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?
Check out my author page on Amazon