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Tag: on writing

Characterization and other foibles

I’ve been working on my book again lately, and let me tell you, it feels great to get some progress done. I’m around the 21k mark, which I estimate to be 25-30% progress, though it’s always hard to tell such a thing when you don’t know where exactly the 100% mark will be.

The point is, Pearls and Smoke is a story told in first person, which basically makes the entire book a detective noir monologue, and as such I’ve spent a pretty sizeable amount of time writing Sable’s character. And while this would be a great segue into talking about her character, the thing is that it’s not really that easy.

The thing about characterization when it comes to my writing is that I find characterization as a whole incredibly nebulous. Which isn’t to say that it’s a fake thing, because it’s very definitely real. What I mean is that while I’m fairly competent at consistent and compelling characterization, I’m not very good at articulating a character.

I suppose that doesn’t clear up very much. So let’s talk about it some more.

Writing into the new year

Hello, friends!

It’s the new year (a couple of days late, but don’t mind that), which means it’s time for looking back at the past year and forwards into the next.

It would probably be easier to look at the things I did in the past year if I did any sort of record keeping, which I…generally don’t. So let’s see how much I remember and go from there.

On fantasy and speculative fiction

So I’m writing this on turkey day (though it’ll post slightly later), otherwise known as Thanksgiving in America and just Thursday to everyone else. Unlike back in undergrad, my break only lasts from Thursday until Sunday, so it’s kind of like being back in high school again. It’s not the most exciting holiday because it means there’s more people in the house than usual, which means I can’t sleep in because of people noise, but it does mean I get some time to play games and lay down, which is always a plus. Personally, I’ve spent the weekend so far trying to learn the official Chinese rules for mahjong and writing more of Something Wicked so I have enough content queued up for the next few weeks because I’ve got a schedule to keep.

This would be an opportune time to talk about holidays and family and the fantastic turkey I roasted, but I don’t really feel like it, so let’s talk about that book I’m writing.

The vague anxiety victory lap

Last weekend, I just finished one of my shorter stories (as in about 20k, so not that short). It’s always such a weird feeling when I’m done writing something and put it out for people to read, partially because I hammered out about 13k in a week and partially because there’s this extended period of held-breath anticipation while I wait to see what other people think and if my work really was up to snuff.

The problem with that, of course, is that there isn’t really any kind of objective metric by which I can say my work is good or bad (other than the fact that I have complete confidence in my writing skill, so I can say with some certainty that it’s not bad). I can get comments and kudos from people but there’s no magical threshold over which I know I’ve made it, so there’s no way to really feel satisfied, and I just keep being vaguely anxious until I run out of steam about a week later.

It’s kind of like a victory lap except instead of victory and celebration it’s anxiety about whether there are people out there who share my very narrow window of interests. It’s kind of like when you build a Rube Goldberg machine and try the whole thing out for the first time, except the machine just keeps going and there’s no win condition.

It’s not a mystery why it happens–it’s a function of not having well-defined goals before I throw stuff out into the aether. So, by extension, it’d be pretty easy to fix by setting goals (which everyone loves, I’m sure). It’s just that any number I chose would be arbitrary not to mention irrelevant, because a lot of numbers (comments, hits, kudos) are a function of exposure, not my raw writing skill.

It’s not really a bad thing, it’s just a thing that happens. By the end of the week, I’ll stop worrying about this story and get back to work on the next one.