My 5 Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

Copy of Copy of Copy of MINI-REVIEW-10

Hello everyone!

How are you all doing? It is getting really summery here in Vancouver. I’ve been spending days hiking and training our dog Zander, the new recruit to our family. I am also making steady progress towards my word count goal for Camp Nano (yay!!)

Sieran Lane wrote an excellent post analyzing the strength and areas of improvement for zis writing, which inspired me to do the same for my own writing. As writers, we all have things that we are great at, that comes naturally to us. We also have things that we are not as great at, that we probably dislike doing. Whether we are amateurs (like me) or professionals, it’s good to keep our strengths and weaknesses in mind. It’s important to improve our weaknesses, but I believe that it is just as important to become even greater in our strengths.

This post is hard for me to write. I am the type of person that can name a gazillion areas of improvement but find it hard to identify my own strengths. However let’s see how it goes πŸ™‚

My Writing Strengths

1. Dialogue.

giphy3

I love writing dialogue. Give me two or more characters and I can write a dialogue that goes on forever. I love that the personalities of our characters shines through in dialogue. I also that, through dialogue, relationships between our characters can grow and flourish. Dialogues can serve so many functions! They can reveal new information and move the plot forward, or they provide inside into our character’s minds.

2. The Element of Surprise.

giphy10

I love to incorporate a good plot twist in my novels to keep readers on their toes. Generally my plot twists tend to not be predictable (I think?!)

3. Discipline.

giphy6

I thrive on giving myself goals and deadlines, and committing to a daily or weekly schedule. When it comes to writing, it helps for me to get into a routine or a habit: If I tell myself to write everyday, then I find it easier to sit down to write.Β No matter how discouraged and uninspired I feel about my project, I plow through with it and I get it done. Nothing is more dissatisfying to me than leaving something unfinished.

(Writer’s block affects me just like any other person, and I probably write terribly when I have writer’s block, but I keep at it until it wears off. :’) )

4. Killing My Darlings.

giphy5

I am a ruthless editor when it comes to my own work. After putting aside a project and coming back to it, I am not afraid to rip it all apart and start from square one if need be. There are scenes and characters and plot points that I loved that never make it into draft 2 or 3 or 4 and… well, it’s just not meant to be. As a writer, we have to let go of certain elements of our novel to make it better.

5. An Openness to Learning.

giphy7

I am not the best writer and I know that there are SO many things that I need to work on. My philosophy when it comes to writing (and many things in life!) is that it is not talent that makes us a good writer, it is continuing to improve and refine our craft.

My Writing Areas of Improvement

1. Setting Descriptions.

giphy8

My scenes tend to be heavy on dialogue but skimpy on setting descriptions. However it is so important to optimize our descriptions of the setting: Too much and it will bore the reader, too little (as I am often guilty of) and the reader won’t feel immersed in the scene.

2. Finding Different Ways to Describe Something.

giphy9

You know that thing that you notice in some books where the author uses the same phrase a few times and it sticks out like a sore thumb? I do that! There are phrases that I rely on more than I should, and in general I could benefit from using more creative ways to describe something.

3. Plot Structure.

giphy11

To be honest, plot structure is something that I just started paying attention to, and it is SO important. I am an impatient reader: If a book doesn’t hook me or if the middle section is too slow, I feel bored and disengaged. It all comes down to plot structure! If we structure our plot well, we should be able to keep our readers excited and engaged the entire ride.

4. Scene Structure.

giphy12

Just like how plot structure serves to keep us engaged throughout the story, scene structure’s purpose is to maintain flow through a scene. I can say that I am getting the hang of plot structure, but scene structure still confuses me!

5. Knowing My Characters.

giphy13

Don’t get me wrong, I love characters- they are one of the reasons why I write. However, I admire how some writers know their characters so, so well. There are some writers who dedicate soundtracks or Pinterest boards to their characters, or even write short story spin-offs just to get to know their characters better. I want to work towards creating characters (including secondary characters and villains) who are relatable, realistic, and multi-dimensional.

Blog_letschat

What are some of your strengths when it comes to writing? What are you still working on? What do you do to get to know your characters better? For those who are doing Camp Nano this month, how is it going?

49 thoughts on “My 5 Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. J.W. Martin says:

    I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!

    We have a lot of similar strengths and weaknesses. I’ve always loved dialogue and hated describing the setting. However, my discipline isn’t always the best, but I know my characters inside-out and feel I’m pretty good with plot structure. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M.L. Davis says:

    I really love this post. We have some really similar strengths and weaknesses here too! It’s a great idea to step back and consider your strong ares and what needs improving, will have to make my own lists. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sieran Lane says:

    (Psst, my pronouns are ze, zim, zis, zizelf, but you can use he/him as well. They/them pronouns make me feel weird, so do you mind changing the “their” to either “his” or “zis”? 😊 Thank you so much!)

