What is serialised fiction?
As in TV broadcasting, serial literature, or serial fiction, is a single, large work presented in instalments. This form of storytelling has been around for decades, and is a popular way to present bite-sized pieces of a story, enticing your readers ‘tune in’ on a regular basis.
All writers have a different process; some work to a detailed outline, others begin with a simple concept, though most rest somewhere in between. When it comes to serialised fiction, planning can be a vital component. If you aim to write a series, where each episode works towards an explosive conclusion, you must have some idea of where it’s going, while, at the same time, allowing flexibility to let your characters grow and develop.
There are no hard and fast rules in terms of regularity; how often an episode should be released, the length of each instalment, number of episodes per season. These elements depend largely on the story itself.
Here are a few things to consider:
- How often – this largely depends on whether you wish to write part of the series in advance, or if you have the time to dedicate to writing on a regular basis. Some writers choose to release a weekly episode, which is a large commitment especially if you are starting from scratch. You may want to consider a monthly episode, which offers more flexibility and gives your readers time to catch up.
- Where to publish – this also relates to how often you would like to release the episodes. If you aim to provide an e-book version, you need a comprehensive system in place if you want to do this on a weekly basis. You may also wish to produce a paperback version of the full season. There are a variety of ways you could approach publication; on your website, newsletter, or in the form of regular novellas.
- Cast and crew – will your story follow the adventures of a regular group, or do you have one or more integral characters who meet a varied cast along the way? You might, for example, separate episodes in a way that allows you to tell the story from multiple viewpoints. You might also want to think about how you will present these characters. You could create a website or page, with a breakdown of cast; who they are and their role within the series.
- Episode Guides – Again, this could constructed on a site or page – offering a brief synopsis of the episode. You could even provide reviews so your readers can get caught up in the buzz!
- Series Running Time – like a television series, in a lot of respects, the length your series will be subject to demand. But it’s a good idea to be forthcoming about how long you expect the series to run.
If you are planning on venturing into the world of serialised fiction, it’s a good idea to have certain details ironed out. Certainly you need to know the overall aim of the work, your cast, the frequency, the kind of details I mentioned above. You may only have a loose outline and prefer to write each episode week by week or month by month, but you should have a clear focus in terms of sharing your work. Get the word out, produce some of the publicity material early, and make sure there is a place for your readers to visit so they can get on board.
Most of all, enjoy it. There is something to be said for short, bite-sized stories and characters we can see grow and develop – favourites we can spend time with and root for.
Melissa Barker-Simpson has published six books, each of which form part of a series. She is a British Sign Language interpreter and translates into English on a daily basis. Her other roles include mother to two teenagers and collaborator to the blogging community. She has held a variety of positions including; nursery nurse, finance officer, administrator, communication support worker, editor and chair of a continual professional development programme.
As a reader, Melissa has a variety of tastes and devours just about anything she can get her hands on – from Great Expectations to the back of a Cornflakes packet. She can easily be pulled into the magic of a good book, and often views characters like old friends, visiting them time and time again. Her favourite genres are science fiction, mystery and crime, though she doesn’t discriminate and will read anything with an interesting story.