Serial fiction has been a hot trend for a while. Some readers love it, others hate it. Authors who write serials are in in the “love” camp. After all, a successful serial can earn big bucks, so what’s not to love about that?
In a sense, writing a serial is like writing a novel. It’s one long story, released as a part-work. That’s the big difference between writing serial fiction, and writing a series.
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In another sense, writing a serial is NOT like writing a novel. With a novel, you can set up your story in a couple of chapters, and then write, with rising action, until the climax. Serial fiction has LOTS of climaxes — to keep readers reading — while maintaining one storyline.
I’m fond of saying that when you’re writing fiction, the end is in the beginning, and that’s especially true of serials. You set up your ending at the beginning.
Does that mean that you need to do extensive plotting?
Plotting your serial: a lot, or a little?
You don’t need to do extensive plotting; I don’t. I’m a pantser by nature and inclination, so I plot when necessary. If plotting terrifies you, relax… you can get comfortable with it.
As we’ve said, you need to know how you’ll end your serial, otherwise it leads to procrastination, and tortured writing.
So, if you’re writing a mystery, you need to know your sleuth is, who died and why, and who the killer is. Your sleuth also needs a string of internal and external challenges, so that you can end each episode with readers eager to know what happens next.
If you’re writing a romance, you need to know who your romantic leads are, and why they can’t be together.
Think about your voice for your serial: who’s your main character?
I don’t mean your literary voice. “Voice” tends to get talked about in literary circles and it’s rubbish. You’re a writer. You have a voice that’s compounded of your likes, dislikes, life experience, and the way you use language. You don’t need to struggle to achieve it.
The voice in your serial is that of your point of view (POV) character. Think about how you can make that voice — that style of writing, if you like — exciting to the readers who read in your genre.
For example, I enjoy John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series. I’ve read all of them. I also love Wingfield’s Inspector Frost series. I enjoy those books because I love the characters. Those books are written in a certain way. There’s a distinctive voice.
You’re asking readers who buy the episodes of your serial to spend time with you. Write your serial so that it appeals to them.
That said, when you’re writing, just write. A voice, or tone, or style will either develop, or it won’t. If it does, it’s wonderful. You’ll find writing your series much easier.
A beginning, an ending, a glimmer of plot and a main character: start writing
The fun of writing serials is the writing. You’ll discover your story as readers do. So, when you’ve got the above elements, start writing. 🙂
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Article updated June 8, 2016.