Episodes/Serials (Not for TV but for Stories?)

Recently, I’ve noticed that some authors have been doing episodes/serials.  I’m new to the whole concept.  It sounds like you tell a story in anywhere from 5,000-30,000 words.  Then they write a series of these stories so it completes a whole “season”.  I’m thinking of it in terms of TV shows because it’s the best way I can think about them.  I’m sure there are variations to this stuff and each author doing it has to find their own slant on how they want to pursue this idea.

Some authors like to have a cliffhanger (of sorts) from one “episode” to another.  Other authors prefer to tell complete stories but have an overriding arc over the whole “season”.  I’m guessing a version of this could be complete stories that center in on one family, couple, or town with no major overriding arc at all but one story has the potential to build on a previous one somehow.

It seems there’s a lot of flexibility in an idea like this, but it’s probably not as easy or simple as it sounds either.  Naturally, some people like to read these types of stories.  (I’m one of them and I like them only because with my busy schedule, it’s nice to get something short and quick in during the day when I have some spare time.)  But I understand other people don’t like these.  They would rather read a longer story in one sitting that gets them fully invested in the characters.  So I get both sides of the coin.

I’ve been debating whether or not to do one.  If I did, it would be 12 episodes for 1 season.   I’m thinking one story a month and there’s twelve months in a year.  As for word count, I’d aim it around 15-25K.  It’s hard to know how long the average story would be since I’ve never attempted this before.  But (and my friend Stephannie Beman made an excellent point on this), it would have to be something where I did all stories ahead of time before I even published the first one.  The reason being that real life kicks in and set backs occur.  With a novel, you can set it aside and come back to it later.  There is no strict routine of publishing it like there would be in a monthly episode.

So I’m bouncing this idea around and will continue to do so for a while.  My biggest obstacle is what format I’d want the episodes to be.  Do I focus in on one couple, one family, or a whole town?  Do I go with brand new characters I’ve never written before or delve more into a set of characters I already wrote about?  The easy decision is genre.  I’m thinking historical western.  I have fun doing contemporaries and Regencies, but I think my first love will always be historical westerns.

Anyway, I wanted to get this off my chest so I can hopefully move on and post about other things because as much as I wanted to post about other stuff, this one kept bugging me.  😀  Maybe now I can get back to some kind of routine with my blogging.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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14 Responses to Episodes/Serials (Not for TV but for Stories?)

  1. I became aware of this type of serial book last year. An author had a chapter available for $1.99. I didn’t realize it was only a chapter- must not have read the entire description. The book was to be 30 chapters long. At 2 bucks per chapter, it would have proved to be an expensive journey. I felt annoyed for having spent $1.99. The writing wasn’t that fabulous for me to continue. The author would have each chapter available on her site for a certain period of time for free each morning (so I heard), but it wasn’t available at a convenient time for my life. I took a pass on that and told her so on a comment on Amazon. Evidently, she had tons of “Christian” friends who took offense at my comment, and didn’t like people who had a different opinion to their own. I quit reading ANYTHING by this author. With the exception of Harry Potter, if a book’s story line is divided into several books, I wait until all books are published before I read the story. I prefer books that are a complete plot line within one book ( as the Harry Potter series)– I don’t care for it if I’ve read a book, only to find out that it’s a cliffhanger. That’s usually the end of my involvement with the series. It has to be so GOOD, or I’m done. I can’t think of any that I’ve continued. If the author hasn’t shared that the plot is not complete, I’m done. I read the 50 Shades of Grey series. By the time it came to the U.S., all 3 books were published. I love series books when it is a complete plot within the book, (Ruth Ann Nordin, Robyn Carr, Susan Andersen, for instance, are my favorites!)

    • $1.99 for a chapter is ridiculous. I wouldn’t want to pay that either.

      I’m really sorry you had to go through that experience on Amazon. 😦 That’s horrible.

      I prefer the stories to be complete, too. The biggest thing that holds me back from doing shorts like episodes is that I tend to lengthen stories out. I’ve been told I can write short stories in addition to long ones, but then I also wonder if authors have certain leanings. Some tend to write short stories. Others tend to write full-length novels. It’s unusual for me to write a novella, and Kent Ashton’s Backstory was supposed to be 10,000 words (about three – four chapters), but it ended up being more in the 26,000 word range or so. (I don’t remember exactly how many.) I question whether or not I can successfully pull it off, which is why I haven’t done anything.

