Can you tell us about how you begin the process of writing a serial? Is it storyline first or characters first?
I would suggest that the very first thing is to choose a good setting – ideally one with plenty of ‘traffic’, so that there is lots of opportunity to meet a wide range of characters who can ‘drop in’.
If you can make it a setting with which you are familiar, so much the better. My first series was set in and around a local, weekly newspaper and I used to work in one of those, so I knew the rhythms of the year and the scope of stories likely to be covered by reporters and photographers.
My second one was set in a newsagent’s and I’ve frequented those all my life and am on first-name terms with my newsagents, Marion and Liam.
Next, I would recommend establishing a central character, who will be the hub through which all the instalments unfold, plus one or two regular characters who are close to her, and then one or two over-arching narratives which will develop across the full series.
After that, you can work on the finer details and self-contained stories-within-instalments.
Do you send all the instalments in at once?
No. I make a basic plan of all thirty instalments, with each one noted on a record card (handy for shuffling, in early stages) so I know what I have in mind.
I type these up and submit to the Fiction team.
If approved, then I develop the first six instalments and submit these. Only when those six have been approved do I move on and develop the next six.
I wait for a response to each batch in just the same manner as waiting to hear back about a short story.
How long would you say the process takes, from beginning to end?
What’s the secret to a successful series?
It definitely helps to choose a good, productive setting as well as characters the reader can relate to. A touch of humour doesn’t go amiss.
How does writing a series differ from writing a serial?
As each series instalment is thoroughly planned, and of a short length, a large chunk of the work has been done early on, so when it comes time to write, it’s an opportunity to have fun and try and be as entertaining as possible.
Are there any challenges, when it comes to writing a series?
First time around, I wondered how on earth I would tell thirty complete mini-stories in just 800 words each, whilst also managing to maintain and develop links between instalments.
But it’s interesting to see what you can achieve with practice and such a tight focus.
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