How do the serials work?


When I first set the serials up, I saw them as a bit of fun to get the community of writers at The Story Mint interacting and sharing their writing thoughts.

So it was a surprise when I had a member come to me and say how much she loved the serials and how much she had learnt about writing by taking part in them.

I asked her what she meant by this.

She told me she had found out she needed to stop waffling when she wrote, to keep to the subject, to be clear and concise. She added that serial writing had also taught her to pay attention to what other people said, not only in her writing, but also in her daily life. She had sharpened her comprehension skills.

When I asked around, I received similar feedback. Writers enjoyed the challenge of having to write in unfamiliar genres and this had added to their own creative repertoire. In fact, we are seeing this at work in Ray Stone’s serial, ‘A Bal Maid a Knocking’, which is completely out of his usual ‘thriller’ genre. He is writing all ten chapters of this story, which is a departure from our usual format of each writer submitting one 500 word chapter. His story-telling mode takes me to the time when Charles Dickens was writing, and to that period, as the story is set in Cornwall during the 1800s. He has captured the time and the characters really well. As I read, I hear the characters’ voices and see the conditions during that time. It is an excellent story.

He would say that he learnt how to write in different genres by writing serial chapters. As I have seen his writing progress over the four years we have known each other, I would agree.

In fact, if we look at how we were all writing four years ago, it is astounding (and perhaps a little embarrassing) to see how far we have come.

For example, it is now rare to see passive voice, and we now get stories that take the reader on a journey through description of events and the environment. Even thrillers and stories that build tension follow a rhythm that is easy to read. Increasingly, it is difficult to tell where one writer started and the other left off.

That alone tells me that we are learning to pay attention to each other as well as showing the reader great respect by not expecting him or her to struggle through waffle (of course, no reader will). We now invite the reader to join us in our stories and to see what our imaginations have created. It is indeed a wonderful process.

So, what else does the writer learn from taking part in our serial?

Apart from meeting a kind and generous community of dedicated writers, there are, without doubt, the skills a writer acquires. Although it is only 500 words, those apparently few words have to capture the story, the personalities of the characters, and then set them up in a way that the next writer can continue the story. It breaks all the short story rules of writing a beginning, a middle and an end, and that is sometimes very challenging. Each chapter has to have tension so the reader isn’t bored and, depending where in the serial the chapter writer finds him or herself, it has to comply with the normal rules of short story writing. This means that if a writer has booked to write one of the last three chapters, it is too late to introduce a new character. However, many a new character may have appeared in the first few chapters and taken the limelight.

So, writing chapters for serials have definitely played a huge role in writers gaining confidence, mastering their skills and, above all, meeting a like-minded community from around the world.



passive voice