“Serial Fiction: Writing for the Reader’s Attention Span” by Kimberly A. McKenzie

We are pleased to welcome writer Kimberly A. McKenzie to the Tuesday Serial site today for the next installment in our guest post series. Kimberly discusses some of the special considerations for writing serial fiction as opposed to other forms of fiction. You can view previous posts in our guest post series hereWelcome, Kimberly!


Serials are written in short segments for readers with variable amounts of time, feedback and money to invest in the writer’s product. Not only is it necessary to grab the readers’ attention on the first few pages, serial authors must also continually keep convincing their followers to return and invest in a continuing relationship on the pages. A reader purchasing a book is making a commitment to a story that is completed and that the reader may or may not finish reading. However, the commitment to the book author is over at the time of purchase unless the reader invests feedback and decides on further give and take by following other works by the same author. Serial authors rely on a different form of readership relationship. As a serial author I know I am requesting continual support and constant reader investments. I write for the reader’s attention span, not just for the reader’s decision to read my work.

With this in mind there are a few things I consider as a serial writer engaging readers’ attention. The first thing to consider is that each installment should contain a complete thought. From the beginning page of the installment to the end of the words until next time, the reader needs to take something away for the time invested in reading a serial. If there is not a complete thought in the chapter, confusion, dissatisfaction, and frustration may result in the reader’s mind.

Next, the reader should leave the serial writer’s installment pages with questions.  Most readers will keep reading if they want to find answers to questions about the writing. Some readers will begin to invest in feedback to the serial authors to resolve or suggest resolutions to their own inquiries.  Serial authors benefit from the feedback of their readership and a reader with questions is a reader willing to invest some attention to the author, not just the serial pages. This also requires, as a serial author, that I be responsive to readership input off the pages as well as incorporating the readers’ feedback on the pages.

To continue to hold a reader’s attention span, a serial author must continually write. Conversely, hitting readers over the head with a constant barrage of words has the potential of oversaturating the readers’ limited resources. Readers will support financially investments they consider worthy. Give a readership too much for too long for nothing in return and readers will expect that a writer, especially a serial writer, does not need anything further from them. There is an argument for publishing serial writing in other venues packaged for further publication.  As a serial writer, I hope to have a readership willing to invest their attention, and I hope the readers’ attention follows my works into other venues.

Authors write. Serial authors write for their reader’s attention span. Every writer needs readers. Not every writer has as much freedom, opportunity, and connectivity with their readers as the serial writer.  I believe in serial writers and readers.


kimberly Head Shotkimberly Rest 2-jpegKimberly A. McKenzie is an author living in Charleston, SC. She has serialized part of her novella “The Rest Room” and is working on the sequel “The Dream of Keriye”. Her monthly blog on writing is on her website. You can also find her on Twitter.  She has been writing and publishing for 20 years.

 

 

1 comment for ““Serial Fiction: Writing for the Reader’s Attention Span” by Kimberly A. McKenzie

  1. ABE
    December 13, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Serial writing is writing without a net, hoping you won't disappoint your readers – or yourself. A lot of faith goes into it on both parts.

    It keeps you on your toes as a writer more than being able to finish quietly in private.

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