      Speaking of which, I need to start posting scenes from his backstory again. I feel like I’ve been so disorganized this past month. 😀

      I’m honored to be on the list of your favorites. Being up there with Robyn Carr and Susan Andersen is a wonderful. 😀

  2. Are you talking about a PAID serial or a free serial on your blog? From what I’m hearing, I think you’re talking about serial stories people would buy. I’m not really interested in doing that myself, but I think some people like them.

    I never read serial episodes on blogs anymore. One time I was following this story on someone’s blog, and it was really good. It was told like a journal someone was writing, and it was kind of a science fiction story. Then, one day, the author just stopped writing, and that left me hanging. So however you do it, I would make sure that never happened. That’s why your idea of writing the whole thing first, then publishing each episode or story is the best way to do it.

    • I am talking about paid and published stories. I’d price them each at $0.99. I’m thinking more of novellettes that would be complete stories. I like to do stories that can stand alone, so I’d aim for each story to be one where you don’t have to read all the others in order to know what is going on. These twelve novelletes would have the same cast of characters. So story 1 would have it’s own plot then story 2 would have another plot and so on. It’d probably be easiest to have different characters be featured in each story just so that the stories can be different enough. My concern is that I wouldn’t be able to keep each full story under 25K words. Otherwise, I might as well just write the full novel instead and ditch the idea. LOL

      Keeping up a blog like that is tough. I don’t read those only because the author might get bored and stopped writing. And I have to finish posting Kent Ashton’s Backstory up here on this blog. Yikes! I’m looking like I never finished that one. LOL When I started it, I had no idea it would end up being a novella. I thought it was going to be a few scenes and that would be it, but it just went on and on. I couldn’t stop until the whole thing was told, though. While I will have it available in posts on this blog, I also plan to publish it, and since I want to go through Nook Press, I have to ask $0.99 for it. I don’t want to wait for however long it would take Smashwords to get it out, especially since I want Kent’s backstory to go up when Catching Kent does. If I was reading the backstory, I’d want to jump right over to the novel to see what happened to him.

      If I did do the 12 novelletee idea, I’d definitely have the whole thing finished first. I guess I could start it and see if it goes anywhere. If not, then I can easily ditch it. The key is not to go public with it. Then I’m not committed. 😀

  3. lornafaith says:

    I love the idea of episodes. David Wright and Sean Penn do this great. They talk about it in their Self Publishing Podcast. They write like crazy to get an episode out every week…which I think is around 10,000 words. They’ve managed to make a living from their writing now…so I think it’s going well. Funny that you’ve been tossing around the idea of episodes Ruth. I’ve just started working on episodes based on my growing up years in the far north in the 1970 and early 1980’s and it’s been quite fun to ‘create the little farming town and it’s different personalities:-) I think you’re right though…might be good to have most if not all of them done before a person puts them up on Amazon.

    • I think I heard about them. Is their podcast called Self Publishing Podcast? I should look them up on iTunes and see if they’re the guys I think they are. That’s impressive that they can get an episode out a week. I do good to write 1000 to 1500 words a day, and sometimes I miss two days in the week.

      How are the episodes going for you? Do you have an average word count that you meet for each one? Are you focusing on different people in your town (including stuff you went through) as you tell it? What is your plan for publishing it? I’d love to hear more of what you’re doing. 😀

  4. If they’re complete stories I’d certainly be likely to buy and read. Unfortunately, the serials that I’ve started are incomplete and you are left paying WAY TO MUCH for the complete book. I don’t believe that I’ve ever gone beyond the 1st book once I realized that they were partial stories. I just can’t see paying $12-15 for an ebook that is broken up into several parts. It’s very annoying. -Shelley

    • I couldn’t see making the stories incomplete. My initial thought was to do something like Little House on the Prairie. You have the main family, but you also have people in the town. So while some stories featured the main family, you also have episodes where the other characters in town had their story to share, too. I’ve been watching some Little House episodes to get some ideas of what I could do. I was thinking of doing Dave and Mary Larson originally, but I don’t know how much I can do to them, and Dave’s brothers and sisters are already married off. I figure I’ll just do a third full-length novel for them. What I’m thinking of doing is maybe start with a new family with enough brothers and sisters to do love stories for or have enough other people in town to do their stories, too. Since these are short, I just couldn’t see doing more than $0.99. I wouldn’t pay $12-15 for an ebook that is broken up into several parts either. I have paid $7.99 for an ebook, but I prefer them to be $4.99 or lower.

