take me through that.

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So I’m going to throw David under the bus a little bit. He actually wasn’t I don’t even know David at that time for that one. It was actually two friends and myself went to LTA back in 2010. We were sitting there waiting for a class to start. And we all three of us said, well, our lives aren’t going to like it if we actually don’t do any writing. Why were you here to write in conference? We better. Do some writing while we’re here, so darn hope he pulled up a word generator, pulled up three random words.

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Additive and believe to additives and. That’s where that started, wee wee wee broke some flash fiction off of that, just right on the spot was a fun. We got home a week later. I emailed the guy and said, we got to do this as a site. This is really fun. We did nine hundred fifty three words just because everybody was doing a thousand. We wanted to be a little bit of stinkers and do the more hardcore.

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Yeah. Yeah. And the three words were the three words that you’re giving that you’re, you’re supposed to use those in there. And so we, we have that going for a while. It was just it was just a glorified writing group was fun, though. We had probably about 10 different authors contributing to it. Two of which were just sort of your. Organic heads off of Google, they found is that way and submitted to us and it was fun, it was a fun little thing.

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There some great fiction that came out of it. We wanted to make it. More legit, I guess you could say, and so we started Fiction Vortex. Next, we had somebody that was willing to back us a little bit financially. And so with that, we started the second vortex we went through. The short story circuit for probably about. Three years, two years into that, that’s when I met David and we got involved with fictional war shortly after that.

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Our benefactor actually, due to some market issues or stuff like that, had to drop out and so we were about ready to close down fiction vortex. And David said, hey, we’ve been developing this shared story world together and this writing group on the site. What fiction vortex is about shared story worlds and and writing episodic fiction, because you’d already been doing that for a while and he wanted to leverage a lot of the readers we had in everything and really use that as a good platform.

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So we went for it. And that’s where David, that was probably, what, about three years ago, four years ago, that we changed the focus. Yeah, probably a little over three years ago when we shipped it over and said, hey, let’s let’s do this work on this together.

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Well, let’s let’s pause it for just a moment and explain what these we’re using the term story versus you’ve got people in different authors working in these.

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Explain a little bit more about what story verse is about what fiction vortex is doing that is really, honestly very unique in what’s happening right now in the indie publishing world. Sure, you want me to take a stab at it first, Mike? Yeah, go for it. Well, the story versus our shared story whorls. So think of Marvel, think of Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever your sort of favorite example is where you might have multiple series all going, but within a shared framework.

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So, you know, some of the story verses that we’re working on, the writers are overlapping quite a bit. They share characters, they share all this and the same like the ashfall story versus all within Ashbolt. And so they have their characters kind of crossing paths with each other and different things going on within this weird paranormal city of ash falls. While some of the other story versus the hybrid versus the one that we we originated the process with is a massive kind of post humans space opera.

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So some of the series take place a thousand years after the others, but they’re all shared world share rules. So that way it gives us that scaffolding to to share and to collaborate with and to work off of. We develop that together. So all of the story verses that we have going now, there’s a story over his head that is in charge of kind of organizing everybody, getting everybody on the same page, making sure that stuff is fitting together and just in and gives the author’s kind of a sandbox environment to play around and to come in and throw their own ideas and kick off from a starting point and write and be able to accomplish more collaboratively.

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And and that way, within that story verse, when it goes live, you know, we’re able to push out a new usually they average around ten thousand words an episode so we can push out a new episode on a weekly basis out of that shared story world.

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And if so, if you’ve got an offer that’s working in a particular story for a story world, do you ever have to come in and be like, oh, that is that’s going way off from where we see this world being? Like you said, you had someone that’s kind of almost like a guess, I would say a show runner. Like the you’ve got someone who’s kind of in charge of the world. Yeah, so a good example is as follows again, that came from a short story that was submitted to us.

