Should you write serial fiction? I get lots of questions about serials, so let’s cover the basics.
You may be wondering just what “serials” are. In a nutshell, they’re entertainment: ongoing stories, which are released serially.
Serials: storytelling in many forms
Serials were hugely popular with readers and viewers up to the 1950s, when television arrived.
They were published as books by authors like Charles Dickens. Many other authors published their serials in magazines. Once a serial was complete, it was published again in book form, in one, or several volumes.
Movies were released as serials in theaters, again up to the 1950s. From the 1950s onward, serials flourished as episodic TV series.
Today, serials are as popular as they ever were, with companies like Netflix releasing their shows as serials.
You may be thinking that that’s wonderful… but can YOU write a serial and publish it?
Serial fiction: fun for plotters and pantsers
My writing students are sometimes reluctant to attempt a serial. Pantsers are concerned that they “can’t plot”, and plotters worry about the success or failure of their serial.
Pantsers who “can’t plot”…
You might be surprised at your own abilities, because if you can write a short story, you can write a series of ongoing short stories. Then, hey presto: you just wrote a serial.
We discussed a “natural outlining” process which will help.
Serial fiction: how long should your serial be?
In Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks I give you a process for writing serial fiction.
Your serial can be any length you choose. Your serial might consist of: ten chapters/ episodes at 10,000 words each, making a total of 100,000 words. That said, there’s no need to write at this length. You can write five episodes of 6,000 words or whatever suits your story.
Another common question I receive about serials is: what if your serial doesn’t sell enough copies to make it viable?
Oh no: what to do if your serial fiction slumps
Some books sell. Others should sell, and don’t. Sometimes these books can suddenly take off months later. Some are just useless. It happens.
Here’s what to do if your serial slumps:
- Decide whether or not to complete it. You can end your serial at any time. Wrap it up, in any way you can;
- If you enjoy writing the serial, keep going, and finish it;
- Bundle the serial into a single volume. It may sell as a standalone;
- Expand your serial into one or more novels.
You always have options.
One of my writing students was planning a serial. She had a LOT of plot. I suggested that she write a short serial of just five episodes, then carry the plot forward into a trilogy of short novels.
This process worked well. She released the serial when she had the first novel in the trilogy ready for preorder. Then she published the next two novels quickly. This trilogy is still her top seller.
Should you write serial fiction?
If you like writing short stories and publishing quickly, give serial fiction a try. Serials are a lot of fun, and readers enjoy them.
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.
If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.More info →
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →