THE SERIES APPROACH
Some might think Charlie Stross a little cold-blooded in his approach re his Family Trade series, and toward writing in general. What? Write a book-and-a-half every year?! What? Map out a whole series and then have to follow through with it for a decade? What what?!
But mixed in with what I would call either blatant commercialism or clear-eyed pragmatism is solid information on how good writers operate--including "steal" (don't borrow) and how ideas form (cross-referencing different genres or approaches).
What I can't buy into is the idea of "series fiction", though. This may seem ironic, given that I'm writing several novels set in my fantastical city of Ambergris, but there is a difference. I'm not writing a story arc. I'm writing several independent novels with the same setting. I can quit any time I like and Ambergris will still seem "finished". Stross may not have that luxury. (Perhaps he does and I've mis-read his blog post.)
In any event, I thank my lucky stars that I'm not locked into a series. And that I'm not looking to produce a novel every year. Every writer is different and any approach can be valid for a given writer. Stross is clearly happy with his approach, and that's great. But there is also something to be said for letting ideas and characters age until they acquire the depth, breadth and level of detail that turn them from the ingredients for a perfectly adequate novel into the ingredients for something more lasting.
I generally try to stretch myself (sometimes severely) with each new novel, so having time to reflect isn't just a matter of organizing my thoughts and developing enough of the story in my head before I get it down on paper. It's also a matter of acquiring enough mastery of technique to write the new novel. Shriek: An Afterword took years to write not just because of lack of time to work on it, but also because I needed time to develop certain writing skills in order to do the novel justice.
Luckily, the next Ambergris novel, Zamilon File, won't take six years to write, delays or not, but it, too, will be a learning experience. And sometimes that takes time.