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Told the we told the author, Jeremy Schofield, we said this is a great story or stories, but we love the world you’ve developed. That and we said, hey, you know, this is our concept, our story concept expand, would you like to expand your world and get some more authors involved in it? And yeah, he took us up on it. And he’s been he’s he’s our. Working really hard. He actually has helped through his systems to help us set up a lot of our.

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Procedures and things like that. But he yeah, he’s the one that he can moderate back and say, hey, that’s not part of what we’re going through. What are stories about and he can. That way, we’ve had a few different cereals that we wanted to see if he’d be interested in. He wasn’t he wasn’t interested in those. So they’re authors. Other other boxes were our story verses were created. Heard they went over and found ways to mesh with the different ones, so there’s some flexibility, but reverse Head does have a final say on who comes in to their group.

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That’s really cool and gives, of course, you know, some direction, it kind of reminds me at one point in time, of course, we’ve seen it in the Marvel movies. They’ve done a pretty decent job of linking things together. Sometimes in the actual Marvel comic books they don’t like heroes are out doing their own thing. And they’re like, well, last issue, he was over here in the Spider-Man book and now he’s over there in the X-Men book or something.

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But there was a short period of time. They did this for a little while. It’s called Marvel now. And they worked really hard to, like, tie every single book together so that what was happening in one book was happening in the other books and all these types of things. So but to be able to get that level of that’s got to be difficult. Like being able to like because how many authors do you have writing in one of your story versus at a time.

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Typically, yes, go ahead. Now, usually about four to five.

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So for an editor, for an editor to to get all this stuff together and connect all this to tell me how does that process work? Yes, like I said, we’ve been learning the process because it’s a new platform, but we’ve we we heavily utilize. We’ll drive, we created a Google Drive filesystem format that they all have to use every single one. So there’s that continuity between them all. And so it’s easy for me as an editor, David, as an editor and some of our other editors to be able to step in and just say, hey, I want to find this episode, I want to find this process, and it’s all right there.

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So that was one of the first things we had to do. The other thing we do is lots of communication between each other. We we use the program to really talk with each other. Lots of the nice thing is with that is it can just every every story verse has its own conversation on Slack. So it’s not like on Facebook where you’re just getting bombed with everything that’s not necessarily relevant to your exact project. So it’s a it’s a way to help our authors focus and then we can jump back and forth between those conversations and put where we can.

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And they give us notifications where. But Google Drive is definitely one of the biggest things that we use when it comes to actually collaborating and doing peer feedback and the final edits.

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Another thought I just had with all of this is like, so again, tell me how many story versus you’re running right at this moment, running right at this moment?

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Is it four or five, David Lewis? Yeah, we just got the four that have gone live at the white events ready to go. We’re just waiting on the app that we’ve we’ve got 10 and process 10 or 11 in process.

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And we want to triple double that number of double, quadruple that number by this time next year.

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That’s really cool. So if so, as you’ve been building these other ones, tell me, how does that start? I mean, I’m sure it starts from a short story or an idea, but like, how does that expand then into a story versus the universe with which you can start to invite other authors? Because, I mean, there’s some that just seem like, yeah, this is a cool story, but it probably wouldn’t make into a whole bunch of other stories as well as some maybe genres or specific areas.

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Yeah, I think that the Wizards and Spaceland is a really interesting example. So it’s a satire, one that we just recently started developing and that one actually began trying to remember. We we wanted to start a satire storyboards. Right. Right, right. Yeah. And so we were like, OK, we really want to move into the direction of satire. We had some interesting satire submissions, but nothing that really seemed like it would like you were saying, Clarke, nothing that really would work very well to create the scaffolding for everyone else to join in.

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And then we got the Guild Employees Gambit submissive. So you want to go into the rest of that, Mike, doesn’t have that really caught our imagination. We like that one. Well, yeah, and he that was Eugene that submitted that Eugene Margulies and he. I probably butchered your last name right there. He he submitted the story we like once again, we’re like we’re not doing short story format and this doesn’t really fit any of our existing story verses, but we thought it was hilarious.

