1950s girl watching TV

Serial Storytelling: Let’s Get Started

In my latest podcast episode, “Serial Storytelling: Let’s Get Started,” I interviewed Kimboo York, a seasoned author with a wealth of experience spanning various genres. York also happens to be a grumpy librarian, or so she claims.

We discussed writing serial fiction, and I was excited to learn more about how this format differs from traditional novels and novellas. Very cool.

Serial Storytelling Requires a Long Arc

We also discussed her book, Become an Unstoppable Storyteller: How to Craft Compelling Serials. One of the resources mentioned in this book is a Serial Beats worksheet that helps authors lay out the “long arc” of a series alongside the shorter episodes.

serial storytelling topic book cover for Become an Unstoppable Storyteller: How to Craft Compelling Serials

You need a well-crafted, long story arc, complemented by smaller, interconnected story structures within the serial format. We discussed how manga and Asian television dramas have significantly influenced Kimboo’s grasp of serial storytelling.

Some of these serial stories have been ongoing for over twenty years!

During our conversation, Kimboo, a self-professed pantser, revealed how she navigates the storytelling process while always maintaining a sense of the overarching narrative to guide her.

Serial Fiction is Flexible

serial fiction flexibility; picture of a winding mountain road

There is an inherent flexibility in serial storytelling, which allows readers to explore side stories and detours before rejoining the main narrative. To illustrate this, Kimboo drew upon examples from renowned franchises like “Star Wars” and “Supernatural,” showcasing how they employ long, overarching story arcs with interwoven episodic arcs.

Kimboo stated, “If you’re building a long-running serial, and you’re focusing it as a serial, the byways are going to be just as interesting to your readers as the main plot points.”

“Whether you’re a plotter, you’re going to start with beats and then build out an outline. Or you’re going to be a pantser, who starts writing and then applies beats to what you’re working on … I think there’s just no escaping beats. If you’re a writer, it’s the best way to try to organize and create a functioning, interesting, compelling story.” —Kimboo York

Serial Storytelling Is about the Reader Experience

We discussed Kimboo’s transition from tradition novel formats toward serialized storytelling. This shift enables her to craft more extended and captivating narratives, catering to readers’ appetite for immersive storytelling experiences.

woman reading phone at night
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

And that’s the main point: York seeks to create experiences for her readers with deeper, longer lasting engagement. She told me, “I didn’t want to be a purveyor of products; I wanted to be a purveyor of experiences.”

York also pointed out, “It’s a much faster acquisition cycle [than writing and publishing a novel.] It’s community. It’s awesome.” She enjoys delivering fresh content more swiftly, fostering a sense of community among her readers, and exciting her audience with regular installments. These elements forge a dynamic and enduring author-reader relationship.

Key takeaways about serialized fiction:

  • Serial fiction is not bound by the wordcount limits of novels, be it 50K, 80K, or 100K words, depending on the norms of the genre. Instead, serialized fiction permits the author and the readers to explore side quests even as they move along the main, long story arc.
  • Serial fiction is completely focused on the reader experience, emphasizing the desire to go beyond selling mere chapters or books.
  • Serialization offers notable benefits, including accelerated content delivery, community-building opportunities, and the thrill of consistent installments, all of which enhance the author-reader connection.

portrait of Kimboo York

Guest profile: KimBoo York is a GenX elder-goth whose main life purpose is to provide a good life for her rescue mutt, Keely-Boo, who is perfect and beyond reproach in every way. She is also a professional author, former project manager, and librarian who wears too many hats. She is a bit grumpy, and writes across multiple genres including romance, fantasy, and non-fiction. houseofyork.info


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