Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Who am I writing for?

This is a question I´m thinking about a lot , these days.
Do I write for my existing readers who are expecting a sequel?
Do I write for potential new readers who haven´t found my books yet?
Do I write to please my publisher, the book market or even critics?

Or do I simply write for myself?
About five years ago, when I started to write Ghostbound, this was not a question at all.
It was my private little project. My hobby, my spare time pleasure and escape from “same old same old.”  My baby!
After all I have a full time job as a Marketing Manager that keeps me busy for 40+ hours a week.
I didn´t think about whether other people would like it, if it meets someone’s expectations or whether there´s a market for such a story. It was just those handful of characters, who talked to me and with whom I spent a brilliant time. Together with Liz and Danny I fell in love and lived through their adventures.
I put everything into the plot that has fascinated me for ages: magic, the paranormal, ghosts, secret societies, conspiracy theories and the good old fashioned murder mystery. I didn´t even think about where it should take place. It was the most natural thing to me that it has to be London, the city I´m in love with.
The more the story grew and the more confident I became, the circle of readers grew. First my family, then close friends, then acquaintances and finally critical readers, I haven´t known before (Yes, Romana, I mean you!)
Each feedback pushed me forward. The positive ones motivated me and the more critical made me (and the text and the story) better.
And with each step, the pressure grew. I was not writing for myself anymore. I started to think about the expectations of the readers. Would they accept Liz´s decision? Will they be happy with the ending?

At one point, I was brave enough to reach out to publishers. And things like “markets” and “target audiences” came into consideration. Is a ghost a fitting hero? (at this stage vampires were still en vogue and shifters/angels/demons were coming up) Is it appropriate to have a setting in London when it´s going to be published in Germany? Is it too much fantasy? Is it ENOUGH fantasy? Would more sex sell better or is it already too much for younger readers?

When the trilogy was finally published and I got in contact with book bloggers, I was so nervous I bit down my fingernails until they bled. But when the positive reviews and recommendations came in and readers exclaimed they LOVED the story and the characters (especially funny, charming, mischievous ghost Danny, for whom they even established a little fan club) I was in author´s heaven. 

But with that humble success the writing changed.

I´m currently working on the sequel (Spellbound) and it´s a completely different experience.
First of all, you have to be true to your characters and the universe you´ve created, of course. So you are not as free as you used to be, anymore.

But then there are also those damned expectations.

From your devoted readers, the publisher – and yourself.
Will the new story live up to those expectations? How will readers react, if the mood of the story changes or a beloved character behaves different, or - heaven forbids- dies? Is the story still as romantic and thrilling as it was before? Does the plot meet the market need so I can reach new readers too? It´s a balancing act. You have to be fresh and new, so it´s not just repeating itself and getting boring, But at the same time you have to stick to what people loved before.
And you know what, folks? This is difficult!
It´s a lot of pressure, because you just can´t please everyone.
So I made a decision.
I am going back to write for myself. It´s MY story, MY characters and MY adventure.
I´m delighted if I can take people away with me on that trip and provide some romantic, thrilling an entertaining hours.
But at the end of the day it´s my hobby. I´m far away from making a living out of writing and I´m enough of a realist to know that this won´t change in the near future. So I will make sure that I have fun in my spare time and I look forward to sitting down on my laptop and type away to escape to London for a while.

And everyone inclined is cordially invited to join me on that trip :)