Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Knowing Your Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have strengths and weaknesses as writers. A friend of mine does very good dialogue, but has issues writing description. Another crafts impressive emotional hooks, but sometimes can fall flat in other areas. Still others have stellar, sweeping descriptive powers, but can't detail the emotional journey of a character to save their lives.

As for me? My writing tends to be influenced by journalism practices a little too much. Iapetus999 mentioned yesterday that the excerpt sounded very newspaper-article-esque. Truth be told, that factual "x happened, then y, then z" was what I spent four years learning how to write. Some really interesting days have come out of me having to un-train my brain to think like a reporter when telling Moriah's story in Callarion at Night. It's a difficult switch sometimes, and one I have to consciously watch out for. As a result, I can't typically elicit emotional responses effectively in a first draft. My brain doesn't work that way.

One of my strengths -- at least when it comes to critiques -- is making sentences sound grammatically better than they did in the original draft. I'm also apparently very good at finding logic holes (I suppose that's because I'm a prime offender of leaving logic holes in my stories). Oh, and I'm able to craft better secondary characters than main ones for some oddball reason. Haven't quite figured that one out yet.

What about you, my loyal and intrepid blog readers? What do you find are your strengths or weaknesses in writing?

P.S.: Some fairly substantial family stuff happened early this morning, and I'm going to be somewhat incommunicado for the next few days. I'll still be checking the blog and my email, but don't expect any new posts for Thursday and Friday (maybe even Monday).

ADDENDUM TO P.S.: My "fairly substantial family stuff" is the fact that my wife's grandfather (my father-in-law's dad) died early this morning. I didn't specify before because I hadn't yet seen my mother-in-law say anything on her Facebook page, and I didn't want to make any public notification until they did. So thanks to all the well-wishers on here. You guys are awesome. 


Kelly Lyman said...

At this point in my writing, I feel like I have more weaknesses...I'm so new at this. If I had to pick a strength, it would probably be the dialog, although that still needs a ton of work.

Hope all works out with your family stuff.

Concord Carpenter said...

Great post. I have all kinds of writting issues...... only room to improve though!

Valerie Geary said...

I wonder if you might some day become a genius at 3rd person omniscient narrative? Those guys sometimes write like journalists. I know it's not a "popular" POV these days, but when someone does it well, it can be a-maze-ing!

As for my own weakness... I have none. I'm perfect. (Bahhhahaha!!! Just kidding... I'm working on improving my character arcs and making them "likable". For some reason I keep writing difficult and annoying characters. Pshhh..whatever...):D

Stephanie Thornton said...

I hope all your family stuff goes all right.

I'm just too wordy. I think I've finally got that toned down in Hatshepsut, but I'm still on the lookout for repetition. But I do pretty well at incorporating a lot of historical info without boring the reader to tears.

Natalie said...

I hope everything is okay with your family.

I have a journalism background too, and I think that contributes to one of my strengths-- I say what I mean in the fewest words possible. :) I struggle with description thought and my grammar and punctuation skills are seriously lacking.

Joshua McCune said...

My condolences, Matt.

I'm not altogether sure what my strengths are. Perhaps dialogue and action. Weaknesses are setting (both emotional and physical). I can do them okay, I think, but it takes me far longer to account for them.

Davin Malasarn said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your wife's grandfather, Matthew. I hope you are okay.

I agree that it's a good thing to know your strengths and weaknesses. I've always felt like my dialog has been weak. I content myself with the idea that I can at least made it nonintrusive. As for strengths, I think I'm good at understanding my characters deeply, given enough time.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

My condolences to you and your family, Matt.

Still being a newbie fiction writer, my greatest weakness is passive writing (see... my greatest weakness is....I just can't get a away from it). It's a hold over from all that stuffy technical writing, in which we pontificate about things that we're pretty sure only 7 people on the planet can understand, and they all speak the same tech-ese as we. do. Ugh.

Strengths: my readers tell me I'm good at getting inside my character's heads and creating emotional responses (in the characters and/or readers). Writing continues to be a massive learning curve, however, and I've yet to glimpse the top.

Susan R. Mills said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I'll be thinking about your family.

We have something in common. I write better secondary characters too. It is odd, isn't it?

L. T. Host said...

Aw, geez, Matt. My condolences to you and your family. :(

Andrew Rosenberg said...

Hmm...I thought I heard my name in a blog...
Sorry about your loss. It's tough to deal with no matter what the circumstances.

Some days I feel it's all weaknesses in my writing.
My strengths are mostly plot, that I come up with wacky situations, and I write with a sense of humor.
Weaknesses I could write about for days. Character development, POV, style, you name it.
Every day I'm like, "I need to get better at this."

Adam Heine said...

I usually need others to identify my strengths and weaknesses for me. And of course I'm constantly trying to improve on my weaknesses. That said:

Logic: Very Strong
Dialog: Strong
Beginnings: Strong
Action: Okay
Character Motivation: Okay
Endings: Okay
Description: Very Weak

Anything not on this list is probably a weakness I'm not aware of. I wasn't aware of my weakness in description until recently, for example, but I'm already getting better at it.

dolorah said...

Hmm, where did not comment go?!?

It was short, I promise.

but, I'll just say, its good to know your writing strengths and weaknesses; and its good to have critters willing to point them out.

My condolences to your family. Take care of you and yours.


Gary Corby said...

Hi Matthew, I'm so sorry for your family's loss.

Take care.


Unknown said...

Hello Matthew~ I'm sorry to read you've had a loss in your family. I'm sending warm wishes across cyberspace~

My greatest weakness as a writer is my anal-retentive approach to the first draft of any new project. I agonize over every sentence, revising as I go, taking up to an hour per paragraph. When I tried NaNoWriMo in November, I shut down my internal editor for the first time....but that lasted exactly thirty days. LOL.

Strengths? I'm a character-driven writer and I enjoy fleshing out all the nuances of my characters. I think I have a strong descriptive voice, too.

Anita Saxena said...

Hello Matthew

Im sorry for you and your family's loss.

As far as my strengths umm.... I don't know. My weakness- I can't seem to finish off a plot in a way that is not predictable.