Me or Thee – For Whom Do I Write?

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Do I write for myself or my readers? There’s only one answer – both, yet it’s a balancing act affected by a number of ever-changing variables. If I only write what my readers want, I run the risk of stifled creativity, boredom, and resentment. Eventually, the personal sacrifices necessary to write in the first place would no longer seem worth it. If I write only what interests me, readers may move on to someone else, and without an audience for my work, what’s the point?

Series are popular, yet I’ve found them both a blessing and a curse. Once the foundation is laid in the first book, I have a clear road ahead for more stories. Readers fall in love with the world and characters I’ve created and they naturally want more. Great! Who doesn’t want happy fans and increased sales? Strangely enough, it may be the author!

I’ve always resisted being trapped into long-term commitments with no exit strategy. I want options, and with a series there don’t seem to be any! Spending years writing about the same world and characters feels like prison, and I have to get away for a while and do something else. There are other ideas to pursue and genre’s to explore. Give me variety or give me death! OK, that’s over the top, but you get my meaning. When I explained this situation to one of my beta readers, this is what she said:

“Most of us hate it when we find a book we love and can’t read a second book for many months or years. If something is popular now, you should keep writing it or they will lose interest and you will never get them back because they won’t remember how much they liked it.

“I understand that when you have more stories you want to write, you would rather go on to something new that has been waiting. But, I think that authors have to write what will sell to some degree, or they won’t make enough to do it for a living. Tough decisions!”

I think she’s right, but even if I did as she suggested, it takes me around nine months to complete and publish a full length novel. So, I’ll still end up disappointing some current readers who don’t want to wait, but satisfying future readers who have the benefit of my backlist! There’s really no way to “fix” this, given my personal limitations and time constraints, but I’m going to see if I can do better.

At the moment, I’m working on a shorter in-between story for my Gladstone Shifters series. Fans have been waiting for over a year since book two came out, but I set the series aside to do something different (insert Rise of the Draman here). At the time, book two wasn’t doing all that well, and along with craving something new, I hated the thought of wasting time on a series no one was buying.

Due to an influx of new readers, and insistent pleas from established fans, I’m back on track with Gladstone Shifters. The plan is to finish book 2.5 and then move directly to book three, which is a concession on my part. After that, who knows? A second volume of dragon stories is possible (creating yet another series!) or I may move on to one of several other ideas bubbling away on the back burner. Tough decisions indeed!

As a writer, do you have a similar struggle trying to balance your needs with those of your readers? As a reader, do you lose interest in an author if the series you like is still in process? Let me know your thoughts!

Off the Rails – Gay Romance Gone Bad

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Gay romance is one of my favorite genres to write and read, but I’ve noticed some disturbing patterns of late. I’m not talking about fringe stuff, kinks, or dark reads – just regular M/M stories with happy endings. Apparently, a good number of authors have become complacent or are more interested in pushing their personal agenda than crafting a fine, well-balanced story. I suspect the same could be said for any popular genre, but this one caught my attention. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Overused Tropes

Honestly, how many people inherit a cabin in the woods or the estate of an absentee relative? Not all dog owners fall in love with their Vet and most enemies (boss, business rival, or High School crush) do not become the love of your life! Furthermore, hot and single millionaires are not hanging around with common folks looking for a meaningful relationship. Authors need to quit relying on tired old tropes whose time have come and gone.

Fractured Families

I can’t count the number of MC’s whose parents have died horribly or are way too old to have twenty or thirty something offspring! Are we meant to believe that all gay men face life alone or worse yet, aren’t speaking to their relatives? Do gay men always have homo-hating fathers, abused mothers, and siblings they never talk to? I understand the need to inject drama into a story, but why so often at the expense of family?

Young and Fit

Not every gay man in the world is under 35, healthy, hung, and drool-worthy. This may sell books, but it isn’t real. Enough said.

First Time Gay

This one really burns my cookies. There is an overabundance of stories about the clueless straight guy falling for his best gay friend, boss, neighbor, etc. Being gay is not a choice, and truly straight men do not suddenly realize that they are interested in sex with another man, as titillating as that idea may be! Often, authors of this type of story are married heterosexual women. Check your facts honey – it doesn’t happen this way (just ask your husband)!

Anytime Sex

Sorry, but penetrative sex can’t happen whenever the mood strikes. Not only that, many gay men don’t enjoy it at all, preferring other forms of intimacy. Again, a healthy dose of realism (not the gory details) and diversity is needed in the gay man’s bedroom.

Religion Bashing

I will be the first one to admit the church at large has treated the LGBT community horribly, and there is good reason to be angry. That said, it isn’t necessary or fair to blame the religious community for every problem in a gay man’s life, and not all people of faith are raving lunatics. Rejection and condemnation by family and clergy alike remains a significant problem, and I don’t mean to say authors should ignore it. What they need to do is avoid bludgeoning readers with it repeatedly. The horse is dead already, so give it a rest.

 

Romances will always remain popular, and there are hundreds of authors out there cranking out story after story. I understand and accept the wide diversity of readers, writers, subjects, and tropes, but would like to see more balance, realism, and thoughtful crafting. As a writer, it’s my responsibility. As a reader, I deserve better.