When I was contacted by Amazon and asked to submit ideas for a serial novel, I didn’t hesitate. Mainly because before the question was even finished being asked, I knew what the answer would be. It would be a resounding yes. And I knew what my book was going to be. The Circuit Rider.
Of course I was familiar with the serial format, mostly because I had read and enjoyed Stephen King’s The Green Mile. And I was already planning on writing The Circuit Rider because I loved westerns, and thought the story of a traveling preacher riding with a female alcoholic gunfighter had the potential to be a good story.
So I said yes.
This was uncharted territory to say the least. As an indie author, I had never worked with a publisher before. I had also never written under an official deadline. Sure, I had always set my own deadlines, but this was different. Other never befores? Never written a western. Never written a serial novel.
I had my work was cut out for me. Now, as I’m finishing up the last episodes, I thought I would take a short break to write this blog post, because quite a few people have asked me to describe what the process is like to write a serial.
The following are my observations. They are not answers because I believe there are no answers, or rules, when it comes to writing. Everyone has their own path.
But for me, a few things stand out.
1. It’s a lot of fun.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is to be in the process of writing a novel, while simultaneously getting feedback on the book from readers. It’s inspiring and motivating.
2. The challenge of story arcs.
In a serial, each section, or episode, has to have its own, complete story arc. A beginning, middle and end. Of course, each episode is a story within the larger story, so you have to pay attention to moving the “bigger” story forward as well.
It’s significantly different than a traditional novel. Conventional wisdom has it that if you introduce a character early in the book, that character had better play a part later. Not necessarily with serials. Depending how many episodes a serial has, if every character with a sizeable role were to play a part in the finale, it could potentially be a cast of hundreds.
That dynamic doesn’t make writing a serial better or worse than writing a traditional novel, it’s just a different experience from an author’s viewpoint.
3. Lack of distance
Typically as an author, once you’ve published a novel and set it loose in the world, you’ve already moved onto other projects. Which means there is a distance between yourself and that book. When the inevitable ups-and-downs in sales occur or the occasional less-than-flattering review arrives, that distance acts as a buffer.
Not true for a serial.
Sales results are coming in, readers are posting reviews, and you’re still writing the book. It can be a bit surreal at times.
4. Working with Thomas & Mercer has been a fantastic experience. I couldn’t ask for more from the publishing team. They have been a pleasure to work with and I consider myself supremely lucky that my first publisher is Thomas & Mercer.
Those are my thoughts right now. Of course, I’m not finished with the book, but I will be soon. I plan to write another post when I’ve had some time and distance to look back.
And if you’re interested in seeing what I’ve written, The Circuit Rider is available here:
On Amazon for just $1.99!