It does a lot of stuff.
It has a rich world, which draws you in. It is something to explore in, to adventure in, which you want to know more about, which has all that complex history, geography, and whatnot. It's a place with all these cool things in it, which make the world so good.
It has a bunch of characters, all of which have these rich histories to them, unique personalities, character interactions, banter, and whatnot.
And in spite of it being a fantasy setting (and therefore, having no direct counterpart for races), it's got a wide variety in terms of cast race and also identity. More than their actual race (vampire, undead, human), I'm also talking about their background beyond that. There are tons of different skin colors, and tons of different perspectives.
...Well, it's a bit of a masterpiece. Scattered. Not currently coherent. But it has a strong narrative to it. I don't think I've ever written something that good before, and I don't think I ever will again. It's as good as I think I will ever get as a writer, thanks to just how much love and care went into the novel.
...I mean. Sure. For other mediums, I've done this sort of thing before, namely, The Descended and the World of Soano is pretty rich. I also have Red Hood Rider to my credit, albeit debatable on that front. (The whole point of course being Ruby = me, and therefore, Ruby = a Mary Sue, so...not necessarily a point in my favor.)
But in writing? What have I written even close to it? Even close to it in theory? I don't have anything. Not. one. thing. Is even remotely close to it in terms of theoretical quality. Maybe in technical quality. My current writing on it, being scattered and rushed? Is technically speaking, atrocious. I was a better writer technically five years ago than what the current project has right now.
...But that's largely thanks to the nature of the current writing, and how it wasn't meant at the time to be a novel. With a tweak in medium so that it was meant as one, that's easily fixed. So. While I've written works far superior in technical quality (currently, anyway), never once have I made anything even remotely this good in terms of overall quality: I outdid myself, completely and entirely by accident.
And this may sound silly.
But that's got me a little bit concerned that people would be turned off of my future writing, because the first thing I published was just so good that nothing I could make after it would be as good...especially since it's a bit of an unfair expectation.
Every novel I would publish after it would be older.
I don't have any ideas newer than this one.
And even if I did, they aren't anything particularly remarkable.
So, all my ideas are older. All my novels I would publish would be the things which helped make my current idea as good as it is in the first place, with bits and pieces from each of them contributing to the novel published first but effectively made much, much later.
So, all the works I'd make would be inferior to my first work published. And that's largely a consequence of how--and when--they were written. Like...90% of my novel ideas have basis in when I was a 14-year-old "boy". I thought I was an average male child at the time. I dreamed of being something more, and that "something more" became the basis of my stories.
Meaning, 95% of my novel ideas revolve primarily around a male, in his teens, who is the center point of the story where everything revolves around him. A normal, straight male, who usually (though not necessarily) ends up with a girlfriend by the end of the story. Because that was my dreams at the time.
And all of these things? These things are still there, years later, even after I have discovered my identity. Now! I have, at rare times, had characters be of different ethnicities. Even in my first story ever (which is fairly impressive, actually), Rabrian the Adventurer, the secondary couple in the story was a Caucasian male with an Egyptian female, which is one reason that I never showed my story to my family since I knew that my racist dad would...probably not approve of that, and yet, it's something I wanted to do.
But even that isn't the best. Even there, you can see the mindset of "straight male kid author who has no clue about these things", because at the time, that's exactly what I was. Years later, in my current state, my writing has improved leaps and bounds technically, but mentally? Mentally, I'm still on those same stories.
And that means that, mentally, I'm still in that same mindset. My mindset has, stubbornly, much to my own frustration, remained largely the same, and the only way I can change it, usually, is by forcing a change, and when I force a change, it is very, very, very notably a forced change.
Like, we're talking: these story ideas have evolved in my head for years such that I already know all the characters as if they were real people. I know them as if I would my own friends, and my own family. Sometimes, they surprise me. I've learned that some characters I had assumed were straight were bi, for example. But I know what they look like. I know what they sound like. I know their personalities, their history, what they do, what they say, basically everything.
And because I've known them since I was 14, essentially...since I've known them for ten years. I can't exactly say, "oh, hey, that one person who was a straight white male is now suddenly a gay black female", to give a bit of an extreme inversion. It feels wrong. It's not natural, not right, for me to make that change on them. It feels like the sort of thing people in real life would force on a minority out of denial, things like camps for gays to "fix" them.
They are who they are, to me. And who they are...is people that I see.
I'm not sure if any of this is making sense. But basically? Basically, because my upbringing wasn't as diverse as would be optimal, the basic way I think in stories was not the greatest. And in spite of all my efforts to change that, for all the stories that exist prior to me having diversified my mindset, only small things here and there change, nothing major.
