New chapter of Sweep in Peace is available for your amusement.
I’ve read this quote in PC Gamer and it resonated with me. Alex Hutchinson, the creative director of Far Cry 4, was talking about the Far Cry franchise. For those of you who are not familiar with the franchise, Far Cry is kind of difficult to classify. It usually feature the leading character ending up in some remote, foreign location and being forced to survive. For example, Far Cry 3 features a man who was supposed to have gone on a Micronesean vacation, but ended up on this island with native people, gun runners, drug dealers, and deadly animals. At the core it’s a game about discovery. The first two games int he franchise did okay, but the third was an enormous bestseller with over nine million copies sold. Kid 2 loved it, which is why I’m aware of it.
Now the team has to make Far Cry 4 and instead of copying the same location and just making everything bigger and more scary, they are doing something new.
Sometimes, success is as dangerous as failure. Once you finally hit one and you’re like, “that’s great, people really liked it, and it sold well,” there’s a tendency to change nothing. Just repaint it, keep it the same. We’re not sure what it is, we’re not sure why it worked, and I think that’s by far the most dangerous route to take. Even if you get away with it once, you won’t get away wit it twice, and you fail to learn, so you set bad practices in place. people will start replicating things instead of creating things, so the effort to do more research, to go back and say these elements of the game work, these elements of the game didn’t work has been a lot of fun.
For me, this builds on the post by Karen Marie Moning. Here is the link to the original post.
A small segue…when I stopped writing my HIGHLANDER romance novels and began working on the FEVER series, I encountered enormous obstacles. Change is a demanding bitch. Yet gratifying. I went from writing successful, stand-alone, third-person POV romance novels with happy-ever-after endings, to writing first-person POV urban fantasy novels with none (initially) of the hot-sex-and-guaranteed-culmination in each installment that I normally delivered. To further inflame the situation, I spread the story over five novels and gave them cliffhanger endings (ending DREAMFEVER on a figurative and literal cliff.) As if that wasn’t enough, I proceeded to take an average of 15 months to write each book, stringing the reader along. (Speaking of which—to those original Moning Maniacs who suffered through the wait for each installment, it was great fun and thank you! The SHADOWFEVER launch party was one of the more memorable weeks of my life, spending time with you in NOLA, answering long unanswered questions.)
When DARKFEVER was published, I lost readers, I lost ranking on the bestseller lists, I lost placement in bookstores, and I lost money. There it is. Bottom line. (The FEVER books have since drastically outsold my HIGHLANDER novels, it ended up being a very successful move at a time when historical romance novels were about to become a dying breed. I count my blessings I jumped when I did.)
I got sliced and diced by fans who told me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have what it took to write anything but romance, that I needed to return to my roots, pull my head out of that un-sunshiney place I’d been foolish enough to cram it, and give up the writing the FEVER series.
Fiction writers, especially those who had experienced some modest amount of commercial success, are under a lot of pressure to treat writing as a business. Bills must be paid, deadlines must be made, and sometimes publishing houses say things like “We don’t want to publish this, we want to publish this other thing you came up with, because it will make us more money.” Often the writers acquiesce and end up working on something they don’t want to write. I’ve only experienced this once, with a novella, and both Gordon and I are determined to never do it again.
But back to the pressure. I’m a stubborn person. I don’t generally let myself be pushed around, but I had to face the fact this relentless pressure to produce on demand cracked me like a walnut. This wasn’t a pleasant revelation, but being cracked gave me a new perspective. Yes, writing is a business, but it’s also my creative endeavor. It’s my life. Minutes of my time, my thoughts, my creation. I don’t want to repaint the same car over and over. I want to write new things. I want to reinvent myself every few years. I want to take risks, like writing a SF disguised as urban fantasy or putting out a paranormal romance that has no paranormal creatures in it.
Starting a new series may cost me ranking, money, and placement. Hell, taking Kate Daniels in the new direction might do that. But ultimately taking risks is what makes me happy. Some may pan out, some may not, but at the end, I tried. I took a chance. And that really matters more to me, because it’s my life and I only get one try at it.