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This Writing Life: The Cons of Serial Fiction

10 November, 2013

Just over a year ago now, I started writing a piece of serial fiction for the Guild Wars 2 fan-fic site ‘Chronicles of Tyria’. The site has really gone from strength to strength over the last few months, and it’s been an honour and a pleasure for me to be involved. I’m now both a writer and an editor for the site, which means it takes up a big percentage of my writing time – a great opportunity, then, for me to post about what writing serial fiction for so long has really been like.

Perhaps a little unconventionally, I’m going to start with the ‘cons’. If you’re thinking of writing a serial, these are some of the things you need to consider:

Time.     This, really, is the big one. I write a 2000 word piece for Chronicles of Tyria every two weeks. When I had more writing time, that didn’t seem too daunting. Now that my life is busier, those 4000 words are frequently the only fiction I write in a month. Of course, lives and schedules change, but knowing in advance that you’re going to be able to find the time to write frequently is a major boon if you’re going to produce a serial.

Ideas.     More nebulous than ‘time’, but equally important. When you’re faced with a rolling deadline, with editors and readers waiting for your next piece, suffering from ‘writer’s block’ simply isn’t an option. No matter how tired and jaded you’re feeling, it’s vital to be able to keep developing new and exciting ideas for your fiction. In my case, I plan out each chapter (roughly 3-4 months of writing) at a time – where my story will ultimately end is still a mystery to me. Whilst this can be exhilarating, knowing you’ve got to pull a plot twist out of the bag by your rapidly-looming deadline can also be exhausting.

Consistency.     You may be struggling with both lack of time and lack of ideas, but there’s still something you have to accomplish with every single post: consistency. This could be consistency of voice, of writing style (both quite tricky when you’re working on other fiction in-between), of character development or plot. Particularly if you haven’t planned out every last detail of your story, creating an enjoyable and consistent story arc over weeks or months can be a real challenge – and only your readers will be able to tell you if you’ve succeeded!

Motivation.     Even if you have an abundance of both the time and ideas to keep writing your story, finding the motivation to press on isn’t always easy. So often, there’s a new project waiting just round the corner, tempting you with how shiny and exciting it is – going back to a piece of fiction you’ve been writing for a year just isn’t the same. Alternatively, your motivation for writing anything just dries up, and getting even a single sentence down becomes a chore. Finding a way to continually motivate yourself is a very personal thing, but it’s vital if you’re going to keep writing.

If you’ve considered all these pitfalls and are still enamoured by the idea of writing a serial, great! Even if you’re now feeling wary, don’t despair. In my next post, I’ll be covering all the reasons you should be writing serial fiction – and they definitely outweigh the cons.

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