No, this isn't a debate about intelligent design, though a few regular readers would love that. No, this more about evolving as a writer.
I started making a very serious endeavor to become a writer when I (ironically enough) returned from Afghanistan at the end of 2005. Mrs. Axe and I discussed it on and off for some months and she was always the voice of encouragement. (Still is, by the way.) When I first began, my stories were awful. I like to write fantasy – real sword-n-sorcery-type of stuff. My plots were uneven, imagery fractured. I had no sense of my own tone, or own style. I just cranked out the stories and they were honestly pretty bad.
At the time, I didn't think of my productions as such. I was just happy to be doing it. I joined peer-review groups and became exposed to a wider circle. I read books and magazines on writing. I read other stories with a critical eye. Even though I wrote for my own enjoyment, I wanted to be better.
And somewhere along the way, something clicked. The message started to sink in. I developed my own linguistic style, one that – based on some "guess the writer" contests in which I have participated amongst my peers – is somewhat distinctive. As my confidence increased, I branched out into other parts of speculative fiction. I wrote some stories with a science fiction and horror flair. I wrote more modern, less medieval tales. I wrote a book and started a non-fiction project. My writing is different from what it was. I evolved.
(Muse: That sounds awful conceited.)
Maybe it is. Maybe that's the point.
I believe one cannot stay stagnant. You're always changing: growing, shrinking, flowing with the rhythm of the world's heartbeat. That goes double for being an author. I am far and away a better writer than I was when I started making a serious effort to do this in 2006. My vocabulary is better, my turn of phrase comes easier, and I can construct a more cogent plot. Okay, sometimes I can. Will I still be a better writer in six more years time? I hope so – but who knows? I guess we'll see.
And by the way, it's not just as a writer, but as a reader. I've been reading a lot of horror lately, something I haven't read steadily in a long time. Maybe it's not evolution but maybe my tastes are riding a slow moving tide back and forth over the same familiar sand.
I saw recently that Lauren Conrad, actress and author to whom I took somewhat of an axe a while back, released another novel a few months back. I diced her writing up quite a bit. I looked at the new book and part of me wanted to do the same all over again. But another part of me said, "You know what? Good for her, I am glad she's succeeding." Maybe her writing is dreck, maybe it isn't. My opinion is just that, and worth what anyone paid for it. As I have said so many damn times (and I should have it tattooed on my forehead) anything that gets people reading can't be all bad.
I'll even offer the same apology to the werewolf lady – so Ms. Porter if you are still reading, best of luck to you. I did finish reading your book. Not my thing, a little too derivative. But I hope the writing gig works out for you. I'll still take you up on your lunch offer, and even let you hit on me. Just a little.
(By the way, for those of you worried that I will lose my acerbic attitude, don't. I'll just try to be a little less direct about insulting people up front. Or maybe I won't. That's the fun thing about evolution: you never know where it will take you.)