Why write serial fiction?

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while and I wondered if it should be a blog post. I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer this question for you, but I can come close to an answer for myself, and, perhaps, in there you will find wisdom.

I’ve been struggling to finish projects for a while now and, although I am very close to finishing my first (slight) paranormal romance, I have a thriller that I’ve had outlined for a few years just sitting on the back burner. I like the story, too, and the characters and I want to turn it into a character-based series, but…finishing is hard.

Finishing is the number one piece of advice that successful writers tell new writers. (I don’t have the stats for that but it sounds right and if it’s not right, it should be right.)

The thing is, after all this time, I’m not a new writer. I’ve been writing for decades, but I rarely finish longer works (short stories, flash, and poetry are not an issue). I think my mind starts to wander on a project after about a month, so if I can’t get the writing done in 30 days, then off to greener pastures? I guess.

What about NaNoWriMo, you may ask?

Meh. I’ve never won it. I write under a pen name and don’t have writing friends physically close to me. And this last year has shown that I definitely have an end point to my online stamina. I think it’s a worthwhile thing and maybe I’ll give it a try this year, but, again, meh.

I’m revisiting the “Write a Novel in Three Days” post from Ghostwoods – a post so popular, they made it the 404 page. I do love the idea of working out a lot of the story before writing. Combine that post with Dead Wesley Smith’s resurrection of his pulp writers posts and perhaps the world was speaking to me: “Get all the meat out and then write like the Dickens.”

Which brings me back to my original question (see what I did there), why write serial fiction? Serial fiction allows me the satisfaction of finishing something small on a regular basis, while still fulfilling an overarching storyline. I think building in cliffhangers is energizing as a writer, particularly in my Wound series (at Tapas and Webnovel) as I’m posting it shortly after I write it. I know where I want all my characters to be at the end of the season, but I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to get there. And I am in love with writing it.

Serial writing allows me to play with timing and characterization as well. How much can I deliver to the reader about a person in just one line of dialog? What inner thoughts can I share about them without it feeling like filler? What peril can I put them in at the moment the scene ends? AHAHAHA.

These little thrills give me the motivation to work on the longer pieces. I was going to say they were like warm-ups, but I don’t want to diminish my serials in any way. I just as strongly about these stories as I do the novel-length stories that aren’t finished. The finishing with serials isn’t really the point, not initially. Some publishers suggest you have an endpoint in mind, or the entire piece mapped out – that seems more like novel serialization then serial fiction. That’s fine, but it’s different. Serial fiction is about the chase, the journey, jumping from cliff to cliff to cliff.

There’s an end, sure, but what a ride!