Why I’m Serializing Fiction on My Blog

By Joanna Campbell Slan, @joannaslan51kVH0-mhjL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Building Blog Traffic

Reviewing all the blog posts I’ve done over the years, the one that garnered the most attention was a serialized short story I’d done with my sister bloggers at Killer Hobbies. That got me thinking. What if I wrote a short story by myself and offered it in serialized installments?

Other Goals

Better yet, what if I wrote the story in real time? The idea held a lot of appeal. A serialized story would engage more readers and get them to sign up as blog followers. They might even want to tell their friends about my work and suggest that they check it out. Best of all, eventually I would have a new product that I could bundle and repackage for sale.

Results—Expected

So I decided to give it a try. Over the past month and a half, I’ve serialized two long short stories and I’m embarking on my third. As predicted, reader involvement with my blog has improved immensely. Now I’ve added two new short stories to my body of works.

Results—Unexpected

While it’s certainly daunting, this daily exercise has been a boon to my creativity. Knowing that I need to write a post each day, following up what I wrote the day before, and moving ahead with the plot, is a bit nerve-wracking. That said, I’m loving it! They say it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, so I’m not quite at the “new habit stage,” but I’m definitely on my way.

I find the nearly instant feedback from my readers to be an incredible energy boost. So much of writing is solitary, and this sort of immediate response is incredibly affirming. Readers have told me that they open their computers each morning eager to start their day with a new post! Now if that doesn’t keep an author at her keyboard, I don’t know what would.

How It Works

The work is done in real time or nearly so. (Sometimes I write the post the night before, sometimes I write it the same morning it goes live.) So I’m creating the stories as I go along. Each day I remind readers how to read the previous installment. I also publicize the offering through my newsletter and on my Facebook page. Because the blog posts can’t be too long, I find myself thinking in terms of shorter, denser pieces with cliffhanger endings. I have a hunch that will improve my writing.The stories are left up for one week after I finish, and then we take them down. That helps drive readers to my blog in a timely manner.

Have a Look

Want to see what I’m doing? Here’s the link: http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/2015/04/cara-mia-delgatto-and-bye-bye-birdie.html

Let’s Chat

I’m curious… Have you ever written a serialized short story or novel? As a reader, would you enjoy following along with a serialization? As an author, would you be game to try it?

*****JC2014-10

National bestselling and award-winning author Joanna Campbell Slan has written twenty-eight books, both fiction and non-fiction. Visit her at www.JoannaSlan.com or follow her on Facebook at http://www.FB.com/JoannaCampbellSlan The most recent book in her new Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series is Kicked to the Curb (4.9 stars out of 5 on Amazon). Get it here.

 

 

 

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21 thoughts on “Why I’m Serializing Fiction on My Blog

  1. If I was writing on the fly like that, no one would want to read the mess I’d come up with! Interesting idea though. I know others who have done it and it does seem like a daunting task.

    1. Alex, I had to finish today’s post before checking in here. (Got a little lazy over the weekend.) But to be totally honest, I had outlined this particular LONG short story with the index card function on Scrivener, so I wasn’t flying completely blind. And I write pretty “clean” any way.

    2. It takes either some amount of planning, or a lifelong internalization of storytelling.

      Coming from a long line of storytellers, I started A Long, Hard Look on my blog last January, and wrote a chapter a day until it was done. In public.

      Best book I’ve written yet, in part because of the immediacy of the effort.

      I’m a huge fan of some level of planning. Outlining, my 12-sentences approach, something. But the first line of that story had been in my head for nearly 30 years, so I suspect the story had been sloshing around back there nearly as long.

  2. Elizabeth – Thanks for hosting Joanna.
    Joanna – Thanks for sharing your experience. I’d not thought of doing this before, but it is an intriguing idea! It’s a lot like people do on Wattpad, and it can certainly get some new readers. Thanks for this idea.

  3. I got my start in fiction by writing daily serials. I wasn’t quite as high-wire as you, Joanna, as I usually had two or three posts ready to go. However, there were evenings when I was sweating to meet my 7:00pm deadlines. But you know people are waiting for the story, one reader commented by 7:05 each day.

    I agree that the feedback is wonderfully motivating and I enjoyed the way it helped to shape the story. You could tell when you were going too far with characters when the reaction became negative. But the best part was that there is no time for writer’s block. I feel like that beginning in serials is the perfect training for writers. It’s like being a newspaper writer: you meet your daily deadlines and don’t agonize over every word. These days, I save my agonizing for the editing stage.

    I wish that serials could be sponsored somehow, since they are a great way to drive traffic to a site, and my preferred way of writing.

