Friday, July 18, 2014

What in the World is a Serial?

By Rachel Rossano

Alexandre Dumas (from Wiki Commons)
Charles Dickens (from Wiki Commons)

A serial in the literary world usually refers to anything published in short segments on a regular basis. With origins back to the early days of movable type in the 17th century, the serial form of publishing a novel has a long history. The great masters of the 19th century, Dickens and Dumas, published some of their greatest works in the form, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, and The Three Musketeers to name a few. Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers is considered responsible for establishing the popularity of the serialize form.

What does this have to do with today? Due to the internet, social media, and blogging, a vast audience awaits and you can interact with them personally. Publishing a serial story is a great way to tap into and snag the interest of those potential readers without spending hundreds of dollars. Serials offer authors great opportunities show off their skills and gather a following.

Back when I first began my public writing life as a blogger (back in the early days of Xanga) I started publishing my own serial novels to build up an audience. Writing a chapter at a time can be a great way to introduce yourself to and interact with readers.

However, there are some draw backs to publishing your own serial novel.

First, despite the fact the novel will be copyrighted to you from the moment you produce it, not everyone respects author’s rights. The novel will be displayed for anyone to steal, borrow, or copy. If you are highly protective of your work, this might not be a comfortable idea. Also, if you intend to sell the novel to a publisher afterwards, you will need to notify the publisher that the novel has been published once already.

Second, writing a chapter a week or even a month can be a daunting task for any author. We all go through seasons when putting two words together comprehensively is a trial. However, the process can be good practice for writing on a schedule. As an alternative an author can write the novel out beforehand and then dole out the chapters one at a time on a schedule. Both tactics work.

Going through the process of writing to a schedule and receiving instant feedback turned out to be very beneficial to me early in my career. Not every writing thrives under scrutiny and expectations. I know of a few that panic when the pressure builds. If you are one of those writers, a more laid back approach or writing the novel or story before publishing it would be the best tactic.

What advantages do you see to publishing a serial story?

Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come. 

She also designs book covers. For examples of her work, visit her design page at or Facebook page at

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