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How to Write a Serial 2.0

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a great Easter weekend! I had a great time with family on Friday and Saturday and then a nice, chill Easter day at home. We went to church and had an egg hunt and then just sort of relaxed the rest of the day which was really nice after two days of travel.

So last year I wrote a whole blog post about writing a serial. Serials have been something that's interested me for a while.
Pretty much ever since I've fallen in love with TV shows, the idea of writing an episodic story has been a dream of mine. I did a ton of research while I was in my serial phase and wrote a (not so great) serial implementing everything I learned. But it wasn't until last month and this month that the formatting of TV shows and serials really clicked. Maybe I just wasn't ready last year, I wasn't at the right stage and maturity as a writer to properly write one, but now I am. I'm in the middle of writing a 12 episode contemporary fantasy serial called Dragon Hearted. If all goes well and people enjoy it I plan on writing many more seasons. The cover is in the works and I'll reveal it as soon its done (hopefully by the end of the week or the start of next week)!

Here's the quick blurb:

Kendra Knightly, the last of the female dragon riders was just starting to fit in and find her place amongst her all male peers at the Goldcrest Academy for Riders. Then someone is killed in town the same evening that her and her boyfriend discovers a mysterious stranger hiding out in the woods in possession of the last remaining dragon eggs. Relationships are tested, secrets revealed and conspiracies unearthed as her and her friends hunt for the murderer before he can take another life.

Alright! Now that that's out of the way let's get down to business. When I wrote a post about writing a serial last year it was more of a rant than clear instructions. I've gone back to read it several times to refresh my memory on all I learned about writing a serial and realized it was a bit cluttered and messy. So for this post I want to break it down into easy, clear steps. These aren't rules, they're guidelines to be used or bent as you see fit.
I will never not use this gif when the word guidelines is involved lol
Each story will require different word counts, different story structure and pacing. If you're writing an epic fantasy that will be very different than say a contemporary drama.

First up, this is rather important. Deciding your word count. I was talking to a girl on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group I'm in and she was asking about serials. I said I make each of my episodes 8,000 words and she said that would be really hard for her because she has a hard time writing long. Plus her story is southern fiction. Mine is contemporary fantasy with dragons and a killer on the loose. Both of them are wildly different from one another. Me and her are also different writers and I'm sure our styles, strengths and weaknesses are different as well. So it would make sense that while 8,000 words fits for me, it may not fit for her. I tend to write long so 8,000 words is a piece of cake to me. So just play around with your word count. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You know if you tend to write long or short and plan your serial episodes around that. However, if you don't know where to start I'd say 8,000 words is a sweet spot. It's not too long and not too short.

Next up, the series threat and goal. Go and rewatch some of your favorite TV shows. You'll find something they all have in common. They even have this in common with book series too. Every series has a threat and a goal. An overarching villain or danger that spans through the entire series (or most of the series) and a goal that does the same. While each season has their own threat and goal, the entire series should have it's own larger goal and threat. The show The 100 is a great example of this. Each season has a threat and a goal. For season one the threat was the Grounders and the Earth itself (you'll notice that some shows' seasons have several threats and goals and that's OK as long as you know what you're doing). Another threat in the first season is on the Ark (the spaceship full of people they left behind). The oxygen is running out and if they don't do something soon everyone will die. The goal for those on Earth is to survive the Grounders and the Earth and the goal for those on the Ark is to find a way to get to Earth before all the air runs out. Season 2 is all about the Mountain Men. That's the threat. The goal is to stop them. But the overarching series goal is survival. To do anything and everything to survive and protect those most important to the characters. The overarching threat is the constant danger from the planet and those on the planet. So you need to have a series goal and threat. It can be as simple or complex as you want.

Season threat I think I already covered above. Each season should have it's own threat, whether its a villain or something like The 100 where the threat is their environment.

Episode threat and goal is a bit more difficult, at least for me anyways. I think its pretty self-explanatory though. If you've ever watched a TV show then you know what I'm talking about. Each episode is like its own mini story within the larger story. A good example of this is The Blacklist. (I just started watching it and am already on season 2! It's so good!!). The main characters go after a different criminal every episode and almost always the criminal is taken out and the threat and goal for that episode is wrapped up. They weave the overarching mystery and threat into each episode, but most of the time the episodes are about the individual criminals their after. Another good one that does this is White Collar. There's a mystery that the characters are working on throughout the season but each episode is about them taking down a criminal. Teen Wolf is a bit of the same. In season one Scott is trying to learn how to be a werewolf and is trying to find out who the alpha is that bit him and stop the alpha from hurting others. But in each episode Scott has to deal with a different threat and has a different goal. One is all about controlling his wolf side when he's around the girl he likes, Allyson. Another is about him finding a silver bullet to save Derek's life.

And last but not least, the characters. Some of my favorite shows have a large-ish cast of characters. One of the reasons I love TVD so much is because the characters that would traditionally be pushed to the side and just there to support the main character (Elena) become main characters themselves by the last season. They all have their own problems, their own lives and goals and worries. You find yourselves loving them as much as you love Elena. Don't go too wild with your cast. Keep it to about five or six characters and really flesh them out. Make them real. Make them the protagonists of their own stories. It'll give your serial layers and more to work with so you'll never run out of ideas.

There you have it. That is how I'm writing my serial by using everything above to write it. Not only does all of this work for a serial, but it also can be applied to a regular novel and book series too!

 I hope this post has been helpful to you guys and will encourage you to give the serial format a try. I love challenging myself as a writer so, though I am a little nervous about putting Dragon Hearted out there before finishing all 12 episodes, I'm confidant that I've done everything I can to plot things out and make it the best season it can be.

P.S. Hey if Dragon Hearted sounds interesting to you, you can sign up for my newsletter here:

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What do you think of serials? 

Comments

  1. Your serial sounds SO GOOD!!! And great tips - I’ve been debating whether or not to write a serial and post each part on my blog, so I’ll have to consider it! :)

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  2. Thanks! :) It can be a challenge and the different format can take some getting used to but its so worth it and so fun! I'm having the best time writing mine! :)

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  3. haha, I just wrote a blog post on writing a serial last week (it won't post for a few weeks yet, though). Great tips though! My serials aren't really like tv shows, but I like how you use that comparison.

    keturahskorner.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I'm excited to read yours and get your take on it. :) And thanks! I'm glad you liked it! :)

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  4. *slides in five years later and acts like she isn't late*

    Umm, wowsers, I really liked this, Melody!!! Lovely explanation and everything on serials; it makes me want to write one now! ^^

    God bless ya!

    ~ Lily Cat (Boots) | lilycatscountrygirlconfessions.blogspot.com

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  5. I’ve never written a serial before but 8K seems kinda long. How often do you release episodes? These tips also transfer to books and even chapters. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, 8K can be a little long but honestly for me, to write anything less would be hard haha

      Delete

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