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What I Learned from Writing a Serial Novel (Update #2)

So I've officially finished all ten episodes of my serial novel! Since this was my first attempt at a format like this and I already shared how I've decided to write my serial novel, I thought I would share what I learned from it. First of all, all the blog posts and articles that said how fun it was to write a serial novel was true. Almost every author who wrote a serial novel and wrote about it said how fun the experience was and they were absolutely right. If you're having writers block or if you just want a change in pace, I definitely recommend trying to write a serial novel. Ten episodes isn't that much, especially if you do less of a word count than I did. My episodes were supposed to be exactly 8,000 words but since I'm a pretty wordy writer, they ended up being over 8,000 words but under 9,000 words. Except for the tenth episode. I thought it was appropriate for the final episode to be 9,000-over 9,000 words since it's the big finale and all that. Anyways, here's five things I learned from writing an episodic novel:

When I finished the final episode what surprised me the most was the fact that I had just written 80,000 words in just a few weeks! It took about 3 weeks for me to write an 80,000 word episodic novel. Writing a novel usually takes me about a month and they usually range from 60-80,000 words. But this? This is a new record for me. You know why it only took me about 3 weeks? Because I had to think about my story differently. I wrapped my head around the fact that OK, today and tomorrow I'm going to write this 8,000 word episode. And then the next two days I'd write another 8,000 words. Some days I was hammering out 5,000 to 6,000 words! It's all because of the way you think about it. If you have your mind set on a giant full length novel and your goal is to get to 80,000 words that feels way more daunting than if you have your mind set on writing ten 8,000 word episodes every other day. It just makes it easier to think about and more accomplishable. Writing Easthallow I've realized how important small goals are. A lot of writers and authors say its always good to give yourself small goals but I was never very good at that. I like to think big and to accomplish big things. 300 words a day doesn't feel like enough to me, but 8,000 words for two days combined? That feels good to me and by the end I feel like I've accomplished something bigger than just a 300 word goal in a day. Anyways, I think I might even try to apply this to what I'm working on now (Blood Brothers, the sequel to Sterling Silver). I think the project would go way faster if I separated it out into several smaller 8,000 word goals.

Another thing that took me by surprise was how much I learned about each character while writing this book! Look, I'm pretty good at fleshing out a protagonist. I do a lot of work on my main character and my love interest and maybe one or two other characters that I really love. But what has always drawn me to TV shows and what I love most about TV shows is how one episode can hold so many subplots. You get to follow not just the protagonist and their love interest and best friend, but a whole cast of characters. In TVD you don't get to just learn about Elena and learn to love her and Stefan, by the end of episode 1 you know so much about her and Stefan plus Bonnie and Caroline and Jeremy and Tyler and Damon and I think you get the picture. By the end of season 1 you know and love all of these characters equally. They all got screen time and they all have their own plots and lives to live. Its obvious to the viewers that all of these characters see themselves as the main characters of their own stories. I've always had a hard time with that for some reason. Maybe I just never put enough work and effort into my other characters, but I think with Golden and Project Hellion and now Sterling Silver and Blood Brothers I'm starting to grasp that. Easthallow really helped me wrap my head around that though because I wanted to make sure that by the end of episode 1 my readers would know enough about every main character to care about them and even like them and want to follow them. I even got in a few POV scenes of the main antagonist and his sister which was just amazing. Writing Hyacinth (the main antagonist's sister)'s POV was probably my favorite part of writing this entire season. When I first introduced her she was just this ice princess, cold and heartless and unfeeling. But when I write her POV I saw a whole other side of her and it really helped me get a grasp on her character and actually sort of like her. I also got to see the main antagonist (Warrick) through her eyes and it gave me a new perspective on him too. So if you're having trouble with fleshing out characters I highly suggest writing a few scenes in their POV. Even if it doesn't make it to the final draft, it will help you so much!

I'm not sure how great I am at pacing. I think I'm pretty good, but I never really thought about it a whole lot. Probably because I've been writing novels for so long that I didn't even have to think about the format and pacing in a book, it just sort of was already there when I wrote out the first draft. But for Easthallow I had to really think about the pacing of the story. I had ten episodes to complete a story and though, combined that equals 80,000 words, it didn't feel like that much. So I had to be really selective on what scenes and characters I wanted to showcase in each episode. I had to be careful how I used that episode, how much information I wanted to reveal and when I wanted the big middle scene to happen. It couldn't be too soon but it also couldn't be too late. I think my second favorite part of writing Easthallow was writing episode 7 (I'm still brainstorming names for each of them). But this one was sort of like something you could really only do if you were writing an episodic story. You know like those episodes where they are solely dedicated to one character or one plot point? Like an entire episode for a character remembering something or being trapped in some place? Well episode 7 is kind of like that and it seriously was so awesome to write cuz I've always wanted to write something like that. The next thing on my episodic bucket list is to write one of those random episodes that are just fun and don't forward the plot at all, like the Monsters and Mana episode of Voltron or The Ember Island Players on The Last Airbender. Although even for The Ember Island Players there was character development in that so I mean those writers were on top of the writing game.

Anyways, right now those are the three big things that came to mind when I was thinking about what I learned from writing this book. It's been a super interesting, informative and fun experience and I really hope it goes well on Wattpad because I would really love to write the second season and beyond. Right now I'm taking my time revising it because I don't plan to release it until after Sterling Silver is complete on Wattpad. I'm also considering releasing one episode at a time on Wattpad and my blog while also releasing the entire thing on the Kindle for a 0.99 or something so if you don't want to wait for installments you can just buy the whole thing. Also, it's going to have a professional, like really nice cover cuz my mom wanted to do the cover for it so I'm pretty excited for that. But all that won't happen for a little while still.

For now though, Sterling Silver has ten more weeks of installments left, I'm working on revising Easthallow and writing a summary for it. I've started writing Blood Brothers, the sequel to Sterling Silver (it's ridiculous how much fun writing this book is) and you know I still have to get Project Hellion ready to be published at some point this year! So yeah... there's a lot going on right now.

I hope this has been informative and has persuaded you to give serial writing a try. Have a great week everyone!

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