One of the sad things about our craft is that sometimes a successful author starts getting complacent… or maybe the word is lazy.
Take David Eddings, for example. He wrote a total of twelve books in one world, and six in another, so he would seem to have his fair share of creativity. However, his latest series has been panned on Amazon as, in the words of one reviewer, “Nothing really new here.”
I just got the first book in that series from the library, and though I’ve only read the prologue so far, it sure seems like that reviewer is correct. The prologue is, just like in many of his earlier books, a fictional excerpt from a fictional history of the world he’s created. You’d think by now Eddings would have figured out another way to start a book.
I think the problem here is the same thing that we’re seeing in many movies… namely, remakes, “re-imaginings,” and sequels of movies that did well, rather than truly new ideas. Eddings may be thinking that, hey, this formula worked fine for me for all those books, it should keep on working. But after a while, it just gets boring, and people turn away.
Another formerly great writer who seems to have fallen is Raymond E. Feist, at least judging from these Amazon reviews of the first book of his latest series. I haven’t read it myself — yet — so I can’t offer any first-hand impressions of it yet, but those reviews have me thinking I’m gonna get that one from the library too so I’m not spending money on something I don’t like.
With Feist, the problem may be spending too much time in one world. He’s basically written about the same world non-stop since his breakthrough novel. Different characters from time to time, but the same world. He may have just run out of ideas, so it might be time for him to find a different world to write about.
Now, I’m nowhere near as successful as either of these two great authors — both of them are favorites of mine — but I’m already making plans to try and not fall into the bad habits they seem to have. After Librarian I am planning another two books to finish the story and round out the traditional trilogy, then I’m planning either a cyberpunk series or a superhero series. I have one concept that would work well for either one, so I need to pick one and go that way, and then if I decide to do the other I firmly plan on coming up with a different concept for it (for the record, I am leaning towards cyberpunk, but could change my mind). I most definitely don’t wanna be seen as a one-trick pony. I’ve also got a different fantasy concept in mind, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as just a fantasy author either, so I’ll probably do that one after either the cyberpunk or superhero books.
If you’re an up and coming author, one of the best things you can do is learn from the masters. I’ve spent over 20 years immersing myself in lots of sci-fi and fantasy, and I hope that comes through in Librarian. But please, don’t just learn their good traits, you should also learn from their mistakes, as I’ve pointed out in the cases of Eddings and Feist above. If one of your favorite authors does something you don’t like, learn how to avoid that mistakes yourself. You’ll be a better author for it.