Writing A Serial

A serial is a different kind of medium, where works can go on for years before it ends. It isn’t a novel where each book must standalone. It is more fluid these days, although the expectation is that the chapters can be read independently. 

I write serials because I realize that the best way to ensure that my works remain the consistency that it would have was through  the story. And allow me to constantly think of ways to spice things up. 

And so far I enjoy writing it. Serials fell out of fashion when books became cheaper, though it was popular in the 19th century when paper was a luxury. Charles Dickens mainly wrote his stories as such, and his works were collected into a novel volume after being published. The Lord of the Rings is another example. 

If you’re interested in writing one, here are some tips for it. I have been writing a serial for a full year now, and it has been an interesting experience even as I know that it meant for me more than a novel series actually was. 

#1 Serials are not novels chopped into tinier pieces 

A novel must be complete as a book. But a serial needs the chapter to standalone. It means that each chapter needs to add something, but also serve as a good way to end the story but hook the reader enough for the next installment. 

It can be a challenge for a writer to do all three. Even as I managed that with my own works, where I found a good place to end but would still have a lot to go. 

Also, if you’re writing a serial and posting every week or every month, it is better to make sure that your work is of a certain length each time a new chapter is up. Just so that it won’t feel jarring. I mean, isn’t it so if you waited a full month for a 10k chapter and realized that the author only posted 5k? It can be a little plus or minus, but for the most part, the length should be fairly consistent. 

#2 There can be a lot more character arcs 

A good thing about serials is the benefit of allowing more freedom. I can introduce many many characters but I need not develop them by the end of a volume. And they also have character arcs that may not be brought to the forefront at the beginning. 

The medium allows a lot more for switching of POVs. And the expansion of the scope of the story. Sometimes excluding certain characters as they no longer have a role in that particular arc. While giving it to more important characters who do have something to say or do.

This can be useful especially if it is in a story set in a large world. As long as it is seamlessly moving from one to the other person without feeling nothing happening, it will do fairly well. Since a serial must entertain the reader in a chapter, and thus a reader must be entertained before continuing to the next. 

#3 Each Volume may not necessarily be integral to the plot 

I certainly enjoy this part. Progression must have happen in some form, you can stay static but the events of the previous volumes must leave its mark. It can take a long while before the conclusion. But the most important thing is that it must still introduce conflict central to the character or even for the side characters. Or it can be revealing an important plot point for the main plot. 

When I was planning and writing it, doing this was important. My first volume had barely scratched the surface of the plot but had been important so that the future development would make sense. Introducing some of the key plot points for others. 

A serial is different, and hence there are things that only it can do that a novel can’t do and vice versa. Next time, I’ll be here talking about my process in developing my serial. And would you ever think of writing a serial?