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The story was absolutely hilarious. So we we asked him if we wanted to start his own story verse. And then we see that one of the great things about having. Freeze for three years was fiction or text beforehand, is that we have this treasure trove of authors. Can dip back into and we can reach out to him. We’ve actually brought back four or five different authors from the original fiction Vortex magazine to start writing. Writing their series within within story versus So.

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We put that out there and with Eugene, though, we said, hey. Once we get some some ideas or some other ideas that can work in your box, we’ll send them your way and you can talk with them. And we also put it up on the website. We said, hey, we’ve got Wizards’ in space. It’s a satire fantasy. High fantasy science fiction. We need to fill it, and that’s when submissions start to come in for it, and so Eugene was very much part of that process.

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People would reach out to us through our submissions, email, and then we turn around and say, OK, Eugene, we got this one. Take a look. If you want to reach out to them, here’s the email we’d look at the authors say we tell them, hey, we’ll go ahead and send this over to our story head and they’ll take a look and we’ll get back with you. Ultimately, he’s the one that took over that and we didn’t do any recruitment for it.

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Well, that’s really cool and definitely that the author is starting certainly has a vision of what it is that they’re trying to create. And so being able to have that creative control there, that’s really powerful. There was a question that’s asked on the feed over on YouTube.

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Are the are are there overlaps and or adaptations between different story versus.

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That’s a good that’s a good question. We’ve talked about doing that we we have our steampunk alternate history story verse that was largely set in the United States, the Western, the Western Hemisphere, and partially. The old world, England and France, but we also had a really cool steampunk story that was set in during the Boxer Rebellion and we were going to have those to be their own separate story versus unfortunately, the author had to back out just for now.

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But that was a plan, one is going to be a lot of the same genre and there was going to be some overlap between the two of them. Peter overlaps, we haven’t planned that. We do have one common theme, though, that I’ve noted that’s already in at least led to this story versus what, the superintelligent sasquatches?

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OK, so that’s that’s an Easter egg. Yeah, that’s that’s that’s an inside running joke with with us. I’ll give everybody jokes with the original group. One night during our writers group, we’re sitting around coming up with just crazy bad names. Because because why not? Yeah, why not? The one of them that David came up with was a gallon jug punch. So in the hybrid verse, every story in the hybrid verse, you’re going to see a point where a small, diminutive person comes out and lands one between somebody’s legs.

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So that’s that’s an straight look or that. And then the other one. The other one is. Is the superintelligent Sasquatch and where we in one of our story versus we’ve got it under development right now, they play a larger part, but in David’s to David stories in the hybrid verse, they play a part as well. You get introduced to one by the people finding that severed arm.

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It ends up that the Sasquatch is actually the most ancient entity in the universe and that they’ve been here much, much longer than people and they really know what’s going on. So you’ll find Sasquatch is all over the universe and different planets. It’s just that.

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So that’s just a little thing that we’ve done. And we and yeah, there is I guess you could say it’s public domain. There’s certain things we have their public domain. We haven’t had many. Reverse authors and heads want to branch out beyond that quite yet, because I still think they are establishing we’re basically basing it off of sort of a TV format, their first season of their stories and their series within within that story versus. Yeah, so all these authors have be a lot more of that.

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They’ll be under contract to finish a single season and then after they finish that season, we’ve already had a couple of people that have kind of finished their rough draft process of an entire season with that one story verse. And they’ve been like, OK, can I go right over in this story verse? And so then they’ll jump over and begin on a season and a different story verse. And I think the more of that we see with authoress kind of finishing a season here and then going over and doing a season here, we’ll start to see more invitation’s between those different story versus kind of collaborating a little bit because they’ll be so much crossover with the authors.

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And how many how many would say, episodes or stories or in a season. Eight to 12 usually. And have you have you moved any from one season into another season? Do you have any that are multiple now or are we all still just in season one? So far, we haven’t. And I started watching season two stuff and chiasm it, I can’t remember. You haven’t started launching, but you’ve you’ve got under development. I know you’ve got some something.

