Have you ever considered writing a serial for The People’s Friend? Fiction Team’s Alan explains how it differs from writing a short story
True or false: We don’t need a synopsis for a Friend serial – just send the complete serial in once it’s ready.
This is…false. A synopsis is always required as it will show us if a serial idea has the ‘legs’ to run. What we ask for in the beginning is a synopsis and first instalment. A synopsis will highlight the characters and storylines, and a first instalment will show us if you are able to successfully combine those elements in to the serial format.
True or false: Writing a People’s Friend serial is essentially the same as writing a PF short story, except that it’s longer.
False. The only thing that stays the same are the traditional values intrinsic to the Friend reader. But the style of writing is certainly different. There will be more characters for a start, and the characterisation itself has to be prevalent throughout as serials usually involve family-based, emotional themes.
True or false: It can take more than a year to plan, write and illustrate a PF serial.
This one’s true. In my time working on serials, I can count on one hand the serials which were completed, including being illustrated, in under a year. It’s a long process as it involves so much more than the story writing. We have multiple serials on the go at any one time in the office, all of which have to be approved by the senior team at every stage. And that’s not taking into consideration the collaboration between writer and editor, from the early creative process of sharing ideas, to detailed rewrites. I hope it’s an enjoyable writing journey.
True or false: We prefer historical serials.
False. We enjoy good storytelling, whether historical or contemporary. In some ways, I think the historical serials are easier to write as it gives the imagination freer rein – think adventurous heroes and heroines of old. I’d say play to your strengths – write from your heart and the reader will be alive to the story world you have created for them.
True or false: Most serials run to three or four instalments.
False. The shorter length serials are popular in the magazine, but some story ideas are better told over a greater number of instalments. No more than eight, though. The last thing you want to do is write with gusto at the start, only to run out of ideas halfway through. The reader won’t thank you for a flagging serial.