Novella or Serial

When it comes to deciding a format that can be a a tough thing to do, especially when you are in the stages before you actually write it. There are a number of ways that a story can turn out. For one it could become a novel, it could be a short story or a novella, it can be released at once, it can be released as a serial. All the various ways are why I’ve been struggling to figure out when it comes to a YA story that I’ve been working on.

For the story I’ve been working on in particular, I’ve been struggling to find the way I want the story to be distributed. As I’ve tossed between serial and novella format, I’ve struggled on how to pace the story. For example, if I choose to go the serial route, I’d prefer to end chapters with a bigger bang than I would if in novella format. In novella format, I’d be more concerned with making sure that the ending of a chapter was set up to segway into the next without a bang, but intrigue. Thus, the story would have more focus on making sure that the story flows.

Which is why I’ve sprung and think I may go with a novella format despite losing the appeal of the serial. The novella format will allow me to drop an entire arc at one time rather than spacing them out. It will allow for more people to be drawn to the whole story at once. While it may not be able to build simultaneously, it will be allow me to present a story in digestible segments. Segments that I could also potentially make me profit. So I wanted to talk about what has made me choose one format over the other.

Initially, I wanted nothing more to publish my story serially. Every week I’d post a new chapter. It reminded me of my fanfiction days when I was a teenager. I’d be able to post a chapter, get feedback. I could hear people eager to read more of my story. It could motivate me. The idea that I didn’t need to have the whole story written also appealed to me. I had arcs planned out. There were beats that I wanted to reach at different points and I didn’t have to follow a specific structure. By making this a serial I could follow let the story run for as long as I had interesting ideas for the characters. The story would follow the route of comics and manga in which a story doesn’t need to end when it hits a certain number of pages. It doesn’t need to end when the plot is finished because I new plot could arise to continue.

Serial structure also grants immediacy despite the slow roll out. Yes, the story is only given in small chunks. It requires readers to have patience. However, the reader is rewarded by having a little patience. While they need to wait a few days or a week for another chunk of story, they get those chunks regularly. When a story line ends they don’t need to wait months or years for the next bit. I could easily dole out the same amount or more story by using this structure rather than novellas. It’s appealing

The story would need to be created in larger chunks. A beginning, middle, and end would need to form to create an entire story, which would then be published. It’s more story that needs to be done at once, forcing the audience to wait for more. However, waiting can cause people to salivate for more. The idea that they can’t get their fix for a while could give more motivation to get the story. Also being able to have it in novella form is less intimidating to readers. Rather than having to read 50 chapters to get to a new arc, a new arc would simply be a new novella. Less intimidating is good when it comes to attracting a new audience. That is exciting for me.

Novella’s also have another benefit, that is unrelated to the presentation of the story. That is the potential for profit. By creating a novella, it reaches a word count limit that becomes profitable. I could offer the novella for $0.99 which could slowly make me a profit, even if it is only a nice lunch at the Japanese place I love.

If you had to choose between releasing your story as serial fiction or a novella, which would you choose? What other formats are you interested in?

4 thoughts on “Novella or Serial

  1. I actually considered that, Ashley. My first novel is kind of a nested story-within-a-story type deal, one part being an actual 17K-word novella. The novel itself is rather crazy, not viable at this point, but I thought the novella could possibly stand on it’s own, and I considered doing something with it.

    I researched novellas, thinking maybe I could get it published in some literary magazine, and that’s when I learned about serials. The idea was intriguing: publish the thing in a weekly blog post maybe, get some feedback from readers, showcase my writing a little bit. . .

    I posed the question on an AW forum, basically, a ‘should I or shouldn’t I’-type question. Ultimately, I decided to do neither. In my case, it became a question of whether that work was my best work, and whether or not I should post something that possibly was not my best work. I didn’t put the thought into it as you so clearly have, it has not been adequately beta’d, it was written in three manic days; and while there are some brilliant little gems in there (she thinks so, anyway), as a whole, it wasn’t ready for public consumption. In any venue.

    But your situation is different and your decision to go the novella route makes a lot of sense to me. I wish you good luck with it, Ashley.


    • That sounds like an interesting bit of writing. Do you ever think you will dust off that novella section, spruce it up, and see if it has the chops to be released? Sorry, I’m interested now.

      Thanks for the support. This project is driving me nutty, mainly because I’m paranoid about releasing it ( in any format) and it driving down my appeal since I wouldn’t technically be a debut author anymore.

      • I know. I wish there was a blueprint we could follow, with guaranteed outcomes outlined for us, statistics, the whole nine yards. Or something like Chutes and Ladders for Writers, where you know if you go down this path it’s going to lead you to paradise, but this one, not so much.

        As for your dilemma, are you absolutely certain that posting a novella nixes your status as a debut author? I don’t know much about that, I haven’t researched that. Is it like losing your virginity, you can’t get it back, your reputation is ruined?


        I know. Making light. Trying to, Ashley. How much appeal does that debut author actually hold? Because it would seem that a good, viable story would trump that. Regardless, I feel for you, I wish I knew the answer.

        As for my stuff, I think I could fix up that novella. It’s kind of weird but fixable. It has to wait, though. Right now, I have bigger fish to fry.

        🙂 kk

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