Here’s an interesting read about a SF author Charles Stross‘ experiences in writing his latest novel The Family Trade. He likens it to writing a fantasy novel, a genre of which he is not too enamored. His rules for designing a successful fantasy series are:
Rule 1: Don’t steal from living authors, their ecological niche in the publishing jungle is already occupied. (Alternatively: nobody needs another Robert Jordan.)
Rule 2: Steal from the best. There’s no point stealing from the worst.
Rule 3: If you steal an entire outfit from one writer’s wardrobe, people will mock you for being imitative. So steal from at least two, and mix thoroughly.
Rule 4: When choosing the themes to pilfer, only pick ones that you, personally, find interesting — if you pick something boring you’ll only have yourself to blame if it’s successful and you end up chained to the desk to write more of it for the next decade.
Rule 5: However much you’re stealing, make sure it doesn’t look stolen. Genre publishing is a beauty show, and originality wins prizes (but not too much originality).
Anyway, it’s an interesting article that touches upon writing, the publishing business and booksplitting.