Writing a Serial

I started writing serials because the thought of making the leap between short stories and novels terrified me.   Writing a serial of around twenty thousand words seemed like a good interim step. Not quite as scary as embarking on a hundred thousand words, but allowing more scope than a short story.

I hadn’t realised then, that a serial is not a mini novel with cliff hangers thrown in at the ends of instalments.  The pace is completely different.  As different, in fact, as the pace between a short story and a novel, and, for me, this was the hardest adjustment.

Obviously, there are similarities between serials and novels, too.  The main one that springs to mind is that a serial gives a lot more room for character development.  And you do need cliff hangers, which should be developed throughout the rest of the part, yet also come as a surprise to the reader.  This is not easy!

I’ve had ten serials published now in Woman’s Weekly and I’ve enjoyed writing them all.  One of my favourites was called SHADOWMAN, and was a five part thriller set in a show jumping yard.  A young couple, are plagued by anonymous notes, which threaten both their business and their marriage.  Writing this was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  There were several people who could have been the note writer – I had set up motives for them all – and I wasn’t sure myself who it was until the end.

I also loved writing WISH LIST, which was a humorous three part serial.  The main character who’s just emerged from a traumatic divorce, finds a wish list she’s written twenty years earlier.  She decides to work her way through it and in doing so regains her shattered self esteem.   

I had a lovely letter about this one from a lady vicar, who said she laughed all the way through.  That really made my day.

Both of the above had strong structures.  Shadowman was a whodunnit and The Wish List was based on a ‘wish list’ – odd that. But I think that good use of structure is worth thinking about in a serial.

Only three of the magazines take serials these days, which is a shame.  They are Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and People’s Friend, the latter runs two a week and so is probably a good place to start.  Editors’ requirements do differ, but each of these magazines will supply guidelines for writers venturing into this medium.

If you want to know more about making the leap between writing short and long fiction, then I happen to have written a book about it 🙂

Moving On – Short Story to Novel

I think it’s quite good! Though I might be prejudiced!

Your guide to writing longer fiction



This entry was posted in Tips on writing, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Writing a Serial

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    This is something I have been considering – and your book would be the perferct start, Della.

  2. am says:

    Thanks, Della, really appreciate you posting this – very useful.

    Hmm, for me it’s kind of moving backwards as i’d written 5 novels (unpubbed) before i started writing shorts!

    Sam x

  3. Tracy Fells says:

    I was planning to have a go at a pocket novel in the new year – again Moving On from shorts to novel – but have been put off by the low returns. Hadn’t thought of a serial, which could be a great interim step, so thanks for this Della. I do have Moving On on my Kindle, am saving it to read over Xmas!

  4. I tried a serial a while ago – it didn’t go well! Think it might be time to try again.

    I’ve awarded you the very inspiring blog award – more details over on mine.

    • Della Galton says:

      Thanks Patsy, and for the inspiring blog award. Sorry, I haven’t been on here much lately. Went away for Christmas, which was great fun, but a huuuuuge backlog of catching up today. Hope all good with you xxxxx

  5. Edith says:

    Serials are definitely on my list of want-to-do’s……and your book is next on my list of want-to-read’s !! By the way your other book on writing short stories is my bible and I have now lost count of the number of times I have read it. Am now taking notes on my notes……..all i need to learn now is how to take the theory and sell it in one of my womag submissions!!

  6. Della Galton says:

    Thanks so much Edith. I am so pleased you’re finding my short stories book helpful. Have you seen my Toolshed book – which is another short story book, but a shorter version, only for Kindle. (I’m not trying to sell you something else, I hasten to add – it will come up free again some time soon, when the publisher puts it on promotion) But here’s the link in the meantime. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.