    Yay finally, I get to see this post!! We are very similar in the dialogue and plot twist strengths, and the setting description and phrase variation areas of improvement, lol. Openness to learning and discipline are good for me as well, though I also feel like writers *should* have these essential traits. Otherwise, they won’t improve as much, and would take way too long on their writing. Waiting for inspiration to strike, is only going to make writing super slow. Just my opinion, though.

    Hmm I know some of my characters better than others. I find that characters who seem to have a happier past (or a better relationship with their parents), are harder to get deeper into. Characters with more tragic backstories or crappier relationships with their parents, are much easier to delve into and work out. So that could be an area of improvement for me, to develop “happier characters” more, haha, though they aren’t flat either. It’s like I have some insight into my cheerier characters, but much more insight into my “darker, sadder characters.”

    Yeah I had to gradually learn how to stop my dialogues, lol. They can’t go on forever. But even so, many are too long, so I probably need to tell more and show less, haha.

    I don’t think a ton about scene structure, but I think about what I want scenes to accomplish. My friend wrote some posts on the elements of strong scenes. I’ll look for that post a little later and post it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Sieran!

      I was unsure which pronoun to use, but thank you for letting me know. I will go back to change it. Sorry about that πŸ™‚

      You’re right that it is important to have discipline as a writer. A novel takes a long time to write and it takes a disciplined person to sit down and write every day. Being open to learning is also essential for us because that is how we get better.

      Hmm I think you bring up an interesting point about “sadder” characters. When I am reading a book, I tend to sympathize with characters with a sad past rather than characters who are generally happy. I think it is because we can all relate to hardship (though some people may have harder lives than others) so it is difficult to relate to characters who haven’t been through any. Some of my secondary characters do not have sad events in their past, but I try to add things that make their life more difficult (for example, crippling shyness or an obnoxiously perfect twin sister.)

      I know what you mean about dialogues haha πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sieran Lane says:

        Thanks for changing my pronoun to my favorite one. πŸ˜€

        I added a few more items to my specific strengths and weaknesses list, if you’re curious to look at them. ^^ And I FINALLY published my latest post. XD After so many weeks of delay.

        For happier characters, I’ve been doing exercises from Verbalize that are helping me dig deeper into these people’s backstories and psyches. Everybody has something sad in their lives, after all; you just need to find them. It’s helpful to reflect on my own life to give me more insight into what my characters might be struggling with. πŸ˜€

        Also, my friend has a post on story structure using beat sheets: https://jamigold.com/2018/07/how-can-we-use-beat-sheets-with-short-stories/ The title says short stories, but the post actually talks about novels and novellas as well. I myself just follow the four or three main beats, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Hello Sieran!

        No problem. Thank you for letting me know about which pronouns you prefer πŸ™‚

        I agree that delving deeper into characters’ past would help to understand them more. You are right that everyone has something sad happen in their lives, whether it is big or small. Glad to hear that you’re finding the Verbalize exercises helpful πŸ™‚

        I’ve been super behind on blog-hopping this week because of work and nanowrimo, but I will find time to take a look at the articles that you shared πŸ™‚

        Your Camp Nano stats look amazing so far!! I don’t know how you do it haha, but that’s great and keep it up!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sieran Lane says:

        Hey Sophie!

        Oh, just to let you know, we wouldn’t use the word “preferred” pronouns, since the word implies that others can choose to use other pronouns. So we would say things like: “What pronouns do you use?” “What pronouns do you go by?” “What are your pronouns?” Some would call them “mandatory pronouns.” ^_^

        (This is not a criticism, just thought you might want to know about this subtlety, because most people outside of the trans community (and also some folks inside the community) are not aware of this!)

        Yeah and experiences are subjective too. Someone’s experience may sound trivial to one person, but the person experiencing this thing may be extremely upset and scarred by the event. So in my counselling classes, we talked about the subjectivity of “trauma.” Nowadays, I define trauma as a negative event that still affects your life today.

        I’ve been thinking about how to be more proactive in improving my writing weaknesses, rather than just waiting till I get to edit again, lol. Well, I started typing up a document full of some body language and action beats in other people’s books. Today, I feel like I’m already a little better at including action beats; I’m somewhat more aware of the physical environment around my characters now. Maybe I should copy down some description passages from books I love too. I learn from concrete examples!

