Creating a Serial Fiction Table of Contents

A case study

Many writers want to tell a serial fiction story. When they do, they quickly run into a problem.

With all these individual chapters floating around, how do we make sense of it all?

I am currently releasing a sci-fi/fantasy novel one piece at a time. I am releasing it on my personal website (https://mwmccabe.com/) and Medium (https://medium.com/@matthew.wayne.mccabe). I could release on many more platforms (like Wattpad – https://www.wattpad.com/), but I have enough work cut out for me with just the two. Plus, there is the chance of getting paid on Medium. My personal site will make some money way out there in the far future. It’s an intensive labor of love.

How to organize our chapters

Each segment/chapter gets released as an individual article on Medium or an individual post on WordPress. The bottom of each article/post has a link back to the first post, but this is less than helpful. What if a reader likes part one and wants part two?

We have some more work to do.

  1. Write and post the latest section. This is the easy part. This is the part we enjoy. This is what we were built for. We write, edit, tag, and post the article in WordPress.
  2. We edit the footer of our blog post to link to a Table of Contents post. This will have a link to each section of the serial novel. All of these links will be to your WordPress site. Include the date of your update. That way people can just bookmark the TOC article and quickly see when the last update happened. Additionally, they can also see how often the novel is updated. If it is only once every six months, it might not be worth the investment of time.
  3. Edit the previous instalment to have a link to the “next section” (that you just wrote).
  4. For all of these links (Table of Contents, Last Part, Next Part), we will use the embed function of WordPress so that each link looks “pretty.” It will feature a headline, a blurb, and a featured image. It will look more professional than a text-only “next chapter” link. Add a heading above each link. “View Table of Contents,” “Read next section,” and “Read previous section.” These headings will draw the eye more than the links alone.
  5. Now import the post to Medium. Using the import function will ensure that Medium uses your personal blog as the original source (aka canonical tag). Without this, Google (and other search engines) will see “duplicate content” and penalize you. You can import a story from “Stories > Import Story” under your avatar in Medium.
  6. Make sure the article is imported correctly. I like to leave the “subtitle” blank for serial fiction. That way Medium uses a bit of your prose as the subtitle. We don’t need a secondary title to introduce the content.
  7. Edit the footer of the article to link to your Table of Contents article. Make sure you are using the Medium version of your link. Also include a link to the “Previous” chapter, just like you did on WordPress. Of course, this will be the Medium version of the links. Just as you did on your personal site, you will include headers and use the Medium embed functions to have “pretty” links.
  8. Edit the Table of Contents article on Medium to have the correct link and date of the latest instalment. Make sure you are using the Medium version of the link.
  9. Edit the previous instalment on Medium to link to the next part.

I know there are different ways of displaying a serial fiction series on Medium. I tried out the “Series” function, and it had some glitches. It’s been out for a number of years, so I don’t think it will be updated in the near future.

I also wanted a way that was consistent for both WordPress and Medium. I want to be doing the same thing in two places (just with different links).

There are also publications, but I don’t want to have an entire publication with just my book. Many have done it that way. I’ll keep all of my posts organized through a Table of Contents hub.

Hopefully, this works going forward.

Good luck with your writing!

Check out my completed Table of Contents!

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