Serial novels have been around for ages. A “serial” is a format by which a story is shared in a series of instalments over a period of time.
The origin of serial novels can be traced back as far as Shaharazad, a legendary Persian queen and storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.
As the story goes, there once was a cruel king. Every day he would marry a new woman and send his wife from the day before to be killed. When the king married Shaharazad, however, she managed to stay alive. On the first night, she told her wife-killing hubby a great story that lasted until the wee hours of morning. The king asked her to finish but she said there was no time since it was dawn by then.
So the king allowed her to live so he could hear the rest of the story the next night. And so Shaharazad stayed alive by ending each nightly story with a cliffhanger that kept her husband in suspense and coming back for more.
(Just for the record, I’m writing this serial novel out of my own free will and not because I’m worried about being murdered by a lecherous Persian king. Just wanted to clear that up.)
In the 19th Century, the serial novel was a popular form of literature. For example, Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, wrote serialized novels for magazines as they tried to make ends meet.
Stephen King is a more recent example. His novel “The Green Mile” was written as a serial.