Now, I’ve written novels, short stories, and been running a few serial stories through my blog. The most recent one is Derailing Bedlam, but there was also the Raven Series that I did for the last 4 Octobers. Will these ever be published like my novels? Maybe, but I can’t say for sure. The first one is connected to published works, but I couldn’t afford to put money into more when nobody was buying them. The second one never had my full confidence to garner a cover and promotions, so I gave it for free. Anyway, they always made me think about the differences between book and serial writing. Figure I’d put some of my thoughts down.
- You lose audience members faster with a blog serial. It’s sad, but true. With a book series, you always lose a few people between volumes. That isn’t a very fast rate though, so it can be countered by new readers giving you a chance. Serials are different because it’s all one volume cut into pieces. A person may drop out after a while and there’s no guarantee that someone will jump in. This brings us to another challenge with serials.
- It’s more common for people to step into a serial midway. For a book, a person could enter a series midway, but it’s still clearer than entering a story at an odd point. This can prevent people from getting into it, especially if you’re really far in. So, there’s a bigger risk of intimidating new readers who don’t have a lot of time.
- Blog serials are exposed, so people can check out spoilers fairly easily. There’s no thumbing through pages to get the juicy parts. They’re there. You can counter this by not making it clear, but then you can cause confusion. It’s a fact of blogging that you can’t hide things very easily.
- Every piece of a blog serial needs to have a hook at the beginning and a cliffhanger at the end. A blog can have sections that are interesting, but milder than the other parts because people will read right through. There isn’t a long break between story sections like with series volumes and serials. Action and witty dialogue can help here because ending with suspense or a laugh will stick with a reader more than a low key finale. It helps to think of every entry as a chapter, which is probably an obvious piece of information.
- Blog serials require a link or reminder at the beginning about the previous section. Not so much a recap, but a message that this is a continuation. It might not be as obvious as turning a page, especially for new followers. This covers your butt in case people mistake it as the start of a story and gives a spot to direct them to older pieces. A book comparison here would be a series volume list at the beginning of a later story.
- You can spread things out with a book and have it go out in one piece. This eliminates the threat of having to end the story early or giving up. A serial can hit a point where nobody cares anymore. This forces you to choose between ending it before you’re ready or continuing in spite of low reactions. Personally, I would go with the second option since the first can cost you the few readers you have and anyone who finds you in the future.
Those are what come to mind. The truth is that my blog serials were first written as long stories. It makes things easier to keep it going, but it has a high risk of not hitting with a good cliffhanger. This is why I tried to write with this in mind, but it didn’t always work because my habits are that of someone who publish it at once. I can’t think of any serials that will happen after Derailing Bedlam, so I guess I won’t have to worry about this much longer.