Not talking about writers who use the same phrases or names half a hundred times. Something I read yesterday got me thinking. I’m talking about prolific writers who write in the same series or universe over and over, and over, and over again for years. Two or three of the writers I’m thinking of specifically are pretty well known. Two of them are best known for fantasy, the other best known for science fiction and you can probably name all three, particularly if you know my tastes.
Writers stagnate, like most other people who do a very narrow range of mental work they sometimes don’t realize it. It eventually stops being a pleasure for the writer to work in that particular universe, and worse they start to lose sales not because of distribution or bad covers, or a few bad reviews but because their readers can pick up one of their books, read the first stretch and know down to the chapter what will happen when, and be done by whom.
When a writer loses their touch on a series, I think there worst thing that can be done is for them to push ahead with that word. Sometimes writers just need to drop a universe completely and never go back. Others may need a multi-year break wear they write other things (or for some few not at all) that force them to try new things. One of the writers I’ve read for years and years hit this point a couple years back in the universe they are best known for. The earliest books in the the universe I think I have been in print for closing in on twenty years and are high quality works. There were some books when the author got to their breaking point where it was clear to me as a reader that the world was no longer fun. There were some false starts between the hiatus and now, but they’ve recently released a new set of books that are as fresh as the first ones.
This is one of the (many) reasons I like seeing writers work across the various subgenres. Space Opera and urban fantasy have different prerogatives and will require different approaches to how each universe is framed. I can’t imagine a steampunk novel set in some slightly divergent 1871 having the same outlook on the universe as a near future species uplift novel. None of the four should really be approaching things in the same way as a novel set in the middle of the apocalypse where your lead characters are just trying to survive.
Getting there can be half the fun, but if you commute the same road every day, eventually you stop noticing the road traveled.