Who Do You Write For?
Mine, mine, it's all mine: I have to admit that I'm always shocked whenever I hear writers say they write for themselves. Some even go so far as to say that to do anything else would be an insult to the creative process and art itself. I understand that way of thinking, but I rarely write for myself. I write for myself in the fact that I like the feeling of accomplishment writing brings. That's for me, but as far as the story goes… I write for the reader. Mostly. Unless I get sidetracked.
The editor's book: This is a trap many writers fall into when under contract, because at that point we're writers for hire. We are being paid to deliver what the editor and publishing house want. We quickly learn an editor's likes and dislikes, and we begin writing to that editor's tastes, in part simply because the process will be easier if we can satisfy the editor. Some editors won't have it any other way. It's their way, or no way. I can name several books I wrote for an editor. Problem is, I don't feel these books are as good as the books I didn't write for an editor. And if I go by sales and reviews, I think readers would agree with me.
The protest book: Oh, I've written A LOT of these. Telling me I can't do something is like waving a red cape in front of me. And I think the protest book tends to be the best book. These books are slammed by agents or editors, usually in the idea stage, but sometimes the slam is to the complete manuscript, or an early manuscript. Off the top of my head, five of my books were protests books. Going way back to the beginning of my career, my first protest book was Amazon Lily. An agent chewed me out for writing it, and she said I had no idea what a romance was. That inspired me. I throw fingers at that kind of thing.
Instead of taking her advice, I went the other way and added more of what she hated. My next protest book was Cool Shade, which ended up winning a RITA. That protest book was followed by Hush, Play Dead, and more recently, The Girl with the Cat Tattoo. All protest books. All condemned. Hush was actually dismissed before it was written, so it wasn't a condemnation of the book, but of my writing ability. Too complex for you.
I'm bored and need a challenge: This is something writers have to be really careful of, and these books, at least for myself, can be some of the worst books. What I'm talking about is that point where you begin to become bored with traditional structure and the expected. You want to challenge yourself, so you add some things that two books ago you might not have done. (I think in romance we used to call this the sex on the galloping horse stage.) As a creative, you want something new. Problem is, this kind of thing often leads to an unsatisfactory read.
The reader's book: I know, I know. Everybody says writing for readers is a bad idea, but I don't think it's a bad idea. Why is it a bad idea? In fact, it seems like the best idea. With my current project, I'm writing with the reader in mind as I constantly try to figure out how to give the reader the most satisfying experience. Of course I can only guess and hope I get it right, at least for the majority of the people who buy my next book. When all is said and done, I'm a people pleaser. I WANT to write for readers.