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I’ve got some of the stuff written in. So I think some of the authors have come in and just planned from the beginning. I’m going to do one season and I’m going to you know, I’m planning to resolve all of my my at least threads in my story arc over that one season. And then I know some of the other authors and a lot of the stuff that I’ve been working on. I’m planning three to five seasons worth of content on some of these series, and that’s really cool.

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So now that you’ve been doing collaboration for this long, I wonder some, because this seems like a very smart way to do writing in the new world.

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And it seems like it’s a it’s a great way. I mean, we’ve seen it in Hollywood for a long time in the writers rooms. You know, different people bring different strengths to the table. So how let’s say someone has not done any kind of collaboration. What are some of the pitfalls that they should be aware of? What are some of the things that they should be looking for before they start collaborating with somebody else? So one of the things I mentioned that we use slack.

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Our authors and they communicate largely with each other. We have some general conversations that all of them are involved with and they communicate really well. One of the things. Process is even just within its individual story versus if. Communication, at least every other day we check in. Keep people from the cracks, they get left behind and there’s there can be some changes, there can be some new developments within those story versus amongst the authors that are actively participating.

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Virgin’s space, I had to mute that conversation because I would start reading it and just start laughing and laughing and not getting anything done because those guys are constantly communicating. So. Because I’d bring up. First of all, first of all, is you have to communicate with each other. I mean, I know a lot of authors are introverts by nature, creatures of comfort in their own little writing space or their coffee shop, wherever they may be.

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But you have to branch out and work with somebody else and you have to offer up a bit of trust to I mean, you are you are putting your your. Manuscript’s baby on the sacrificial altar of three to four other authors to work with and potentially tear apart. Luckily, we haven’t had any. Any issues with authors being upset about the development that their series have taken? Consensus, all of them are pretty happy that they’ve had the peer feedback because it’s like a beta reader group.

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And Philip, their work is stronger for it. So getting over that initial hurdle of, OK, do I want to trust these people with my work is a big part of the collaboration and the ashfall story versus the one that kind of started the spreadsheet for shared characters and places.

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And since they have so much in left, they they basically have a spreadsheet where they put all of their stuff. That’s like these characters and places are open for, you know, derivative stuff. And then, like, I’m keeping this guy over here. I don’t want anybody to to use this character. I mean, if you need to mention name or whatever, you can ask me and I’ll make sure he’s mentioned properly. But that way they kind of kept it straight where they can cross over and where they don’t really want people messing with their stuff.

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Yeah, that makes total sense, you know, because and it’s probably one of the biggest fears for the Star Wars universe now in the hands of Disney, you know that Vader opening up a bagel stand someplace or something like that because, you know, they’re going to be making some movies like that, you know, going to the comedy side of all of it on Christmas special.

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Again, I’m fine. Yes.

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So how how are readers finding you?

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Well, at this point, we are focusing mostly on the app and so the readers that have found us so far, we did a Kickstarter probably like 18 months ago or so, 20, 20 some months ago, and found kind of a little initial audience that gave us a base that’s helped us bootstrap since then so that we knew there would be at least some people reading and giving us some feedback. And since then, it’s really been about let’s let’s figure out the system.

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Let’s how do we do this? Is it workable? Are people interested? Can we prove the model? And so we’ve used our little WordPress website to kind of organize stuff and prove the model. And we we can push a few episodes here and there. But we’ve been building out our mobile app, which is supposed to be. Going public in the Iowa store today, so we’ll see if that actually happens. Yeah, and so that’s where our focus is now.

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I mean, we’ve we’ve landed a major promotional deal with a pretty popular YouTube channel that will get a couple of promotions to our target audience over the summer and the fall. And so the plan is really to try. This is what we’re trying to do. We need to appear on the scene as magically as possible so that, you know, we we hit hopefully somewhere in the at least hundreds of thousands of downloads, if not a few million downloads at the exact same time that we populate the app with about 50 to one hundred different series that are all ready to be read within these 10 story verses.

