Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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
Of Your Installments?

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
With Each Installment?

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 pages long).

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 installment.

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 published.

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?

Buy Links:






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.


Author Website: http://cynthiasax.com/
Blog: http://tasteofcyn.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cynthia.sax
Twitter: @CynthiaSax



  1. Interesting take on serials, Cynthia. I started two because the stories were just too big and had so much potential for more.

    Your Sinful Rewards sounds like a smokin' story. Best luck.

  2. Welcome, Cynthia. Maybe this post will spur more serials out there. I love the idea of it. My mind runs to the old silent movies of the 20s and how popular they were and how they brought the public back into the theaters.

  3. Thank you, Jane, for hosting this discussion today. Yes, serials have a long history in literature (Many of Charles Dickens' stories were written as serials - interesting tidbit - he would tweak his stories based on feedback from readers). I'm thrilled this format is seeing a come back. More formats = more options for writers!

  4. This is a discussion, Rose, so please chime in with your thoughts. If you disagree with any of my points, please offer writers an alternate viewpoint!

  5. And I'm afraid I'm guilty of the abandoned/not finished serial. Mine are short stories so you'd think they wouldn't be so hard to finish up.

    Besides actually writing them, I would imagine connecting the segments are a challenge. I suppose any connecting text needs to be as succinct as possible and creatively blended in maybe adding something new to happily surprise the reader of the last part.

    You can't count on every reader being able to buy each book the minute it comes out - as much as the author would like that to happen. Also, there will always be readers who discovery the serial mid-way through so a quick recap would help them get up to speed and encourage them to buy the earlier books.

  6. The sales issue with a serial is readers don't join a serial mid-way. There's no starting Sinful Rewards on novella #2. Readers HAVE to start with #1 (one reason why numbers are in the title). Every novella might have a beginning, middle and end, but there's usually an over reaching story arc that requires that the stories are read in order.

    The recapping is one of the tricky parts. It is a delicate balance between too much (boring the reader) and too little (losing the reader). Serial readers expect some recapping. And yes, recapping in a fresh and exciting way is the challenge.