Serialized fiction has venerable bloodlines, packed with the DNA of Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy and Melville. Generally, these writers published chapters of future novels in popular magazines that paid well and built the authors’ audiences. Such opportunities are rare for writers these days, but the pull of piecemeal literature is still strong.
Norwich resident Rebecca Munsterer, 34, has put a modern spin on the serial format. Since March, she’s been posting one page per day of her novel The Stonehouse Caper on a custom website she calls Novel Nibble.
An admissions counselor at Dartmouth College, Munsterer hit on the idea when she heard a colleague complaining that her favorite soap opera had been canceled, depriving her of a daily escape from reality. Munsterer, who has a master’s degree in creative writing, was working on a short story at the time and realized she could provide that escape by elongating her narrative and breaking it down into bite-size morsels. She wanted each page to make sense on its own and as part of the whole.
“I had to create almost my own literary genre,” Munsterer recalls. “There would be these stand-alone pages with a beginning and end, but at the same time it had to fit into the bigger picture.”
After about three months of planning, Munsterer paid for a web-design firm to build her a site that looks like a book page and allows readers to flip back and forth among pages. She can load multiple pages onto the site, which is programmed to release a new one each day.
Without an editor, however, the process has been a little stressful. “I don’t even look at it in the morning, because it’s too nerve-wracking to see my errors,” Munsterer says. She’s keeping track of the mistakes but not fixing them on the website. “I feel like it would be foul play,” she explains.
The confines of a single page have proved difficult for storytelling. For instance, it’s hard to introduce new characters, write extended dialogue or include rich descriptions of people and places, because Munsterer has to save room for plot and a narrative arc. But she’s gained a modest following and receives constant queries from other writers looking to self-publish.
From the start, Munsterer planned to end the story after a year. She’s sticking to that schedule, but admits it’s been tough to keep up with the page-a-day mandate. Also, “it’s getting a little old,” she acknowledges. “The story should have ended by now.”
Munsterer doesn’t want to print the novel when it’s finished, asserting that it wouldn’t be good to read in a traditional way. Instead, she intends to write a few page-a-day short stories. “I love this nibble idea,” she says. “I think part of it is just my personality, the ADD in me keeping it short.”
The project definitely got Munsterer noticed. Shortly after starting The Stonehouse Caper, she signed a contract to write a kids’ holiday novel, Mrs. Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit, which came out last month.
"Mrs. Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit" by Rebecca Munsterer, In This Together Media (download or print on demand), 123 pages. $2.99. novelnibble.com