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Reference  -  Serialized Novels: A History

The tradition of stories being told in serial form dates back to One Thousand and One Nights (aka, The Arabian Nights). Its frame story is about Sheherazade telling tales to King Shahriyar – she must keep him entertained to prevent her own execution. She tells the stories in a series, beginning each story with a narrative hook, leaving off with a cliffhanger, and continuing the story the next night. This leaves the King in suspense, waiting until the next night to hear what will happen next. Many of her tales often stretch over many nights or episodes.

Dickens serialization

Charles Dickens’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in its original serial form.

In the 19th century, many prominent writers earned their living by writing stories in serial form for popular magazines. Most of Charles Dickens’ novels, for example, were originally published in this manner, and that is the reason that they are so long — the more chapters Dickens wrote, the longer the serial continued in the magazine and the more money he was paid. Click here to listen to a story about the ambitious project to bring Dickens’ original serial works to the web.

Other famous writers who wrote serial literature for popular magazines include Anthony Trollope (The Barchester Chronicles), Wilkie Collins, inventor of the English detective novel and author of The Moonstone, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the Sherlock Holmes stories originally for serialization in the Strand magazine. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851) as a 40-week serial for the abolitionist magazine National Era before selling millions of copies of the collected volume. George Eliot created Middlemarch (1872) in eight parts, which were published at semi-monthly intervals. Other authors who have used the serial form are Henry James, Erich Maria Remarque, and Tolstoy.

Stephen King created his novel The Green Mile (1996) as a serial. The first editions were printed as six low-cost paperbacks which were later revised and published as a single volume. Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities was introduced to readers as a weekly serial in Rolling Stone magazine.

More recently, writers have been encouraged by the easy accessibility of the Internet to return to the serial format. Douglas Clegg has been in the vanguard, having published his first e-serial, Naomi, in 1999, and he continues to use and expand the format. Stephen King experimented in this form with The Plant (2000), and Michel Faber allowed the Guardian to serialize his novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. Alexander McCall Smith, best known for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, has been publishing a new series of books, Corduroy Mansions, in an online serialized form in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph. The Washington Post has recently gotten into the act with David Hilzenrath’s Jezebel’s Tomb, a tale of Middle East intrigue and archeology in 86 daily installments.

[--portions of this article courtesy of Wikipedia--]

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