So it looks like this is going to be a week of "All About Anne" posts as opposed to the usual weekday categories. Since I'm not writing in Glenscar or Anosir at this precise moment, it seems better to use this time to catch you up on developments in my writing and world, rather than try to dredge up thoughts on the usual topics.
Tuesday I wrote about my personal definition of success, which may not match yours but hey, that's part of what makes the world fun. Today, as you may have guessed, I want to talk about progress. How can a writer know if she's progressing in her craft, getting better and better at what she does, or if she's instead fallen into bad habits?
Because writing is such a subjective art form, with as many different ways to define progress as there are writers, it's hard to come up with a definition that works for everyone, or even a majority of people. I tend to write dialogue-heavy stories, light on description, so progress for me could be remembering to give descriptive detail.
I've also begun writing longer stories as my fan fiction apprenticeship with the Dangerverse has progressed. A lot of that length is because I delve into the minds of my characters, running through their trains of thought, tracking what they want and how they plan to get it. Is this, too, progress? Or is it unnecessary, overkill, boring?
Here is where we hit the first of the real obstacles, because there is no single right answer to that. Some of my readers thank me for taking them through the steps of making a decision, or grieving for a loss, with my characters. Others feel bogged down and uninterested by this, and would prefer less thought and more action.
I believe I do this because I have a strong antipathy towards people who act without thinking, who blurt out stupid or hurtful things (though full disclosure, I'm sometimes guilty of this myself). This makes it hard for me to write scenes where this happens, because as much as I hate it in real life, it's three times as bad in my fiction.
That may seem nonsensical, but think about it. When someone does something thoughtless or even sets out to deliberately cause harm in the real world around me, I only have to experience that from one side. Whoever that person is, whether it's me or someone else, I'm either perpetrator, victim, or innocent bystander, not all three.
But when I write such a scene in fiction, I have to be all three, and I have to be them so convincingly that my readers buy into the moment. I have to experience that cringing, breath-stopping ache, not just from one angle, but from all three, and not just once but again and again, as many times as necessary to get the scene right.
So. Progress for me began with writing stories where these scenes didn't happen, or only rarely. It continues with stories where it sometimes happens, but it tends to be mild and countered fairly quickly by logic and understanding. And, as much as I dislike it, it's going to have to continue into the occasional scene where tempers explode.
Another level of progress is learning to accept some of the things I mentioned in Tuesday's post on success. I can't appeal to everyone; some people will simply be uninterested in the stories I write, and others will try them, shrug, and say, "Well, it was okay, I guess." Even those who like my work won't always like everything I write.
That, like writing scenes where people are stupid, hateful, or pontificate about things they know little about, hurts me some. It's no one's fault and I would never ask people not to tell me the truth, but it still hurts me some, because my writing is a part of me, and it hurts to be rejected and turned away from, no matter how kindly it's done.
But I know that I do have readers who enjoy just about everything I do, who love to think and laugh and rejoice with my characters. So, to leave this blog post off on a happy note, I have news! After a couple of requests, I have now gained a physical address where you can send me snail mail, should you be so minded! Write to:
Anne B. Walsh
P.O. Box 22123
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
This address has also been added to the Contact Anne page, so that it will have a permanent home. Coming up on Sampler Saturday: the bonus story for Christmastime Is Here 2013 is finished, and Killdeer is nearing completion as well! Follow me on Twitter, @AnneBWalsh, for daily writing updates and funny bits of my life!