      • Your idea of complete smaller stories sounds way better. I’ve seen some very nasty comments posted about some of the serials out there. People feel like they’re being ripped off when they think they’ve paid for a story only to get a small portion of it. I think you might be better off NOT calling it a serial but a series. I think other authors have ruined the term “serial”. I’m all for the idea about modeling it after the Little House books. There’s a reason books like Little House were so popular. You got to know and love the characters (all of them). They TV show ran forever and is still very loved. It’s a great concept. I know I was anxious to find out what happened to Neil when Mary and Dave kept running into him over and over again. I wanted to know how each of the other Larson’s came to their “Happily Ever After”. I don’t think you would lack followers if you put them out as a short story series about a particular town or family. The price sounds perfect too. I have seen too many authors that list their 45 page books for $3.99 or even higher! That’s just way out of line for me. As much as I might love an author’s other books I am NOT paying anyone $4 or more for so few pages. As for Dave and Mary I think you could use them but you might also paint yourself into a corner. It might be fun to read about a whole new family and town. You also wouldn’t have to worry about cross checking timelines etc. I can hardly wait to see what you decide.-Shelley

        • I agree with you about not using the term “serial”. I’ve seen the term “episode” but don’t know if that is the same thing or if there’s a distinction in it. To me, an episode means a complete story, but if people think serial and episode means the same thing, then I might as well go with series if I do it. To be honest, I think some authors have gotten greedy. It’s easier to break a story up into multiple parts and charge for each one what should be the price of a full book than it is to write complete stories and publish each one at a reasonable price. Writing more stories is more work, and sadly, some authors don’t want to put forth the effort.

          I agree that doing stories on Dave and Mary would paint me into a corner. There’s only so much I can do with them. I figure I have one more complete full-length story to devote to them then it’s over. Starting fresh would be easiest. I love Little House on the Prairie. The biggest obstacle I’d have is keeping short enough to fit them into the series idea I have in mind. 😀

  5. I don’t mind books that are written as part of series with one book leading to the second book but I don’t like the serials where you have to buy one chapter at a time. They tend to make me feel cheated because in the end you end up paying a lot more for a book than you normally would plus I hate waiting a whole month for the next chapter.

    • I’ve been lucky since I haven’t read these one chapter serials. I don’t think that’s a good way for an author to go about writing serials. I’d feel cheated too.

      I’ve been reading serials which are about five or so chapters long and they’re complete stories. But these haven’t been romances. They’ve been in the mystery/thriller genre. The only similar thing connecting them are that the same detectives work the cases. I’m not really sure how something would compare in the romance genre which is where I fall in with my writing. I have thought of doing something that is broken up with one part leading to another, but then I think, “Why not just write the full-length novel and publish it as a complete book instead?” 😀 So if I did this, it would have to feature complete stories.

  6. I liked the idea when we were talking about it and your ideas for the serials would be like they were done in the olden days. Serials were very popular before TV and some of the classics were actually written in episodes.

    Going off some of the comments above. As long as the writer is writing a short story or novella that is a complete story, even if it interlinks with others in the series, then they are doing it right. A chapter of a book isn’t a serial. The authors who post such things are those who don’t understand the art form or take the time to learn how to do it. And I agree with Ed when he said you might be better off not calling it a serial. Too many authors are jumping on the bandwagon and ruining it for authors that make their living writing serial stories.

    • I agree. A complete story (even if there is a link to other stories in the series) is what I meant by serial/episodes. I had heard of authors taking chapters and publishing them, but I didn’t realize how much of it was going on. I have never read those types of serials. And I agree that the authors should not be calling those serials. They need to plainly state “Chapters X – X” so people know exactly what they’re getting. I am not a fan of dividing books up by chapters and publishing them that way. I prefer the whole book be published so that people can read it from start to finish in one sitting.

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