Conquering Your Writing Weaknesses

So everyone has weaknesses just like everyone has strengths, in everything, but especially writing. And the thing is, these strengths and weaknesses? They can change over time. Something that was a weakness becomes a strength. And vice versa. Or you discover a previously unknown strength or weakness.

For me, well everything was a weakness at first. But what I really consider my biggest weakness, once I started getting good at writing, was plots. I’ve always been more character driven, I’m a believer in that you can have a terribly cliched plot but if you have amazing characters it doesn’t matter. This because, I will read a book with a terrible plot but if the characters are amazing I’m sold, that’s my new favorite book. So I really realized this when I got super serious about writing and started getting feedback from CPs and whatnot. So I worked on my plots and I rewrote a couple different books a dozen times each to get them to where my plots were at least kind of at the same level as my characters. And now when I’m starting a new project, I focus a ton of energy on plotting, knowing it’s my weakness. SO while it’s still not something that comes automatically easily for me I don’t consider it a weakness anymore because I work on it all the time and I’m very aware of it so that it doesn’t come across as a weakness anymore. Is it my strongest suit? No. But it doesn’t hold me back anymore which I consider a win.

So this is how you turn a weakness into a strength: you admit that it is a weakness and you spend time and energy working on it. If characters are your weakness, put more time into developing them and getting to know them, fill out character questionnaires. If it’s plot then focus on that, I highly suggest in depth outlining if you need help with plotting and there are things that can help you (beat sheets saved my life when I first started writing, just Google beat sheets and you’ll find them). So you become aware of your weakness, admit it’s your weakness, and then you work on it so it doesn’t hold you back. That simple! You probably could’ve figured this out yourself but now I’m going to ramble about something else.

I’ve recently realized another weakness I have. I had this like epiphany last year that should not have been an epiphany because it’s obvious honestly. I am not good with emotions. I am terrible with emotions and I’ve always used writing to deal with my feelings and express myself because I’m not good at that but in general I don’t like feeling feelings. I think writing is a good way to deal with emotions but I still hold back. Which can be a little hard when writnig. And I’ve never noticed that this held me back before, and in some senses it didn’t. I’ve never had someone tell me this is a flaw in my writing but that is because I avoid the emotions I don’t want to feel.

So basically, for example, I once wrote a book about a girl who’s best friend, her twin sister, just died. And I took a lot from my own experiences¬†losing my dad and grandmother when I was young and imagining how wrecked I’d be if something happened to my own best friend. And that was a very emotional book and I think I did well with conveying emotions in it. But see, I wrote that…seven years after my dad died? So I was revisiting things I’d already dealt with so it wasn’t super painful or anything. And I write some love stories and a bunch of stories of magic and friendship and the thing I do, that is a weakness, is I don’t always put my characters through enough pain and sadness and the not fun side of the emotional spectrum. That’s not to say I don’t torture characters at times, I do, but I’ve realized I avoid some very human emotions and reactions and things like that. I don’t go deep enough sometimes. I don’t go dark enough. And not every book needs that, I personally love the good fluffy books and things. But it’s true that to get people to connect and love your writing and your characters you have to write so that they relate to it and one way you do that is by bringing in these really human emotions and reactions. If someone feels sympathy for your character, if they hurt because your character is hurting, then you’ve done your job.

What I’ve realized is that I just don’t dig deep enough sometimes. For instance, my WIP, The Forgotten Name, I’ve been throwing around ideas for revising it for a while now and one thing is, when I first wrote this novel last year, I didn’t know my character enough. And when I reread it, he read like one of a million generic YA characters. And I’ve continually tried filling out a million different character questionaires and all these things to get to know him better and turn him into a well rounded idividual and it still wasn’t working. And then I realized a few days ago, just why that was. I gave him this perfect life and I realized that wasn’t the life he had lived to bring him to this point in his life where he goes on this big crazy adventure that pulls apart everything he’s ever known and breaks him into a million peices. This character, Mal, creates a world with his imagination, and brings it to life only to abandon it. And I realized he wouldn’t abandon it because his real life suddenly got better and perfect, like I’d originally written. No, he adandoned it because his real life only got worse and he couldn’t keep escaping from it anymore. And there’s a lot of work I have to do with that character now but realizing that opened up a whole big thing. Because it’s not just my characters, not every character needs a terrible backstory and past, that doesn’t make a great book. But even some of my fantasy worlds. They’re just too…perfect. Life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Fantasy worlds also are not perfect. So that has kind of chanelged me to you step back and reassess certain things and realize okay, I’ve conquered my weakness of skipping plots now I need to really focus on this and make sure I dig deep enough and am not just writing a fairy tale over and over again.

I think of like the worst, meanest thing I’ve ever done to a character and that’s in my WIP Immortals and like, I did terrible things to Colter, my MC. But I also gave him this personality where he’s so focused on his goal he doesn’t care. And that’s fine, I think, to a point. But when someone is beat down again and again and again, no matter who they are, eventually they’re going to crack. So it’s like, I now see this in most things I’ve written save probably my two main projects, the ones I’ve queried. So like subconciously I think I knew I did this because I fixed it in later drafts of those books and now I just need to twine it into my outlines and first drafts and learn to master the subtlies of a not perfect world and really delveing into a characters emotions and psyche when they’re going through something not nice and maybe even tramatic. I’m not even sure this makes sense anymore so I’m going to end here.

Final notes:

  • As writer’s we’re constantly growing and learning new things about ourselves. strengths and weaknesses and everything in between. Recognize this, embrace it.
  • Don’t be scared of a weakness. Admit that it’s there, think about it for a while, and figure out how to work on it and turn it into a strength.
  • Also, don’t be ashamed of your weaknesses! It’s taken me many novels and WIPs to realize this about myself, to realzie I need to dig a little deeper at parts and really feel things so that my characters can feel them and future readers can feel them. And I’m not ashamed of that because I’ve written some really good things and knowing this and focusing on this will only make my writing even stronger from now on.
  • Characters are humans (I mean, probably though not always I know, but anyway) and therefore feeling human emotions, even the bad ones. They fall apart and they lash out irrationally and they get jealous and stupid and ornery. And every character and world and story needs not nice things to happen and exist to take them above being good and make them great.

Let’s talk weaknesses! What are your writing weakness and how have you worked on conquering them?

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