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  • Jill Brashear

How Serial Fiction Re-Ignited My Spark


I never believed in Writer’s Block until it came for me.


When other writers talked about getting blocked, I scoffed at them. My muse was strong. I never had a shortage of ideas. Nope, I had the opposite problem—too many of them. Then one day everything changed.

I got stuck halfway through a manuscript with no idea how to fix it.


I missed a deadline with my editor, then another. The complaints from fans started arriving in my inbox. I’d promised my readers a release. Where was it?

Since I write romance, there are certain reader expectations that must be met. Some people complain that romance is formulaic, but that’s the beauty of the genre. If a reader buys a romance novel, they know what they’re getting. The storyline and characters might be different, but the beats are the same:


  • The couple meets

  • Falls in love

  • Bump in the road

  • Grand Gesture

  • Happy Ending


I was stuck on the grand gesture.

Suddenly everything a hero could do to win back the love of his life seemed incredibly creepy.

Love letters in the mailbox seemed like something a stalker would do.

Dozens of roses reminded me of a funeral home.

And let’s not start with the serenade scene. I’d call the cops if a man parked himself outside my window with a speaker.


So, my manuscript languished while I struggled to think of a grand gesture that didn’t make me cringe.

Writing, which had always been my happy place, felt like a chore. My passion was gone, my spark had been extinguished, and my creative juices dried up.


How was I going to fix this?


I needed to find my joy again—hopefully before I missed another deadline.

After some serious soul searching, I remembered what I loved about writing. The escape. My readers are busy moms who juggle work and family and don’t have a lot of downtime. They want to be swept away from the carpool line on a romantic escape, meet a handsome book boyfriend who doesn’t leave his towel on the bathroom floor, and experience the fizzy feeling of a first kiss.


I strive to give my readers what they want. They are the reason I sit down at my desk to write every day. I crave the connection we share through the worlds I create.

Suddenly, a fabulous idea took root in my mind. What if my readers and I created a romance together? We would embark on a journey of discovery similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books.


The first thing I did was send out a newsletter asking my readers to vote on the first chapter. They chose the characters’ names, their jobs, the location of their first meeting, and the trope.


I wrote the chapter and sent it off to my newsletter subscribers.

They loved it. My open rates skyrocketed. My click rates soared. And my spark re-ignited.

Every month I wrote another chapter exclusive for my subscribers. I made sure I only gave them choices I was comfortable writing and honored their votes no matter what. Even though I was dying to write a virgin hero, only ten percent of my subscribers wanted to read about an innocent hero. So, I shelved the idea for later and stuck to their wishes.


Not only did I smash through my writer’s block, I also got to know my readers. The connection I so desperately needed was stronger than ever. The magic was back.

I ended up with a twelve-thousand-word novella set in the same town as my main series. Now, I give it away as a reader magnet to gain more newsletter subscribers. It’s also good for group promotions and Facebook ads.


When the experiment was finished, I asked my readers if they wanted to see the novella fleshed out into a full-length book. Their answer was a unanimous yes!

Writing a chapter a month for my subscribers was easy and fun. It helped me break out of my slump and allowed me to gather valuable information about my ideal reader.


My readers gave me the idea to have the heroine perform the grand gesture instead of the hero. Thanks to my readers, I ended up reworking the last book in the series that had given me so much trouble.

Serial fiction saved me and my manuscript. I finally typed the best phrase in an author’s vocabulary: The End.



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