Wednesday, March 6, 2013

WRITERS—TURN WEAKNESSES INTO STRENGTHS


Today, I'm featuring some words of wisdom from a friend of mine, Beth Hill. You've read other contributions from Beth both on craft and some of her short stories. 
Beth is a fiction editor and an excellent story content editor. I've benefited from her knowledge and I've always appreciated her easy to understand advice. In today's topic she reminds us of the importance of not only identifying one's weaknesses, as a writer, our strengths. Be sure to check out other timely articles on craft at The Editor's Blog  


Writers have personal strengths and weaknesses. What one writer nails every time, another might struggle with again and again.
Writers have two options for producing better works based on their knowledge of strengths and weaknesses. They can either play to their strengths, featuring the skills they do well as they craft entertaining stories. Or they can turn their weaknesses to strengths by working on those weaknesses, whittling away at them until each time they write, they nail that issue that used to give them fits.
Perfecting a skill may take a while. It may take a long while. And it may not be fun, that repetition and practice and boring effort. But the focus on eliminating a weakness and making it not only a neutral element—something that won’t work against the writer—but a strength—something that actually works for the writer—will serve those writers for years. Why limit yourself to a few skills you’re comfortable with and know you manipulate well when you can also learn new skills and better position yourself to meet new writing challenges?
Identifying your weaknesses
Don’t know your weaknesses? Pay attention to critiques, especially when several readers comment on the same element.
If your dialogue doesn't work, you’ll hear about it if you’re letting others read your work.
If failure to plot tightly is your weakness, spend time learning how to plot.
Learn more than the basics. Stretch yourself.
Learn the importance of character arcs. Learn how to weed out clichés. Learn how to make use of setting, how it affects characters and tone and pacing. Face up to your limitations rather than hiding them.
Learn and practice and overcome your personal weaknesses one by one.
Any combination of writer strengths and weaknesses can be worked and finessed to produce an entertaining book, but weaknesses can overburden a story. And they can tax a writer so much that he doesn't develop a story the way he should. Most of us don’t want to spend time on difficult tasks that promise little pleasure or minimal reward for the effort.

A writer doesn't start out as an expert in every skill.
A partial list of elements a writer can be weak in or excel at—
plotting
characterization
chapter-ending hooks
dialogue
description
conflict
word choices
pacing
sentence construction
resolution
foreshadowing
Can you say that you’re an expert at each? What about the skills I didn't mention? Are you as equally skilled at every task required for writers to produce entertaining and engaging stories?
If not, why not work on one of your weaknesses, actually follow a plan to improve your writing? Why not become skilled at just one writing element that gives you fits? (And after that, take on a second element that needs work. But I don’t want to overwhelm you. One skill at a time works just fine.)
Books and the Internet and writing groups are wonderful resources. Tap into them. Make use of available tools to perfect your skills. Turn weaknesses to strengths.
Don’t settle for being a writer; strive to be a better writer. Better than you were last year. Better than you imagined being. Better than just good enough.

                                                                                                                                               
Freelance fiction editor Beth Hill.
I love the written word, the ability we have to create worlds and emotions with well-chosen phrases. It’s my intention to share tips and insights and encouragement with writers at all levels, to help you craft stories that will entertain and satisfy your readers. That will help satisfy you as writer as well.
I am both writer and editor. My editing focus is on long fiction, primarily novels. I also mentor beginning writers. My editing service is A Novel Edit.

4 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Sia. Thanks Beth.

My weakness is punctuation. always has been. Commas kill me. K-I-L-L me. And my absolute lack of using the word "that". Because I was told early on never to use it, now my crit partners always have to insert it.

There's nothing easy about writing, that's for sure.

L.G. Smith said...

Great list. I know I struggle with my world building. I've gotten better, but I'd rather deal with my characters and their motivations. Working on it though!

Kat Sheridan said...

Beth always has such great advice and is a FABULOUS editor and teacher. I don't know what to call it, but my weakness is sequence--I have a tendency to put reaction before action. Le sigh. Working on itQ

Jo said...

You all write it or edit it. I'll just read it. The rest is all damned hard work.

JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE