|Source: Adam Franco https://flic.kr/p/7BKqTL|
How, exactly, does one go about writing a serial? While revising my RUN TO YOU manuscripts after my publisher's decision to release them as serials, I learned that it takes more than simply chopping a full-length novel into equal parts. Whether you’re an indie author who decides to serialize your books, or you’re a traditionally-pubbed author whose publisher wants to try it, there are certain things you must keep in mind when writing a serial:
PACING: You must have a strong sense of pacing as you develop the highs and lows that bring the characters and plot to a new level with each installment, but still leave them more to do and learn, giving the reader a breathing point, yet leaving them wanting to know what happens next.
INSTALLMENT BREAKS: One piece of advice writers always hear is, “Never give your readers a reason to put your book down.” But a serial forces your readers to put your book down after every installment! Therefore, it is imperative to end each episode in such a way that your readers must read the next one to find out what happens next. End your installment in the middle of the action. RUN TO YOU is a thriller with lots of plot twists and life-or-death situations. Many chapters end on a cliffhanger. But a serial’s episodes don’t have to end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering if a character is going to live or die. Emotional cliffhangers can be equally as compelling. You want to end each episode in a way that your readers must know the secret the hero is about to reveal, or which suitor the heroine will choose to bring to the ball, or if the hero and heroine’s relationship will survive the latest turn of events. In fact, though many RUN TO YOU chapters end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, all of its installments end on an emotional cliffhanger.
BEGINNING THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: To begin episodes two, three, four, etc, you will want to remind your readers what happened at the end of the previous installment. I recommend keeping this very brief; just a few phrases in the opening paragraphs to help them recall what happened last time and to re-establish the mood and tone. But don’t simply give them a bunch of flashbacks. You want to weave in what happened last time in a natural way. The shorter your release schedule—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly—the less reminders you’ll have to give them. (We’ll talk more about release schedules next week, when we discuss marketing your serial.)
STRUCTURE: Each episode of your serial does not have to be self-contained, but there should be an over-arching plot for the book as a whole: each installment must build toward a satisfying conclusion at the end of the book. While your complete serial should be structured as a typical book, with setup, turning points, climax, and conclusion, you may have to add extra turning points within your overall plot to allow for cliffhanger endings of each episode, or you may have to arrange your chapters so the cliffhangers fall at the installment breaks. I found this to be the most challenging aspect of writing my serials: following the standard structure of a whole novel while putting major turning points or cliffhangers at the installment breaks.
NUMBER AND LENGTH OF INSTALLMENTS: This point is both a writing issue and a marketing issue. It’s important to understand your market before you determine the number and length of your installments. There is no industry standard: the number of installments varies per serial. In my case, Harlequin Teen determined RUN TO YOU would have three parts per book. Each part has between 99 and 120 pages. Other serials have six, eight, or ten installments per book. There may be serials with even more installments, especially on Wattpad or in fanfic. Generally, the more installments in a book, the less pages per installment. You should keep your audience and your price point in mind as you decide the number and length of your episodes. You want to give your readers an installment that’s short enough to consume in a single sitting, but long enough that leaves them feeling satisfied with both the story and the price they paid.
DISCUSSIONSo, my friends, now that you are armed with this information, would you ever try to write a serial? If your publisher decided to serialize your manuscript, how would you react: would you run away in tears, or would you be up to the challenge?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Today Clara is the author of dark fiction young adults. Her debut series, the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU, is Harlequin TEEN’s first serial. Book One is First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm. Book Two is Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.
Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.
Find Clara online: Website Twitter Facebook Tumblr Instagram Goodreads Newsletter
About the books
Good news! The first installment of my serial, RUN TO YOU Part I: FIRST SIGHT, is still free across all e-tailers!
In Part One of this romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…
Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can't even tell him her real name. But Tristan won't be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…
RUN TO YOU is Tessa and Tristan's saga—two books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Each book is told in three parts: a total of six shattering reads that will stay with you long after the last page.
Grab FIRST SIGHT now for free, then join Harlequin Teen and a whole bunch of book bloggers and fans at the RUN TO YOU read-along. We're discussing FIRST SIGHT this week, SECOND GLANCE next week, and THIRD CHARM the week after that. We’re having a great time, and we have some fun prizes to give away. Get more details on my blog: http://bit.ly/readR2Y. I’d love to see the Adventures in YA Publishing gang at the read-along!
For more about each installment of the RUN TO YOU series, click here.
Find RUN TO YOU at your favorite e-tailers, including: