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This Writing Life: The Pros of Serial Fiction

15 November, 2013

In my last post, I considered some of the pitfalls of writing serial fiction. Whilst some of them sound particularly daunting (finding time is always my biggest concern), I still believe writing a serial is a fantastic opportunity for any writer. Here’s why you should consider giving it a go.

The challenge.     Writing fiction is a challenge from start to finish, but continually pushing ourselves is what makes us better writers (a mantra I’ve repeated over and over on this blog). Writing a serial not only teaches the obvious – like sticking to deadlines – but all the other skills associated with writing a novel. Character development, plot arcs, even how to end your scenes on a cliffhanger so compelling your reader can’t help but turn to the next chapter… Many of the skills needed for both novel-writing and serial fiction are the same, but trying both can teach you them in different ways.

Hidden skills.     It’s not just writing skills that a serial can teach you. After all, unless your fiction is available somewhere people can read it on a regular basis, you’re basically just writing a novel, chapter by chapter. These days, it’s fairly unlikely your serial is going to end up in a newspaper, and much more likely you’re going to post it online – and that’s an arena in which there’s a lot to learn for any aspiring writer. Interacting with readers? Learning from feedback? Managing a blog or website? All vital skills, and writing a serial is a great way to get to grips with them.

Finding readers.     Building an audience is becoming increasingly important for all authors, whether they’re self- or traditionally-published – and what better way to find readers than by producing a piece of ongoing, constantly evolving fiction? This becomes even more important if you’re not interested in non-fiction blogging. I tend to shudder at the word ‘content’ (which I feel mushes every art-form and piece of creative work into one huge, nondescript stew), but it’s true that continually putting your work out into the wider world is the best way to find an audience.

New ideas.     It’s not all about engaging with other people, either. Writing serial fiction is just as great a challenge as writing a novel, but being pushed up against a rolling deadline means simply ignoring your story for a week or two isn’t an option. Completely out of ideas for your latest chapter? Tough! Fobbing your readers off with excuses so you can miss your deadlines and wallow in writers’ block isn’t going to get you very far. Pushing yourself to come up with new ideas by that deadline, on the other hand, can bring out your most creative side – particularly when you’ve written your character into a tricky situation and now need them to find a devious way out!

Writing serial fiction isn’t easy. Working to a tight deadline, particularly when you’ve been writing the same story for months, can feel like banging your head against a brick wall. However, the thrill of producing something fantastic under pressure, and of putting that out into the world for your (hopefully!) eagerly waiting readers, is like nothing else in writing, and is definitely worth a go.

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