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Welcome to Cynthia Sax and her article "Before You Write A Serial"
I'm personally interested in serials because I've begun one of short western tales. So, I'm hoping you all learn as much from this article as I have. I'm honored that Cynthia has posted it here.
Before You Write A Serial
Sinful Rewards, my latest sizzling hot contemporary erotic
romance release, is a 12 novella serial. Every month from July 2014 to June
2015, a sexy new installment will be releasing. I receive quite a few questions
from writing buddies about writing serials and Jane Leopold Quinn has kindly
offered to host my answers here. (hugs Jane).
What is a serial?
The easiest definition of a serial is that it is a larger
story sliced into parts. But this definition always makes me cringe. That’s
like saying a TV show is a movie sliced into parts. A great serial is written
as a serial. It usually can only be written in this format because the pause
between the installments serves an important purpose.
Is Your Story Stronger Because It’s A Serial?
The first question I ask myself when writing a new serial is
“Does this format serve the story? i.e. Will the reader benefit from reading
this story in a serial form?”
In the case of Sinful Rewards, Bee, the heroine, is given an
erotic challenge every day. If she completes this challenge, she receives a
reward. There’s a clear break in each installment.
In The Seen Trilogy, my three installment serial, there are
three major stages in Anna and Blaine’s relationship. The titles indicate these
– He Watches Me, He Touches Me, He Claims Me.
Are there places in the story in which you want the reader
to walk away from the story for days, weeks, or months? If your answer is
‘yes’, the serial format might be perfect for your story!
Are You Happy With The Publishing Options?
Very few publishers are interested in serials (Avon Impulse
is one of the happy exceptions). Serials are high risk. If readers don’t like
the first installment, they won’t buy the following installments.
The publishers interested in serials will want to see the
complete serial before contracting the story. If you’re selling a 12 novella
serial, that means you’re writing a 1,200 page plus story on the (often slim)
chance a publisher will love it.
If Avon Impulse hadn’t approached me about writing a 12
novella serial, I doubt I would have written Sinful Rewards. The odds of
contracting this type of serial with a publisher are too low for me. I would
have written a 3 or 4 novella serial.
However, self-publishing is now an exciting option for
serial writers. If you believe in your serial, you can self-publish it.
Note: writers with publishers are usually looking at digital
only. If there is a print option, there is unlikely to be print distribution.
Stores would have to stock all of the installments and that takes up a lot of
valuable shelf space. Serials are mostly an eBook phenomenon.
Are You Prepared To Rewrite The Beginning
If you sell your serial to a publisher, this publisher will
determine your release schedule. Because the pauses in a serial make a
difference, this will likely mean heavy rewrites.
With serials, we have two types of readers—the readers who
buy the installments on release days and the readers who buy all of the
installments when the serial is completed.
The completed serial readers need no recap at the beginning
of the installments. The amount of recap the installment serial readers need
depends on when the previous installment is released.
If the previous installment released a week ago, there will
be very little recap needed. The reader will remember who the characters are
and what happened in the story. If the previous installment released a month
ago, more of a recap is needed.
I bungled this with The Seen Trilogy. I originally thought
there’d be a month or more between installments so I recapped a lot of
information. The final release schedule was an installment releasing every
week. I received quite a few complaints about the unnecessary repetition.
The second installment of Sinful Rewards releases August 12th
and I believe I got this recap level correct. (crosses fingers)
Can You Satisfy Your Reader Expectations
I know, when my readers pick up one of my erotic romances,
they expect hot steamy sex (real or imagined). They expect humor. They expect a
black moment. They expect a happy ever after or happy for now ending. They
expect this with EACH installment.
If you’re writing a paranormal serial, your readers will
expect paranormal elements with each installment. If you’re writing horror,
they’ll expect to be scared with each installment. You don’t have to meet
reader expectations (you don’t have to do anything I advise) but be prepared
for upset emails if you don’t.
Other Serial Considerations
Pricing – Romance readers are some of the most intelligent
people in the world. They WILL do the math, comparing the installments of your
serial to other novellas or novels. Some readers calculate based on pages. Some
readers calculate based on a finished story (even if the complete serial is 1,200
Readers expect the pricing of installments to remain the
same (excluding any teaser freebie first installments).
Length Of Installments – Readers expect every installment to
either be the same length or become longer as the serial progresses. If the
installments become shorter, some readers will be upset.
Cliffhangers – Yes or No? – There are readers who love
cliffhangers and there are readers who hate cliffhangers. I don’t write
cliffhangers. I’m a three act structure writer. The installments in my serials
have a beginning, middle, and ending. But there are valid story reasons to
write cliffhangers. One of my writing buddies loves cliffhangers because they
draw the reader’s attention to important scenes. I suggest being constant –
always having a cliffhanger or never having a cliffhanger—with each
A Completed Serial – Unfortunately, there have been quite a
few abandoned or never finished serials. Being able to assure readers that all
of the installments have been written and all of the installments are
contracted is wonderful. My agent has all of the installments in Sinful
Rewards. Even if I’m abducted by hunky aliens, the entire serial will be
If you have any questions about writing serials, please ask
either in the comments or you can email me directly. Thank you, Jane, for
hosting this discussion!
Sinful Rewards 1
Belinda "Bee" Carter is a good girl; at least,
that's what she tells herself. And a good girl deserves a nice guy—just like
the gorgeous and moody billionaire Nicolas Rainer. He is everything she wants
in a man.
Or so she thinks, until she takes a look through her
telescope and sees a naked, tattooed man on the balcony across the courtyard.
Hawke is mysterious, the bad boy she knows will bring only heartbreak. He has
been watching her, and that makes him all the more enticing.
But when a mysterious and anonymous text message dares her
to do something bad, she must decide if she is really the good girl she has
always claimed to be, or if she's willing to risk everything for her secret
fantasy of being watched.
Is her mystery man the reclusive billionaire with a wild
side or the darkly dangerous bad boy?
Cynthia Sax’s stories have been featured in Star
Magazine and on Real Time With Bill Maher. She lives in a world filled
with magic and romance. Although her heroes may not always say, “I love you,”
they will do anything for the women they adore. They live passionately. They
play hard. They love the same women forever.
Cynthia has loved the same wonderful man forever. Her
supportive hubby offers himself up to the joys and pains of research, while they
travel the world together, meeting fascinating people and finding inspiration
in exotic places such as Istanbul, Bali, and Chicago.