Monday, June 13, 2016

My Love Of Serials (not Cereals)

Today I’m spreading my love for writing serials, and not just because I’m currently publishing one. That just happens to be an added bonus.

Serials, unlike series, are the TV of fiction. Each episode is a nice, neat story that takes the reader through the usual ups and downs, and leaves them with some feeling of completeness. However, each episode is part of a larger overarching plotline - the season if you will. 

Being an avid TV and movie watcher myself, I understand the subtle difference between those times when you want to curl up and spend an evening meeting new people and finding out all about them, and those when you just want to have a quick chat with friends, catch up on what's happening in their lives, and still get to bed early. This is when you want a serial.

I hear you asking some questions, well let me answer them for you.

Isn't it just a novel that's been broken up? 

Golden rule of serials:

All serials can become novels, but not all novels can become serials

Imagine Lord of the Rings as episodes. Now imagine those few where Sam and Frodo are walking across the marshes. In the next episode: they are still walking across the marshes. And the next? Yup, still walking. It takes very specific pacing to make a serial episode work, and not all novels have it.


But why would someone want to read one when they could read a novel?

We are busy. 
Everyone is busy. 
How much of the general public have a two hour block to sit down and read? In part that's why chapters are now being shaped around the 20 minute read - the train journey to work. But something that gives closure in the space of a TV episode has appeal for a lot of readers. 

Why would I want to write one?
The answer to this is simple - it's amazing fun. Yes, it's much harder to plot out the pacing than a novel, but the advantages make up for this. Two of these include:

Quality time. Have you ever finished writing a book and felt a small part of you die because you're not travelling any further with your main character? Serials put that off for a very long time. 

Subplots, it's all about the subplots! With a single novel, you really have to restrict how much you diverge and how many characters you have. In a serial, as long as you can handle all the reigns and wrap them all up by the end, you can go to town on the fun. 

But what about as an author - someone who wants to sell books? 

People are more likely to buy it. One episode is a low investment for a reader, both in money and in time.

Sad but true: very few people like spending money on new authors, but giving a book away for free is painful, and not very economically viable in the long run. However, giving away a complete episode for free, when there are 10 more, isn't such a hardship. This gives you a way to win them over before they have to fork out.

Starting a new book is a large commitment, one that often doesn’t payoff. Over the years I've lost my faith in humanity/new authors. I'll start a book saying I'll give the author a chance. The next night I'm still giving them a chance. Eventually I realise it's not going to get any better, and I'm never going to get back those hours of my life. In comparison, I'm always happy to watch the first episode of a new TV show, and if it doesn't grab me, no harm done. 

What's your serial about?

Why thank you for asking, so kind! I wanted to have fun and I wanted something that was really suited to the episodic format. So I chose a Christian Chic-lit about online dating - nicely tying into one of my non-fiction works on how to write an online dating profile. Laurie is an example of how not to. 

Laurie Barker is 29, single, unpublished, overworked, and underpaid. But she doesn't mind. Really she doesn't, she's sure God's got it all worked out. But when Yannie, her younger sister, announces she's getting married ... in seven weeks, everything changes. Laurie has less than two months to find a boyfriend and make her life perfect. Oh, and work out how to break it to her family that she's not sure why they think she's dating famous author Timothy Farren, but she hasn't actually even met him. It's time for a Laurie Master Plan. 

One of the things I loved about writing this as a serial was the chance to really play with her faith. In my own Christian experience, I've found that God likes the long-game. Each episode is our perception of time, that God needs to get it all fixed up now. The full arc of the story is more how God likes to roll: giving you a lesson, waiting to see if you'll learn it, and then giving it to you again if you didn't. 

Episodes 1-3 of Virtually Ideal are now out on Amazon Kindle. Episode 4 will be coming out in a week or two, if students stop asking me to proof-read their essays. And just you guys, I'm making Virtually Ideal Episode 1: Date or Die free online at Amazon.com.au tomorrow. (It's listed for the 13th, but that's US time.) But don’t stress if you miss it, or want to offer a few free copies on your blog; send me an email and I'll give you the epub.


So, tempted to try your hand at serialising?

Buffy Greentree
b_greentr@yahoo.com
Check out my author page on Amazon




24 comments:

  1. Hi Buffy,
    Your serial sounds fascinating and lots of fun. There's a lot to be said for enjoying a good story in measured doses. We all love them in my household.

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    1. Thanks Paula. It appears to work really well for the romance genre, if you're looking for something different.

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  2. Sounds fascinating and fun. Do you have a timeframe for launching each part of the serial?

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    1. Timeframe is something a lot of people have argued about. I had originally planned to bring out one a week, just like TV. But as I'm starting off, until it has a bit of momentum I've decided to ensure quality instead of rushing (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) It's easier now that I have three out because I can see how many who bought ep. 1 have now bought Ep.3. Once I can see people are waiting, I give myself a push. I have to keep giving myself deadlines to make sure I don't get stuck in the eternal editing loop!

