I loathe description. I have to be forced to the writing corner and told to write it.
Unless it's a place I know well. Then, I don't describe, exactly, but drop the feel of it into the piece. I did a short recently on a canal I've sailed and I think it worked well in it.
Abendau, my space opera world, isn't a real place. But I've been living there in my head for years and know it well. My next novel was set in Belfast, the one I'm editing at the moment in the Antrim glens, a new baby deep in a forest I've visited and loved. I've stolen train tracks I've got lost on, hotels I've stayed on, beaches I've stood and counted waves on. In fact my two currently trunked books are those with no distinct setting. The stories are good, but they need their place in the world to become real.
So, serendipity. Listen up, all you who have your dream agents in mind. My agent didn't state that she loved stories with a sense of place in her wishlist when I subbed (she does now, as it happens.) I didn't know that aspect, a strong element of my writing, would appeal. I subbed, it clicked, I was offered rep. The book changed lots - the sense of place was never diluted, but enhanced, through all those changes.
I think I'm making two points here: about how hard it can be to pull out themes. I didn't realise this theme or strength until six books in. I wrote two books and didn't know why they didn't work. I'd know now. And I'm on the look out for the magical final setting they need to make them sing.
But it's also about the process and how it links to rejection. The book my agent offered for was rejected by many others (and sniffed around by some, too.) Those agents weren't looking for a sense of place. They maybe weren't looking for a protagonist like mine, or a set up, or pacing like mine, either. If I hadn't subbed widely I'd never have bumped into the person who dug the part of my writing that makes it sing. And I'd never even have known....
Now, I just need the budget to take that need for a sense of place and take it around the world.