A Positive Circle

Okay, people! Here at last is AKH’s own guest post. I had no idea how The Touchstone Trilogy actually came to be written, and I bet you didn’t either. Check it out!

Without further ado:

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The received wisdom about becoming an author is that you have to be tough. A thick skin, some judicious padding, a solid suit of iron and perhaps even a mirrored shield. Expect rejection, and don’t read your reviews.

I say reviews are one of the best things about being an author.

Yes, there are negative reviews. There are also handy little stars that make them easy to avoid, or to read only after deciding you feel the need for a ‘learning experience’. Your mileage might vary on the worth of learning experiences, since the one consistent thing reviews have told me is that every reader is unique, and the exact same passage in a story can be complete dreck, or the shining jewel that a reader hoards in the deepest part of their heart, to take out and clutch when Measures are needed to get through the day.

There was a time when I was completely unread. I don’t mean unpublished, I mean I wrote but showed my books to no-one. Not beta readers, not friends, not the slush pile. That was a withdrawal born of too long on the submission-go-round. Feeling like I was beating my head against a wall, I stopped giving my books even to the people who wanted to read them. I almost stopped writing altogether.

I cured myself with a fiction blog, something I would write for exactly one year, putting up regular entries, but where I felt I could forget “good writing” and just say whatever I liked, because I was writing entirely for me, even if it was possible for the whole world to see.

Fallen out of the World had one regular reader. I called them “New Jersey”, since their IP was the only thing I knew about them. I was enjoying writing my fiction blog, and I expect I would have kept on for the year without New Jersey, but boy did they make a difference! Each day I’d put up a blog entry, and each day New Jersey would show up and read it and I would imagine their reaction, and wonder if this entry would be enough to keep their attention, and make them want to come back tomorrow.

New Jersey did give up eventually, but after the year was over, and I was only posting the occasional frothy monthly updates about weddings. And the mere fact that for an entire year I had kept the attention of a complete stranger, who knew absolutely nothing of me except the words appearing on the internet, was a lovely warm weight on the positive side of the writing scale. And that fiction blog went on to become Touchstone, and every week it brings me fresh joys.

When I create a world, and people, and give them a story, they exist only to me – and the stories give me great enjoyment. When those stories open to readers, and readers write about their favourite moments, and who they ship, and the bits they didn’t like, and the bits they love, and the moments they go NO! and the other moments they go YES!, that enjoyment is magnified and reflected back a thousand fold.

I love reading reviews. I particularly love reading the status updates people make on my books on Goodreads, especially when they react to THAT moment at 80% in And All the Stars (*evil grin*). Reviews, and the discussion of people who have become my audience, is the up-draft that keeps me sailing across the first draft ocean, because now when I write I’m looking forward not to the submission grind, but to how MY readers will react to THAT scene, and if they will love THIS couple, and how many will spot the clever thing behind the mystery, or be as delighted-revolted as I am by the scene with the hand.

And it’s scary as well, of course, because I don’t want to let people down, but that is merely a spur to be better, so I can keep on enjoying what has become a shared adventure.

So to my readers, to all readers, to New Jersey: thank you. [I’ll try to get a book out this year!]

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So, did anybody of you guess that Touchstone was written basically one day at a time? I expect there was some Continuity Cleanup later, but still, wow. I believe Sorcery and Cecilia was written as a letter game between Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, but I don’t offhand know of any other books written like that, though no doubt there are some. I bet few work out as well.

I can certainly say I absolutely agree about reviews and about the value of the little stars. I personally have never wanted a Learning Experience enough to deliberately read a negative review. Positive reviews have enough of those little moments, not to mention that it’s so true that the same character or scene is perceived so differently by different readers that there’s no way to sort out Stuff You Did Right — everything is right for some people, and all wrong for other people. So you write for yourself and for your fans. And believe me, you cherish every. single. fan. who lets you know that he or she loved one of your books.

Thank you all for participating this week. I enjoyed it, I hope all of you did, and a big after-the-fact Thank You to New Jersey, for giving Andrea the oomph to keep going through a tough time, thus making this week possible for us all.

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7 thoughts on “A Positive Circle”

  1. I actually recall wondering, once, to what extent Touchstone was composed day-by-day. But I decided no, probably not … shows how much I know. Reading it as a daily fiction blog would be an interesting experience, what with all the unexpected turns.

    And now Andrea has got me curious about the one reader from New Jersey, which curiosity is I suppose doomed to remain unsatisfied.

  2. Aww, thank you, New Jersey, indeed! May you eventually have discovered the published books and been delighted to get more of her writing!

    And that survivorcass tumblr with the excerpts becomes another iteration of daily experience with cass – well there are excerpts there, not the full text and lots of pictures. Having read Cass before this, I can still imagine the places and people as I see them, but I find it interesting to see how the collector of the images interprets the scenes.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Andrea! I’m very thankful to New Jersey for encouraging you to keep writing. That’s such a lovely story about how Touchstone came to be. I agree with both you and Rachel, every reader has a different experience when reading the same book and there’s no way to predict how people will react. I love reading reviews as well, especially from readers and bloggers who share my tastes in books. Those reviews help me discover authors that I wouldn’t have known, otherwise. Like with your books, I’m grateful for all the bloggers who have been raving about it, and for Estara for sending me a copy of And All the Stars.

  4. Yay for New Jersey! Obviously a reader with discerning taste ;-)

    I love this story, and I do hope you release a book this year (but no pressure – I’ll go do the Medair re-read I’ve been meaning to do for ages…).

  5. Medair was one that definitely needs a re-read, imo. It’s like the movie The Sixth Sense; you have to go back and see if you can spot certain clues …

  6. I have had all your books on my Kindle for awhile now, and finally read “Stained Glass Monsters” last week.It was the only one I hadn’t read. I’d been saving it for when I really wanted something new and good, and knew I could depend on anything of yours to answer that need. Which it did. I liked the shared POV in this case, and the main characters felt a little different from some of your others – more acerbic. A little like the main character in Martha Wells “Wheel of the Infinite.” (Wish I could remember names – I am as bad with books as I am with people in real life. Takes repeated exposures to make a name stick.) I also enjoyed last year’s Hunting. Please keep ’em coming.

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