Ever heard the phrase, "You can't have just one"?
It implies that the first "one" was so good that another is desired, if not at least warranted.
However, in regards to our entertainment world and the sheer volume of sequels that abound within, that isn't always the case. Often the deciding factor of whether a second (or third, or fourth, or ninth...) installment will go into production relies entirely upon the success of the previous. It doesn't matter how crappy it was, or if no one with any discerning tastes liked it. The question is usually: Did it bring in the big bucks?
This is never more true than in the world of film. I can't tell you how many times I groaned and rolled my eyes when I heard that yet another Transformers: Age of the Moon Revenge was greenlit. It doesn't matter that the critical reception of the franchise has consistently dropped since its inception. People are willing to pay, and Michael Bay and the studio are willing to oblige.
It's not exactly the case when it comes to novels, though. I myself have no publishing deal, and by no means am I an expert on the field, so take what I say with a skeptical grain of "Well-what-do-you-know?" salt. But from what I've read, book sequels are often outlined at the beginning. The publishing company has a certain amount of faith in an author's ability to deliver on a series, a contract is drawn out, and the subsequent books come out on schedule, regardless of the first one's critical or commercial success. However, if your first one was a disappointment, a certain amount of marketing power may be withheld from the sequels (like, all of it).
So, why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with Josiah Upton's diminutive catalogue of literary endeavors? In case you're wondering, I am not producing a Hollywood blockbuster, nor am in contract with a publisher.
It's because I'm writing the second installment in my Sons of Sludge series, tentatively titled DAUGHTERS OF DECAY.
And in regards to a sequel, the above rules don't apply to me. I am just another one of thousands of independent authors - some successful, many more who aren't - that get to make up my own rules. My decision to write a sequel isn't based off what my contract requires (I don't have one), or whether my first one was successful (it really hasn't been). I do it because I want to. I do it because I feel I need to.
I can't have just one.
A few years ago, I was all but certain I would write a sequel to Float. I had preliminary plot points set up, I had an overall direction I wanted the series to go. But then the book went nowhere on Amazon, and I abandoned that idea to take another stab at getting an agent, using a different manuscript, Sons of Sludge. That didn't work either.
Around this time I realized that Float was a starter novel, a valiant effort with good intentions, fueled by a passion for telling (what I still believe to be) a unique story. Any thoughts of writing a sequel for it were scrapped, and the overall concept was to be reborn into a new young adult fantasy manuscript, The Singing Stones.
Yet another attempt at snagging that elusive agent and publishing contract, I went to work crafting my own fantasy world. I filled it with all sorts of characters, both brave and despicable. I drew up a basic outline for the whole series. I wrote about 20,000 words of a first draft.
And then I watched Lord of the Rings again.
By far my favorite work of fantasy, I found too many parallels between that epic story and mine, too many common themes and elements. I almost felt like I was ripping off the master, J.R.R. Tolkien. I had to stop. It wasn't going to work.
All the while, my thoughts and heart kept going back to Zaul. His story felt full and real and solid. It was molded over two years of writes, re-writes, rejection and doubt. And while no book is without flaw - and obviously I'm biased to my own work - it seemed like my best story, the one most worthy to be read. That story isn't finished.
There is no guarantee that completing the series will pay off on Amazon, and it almost certainly won't get me an agent or publishing contract. But there was never a guarantee in the first place. There never will be. And if I must write, I'd rather do it with a story and characters I believe in. Something I believe others can believe in.
And I can't have just one.