        LOL it’s much easier for me, since I’m not working, I don’t have pets, and I clearly spend MUCH less time writing and commenting on blog posts than you do, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Oh I see! Thank you for pointing it out. I can see how a subtle change in the wording can make all the difference πŸ™‚

        You are right that trauma is subjective. What we think is a “minor” event could have a profound impact on a person’s life, and vice versa. It depends on the individual’s own perception of the event and how it affects them later on in life.

        Sounds like you are already being proactive when it comes to improving your writing weaknesses. It makes sense to study the writing of other people who are great at it. Good to hear that you find it helpful so far πŸ™‚ I’ve been watching youtube videos about things that I want to improve on, such as plot structure, writing descriptions, and I try to actively incorporate their techniques in my book. I love listening to podcasts or videos because it is something that I can do while getting other stuff done (like chores!)

        Lol I would argue that your blog posts and comments are much longer and more detailed than the ones that I usually write πŸ™‚ However you are right that my dogs and my work takes a lot out of my day!

        Like

      • Sieran Lane says:

        Ahahaha I do write long and detailed things all the time. Oh la la, I don’t even think I can finish my WIP series in just three novels—where each novel is 400 ish pages. :O I just have way too much to say. I also adore talking about concrete examples, which doesn’t make my writing any more concise. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

        About “minor” events having a profound impact on someone’s life, haha, this reminds me of something I read recently in Verbalize. Imagine a story about a third world war, and then imagine a story about being rejected by the love of your life. The latter sounds much more trivial, right? But being rejected by that great crush could feel just as emotionally wrenching to someone as an actual world war.

        Verbalize talks about characters having this ONE void that influences all their thoughts and behaviors. (This void is like the black hole in space that has a gigantic gravitational force on the character.) This void is like the backstory emotional wound, which in turn sounds like my definition of “trauma.” I was bullied as a kid from nursery all the way till the end of middle school; most of it was verbal bullying, ostracism, or kids stealing my things, very little physical bullying. This may seem trivial compared to someone who has suffered physical and sexual abuse from their parents, but the chronic bullying I endured for about 14 years of my life, clearly impacted me a lot, even today. I didn’t know I was queer and trans back then. If I did, the bullying would probably have been even worse.

        Damon, the author of Verbalize, thinks that characters don’t get rid of that void/ wound, but they learn to live with it. This is similar to something I read about in a book on marital therapy; you may always be vulnerable or triggered by certain things, due to past traumatic experiences. But you can develop coping strategies to manage these triggering situations when they do happen in your present life.

        Hmm I doubt that people would only have ONE void/wound, as that sounds too simplistic. But I guess he was talking about fictional characters, and wanted to simplify things to keep the story more focused and streamlined for readers. He also wrote for film, so it’s understandable that he would want something simpler and more concentrated.

        Regardless, I think about my real life, and though I have a number of “emotional wounds,” in both childhood and adulthood, the chronic bullying was probably my biggest wound. Maybe characters also have one (or a few) “biggest wounds”.

        Wow I wrote you another essay, sorry, lol. It’s so nice to talk to you, though. ^^ We’ve never met in real life, but I already see you as a good friend. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        I admire people like you who write a lot! I have the opposite problem where it is actually hard for me to write enough. I often wish that I could make my blog posts and chapters longer hahaha πŸ™‚
        It is a terrible experience to have been bullied as a child, especially since that is the age when we are most vulnerable to the words and actions of others. Adults can deflect or reason out criticisms, but children don’t have the ability to do that. That’s unfortunate that you had to experience that when you were small.
        I do agree that a void isn’t easily filled or replaced, but that it can only be coped with. That’s an interesting way to think about our characters and ourselves πŸ™‚
        I like talking to you as well. Glad to have you as a friend πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Marie says:

