Back when I was still an aspiring author my audience was very simple, I was writing for agents and editors. While the average book reader doesn't see hundreds of fantasy plots every week, these people do. So it wasn't enough just to write a good book, I had to have a new, fresh good book. My audience was rushed, distracted, and I had one paragraph to make my case that mine was a book worth reading. Knowing this, I was desperate to make The Spirit Thief the most exciting, grabbing, original, fast-paced romp of a story I could squeeze into 80,000 words.
Of course, I'm still trying to do that, but now that my books are actually coming out and I'm working on the 4th book in the series rather than the first, things are different. My audience isn't made of just publishing people, but all kinds of people. People who, in this case, have already read and hopefully enjoyed 3 other books I wrote about my wizard thief and all the problems he ends up in. These people have done me the great honor of sticking along and letting me entertain them and allowing me to keep writing books, and for book 4, they are my primary audience. So the focus of my writing is shifting away from "how can I make this book really good?" to "how can I make this book holy shit awesome for people who've read the other books?" Because really, I read a lot of series, and there is nothing, NOTHING more disappointing and insulting than an author who lets her later books slide. I vow to never, ever become that person.
This new focus is actually a lot more fun to write, though. I know I can trust my audience to know most of the basics of the world, and that lets me dive right into the action. But it's also really really stressful because the bar is so high. People are rooting for these characters. If I flub a scene, someone will be horribly disappointed in me. That's some kind of pressure, and my books aren't even out yet! Still, I've always been the kind of person who gets more focused under stress, and so far, book 4 is shaping up to be the most complicated and, I think, most character driven of all the Eli novels. Also the most intense, especially with what I've got planned for the end. Trust me, you will be standing up in your chair screaming at me when you read this ending. Or at least I hope you will.
This is the new bar, and I'm putting everything I've got into jumping it. As Eli would say "Just don't flub things and it will all work out fine."
Humph. Easy for him to say.