    1. Melanie, as I mentioned somewhere (in some comment!), I’m thinking of adding a Patreon widget. Pateon allows people to become your patrons. They can sponsor you at a very small, very reasonable rate.

      As for being a newspaper writer, you caught me! I have a degree in journalism. I still agonize over every word, but I was taught to get it down first and agonize later.

  4. This reminds me of when I did the Waiting Summer as an A-Z Challenge on one of my blogs. Readers said they couldn’t wait for the next one, but it was exhausting. I’m thinking I need to do that in a shorter form and maybe one a week. GREAT IDEA. Thanks, Joanna and thanks, Elizabeth for hosting J.

    1. Teresa, I have noticed that the site visits wax and wane. I should probably try to keep the length to five days. That said, people have also told me that they binge read! One other helpful tip: I tell people that the posts will only be up for a week after everything is done. Then I take them down. That DRIVES viewers to my blog.

  5. Hi Joanna, what a really great idea. I’m just starting out in my writing career and researching about blogging to engage readers and entice a fan base and serialising a story is a great way to showcase your writing style.
    Love the idea and will try it out myself and see how that goes.

  6. Kalysta, this process is useful on so many fronts. 1.) the discipline of writing daily (if you aren’t, you should be!) 2.) the feedback from your readers is instantaneous (and that’s something most of us don’t have 3.) it draws readers to your blog 4.) it gives you a product (very important because today marketing favors the prolific writer) 5.) it showcases your style (thereby enticing readers to want to buy your stuff!) and 6.) it’s an easy way for your fan base to share you with their friends. I plan on leaving this up for one week after it’s concluded. Then I’ll take it down. The question is … should I then serialize it on Wattpad? Or on another blog that I have access to? It’s kind of long for a blog where I can post weekly pieces. So Wattpad might be a good fit.

  7. A great idea and you have an engaging, fresh style – written from inside the head of your MC, well done, it’s an effective way to immediately engage your reader and the cliffhanger at the end is great! But I would highly recommend that you restructure your blog so that it is easy to read parts 1,2,3 etc one after another. I found it very difficult to navigate your site, and ended up looking at all sorts of nice blog posts that had nothing to do with your story…

    1. Claude, that’s an excellent idea. I hadn’t intended the piece to go on so long–and I’ve been thinking about the hassles of reading earlier pieces. Thanks so much for your input. BTW, these daily pieces are FORCING me to think in cliffhangers, which is good for any author. I think it was Jeff Deaver who said that readers don’t read to get to the middle. They read to get to the END. So cliffhangers keep the pace moving along.

  8. Well, yes, but this is the stuff of ‘soap opera’ plotting and storytelling. Instead of the daily pressure, why not just publish ‘shorts’ once a week on Amazon as installment books, chapter books, short serials, whatever your terminology. Then, you can collect a great list of readers who follow you and will impatiently wait weekly for the next segment, and you can get paid too. You can, of course, email them during the week with ‘teasers’ or ask them what they would like to read thereby satisfying their wishes. This is a ‘feedback’ system used by marketers to meet customer’s expectations. Readers do have an emotional momentum that needs feeding. And you don’t need to delete the previous week’s work as it serves to create a sequence of published works, so reader’s new to you will start at the beginning and be able to catch up. If you’re good, this will have an exponential effect of profit and followers. This method avoids the ‘daily crucible’ that you have going right now.

    1. As I understand it, Amazon no longer does the serial option. And I did think about releasing my work on Amazon as you suggested. However, I wanted to build blog traffic. Now I’m looking at another option, JukePop, which I think will work much better than anything else out there, because as I understand it, JukePop will send out emails and so on. Also, I attended a session on serialized books at Ninc, and there I learned there can be a problem with reader expectations. Sometimes they don’t understand the serialization process. So I think a platform created specifically for serialization would be my best bet. We’ll see! I might also try Wattpad.

      1. Of course, I have inquired Amazon for their policy on serialized fiction. I will post the answer when it comes in. In the interim, to clarify, I was proposing to write ‘series’ shorts that could come out every Monday. Each short would be complete, but would carry forward its characters weekly: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, James Bond, etc. So, instead of a serial, it would be a series. Anyway, you’ve got guts to perform on the high wire every day. I think Scheherazade would be impressed and it was do or die for her.

      2. Joanna, I’ve had a good experience with Wattpad…added benefit has been that I’ve been able to connect with a younger reader than I usually have (my readers tend to be middle-aged and senior and on Wattpad my readers are in their teens and early twenties). I’d recommend you take a look and contact Wattpad and ask to be a “featured book.” Have you got a cover for Cara’s serial?

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