How does a writer successfully craft a cohesive, engaging story that offers readers over 500 different storyline possibilities where they decide, by their own impulses, whether it ends happily ever after or not? The answer: With ingenuity, a special flair for storytelling, and a little help from an ambitious editor.
Author Travis Sentell went beyond the ordinary romance novel when he wrote Fluid, a digital novel that uses today’s ebook technology to completely transform the “choose-your-own-adventure” reading experience. It’s truly a unique approach to crafting a story because readers have the ultimate control over how the characters interact, and how the story eventually ends. “In Fluid, readers nudge the thoughts and actions of key characters, resulting in over 500 different pathways through a sprawling literary romance novel. You have only yourself to blame as the world burns or rejoices,” Sentell explains.
Fluid is both the large story of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, and the small story of two lost teenagers, Chastity and Austin, yearning for connection in a greedy, manipulative world. As often as fate throws them together, life after reincarnated life, so too does fate rip them apart, time after time. When they once again meet face-to-face in Dr. Abramson’s office, it’s time for the doctor himself to play a role in deciding whether they will ultimately be together or live apart forever. As God and the Devil watch and plot, conspiring to destroy or create true love, the clock ticks and nothing short of the end of all Creation is at stake.
Right Editor + Right Publisher = Awesome
“It is a difficult book to edit, with many divergent story lines, possibilities and endings,” Sentell acknowledges. But I’m always up for a good challenge and an exciting project, so I was in. “Early on in the project,” Sentell says, “Ambitious Enterprises helped to craft and shape the central narrative of a fairly sprawling and experimental novel. Ally was responsive, intelligent, and firm with her feedback, going above and beyond the call of duty to do what was best for the book. In the end, she helped me deliver a fantastic final product to the marketplace.”
Sentell knew from the start that finding the right outlet for this unique project would be difficult. With the help of his agent, he discovered Coliloquy, a publisher he knew would be able to fulfill his vision for Fluid. “Coliloquy is a new, digital-media publisher out of Silicon Valley. They were doing new things, and Fluid is a new type of book, and it seemed to be a natural fit. The book couldn’t really exist in any other form, and no other publisher had the available technology to execute it properly,” describes Sentell.
Coliloquy and Fluid launched about the same time, resulting in a great flurry of press for Sentell. “Reviewers and journalists were intrigued by the format and interested by the content, so the phone calls came fast and furiously. I received a boatload of positive reviews on Amazon, and was featured in the magazine The Daily with a very positive review.”
Now, as he speaks to book clubs around the country, he’s really enjoying meeting his fans. But despite the early and immediate media attention, Sentell wishes he would have had a more developed, more complete advertising strategy prior to the launch of the book. “It’s a complicated, busy media world out there, and it’s very easy for books to get lost in the shuffle,” he explains. [I urge you to check out these fascinating promo videos in which Sentell challenges strangers to help him experiment with free will and predestination. I bet you can’t figure out how he performs these magical tricks! If you crave more after viewing these—and I think you will—you can find more videos on Sentell’s own site here.]
Luckily, Sentell was able to grasp the opportunities uncovered by the media whirlwind and wasn’t afraid to pursue new outlets for his digital adventure. “Fluid comes out on iPad and iPhone soon,” he reveals, “so I’m preparing to advertise and hopefully to introduce myself to a whole new group of fans!”
If only Sentell had had a crystal ball to see what the final product was going to look like—he says he would have hired Ambitious Enterprises sooner and saved himself some time. “I took a lot of wrong turns trying to get the narrative crafted,” he admits. Yet, the experience he gained through the writing, editing, and publishing process has allowed him to grow as a writer and extract new stories from unexpected places as he travels the country promoting Fluid.
Advice for Hopeful Authors
Sentell encourages hopeful authors to stick to a schedule and write every day. “Like everything else, it’s a job and you should treat it as such,” he says. He also recommends writing a steady stream of short fiction and submitting it for publication, as well as making efforts to find your local writing community. “There are tons of reading and storytelling events springing up across the country – find your local groups and go meet other writers. It will definitely help your drive, creativity and discipline.” His best advice for developing ideas is to have as many adventures as possible and to always carry a notebook as you figure out where you want to go next. “Time moves quickly, so make sure you’re sending time on projects that matter to you, stories and characters that you love!” he recommends. “Also, don’t forget to make tons of mistakes. They make for the best stories.”