Things like my protagonists being more diverse in name, appearance, and personality.
Things like my settings being more different from one another.
Yet mostly, stuck in a spot where they are by and large: part of the problem, not the solution.
I've been closely following a conversation some of my friends have been having about fiction. And while I am a transgender lesbian, my writing is still primarily in the mindset of a straight male. This is not the first time I've seen the conversation. On ComicFury, there was a bit about including characters of color, and in that conversation, I was made painfully aware that most of my characters in most of my works are in fact straight whites, with the occasional exception here and there.
I'm not as good as I could be.
I'm not as good as I should be.
Writing is the thing which, above all other things, I have skill in.
It's the one thing that I consider myself to be good at, with no need for humbleness.
I will brag about my writing. I will be proud of my writing. I will acknowledge that, sometimes, it sucks, especially older writing. But I will continue advocating, "My full skills, at their best, are good". And in many ways, this remains true. I'm a good writer technically. I can make writing work in any combination of person and tense. I even once wrote in second-person future tense, and it worked! I can turn combinations of tense and perspective people hate into something that enriches the narrative.
More than that. I build interesting characters. I make them be people. And I make some engaging plots. And I build some absolutely wonderful, marvelous, diverse worlds, with lots of cool abilities, things unique to me, that I spent LOTS of time and effort creating systems for. These, I all do well. These, I continue to be proud of.
...But the perspective that a lot of my stuff is still the same as hundreds upon hundreds of other books, and in fact, isn't particularly special in regards to the nature of the basic story? Of the white male protagonist being at the center of everything?
Heck, it's not quite applicable, but even in my current project it won't be entirely out of the picture because half the protagonists are literally-white (as in, vampire pale) male protagonists. (Okay, so one of them I'm thinking might use 'It' as a pronoun, still figuring out how that would work exactly, but they're biologically male at the least.) And one of them does in fact have the majority of the story revolve around his actions, both past present and future.
Every writer has their weakness, sure.
I've always known repetitiveness, longwindedness, lack of being succinct, and whatnot was one of my main ones.
But this is a weakness that cuts deep. Because I know that I should be better. It is in fact a weakness, a shortcoming in my writing, to have the casts that are not as diverse as they should be. In the novel I have been working on, there's plenty of metaphors I use. By using technical writing, I can convey some thoughts that work around this weakness.
That might not make sense to you without me explaining. But basically, I can have thoughts the characters have reflect some of my own thoughts, things like being alone, being an outcast, having a perspective on the world nobody else does, wanting to be something they're not, feeling powerless, feeling weak, thinking they should be better than they are. Sound familiar? Well, I just described a monologue one of my characters has (at least, the majority of it), boiled down to key phrases which convey my point.
I can do stuff like that. I can convey little nods here and there to minorities, too, thanks to the setting of the novel having humans as the minority. So little things, here and there, help convey the metaphor I'm going for. Yet, by and large, the diversity isn't here, because the non-humans who are the dominating force are virtually identical to humanity and thus even the ones that are perspective characters are just different-minded humans.
Which, again: gives very good metaphors that I use with my technical writing skills. With my technical writing, I can convey imagery that is hopefully-evocative of the sorts of things I am aiming for, of the discrimination against people who are Not So Different.
...Yet despite this. Despite that technical ability. I still have the mental limitation, of the "sameness" that is the majority of the market. My protagonist is a straight white male. Teenager at that. The world revolves around him in the story, pretty much. He makes mistakes, and he is not always clearly in the right, but by and large, his morality is generally the one which is considered to be "right".
And so on and so forth. You get the idea.
It's just...I should be able to do better than that.
And it's frustrating me that I know I can't.
I'm human. I'm not perfect. I have shortcomings, even in my specialty. Even in writing, the thing I am proud of, I am not going to ever be able to write something without flaws.
...Yet that shouldn't stop me from improving. In knowing I have a weakness! In knowing that I have this blind spot in my writing. I should be able to overcome it. I should be able to write such as to not just work around it. I should be able to overcome it, or at least improve on it.
...But I can't.
I get better at technical writing. I get better at conveying metaphors. I get better at making things convey a meaning which can be what I want. However, the mindset itself? It hasn't improved. At all. I think I first started trying five years ago? Something like that. I've had awareness increase sharply a few times. Not once though has it actually made a dent in my mindset, not as far as I can tell.
It's still identical.
And I'm worried my writing will forever be tainted by that, especially by focusing on all these older works that I've spent years of my life investing time and effort into building up and making.