East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing a serial? Or a series?

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So, it’s been proposed I may write a series – a supernatural horror series.
Which is no big deal, one might think: I always write thinking in series.
Aculeo & Amunet is a sword & sorcery series.
The Corsair is an adventure series.
The Ministry of Thunder was conceived as the first book in an adventure/fantasy series (and yes, I have the second book growing here on my hard disk).
And my Italian language bestseller, Gli Orrori della Valle Belbo is a supernatural horror anthology series.
And so on and so forth.


It comes, I think, with the sort of books I grew up with. Cycles of novels, series of short stories. Characters with continuing adventures.
And then of course there were all those BBC and ITC TV series I grew up with as a kid – from The Avengers to UFO and all that.

So, basically when I write I think in terms of series.
Even the story in Alternative Air Adventures was developed as a possible pilot for a series (not that I told that to my publisher).
What it’s different this time is that I should pitch my series and try to sell it as a whole.
And to pitch it I have to outline it whole – not just highlight the characters, the venue, the main selling points, but actually give an overview of each and every episode.
Let’s say twelve monthly episodes, at 5000 words per episode, it means outlining a novel, if an episodic novel.

Once again, that’s not that hard – I have outlined novels before.
But this won’t be a sure thing – there will be competition, other pitches from other writers will be evaluated. To have a fighting chance, I need my pitch to be the best.

d31256351643991e0dff05d0db17899e2d1e778I think I have the characters worked out, and the general concept and development.
What is really giving me problems, right now, is the overall structure of the series.
Should I go the way I prefer – and I mutuated from those old TV series I watched as a kid – and make each and every episode self-contained?
Or should I rather take a more modern serial approach, and build a metaplot, and have narrative arches underlying the series of episodes?
This is not an easy decision – both approaches have their pros and cons, both could be seen as strong selling points or as drawbacks. And both approaches fit the sort of stories I’d like to write, and to sell (not necessarily in that order).

So, I’m toying with different structures – basically using mind maps and a big sheet of paper and colored pencils.
Right now I’d rather go for the serial way, making the episodes interconnected and yet still as self-contained as possible. Which would be fun, but it’s a cow to outline briefly in a pitch, really.

There is on up-side to the whole thing, anyway – I’ve been looking for a while at online platforms for the serialization of fiction, and who knows, it might be the way to go should my pitch go nowhere in the end. Or it might be the right thing to develop using Patreon.
Nothing goes wasted, here on Karavansara.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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