Saturday, 2 April 2011

If you would hit the mark... must aim a little above it. - Longfellow (thanks, Twitter!)

I am tempted to declare the above my motto (yes, I'm still not doing a proper blog about Script Frenzy - I'll get to it, I promise). I'm a very ambitious person. It's the natural combination, I feel, of imagination and optimism, and I have both in spades.

I want to talk a bit about my ambitions. Not so much my career ambitions - I want to make a comfortable living off my writing, and that's about it, really (of course, I'm *aiming* to make millions... ;D). I want to talk about my ambitions to write.

I'm in the bad habit of planning lengthy series of novels. I seldom start a single-story project without having it sprout sequels, spin-offs and other ideas. 'The Death of John Collins' started life as a short story, and I'll be lucky to keep it down to a trilogy. 'Bad Romance' started life as a standalone novel, and ended up getting absorbed - along with a lot of other standalone novels - into a truly epic sequence whose completion has become one of my main goals.

I used to deliberately try to write long sequences, because I thought that a longer story would automatically be more complex and therefore more rewarding. That's very much putting the cart before the horse. Once I got things straightened out, I've found I can't stop coming up with sequels and expanding series.

It isn't - or at least, I hope it isn't - the kind of syndrome which has been plaguing Hollywood for a while now. The film industry is churning out needless, bland sequels all the time these days, because a sequel is safe. I add to sequences and stories, when I do, for one of two reasons; either because I believe a character deserves more time in the sun, or because I believe the books that already exist (in my head) require or mandate a book about something else.

It's the latter case which affects the 'Bad Romance' sequence, more than the former. 'Bad Romance' is book 1 of 'Man and God', a sequence of which I've currently laid out 21 books (with the overall story still basically lacking a third act). Now, I'm expecting most if not all of those books to be in the 60-80,000-word range, so we're still not in 'Wheel of Time' territory by a long chalk, but it's still a long sequence.

Why write a sequence that long? There's only one good reason; I want to write those books. Most of the first part (books 1-10) consists of books which more or less stand alone, but just happen to happen in the same world. They describe distinct, separate key events in the collapse of modern society and the birth of its replacement. By the time I realised they fit together in this fashion, seven of the books were already on my 'I'd like to write a book about that' list (Bad Romance wasn't one of them).

I probably wouldn't be trying to market Man and God as a series if I was attempting to break into conventional publishing. Fortunately, I'm not, so I can talk about the series and its ethos now. Part 1 of Man and God is a collection of books which explore philosophical and sociological areas which fascinate me (tribalism, myth, economics, faith and hope, among others). The demise of modern civilisation happens to make a good backdrop; I wanted to write the books, I discovered that putting them together would help each book, provided I added a few to the mix, which I discovered I also wanted to write.

My ambition, in all these cases, is to write such-and-such a book, not to write a 20- or 30-book sequence which happens to involve writing a few particular books.

I suppose the other point to make is that all I'm talking about is ambition to write the books. I'll put them all on sale, though I'm not necessarily expecting them all to sell equally. And nothing stops me writing them - that's the great thing about writing; I can write whatever I want, and if a certain book doesn't make any money, that's just an excuse to write another book and see if that one does.

Maybe I won't ever finish 'Man and God'. Maybe I won't even finish the Collins trilogy. But that's where my ambitions lie right now, so here goes...

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