What Does THAT Mean? -- Episodic

Katherine Longshore 3 Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This week we’re talking about those terms that come up in critique and reviews that – until they are explained or are actually used to describe your own work – may seem like just a little be more industry white noise.

I’m here to talk about the term “episodic”.  The Collins Concise English Dictionary (the only one I have – forgive me for not having OED) defines episodic as
1.     of the nature of the episode; incidental
2.     made up of episodes, not well integrated; sporadic


Let’s dig a little deeper.  What’s an episode?
1.     any part of a novel or poem that is complete on its own.
2.     any installment of a serialized story or drama.

Now, if you’re me, hearing this for the first time, what you hear is “incidental” “not well integrated” and “sporadic”.  Because it is my nature to latch onto the very worst possible criticism in critique.

Then I start to cry.  “It’s nothing but a hash!” I blubber. “A jumble of disconnected nonsense!”

Cue loss of faith and long, drawn-out diatribe about the uselessness of my own meager talent. 

Fortunately, I didn’t hear the term used about my own work until I’d had a bit more experience with critique.  My editor used it in the revision letter for Book 2.

“Oh, no!” I cried. “It’s nothing but a hash!  A jumble of disconnected nonsense!”

However, I have two things going for me.  I have an editor who would never tell me outright that my work is insufferably irredeemable.  And occasionally – very occasionally – I have a little Yoda voice that refutes the inner critic.

“Gone to the dark side, you have,” it said to my hysterical hair-pulling. “Wrong, you are.  Hash, it isn’t.”

I stopped headdesking to listen.

“But disconnected it is.”

I looked at my manuscript and saw exactly that.  The events within each scene were important to character development, to arc.  They moved the story forward.

But every scene did not necessarily follow on from the one before it.  They were episodic.

Just as we all crave connection to the people and the world around us, so do our scenes crave connection to the rest of the novel.  “Episodic” is a call for revision.  Not revulsion.

“A lesson it is.  Use the Force you will.”

And I did.  And so will you.  But, of course, you would never write an episodic novel in the first place, would you?


Write an episodic novel, I might. But at least I'd hear your Yoda voice talking me down from the ledge afterward. :)

"But, of course, you would never write an episodic novel in the first place, would you?" Well, only if I was Charles Dickens and a Master Of Cliffhangers, which Yoda would tell me I'm not. I actually have a little Yoda figurine in my workspace. And a Yoda yoga shirt. Yikes! Know why, I do not! Somehow I can't imagine you writing hash (said in normal voice).

Write an episodic novel, I would. Craft, I learn. Grow, I do. Each day.

So yeah, it's good that you have someone in your corner to call this out to you and a little Yoda to remind you that you CAN address it.

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