Reading a puff piece on Game of Thrones this morning and this sentence leaped out at me. It describes George R.R. Martin's process as "progress through constant addition." I think this is kind of a brilliant insight. Obvious, once you think about it.
Anyway, I recognize it, because I believe "progress through constant addition" is what happens when you write a series of books with one over-arching storyline. It keeps the actions fresh and interesting. It makes the plot complex and demanding. It introduces new characters to root for or against...
And frankly, it is easier to write new stuff than to try to wrestle older plotlines and characters into interesting situations.
It also contains the constant danger of writing yourself into a corner. Personally, I think Martin let his plot get out of control. Feast of Crows just wasn't as satisfying as the first three books. (I haven't read Dance with Dragons.)
I found that with each of my own books, I like to have a fresh slate of characters. In the end, they interact with the characters of previous books. It's a really tough thing to pull off. So tough that I've decided to avoid it from now on.
I can write single books. I can write single books within a series. But I don't want to write a single story over a series of books again in the near future.
Part of it is process. I can pretty much wing a single book -- the plot usually comes to me, and yet I can also veer off where inspiration takes me -- and contain the whole story in my head. I love doing that.
Writing a single story over more than one book -- usually, for me, a trilogy -- takes much more planning. By mid-way through the second book, I really pretty much need to know where the third book is going. Since I prefer to discover my plots while doing them, this can be a problem.
I mean, I've learned to do what's necessary. The first two Tuskers books came easily, but by the time I introduced a whole new cast of characters in the third book, I realized that the plot had gotten too big to wrap up in the third book without getting too complicated.
It may sound strange to say, but adding a fourth book actually simplifies the process. Progress through addition, if you will. I couldn't both introduce three different groups in one book and wrap it up at the same time. Too confusing.
Separating the process into having two plotlines per book, establishing them all, means that in the fourth book I can take already established characters and finally bring them together.
I have a sort of thematic structure in mind. I have two groups who are at polar opposites; basically, the humans versus the Tuskers. But originally, in the third book, I introduced a third group, in the middle, a group of Tuskers and humans together. They're basically the good guys.
So I changed it: in the third book I took out the third group, and instead wrote about the extreme polarization of the Tuskers versus the humans.
It requires a fourth book to establish the third group, and then bring all these groups together for the final confrontation.
It's fine. It's just a lot more work.
6 hours ago