When Writing Web Serials, Forget Everything You Know About Fiction Writing

The tyranny of the novel must be overthrown before you start writing your Web serial.

I love novels.

Who doesn’t?

Novels are a personal favorite of mine as far as a writing medium is concerned. However, the tyranny of the novel often causes problems when one tries to write a Web serial. Web serials aren’t novels in their structure, nor are they chopped up and neatly packaged crypto-novels. Instead, Web serials are an entirely different beast — excuse the cliche, I’ve had way too much coffee today.

The tyranny that comes with the novel’s architecture cannot be understated. The novel’s structure, its coherence, and its need to keep things in neat little packages make for terrible Web serials. If you’ve read good Web serials, you know that writers must break away from the novel, in order to engage readers and offer them an experience similar but not quite like that of the novel.

To use another cliche: Web serials taste like chicken — I mean novels.

They aren’t actual novels but they are close in nature. They share the same heritage, although this can be quite contentious to say. Nevertheless, to write something that is binge-worthy and something that feels like a sprawling expanse of narrative, world-building, and the like, we need to see the novel not as a model for structure, characterization, etc., but, rather, as inspiration for the creation of content. We need to develop new tools for writing Web serials, borrowing not only from the novel but also from the TV show, the movie, the video game, and so (so) much more.

In other words, we need to forget what we know about writing fiction, and we need to develop new tools for conceptualizing, developing, and writing Web serials. By doing this, we will be able to use the medium in a way that hasn’t been considered before now — at least not seriously. We need to overthrow the tyranny of the novel and use it as inspiration rather than a model for the internal architecture of our Web serials. Serials aren’t novels. Novels aren’t serials. That’s okay, and when we come to this realization, we are likely to experience a great deal of epiphanies concerning our writing and serialization.

Gregory M. Rapp

Gregory M. Rapp

A writer of fiction and nonfiction, a blogger, an avid reader and writer, and gamer.
New Mexico