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So if we can pull that all together at once to where there is plenty of stuff for people to read and plenty of readers hitting the platform at once, and all the authors are releasing content on a regular schedule, then hopefully within several months people will be like, whoa, where did this come from?

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Yeah, which should be absolutely amazing and wonderful and for your authors as well. And to talk about authors, if. If you if an author is listening to this and is interested in having an opportunity maybe to work with you or having you take a look at their work, how do they go about submitting or application or application process or what’s involved in that? So we have we have that on the website right now, we have our submission process and our guidelines.

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Basically, we want a short. Pilot many episode submitted to us anywhere from thirty five hundred words for thousand words, Max, because this is basically a tryout. We want to see if the authors have the ability to present a world in a short fiction format, show that it’s a rich world that has some depth, show that they have writing skills. And also and this is really important because with the episodic format, it’s not the same as writing chapters.

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We want to see a complete story arc within that very short submission. It’s not the way that all the episodes are going to be after that, because those are going to be ranging anywhere, depending on the age group you’re focusing on. That is going to be ranging anywhere from five thousand on up to 12000 words. We know the trial process and we we shop the via the story around to the story versus heads, if they don’t, the people tell us they want to insert a specific story versus they say it’s a specific story versus turn right over to that head.

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And we’ve had a few lately that are just trying to come up with their own story version themselves and start that slow process. And they submitted to submissions at at a fictional Texas dot com. I was just going to ask and so it is just fiction, fiction, vortex, dotcom is the site. Yes, yes.

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So as we’re wrapping things up here, I really appreciate you guys being on. Is there anything that you’d like to add that we didn’t hit, that you’d want people to know about what you’re doing? Guess the name of the app itself is fiction, right? So our website is Fiction Vortex, and then if people want to keep an eye out for the app, it’s fiction or fiction. I know is the website and the fiction. I should be hitting the store real soon and then it’ll be hitting Droid within the next couple of weeks as well.

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And it’s we call it fiction because we came up with as it’s an element, it’s the unlimited element, because really we’re trying to prevent our present stories that have. Path that people can take, they don’t like this series, hop on to another series, if they do like a series, they can be like, oh look, there’s four other series with the same story world that I can go get lost into. So one of our tagline is come join the story.

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What are the other things that we’ve got going on with the app that we haven’t hit on very much is we’re trying to make it not so much to choose your own adventure, but have to have some story dynamics so that there is some communication between readers and authors and a game of find the reading process so people can. And use points to, you know, maybe kill off a character, create a character or choose a plot, things like that, and not all the authors are signing up for the dynamic option, but some of them are really excited about that and already have it built into their stories.

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And it’s going to be fun to be really involved in a in the story. And once it’s once it’s finished season, then it’s it’s hard, hard published. Work can’t be altered or anything like that, those people can go back and read that like that, that was that was my influence on that point right there. And that that’s going to be fun. Well, that’s really cool, that’s really cool and I really appreciate Mike David, I really appreciate you guys being here.

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Everyone go check them out. Fiction vortex, dotcom and the app, which will be soon available. Fiction night and I’ll be all right. Yes, OK, excellent. So sweet.

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And and then available on iOS and Android very shortly.

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So if you like this show, please leave us a review on iTunes or like here on YouTube, share it with your friends and your enemies.

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And also don’t forget, check out the book ed show dot com slash forward slash potter. You can get the brand new advanced novel writing with Harry Potter, of course, which is fun and wonderful. And even if you just want to go and watch the little trailer video, I guarantee you’re going to have a little bit of a laugh. So at any rate, I appreciate everyone being on the show today and I will talk to you soon.

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Thank you for listening and come back next week. For more, please visit the book editor show dot com for show notes, links to guest books and extras, and for information on how to be a guest on the show.

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