Expectations are a good thing, right? When your boss lays out clear expectations for a job, it makes it easy to perform well. That’s a basic management tenet. So how does that apply to writing? That’s something I’ve been pondering lately. Beware: this is not a blog for the faint of heart!
I started thinking about all the expectations people have about a writer’s next novel. Some of those expectations come from the author, some from readers, and then there are a few from the publishers. The expectations can vary from very simple and easy to meet and understand to the more complex.
I find that I do very well with clear and concise expectations, such as this manuscript needs to be back to me by a certain date. Bam! Done! The expectation that I write a better novel than my Goldie winning book, Locked Inside, was not so easy. To be fair, that was an expectation I placed on myself. No-one else declared I should deliver on that expectation. I think I accomplished that feat, even though I honestly did not believe I could. From my perspective, and that of many of my loyal readers, Unconventional Lovers did indeed surpass Locked Inside. After completing that novel and sending it out into the Universe, I was left with a huge conundrum. How in the world can I ever write a better book than that? I imagined everyone was expecting it. I don’t believe I have delivered and now I feel crippled.
I remember years ago the management concept of the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle basically states that people in a hierarchy rise to the “level of incompetence”. Yikes! That got me to thinking, is that where I am at? Hopefully, I’ve continued to improve as a writer and perhaps I am at the point where everyone’s expectations have placed me into the “incompetence” territory. I should stop before it gets any worse!
That got me to thinking about another management concept from the Vital Smarts organization regarding willpower and change. The assumption is that people don’t make the changes they need to make because they lack motivation or willpower. It is so much more complicated than that. Change is not simply about willpower or being strong enough to change. Apparently, there are six sources of influence that can work against a person when trying to change. Those six influences are:
- Personal Motivation – whether you want to do it.
- Personal Ability – whether you can do it.
- Social Motivation – whether other people encourage the right behaviors.
- Social Ability – whether other people provide help, information or resources.
- Structural Motivation – whether the environment encourages the right behaviors.
- Structural Ability – whether the environment supports the right behaviors.
Finally, I remember one of my favorite songs, Perfect by Alanis Morissette, that always breaks my heart when I hear it. The song is about never feeling like you’re quite good enough. I fall prey to that affliction of perfectionism and need to work hard every day to remember that all we can ever do is try our best!
Right now I am stuck on Personal Ability. Do I really have the chops as a writer to improve (change) my current WIP to make it something worthy? I have my doubts. Thus, those expectations are currently working against me and are crippling versus inspiring me to new heights.
I am at a new crossroads in my life and time will tell which road I choose to travel, but you can be sure expectations are the tiny yellow bricks forming the path. I will leave it up to the readers to determine if I’ve met your expectations. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reluctant in the past to write sequels. Often, the sequel is not as good as the first book. If I haven’t met the readers’ expectations, I will need to pull up my big girl panties and hope to pull a rabbit out of my ball cap to see what I can do to remedy that! You be the judge and feel free to click on the links below to let me know.
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5 thoughts on “Great Expectations…”
Ouch you are really putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Don’t let your fears or expectations kill off the part of you that loves to share a good story with others. Isn’t that why you started to write in the first place? If you don’t feel compelled to write a sequel then don’t. I know, I know, I’m one of those that keeps asking you for one, but if it’s not something burning inside you to be told, then don’t force it.
I think there are quite a few authors that share those same fears with you, and then someone like me that is still struggling to learn to share their first effort. I can only look to someone like you, that has written so many good books, and hope that somehow I will measure up.
Well…clearly I am not putting enough pressure on myself because I was supposed to fix a WIP this past week and….NADA, I could not think of one word to write
(sigh), expectations… I’m a reader Annette. Do i have expectations of “the next book” an author , you, or christopher Nuttall, Terry Mancour, Colleen Helme, Nancy Ann Healy, Anne Perry, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Blackstream, Brandon Sanderson, Stephen Coonts, Lee Child, ( all are USA Today best sellers or NY Times best sellers) and an endless list of authors ive read over the decades??? In some cases, yes, because every single one of those authors I listed, except you, write a series that I’m invested in, because ive been reading the series for years. You, write stand alone, not series. I read your stories to find out what youve come up with next, unlike the series authors i expect a continuation of the series , of the characters and story ive invested years in. I dont “expect” from you, unlike i just said, i “expect” from series authors. I look forward to reading your stories, because they are all different. From the quirky, nosey, Juliet Lewis in Captivated, to the tough agent Val in Asset Management. I would hope your other fans feel a similar way. Not “expecting” you write the next Great Expectations, but write the stories you do because we look forward to reading them, not expecting.
And….it seems like there are really good reasons I should stay away from series books!
Yes, because Yes readers do have expectations of authors that write series. They want to see ( read about ) their favorite character. They want to see their favorite character hook up with whomever they believe their favorite character should hookup with, When the author doesn’t do what they expect, fans become upset with the author. Even NY Times Best Selling authors. ( Laurel K Hamilton, Jim Butcher , even George RR Martin). Your stories on the other hand are all different. Never know what your going to write about ( what to expect) and that is something to look forward to. You have a new one that’s out for pre-order and I look forward to reading it.