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    2. Thanks :) I have a couple of stories that would work well as serials for younger age groups. My time frame is more likely to be one every few months though! lol

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  3. That was very interesting and I did check out your blog and Amazon Author page. Very impressive! Well done on all the writing and all the best with your writing. Must be a great thrill to have so many books come out. Well done Buffy. :)

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    1. I do admit, putting out the serial does feel a bit like cheating ... but I still get a grin of satisfaction when I look at my Amazon bookshelf.

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  4. I feel in love with serials when I read my first one by Angelia Vernon Menchan. I can't wait to read your serials, I purchased the first 3 episodes.

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    1. Thanks Deb! Well, if you find me dragging my feet too much, feel free to hunt me down and I'll give you the next one for free. A few of my earlier beta readers threatened to kill me when I was falling behind (though interesting lesson: I shouldn't have put it out to beta readers so early, as I couldn't keep the drafts coming at a speed that they could then remember everything that had happened before.)

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  5. Hi Buffy - an intriguing idea. I'm written a number of short stories related to my narrative world - and am writing a series in which I have worked hard to make each book more or less stand alone (with it's own internal plot as well as a series arc, well a series arc for the trilogy and an arc for the full series - no wonder my head is spinning) - but I get the impression your 'serial episodes' are not as long as a full novel. So I'm interested - are they novella length or short story length - or in fact the same as a short novel?

    I do love the idea of having stories that are complete in themselves but also tie into a much longer developing story (as in the 6 seasons of Babylon 5 which did it before Star Trek caught on to the idea). It gives such a rich, layered experience - but as you say, can be tricky to plot.

    All the best with Virtually Ideal serials :)

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    1. Thanks Jeanette. Good questions.
      Serials are not as short as a short story, but generally not as long as a novella (helpful?)
      Mine are about 15,000 words per episode. I target them to be about a 45minute read (depending how long it takes you to read!)
      And unlike short stories in a series, while they are a story within themselves, the plot is geared towards throwing you forward into the next episode (or next five). There are a lot of little comments and hints in the first episode which don't actually come out until the sixth or seventh episode, which in a series would probably be too long for the reader to remember.
      But I will say as a sidetrack - publishing a few of the related short stories in the lead up to publishing a novel is a great way to start building up your audience.

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  6. What an interesting idea. We have several box sets of TV serials and I've been watching how the individual stories fit into the overall story arc, but I hadn't thought of writing a story that way. A great way to keep your characters going too. Hope it goes really well.

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    1. It did take me a while to piece together my love of TV and the possibilities for writing. Though, a fascinating development in fiction world that I'm watching is the move from making novels into movies into turning them into TV series: think True Blood and Game of Thrones. They take the series and make each book a season, then turn each book into 20 or so episodes. However, if you read Sookie Stackhouse and compare it to the show True Blood, for TV they've had to add in a LOT more plot and characters to pad it out.
      I'm also glad that TV is now getting better standing and access to the A list stars, because there is a lot of storytelling potential.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this - very interesting! And I'll be checking out 'Virtually Ideal' for real!

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    1. Ta!
      (And don't think I didn't appreciate the virtually for real play.)

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  8. Great post Buffy, thanks for sharing. What a fascinating idea. I have heard of it and seen Ronie Kendig's serial that she's got out.
    All the best with yours, it sounds like lots of fun. I'll have to check it out.

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    1. If you miss the free giveaway, just send me a message at b_greentr@yahoo.com and I'll happily send you the first one.
      I think of Ep. 1 as my little pawn: I send it out into the world to scout the way. Even if it is sacrificed, it will live on through the others.

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  9. I'm VERY tempted to try my hand at a serial or two now. I'd assumed they were a thing of the past but reading your engaging piece has really sparked my interest. My short stories and novels (not that I've published a novel yet but they're a work in progress, like me) tend to keep a fairly brusque pace so I think my style might just easily adapt to the serial form. Thank you for such excellent food for thought. Melinda

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    1. If you like the pace of a short story, but the detail of a series - this is definitely for you Miss Min!
      You should have a read around; a lot of the big self-publishers are doing it. I really got interested when I started listening to The Self-Publishing Podcast ... though fair warning they're crude and spend most of the episode off on a tangent. But there's lots of resources out there to help.

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  10. That was a very interesting post, Buffy, thanks. I love the idea, mainly because each serial provides a quick read. My to-do books are stacking up because I never get large enough time slots for reading, and then it's easy to lose interest. Am considering how to use the idea for other forms of writing...

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  11. That sounds like fun! I missed the free offer, but I might take a look anyway. All the best with it.

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  12. Sound like you're have lots of fun, Buffy. Your observation of the time deficits that exist in our fast-paced society are significant consideration. Hope you get a huge following of cereal ... er ... serial lovers! :)

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  13. Hi Buffy....LOVED your post! As most authors I always have a million ideas rolling around in my head - they never make it to paper or type! But now....with your tips I think the window of opportunity has just opened wide for me.

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  14. I missed this article the first time around, but caught it in the end of year wrap-up.

    I also really enjoy serials. I've been working on one myself so I identified with this article.

    My first episode will be releasing early this year. I have four seasons (of six episodes each) planned to varying degrees. Serials are certainly a long game, but a lot of fun.

    All the best with Virtually Ideal.

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