One of the biggest things for a writer to admit to is having a weakness in their writing. We’re an egotistical bunch of people. We think that everything we do is perfect, but that’s simply not true. The things that we write are far from perfect. That’s why the revision process exists.
The world is also blind to the weaknesses of writers. They don’t get to see all the hard work that goes into writing, what they see is a refined copy of the work with (hopefully) all of the weak bits thrown out like the pizza we had two weeks ago. The public only sees the tip of the iceberg. Writing is a long and excruciating process and in order to make that process better, we need to know exactly what our weaknesses are. If you know what your weaknesses are, then you will have an easier time catching them as you write and correcting (or scrapping) them in the revision process.
I don’t know every weakness that every writer faces, but I do know all of mine (at least I hope I know them all).
WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME?
You know that old saying ‘show don’t tell?’ Well, that’s a weakness that I face. Often times when I go back and reread the things that I’ve written, I find that I’m telling the reader what’s going on and not showing them. My drafts will read like an instruction manual rather than a well polished novel.
I don’t have all the answers on how to fix this problem, but I’ve found that adding emotional words and actions to the story help a lot. It also helps if you cut out all of the words that don’t fit or make the story weak.
Here’s an example of a paragraph in one of my works that tells:
I stopped thinking about hair when the dragon roared. I opened my eyes and grabbed the closest spike to me. The dragon pulled its wings close and aimed at the ground. I screamed. This wasn’t peaceful. Dragons were evil and I was stupid to ever think I was safe.
Did that paragraph draw you in? Did you feel connected to my character? Did you care that she was about to die? The simple answer: No.
Now, let’s take a look at my revised paragraph:
As the troubles of hair passed through my mind, the dragon let out a ferocious roar. I snapped my eyes open and gripped the scales of the spike in front of me. Pain radiated from my hands where the sharp scale cut. I would pay for that later. My heart started to race as the beast pulled its wings close and began to plummet towards the ground in a terrifying nose dive. All peace left me as a cold sweat broke out on my brow and a silent scream escaped my lips. This beast was crazy. There was no peace that came from riding on its back. Dragons were fierce and evil creatures that terrorized cities and murdered countless people. I was insane for having felt safe so far in the sky.
That paragraph was much better, don’t you think? I mean, it’s far from perfect, but (I think) it does a pretty good job of showing and not telling and connecting the reader to the character.
How would you have revised the paragraph? Go ahead and leave me a comment. I want to know.
I HATE YOUR CHARACTER.
This one goes hand in hand with ‘Show don’t tell.’ At least that’s what I think. When you show the reader what’s going on in the story, your also connecting them to your characters. Your showing them how your characters think and feel about everything and everyone around them.
If your writing is weak, then the first place to look is at your characters. They’re the driving force of the story. Without them, there isn’t a story to tell, and if the reader doesn’t feel connected to them on some level then they’re likely to stop reading.
IS THAT HOW WE SOUND?
Another one of my weaknesses comes from dialogue. Writing realistic, entertaining dialogue isn’t easy. Actually, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve every tried to write.
A while back I did an experiment where I took out the dialogue from one of my short stories and read it aloud. It was horrible. There was nothing real or genuine about it. This experiment led to about a month of me not writing until I felt like I was going to go mad.
As writers we like things nice and neat, but real people are far from nice and neat. When you get people together and talking, it’s a huge mess. They interrupt each other and talk over each other and they use placeholders such as: like, umm, uhh, and hmm.
Once I got back into writing, I did another experiment. I went out to a bookstore and I listened to a conversation two girls were having. Then I wrote it down exactly how they were saying it. Again it was horrible, but it made me stop and think. I thought on the conversation for days. I reread it and I rewrote it several times until I had something that wasn’t too bad. It was something between too neat and too messy.
I was going to share the dialogue here, but I seem to have misplaced the notebook that I wrote it in. So, I will leave finding the right mix of messy and neat to you. Besides, dialogue is still one of the things that I struggle the most with.
I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
My biggest weakness as a writer is a psychological one. It’s a weakness that I have yet to overcome. The farther I get into a story, the more I feel like it sucks and the more I feel like I suck. This weakness is probably one of the biggest reasons I haven’t published anything yet… well that and I haven’t done much editing on my manuscripts.
Anyway, I can’t tell you how to get over this weakness because I haven’t gotten over it yet. I can tell you that what helps me when I start to feel like this is to take a step back. Take a few days, or even a week and just stop working on that project. You don’t have to stop writing altogether, but if you stop writing on the project that makes you feel like that for a few days, chances are you’ll feel better about it when you get back to it.
Like I said, that isn’t every weakness that every author faces. Those are just four of the biggest weaknesses that I face. What are some of your weaknesses and how do you get past them? Do you have other ways to get past the weaknesses that I’ve posted?