Friday, February 27, 2009

Writing is Hard: Writing for the Fans

Writing for the fans is a subject I keep coming back to. I don't know why exactly. It's not like marketing where I need to keep repeating certain things until I learn them. I know exactly how I feel about this one and don't need to be reminded of it.

And it's not like I have a ton of fans griping about my pitifully sporadic output, so this isn't something I feel personally. I guess it's more of a pet topic, spawned by my irritation at fan entitlement in general as expressed across the Internet.

Anyway, two recent posts by different people illustrate pretty clearly the balance needed in thinking about this topic.

Science fiction author John Scalzi writes about pissy fans and sums up my usual take on the matter by saying:
Some fans do have a tendency to forget that the creative folks they love are not simply black boxes, who produce desired product at regular intervals. They’re actually real people who do other things than just what the fans want them to do, because humans from time to time want to do the things they want to do, not the things other people want them to do. Yes, some fans don’t like that, but you know what, screw the type of fan who thinks a writer (or musician, or actor, or whatever) exists only to provide them with the entertainment of their choosing.
He follow up that post with another one on Ten Things to Remember About Authors. Both are worth reading, especially if you tend to feel entitled about your entertainment, but even if you aren't it's affirming to hear someone else say what needs saying.

On the other hand...

Jessica at the BookEnds Literary Agency reminds new writers that you can't completely ignore fan expectations when writing.

The difficulty you all face when getting published is living up to the expectations of your readers. There is no publicity as good as the publicity you get when you write a great book, and then your next book is even better. Let’s face it, we’re all fickle readers. We have limited incomes and when an author disappoints it’s often difficult to get us to spend our money on the next book.

... Writing suspense? Your readers are going to expect the same level, if not a higher level, of suspense with your next book. What about fantasy? Your world building needs to be just as strong in your second book as it is in your first. The minute you become a published author you are writing for a lot more than yourself. You’re writing for your agent, your editor and, most important, your audience. Does that mean you need to write the books they think you should write? Not at all, but you do need to come as close as possible to matching the expectations you’ve now set for them.

I don't think that either of these posts contradicts the other (especially not when Jessica adds those last two sentences to hers). They're not opposite viewpoints; they're complementary.
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