Book Publishing

How to Write a Serial

Sharing is caring!

The rise of mobile media has led to a rise in the popularity of serial fiction. This is different from simply publishing your book online one chapter at a time. You have to know how to grab the reader’s attention and tie each section up neatly to keep them coming back. Let’s explore how to write a serial and see if maybe you want to try your hand at becoming a serial writer.

What is a serial?

Before we get into how to write a serial novel, let’s explore what a serial is and what it is not. A serial novel differs from a novel that is published chapter by chapter in that each section of the serial novel must stand alone. The reader should not have to read the entire thing to understand each part. This is especially true of a web serial that might be read over a period of lunch breaks.

The official serial novel definition includes longer serials and shorter ones. Charles Dickens is credited with coming up with the idea of a serial in his work, “The Pickwick Papers.” Readers enjoyed this classic in 19 installments over a 20-month period. You can think of a serial much like you would a television show series where it has an overarching plot, but each episode stands on its own.

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay

Serial writing is more like having a bunch of short stories that have an overarching theme. The most popular release schedule is one section a week. If you wait any longer, your readers will probably lose interest and forget where they were in the story. The best part about writing serial fiction online is that you can hook your readers and keep them in suspense waiting for you to scratch their itch a little at a time.

5 Steps to Writing a Serial

If this has you intrigued about how to write a serial, then the next thing you want to know is how to get started. We have a few simple tips to make it easy, but the rest is up to you. First, let’s talk a little bit about the plot.

How to plot a serial fiction

What is a serial format? The key to writing a good serial novel is to have an overarching plot, but each section must have its own subplot. The most important thing about writing a serial novel plot is that they do not stray too far from the central theme. The overall story must keep moving, even though each section has a unique beginning and ending.

Image by Artist and zabiyaka from Pixabay

The best way to keep a cohesive theme in your serial writing is to focus on the main character. This gives you endless possibilities for mini side adventures, character development, and internal dialogue. All the while, your readers can follow the character on their road to an ultimate destination of your choosing. The key is to immerse your readers into the life of your character and the world they live in. Now let’s get into the five steps for writing a serial.

1. Serial fiction outline

There are some serial writers out there that do not have an outline. They simply wing it every week and see what happens, which is probably a reflection on how they live their life, too. While this can be fun and exciting, it can also spell disaster. You do not have to have every episode carefully laid out in your outline, but you do have to have a certain trajectory of where you wish the story to evolve.

You should start with at least a basic outline of how the story begins, what the goal of the main character is, a few traits and attributes of the main character, what the climax of the story is, and how you want it to end. The best part about writing a serial is that it gives you time to reset as an author. You can write the entire thing at once, or you can allow yourself enough time to complete each series of the release as you go along. The most important thing is to have an outline so that you do not find yourself suddenly off track with no way to get back to where you started.

2. Master the hook

As a serial writer, you must master the hook. You must find the right balance between giving your audience enough and giving away the next part of the series. Once again, we go back to the example of writing a television series. Each one gives a little sneak preview into what is coming up next so that the reader will be enticed to come back and see what will happen.

Photo by Joyce Busola on Unsplash

3. Do not overwhelm your reader

It might be tempted to tell the reader everything they need to know about your main character in a single episode, but do not do this. You need to think about pacing, just as you would in a regular novel. You do not want to fit the entire backstory of the character into a single episode. You need to learn to tease your readers by unveiling a little at a time and creating depth.

4. Have a list of ideas ready

When you start writing, it is a good idea to have a file where you can keep a list of ideas. Whether you use these ideas or not is irrelevant. The truth is that even the best of us can be affected by a bout of writer’s block from time to time. When this happens, your little file of plot ideas can save you.

5. Decide where to publish

It is a good idea to decide where you are going to publish your serial first before you begin writing. You have many different options, but this could affect your formatting, pace, and overall outline of the story. It is best to write for a specific platform rather than to finish your novel and then find out you have to go back and reformat the entire thing. Knowing where you plan to publish will save you a lot of hassle and headaches when it comes time to release your episodes.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Where to publish serial fiction

Serial novels are taking off and becoming popular. The two most popular places to self-publish your fiction are Kindle Vella and Radish. Both of these platforms have different payment structures, formats, and different strategies. Before you begin writing, it is best to do your research and have a plan before you begin.

Your serial questions — answered

Before you begin your adventure of episodic and serial writing, let’s explore the answers to the two most common questions about writing serial fiction.

How do you structure a serial?

The answer to this is that you structure a serial just as you would any other piece of fiction work. Readers have to feel that you are building up to something in order to stay around. If your character seems to meander around in life with no apparent destination, your readers will soon lose interest. In the beginning, you need to know where your character is headed and have a few ideas of adventures they might encounter along their way.

Image by Sozavisimost from Pixabay

How long is a serial?

The best part about writing a serial is that if you cannot come up with a good ending, the good news is that you don’t have to. You can make it go on as long as you wish, or you can come up with a delightful end to wrap up the series so that your readers can look forward to your next one.

In general, serial novels are usually not as long as their standard novel counterparts. The average novel is between 50,000- 100,000 words, but the average serial novel is between 17,000-25,000 words. The key is to keep it short so that your readers will be looking forward to your next one. The ending to a serial novel should not drag on, and you have to give your readers satisfaction, or they will grow tired.

Summing it Up

Now that you understand how to write a serial, the only thing to do now is to get started. A serial novel can be an excellent way to launch your self-publishing career. We have many more tips on how to self-publish your book and reach your writing dreams this year.

Chris Craft

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Founder of InspireFirst and Nao Media.