On December 21, 2016, I had written with much excitement about Serial Fiction, this being something new to me. As you may have seen, I then took the plunge as it were and wrote a short story called, “A Day In The Mall”.
This was serialized over four days with sequential installments culminating with the last on Christmas Day. I had to do this as the story had Christmas, the festival of giving, as the backdrop.
I was quite happy with the response this got and aim to publish more of serial fiction in this new year.I take this opportunity to capture some of my thoughts and learnings following this experience:-
- The first, of course, is that writing serial or episodic fiction as it is also called (because most installments are based on a specific episode) does not mean dividing the total number of words in the story by the number of installments. There will be some range of course but the lengths of individual installments may, and indeed should, vary.
- How long should each installment be? I gunned for something like 1000 words but perhaps this can be increased to be around 1500 words. I know that serialized novels have chapters of 5000 words or so but I believe that will be too much to read as an installment, especially when you are reading off a device.
- It is crucial, I need hardly add, for each installment to end with a point of interest. Something that makes the reader look forward to the next episode. This is easier said than done. We need to craft the story in such a manner that each episode meets this objective of arousing adequate interest in the reader to ask, like Oliver Twist in that famous story, “for more!”
- The gap between each sequential instalment has to be appropriate for this day and age when people fight hard to manage time. Their time spans for any activity are becoming shorter by the day! Clearly publishing an instalment every day (as I did for my trial story, described above) is not feasible. I think an instalment once a week should be just about right. Anything beyond that will perhaps make the reader forget the last episode. To the extent it is possible, though there is no sacrosanct rule on this, posting an instalment on the same day each week makes it easier for both the reader as well as the writer. They can mentally look forward to the next episode on Monday or Wednesday or whichever day you choose.
- Lastly, remember that more and more people are reading on devices like mobile phones, iPads etc as distinct from the physical book. The points covered above take this important factor into account because after all what we are writing is a form of web fiction. It is all the more important for the writer to provide links to past installments of a story as everyone will not begin and end the story together.
I hope to work on this and post another short story, of about 6000 words over four sequential installments. This will start in January 2017. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Any comments/thoughts on serial fiction, especially from the reader’s point of view are most welcome.