There has been a lot of talk about fictional serials during the last few months with both publishers and Amazon embracing the idea.
A serial is a single book broken down into instalments. These instalments go on sale one at a time with the ending hook of each serial prompting readers to purchase the next. According to Wikipedia, serials have been around for a long time, but they were at their peak during the Victorian era. Writers such as Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were two of the many successful serial writers during this era.
Radio serials were popular from the early 1900s. One long-running radio serial you might have heard of is The Archers, a British soap-opera. The first episode of the Archers ran in 1950 and they are still producing the show on a semi-regular basis. If you’re interested several episodes are available as podcasts on iTunes.
These days we’re more likely to get our serial fix on television, although as a child I read comics done in a serial fashion. Soap operas are a common form where we follow the lives of our characters and become invested in what happens next. We even have a local soap opera in New Zealand called Shortland Street, which has been running for as long as I can remember.
Writing a serial is different from writing a book.
1. The process is a lot quicker with the serial coming to market, often before the writer has completed all the instalments.
2. Feedback from readers is a lot quicker too.
3. The writer can change the direction of the serial after reader feedback.
4. The writer can’t go back and change things in already published instalments. This would be a problem for me since I think about my plot and characters as I write.
5. There is a short period of waiting on the part of the reader, which can help build word-of-mouth. Readers are wondering what will happen next and where the story will go. The build of anticipation is present.
6. Pricing can be controversial. I noted on some of the Amazon reviews Of Because You Are Mine there were some unhappy readers who expected more “book” for their money. Each instalment is two chapters.
As a writer, I think writing a serial would present a challenge. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to stretch in this direction in the future.
What about you? Have you read a serial? Have you tried Beth Kery’s Because You Are Mine series? Would you like to write a serial?