I mentioned in a previous post that reader feedback is a gift and a curse. I discussed the motivational factor (the blessing), but it also has some unintended negative consequences.
The first unintended negative consequence is that readers ask questions and speculate about the future. I know where I intend for the story to go, but when I hear questions or comments, I find myself evaluating the story and wondering if the things the reader is wondering about could or would make sense and whether they might make the story better. I end up running through scenes and ideas in my head and trying to figure out which alternative is best and would be most beneficial in moving my story to its ultimate conclusion (which has been set since I started the first book and is immutable). This makes it take longer to write.
The second unintended consequence is that praise I have received for the first two books makes me want to be extraordinarily cautious as I proceed so that the quality of the remaining books equals or exceeds the quality of the first book. Ironically, going slower tends to drag down the quality of my writing as it gets me out of the “flow” and the cycle gets more vicious.
The third unintended consequence is that praise makes me want to be unpredictable. I have labored to leave a trail of clues to the future outcome of the individual books along with the future books in the series. I want readers to re-read the book and see the subtle trail that they missed on their first reading. Unfortunately, I also find that I have to add additional layers of complexity to accomplish this in a way that is fresh and entertaining. Why is so-and-so behaving this way in Book Two? What will it mean for Book Three? Will this new character help or hurt their cause? Is he really good? Bad? Confused? As the author, I know the answers, but I want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs that leads in all directions (unless you know to look for only the rye crumbs your second time through the maze)
Either way, there isn’t much I can do about this factor slowing me down. The feedback is a great motivation, and ultimately I am writing in the hopes of entertaining readers, so incorporating feedback is an essential part of accomplishing my goals.