The Internet and cheap computers enables any moose with ears to write and publish without editing pretty much anything they want. Content on the Internet seems to double every six months while the quality of the Internet seems to be cut by half in half that time. So much drivel is being spewed that, even though more books are being sold than ever, most “published” works are selling fewer than ten copies if any at all.
On the Internet you can find many places which let “authors” publish stories for free in hopes of one day getting a book deal or donation. A good many writers have attempted to write a “serial story.” They do this so they can, in theory, shorten the time between writing and getting paid. Some post on sites where they get a share of advertising revenue and others just post in free places begging for feedback while reserving all rights to take the story down and release it as a commercial work.
Just like the ebooks at Amazon, the majority of this is trash and is trash for varying reasons. Occasionally you stumble across something really good. You read a few posts and then it just dies. You search all over and find the writer/author hasn’t been active on the site for more than N years, so, no hopes of an ending. Serial stories like this used to be the singular domain of “erotic literature” sites. Posters would write a few hoping for some massive amount of fame (or sex) yet do so behind some avatar and fake name. Needless to say the odds of a reader finding the actual author even if the story made the reader so hot they desired wanton and abandoned fornication with the author, they had to be psycho stalker types to dig through the digital morass. Maybe they did succeed and some of the world’s unsolved murders are a result of a less than expected return on investment? Who Knows.
I know Stephen King tried a non-erotic type story with “The Plant.” You can follow the link and make your own determination about the success. Just be sure you don’t skip the first sentence “unfinished serial novel.” Yes, despite wanting to solve the problem of having to work for a year before getting paid and promising to keep writing as long as people kept paying, the reality of a serial novel set in. You can’t go back and fix *(&^(*&).
It’s the age old problem of Creative Writing vs. Formula Writing. Creative Writing when done in long form, necessitates a large cut pile. Things which seemed good at the time just don’t fit the major story arc so they need to be either cut or rewritten to fit the arc the story finally took. Formula Writing requires a rigid outline and rather rigid rules. You’re only allowed to get creative within each paragraph and that creativity cannot be allowed to flow outside of the boundaries. Formula stories can be very good for a well targeted niche. My stand by example of this is “The Executioner” series.
Personally, I have found a number of serial stories I liked. Most of them suffer from the same fatal flaw, the author didn’t finish them. To this day I cannot say I have found a serial story on-line which I both liked and believed the author “finished.” Now the Internet is littered with a never ending supply of orphans. From time to time you find a fan of the story picks up the mantle and tries to finish it. Usually the story ends up ham fisted because author number N cannot maintain the style and quality of the original author. On rare occasions the author who finishes the story does a better job, only to be discovered by the original author who manages to find a lawyer and . . .
Now, we must discuss the difference between a Serial Story and a Series of Stories. Free sites where readers actually provide feedback can be incredibly beneficial, especially if they let you either pull the entire story or pull all but the first few installments. By a series of stories I mean each story is a complete short story. Usually they feature one or more central characters. Each installment is 1500-5000 words. The reader never feels cheated because each tale is complete. Think of it like a musician creating an album. Each song (story) is complete, but it isn’t an album until they are all bundled together on the same medium.
Before we had the Internet, magazines used to be a great market for “series of stories” work as well as book installments. Wide circulation magazines used to actually pay to release a chapter or less at a time over the span of months. Given the dwindling ad revenue and circulation of magazines, it would be almost impossible to release a book in this manner without having to pay the magazine. Most people today would try to find a free release Web site. The problem with a “free release” Web site is you cannot reach “the bored.” By “the bored” I mean those waiting in a doctor/dentist office desperately thumbing through a magazine looking for something to take their mind off of how long they have been waiting. Now that the younger generation is addicted to their idiot phones and social media, we really have no method of reaching them. Their attention span tends to be limited to 140 characters or less.
If you choose to be a writer, no matter what form your story takes, finish it. Until you do, you are not an author.