Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Okay, now that I've got your attention....
I'm beginning to think I need a regular feature, called Questions from Kimber, because once again, she provides the topic for today's blog. (When my response to a comment gets to be more than two paragraphs, I figure it's worthy of a post all its own.)
In response to my blog yesterday about physical intimacy in romance, Kimber comments, "The issue I have is with novellas. Obviously I'm not going to have my same three or so love scenes in a novella but if I have sex scenes in all of my novels, are my readers going to expect at least one sex scene in the novella?
Are the expectations different with novellas? Or not?
I don't want to disappoint anyone."
To answer that question, I'm going to address a broader issue: How does an author deal with the issue of reader expectations, real or suspected?
The first thing for the author to figure out, I think, is how comfortable they are with writing to somebody else's criteria, whether it's real or imagined. This is tied directly to that particular author's goals when it comes to writing itself. A writer who has making the New York Times bestseller list as their primary goal will react differently than a writer who doesn't have that as a primary goal (maybe they don't want that pressure, for instance, and the constant measuring of their progress by that yardstick).
However, I think it would be safe to say that most published authors want to keep on being published, and they'd like to increase their sales. So then the question becomes, how much and in what ways do I have to consider my readers and their reactions/expectations in order to do that?
Again, this will depend on the author and her comfort level with writing with somebody else's expectations in mind.
One key thing: note that we're talking about pleasing readers -- plural. This means that there will likely be several reactions to your work, ranging from love to hate, depending on individual reader's preferences and hot buttons. It's nearly impossible to please all of your readers all of the time.
You can try writing to the majority, based on reviews and past reader responses. In that case, you have to keep track of those things and yes, bear them in mind. If you write sexy novels, your novella should be sexy. There are lots of ways to write "sexy" -- use the one that works for those characters and that plot.
I've had letters from readers asking me why I don't write sexier stories, including one that pretty much demanded to know why I was writing romance at all if I didn't. My response? That element of romance isn't what brought me to writing in the first place, so to put the focus on that would be like asking somebody who really loves chocolate truffles and really wants to sell chocolate truffles to produce and market liver pills instead.
Also, I have never liked or enjoyed group work. It was the bane of my existence in school. Writing to please one particular group of readers feels too much like group work to me, so...no thanks.
The other thing is, I don't get a lot of feedback anyway. I don't get masses of readers letters, and my reviews -- for the same book -- can be all over the place.
So here's whose opinions I pay attention to when I'm writing:
First and foremost, my own. It's my story, my characters and my name on the book.
Secondly, my editor. This is the one person who always gives me feedback and perhaps more importantly, this is the person who decides if my books will be published at all.
Sometimes Daughter will read the start of my books (she has usually been too busy with school to read more). If she has a problem with something in the first chapter or two, I will make changes.
That said, I am affected by reviews and reader mail (they can upset or elate me) -- but the effect on my writing is minimal. The one reader comment that did have an impact was actually in a reader blog, written by someone who had read several of my books and noticed something consistent, and not in a good way. I've since tried to improve that aspect of my stories -- because the problem wasn't confined to just one book. And frankly, I paid more attention because the tone of the comment wasn't snarky or condescending. It was an observation of the sort one might make to a friend in a bookstore. She wasn't out to impress me or anybody else with the depth of her perception and informed opinion. It was just something she'd noticed.
And now I notice it, too.
So how sexy should Kimber make her novella and should she worry about reader expectations? The answer is that it's all up to her, depending on her personality, what she wants to achieve and how she wants to go about it.