We are pleased to welcome Tuesday Serial contributor Beth Raymond to the Tuesday Serial site today for the fourth installment in our guest post series. We will be featuring guest posts every other week through December 20. You can view previous posts in the series here. Welcome, Beth!
Last year, I began publishing my first serial, Secrets of the Conclave at JukePop Serials. Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about the process of writing serials. While I’m by no means an expert, here are the top three things I’ll do differently the next time—and if you’re new to writing serial fiction, these are things you should consider doing from the start.
#1: Write a Continuous Story.
Secrets of the Conclave began its life as a novel, and I wrote each chapter from the perspective of one of four, rotating point-of-view characters. Yet as a serial, this format meant literally months would pass before a reader learned what happened next for certain characters. That led to reader confusion and a need for me to add more backstory than I’d intended to new chapters.
Therefore, the next time, I’ll write a continuous story. By “continuous,” I mean a story that flows, chapter by chapter, from the point of view of a single character or multiple characters in the same time and place. A continuous story will help readers remain engaged over time because they won’t have to struggle to remember what I’ve already written—even if it’s been a while since my last installment.
#2: Publish at Least Once per Week.
Speaking of delays between installments, dedicated readers of Secrets of the Conclave have put up with my somewhat inconsistent publishing schedule. I try to publish a new chapter every two weeks, but sometimes the delay stretches longer, and I’m certain I’ve lost readers as a result. Consequently, publishing a new installment at least once per week is another thing I’ll do differently the next time.
Sticking to a one-per-week-minimum schedule reduces the risk of losing readers through neglect and attrition. If my readers know that I will post new content every Saturday, then they are more likely to incorporate my publishing schedule into their reading schedule. I could then publish extra chapters every now and then on off-days as a bonus for my loyal readers.
#3: Keep Installments (Relatively) Short.
Because I’ll be publishing more frequently the next time, I also plan to keep each new installment relatively short. Unlike Secrets of the Conclave, where the first chapter is 4300 words long and the rest vary between 2000-3000 words, each installment of my next serial will contain around 1500 words.
Let’s face it: no one likes to read a long wall of text on a screen, and shorter installments are more palatable to busy readers. Even if a reader intends to return to my serial when she has more time, she may forget or later decide to move on to something else. That’s a reader I might have otherwise retained had I only broken up my story into smaller chunks. Plus, given my busy schedule, short installments might be the only realistic way for me to publish something new at least once per week.
By doing these three things differently for my next serial project, I hope to have greater success in attracting and retaining readers. If you’re just getting started, consider incorporating these ideas into your process from the very beginning and see where they take you!
Beth Raymond is a lawyer and author of speculative fiction. When she’s not writing or working, she enjoys traveling, playing video games, pretending she can paint acrylics, and putting things in order. Samples of her writing and random musings can be found on her website. Beth lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.