Writing Serials: Yea or Nay?

My Patreon, started this year, has been a learning experience. One new complete short story every month has a way of teaching you more about form and structure – even if you thought you knew it all.

I’m still contemplating what to do for 2022. The launch of Vella and my own tendency toward novel writing, have me contemplating the serial. The serial, however, is NOT the same as the series. In a series, each installment contains a complete story arc. In a serial, each installment is a step in the plot. By the end of the serialized installments, the reader has been taken on a single story journey. This is how Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first published. Also Mark Twain.

That’s a whole lot of “patriarchy” history and it kind of makes me uncomfortable contemplating it for a women-loving women romance. But maybe that’s the point, to be subversive and out there doing what was primarily done by men before.

The more I think about it, serials are suited to the “soap opera” style of storytelling: present a scene, sharp conflict and detailed development, and end with a cliffhanger type of moment. Because of this cliffhanger, the reader will be compelling to “tune in” for the next installment to see what happens. I also realized a lot of my scene have “natural” or “soft” ends, not cliffhanger-y ends.

After reading this blog from the Florida Writers Association, I have contemplated the idea of writing a serialized story (or two) a little more. When the blogger pointed out that each episode is “gone once you submit it” I remembered when I wrote and posted fanfiction in parts. Sometimes I’d wish, by the end, that I could have gone back to the beginning and edited a better foreshadowing, or started the thread of a threat to pull out for the last chapter(s) a little earlier. So I completely feel that fear.

The fact is, my first novel started as a serialized story. I posted a scene draft every few days or so. But I got the chance at the end to edit and revise and then publish it as a coherent whole.

Now, look. Just writing those two (now three) sentences above I revised them several times. What if I had a similar revision mania and didn’t post an update for a couple weeks? Wouldn’t my patrons feel cheated because I didn’t deliver?

If you have any thoughts on this quandary, drop me a comment. Decision time for solidifying 2022’s plan is coming up fast.

~ Lara

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