    Oh Sophie this is such an interesting post, I love it ❀ I'm just like you,I could come up with loads to improve but probably have the hardest time figuring out my strengths haha. I think I might be good with chapters' endings and keeping the reader guessing, but I'm not sure about that haha. One of my main goals when it comes to writing is to manage to create really realistic, three-dimensional characters, because I love these so much ! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Marie ❀ Even though it's easier for us to think of our own shortcomings than our strengths, we should give ourselves credit where it is due! That's great that you are good at writing the end of chapters, which is important for keeping the readers hooked πŸ™‚
      Glad to hear that you are focusing on creating realistic characters as well. I love reading books where the characters are relatable and human πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    This is a great post Sophie (I may have to do something like this on my blog to celebrate the end of Camp NaNo at the end of July or something!)
    I can’t think of too many strengths of mine though, discipline is not one of them is all I can say for sure (I am so behind on Camp NaNo, but there’s still time to catch up so hopefully I will be able to). I do think I’m good at setting descriptions though, but then again given how long some of them tend to get maybe that’s one of my weaknesses as well! πŸ˜€
    Great post. πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Beth ❀ I am the same way in that it took me a while to think of my strengths. It's easy to focus on our shortcomings right? I think this is a good thing because it motivates us to get better although it is also important to give ourselves some credit when it is due πŸ™‚
      That's awesome that you are great at setting descriptions! I think being able to describe a setting exactly as how you imagine it is a good thing. If you end up with a long description, it would be easy by comparison to cut it down.
      I'd love to read a post like this if you feel like doing one! πŸ˜€ All the best for Camp Nano! There is still time to catch up πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Yeah, off the top of my head I can think of so many shortcomings relating to my writing habits but things in good at are much harder to come by. Kind of comforting to know it’s similar for everyone though. πŸ™‚
        Easier to cut down than add in in my opinion. Plus I tend to struggle cutting things down as well. I get too attached Tommy words.
        Thanks, yeah I’m a lot more motivated now for some reason so I’m setting out to catch up before too long! How’s it going for you? πŸ™‚ ❀️

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        You are right that it is hard to cut down or edit our own writing. I find that taking a break (the longer the better or at the very least 1 month!) between edits help, so that when it is time to edit, I will have forgotten how the scene looks like in my head and I only see the scene as it is on the page, then I realize that the scene isn’t as amazing or as necessary as I thought it once was!
        I am feeling more motivated as well. We are at the halfway mark!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Yeah I have a couple of ideas for WIPs which aren’t leaving my head, so once I’m done with this project for Camp NaNo I’ll be putting it aside for a while to work on those so I have a break before going back to it.
        See that’s scary, I’m not even halfway towards my word goal so I have a lot of catching up to do. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        That’s awesome that you have some new ideas! It’s always good to save up a few ideas for when we are ready to begin a new project. I find myself alternating between different WIPs as well, since it helps to take a break from the story and the characters.
        I am just over 12K words today, so not yet halfway either! It’s hard to get a lot of writing done on work days! Hoping to catch up too πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Yeah, at the moment I have the most ideas for the WIP I’m working on now but come November NaNo I’ll have something new to start on.
        Oh that’s really good, I’m just over 10K now, but it should be easier to get more writing done at the back end of this month than the beginning. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      I do know what you mean, Stefanie, in that I felt more creative when I was younger than I am now! Maybe it is because the process of adulting connects us more to reality? However I do find that ideas come to me when I give myself the time and space to think πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cas @ Lovely Paranormal Books says:

    This is a really cool post! I’m also attempting camp nano this year, but as I’m a miserable failure at succeeding I’m really unsure how much I’ll end up writing (my WIP is over 10k currently but I’m trying to get it to 20k but struggling with connecting the plots together as I decided on a ‘strict’ structure when I first started it). I’m also a big fan of dialogue and overuse it in a way, instead of just describing the setting! I would also say that I’m quite good with present tense, descriptive language (funny since I’m generally bad at describing fantasy settings), and would like to be able to do more with complex plots and character development.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Cas!
      That’s great to hear that you are doing Camp Nano as well this year. Even if we don’t succeed, I think it is great that Nano motivates us to write more than we might have otherwise, right?
      Haha yes I am guilty of overusing dialogue as well. I just find them so much easier to write compared to descriptions! You’ve listed some good glow and grow points. I think if we work hard towards our goals, we will continue to become better writers πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. meandinkblog says:

    This is a fabulous post!! I love writing dialogue as well, it my favourite bit and I need to improve with writing settings. I am only on my first ever first draft so I have plenty to learn but I really enjoy it and love getting to know my characters.
    Great post!!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mel says:

    I think an openness to learn is so important when it comes to writing, or any creative endeavor, really. When you start thinking you’re already amazing at something, it really ends up stunting your growth as a creative person, and prevents you from looking at creative projects in new ways. I never thought of this as a strength specifically before, so I’m happy you brought it up, because it truly is so important as any kind of artist πŸ™‚

    One of my weaknesses is also plot structure. I’ve been trying to remedy this by experimenting with outlining to at least get a basic shape of the story, because when I’ve written in the past, I always get stuck at the halfway point because I don’t know how the rest of the story is going to play out. Knowing how plot and scenes are structured is certainly very important, so hopefully we’ll both improve at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Mel πŸ™‚ You are right that being open to learning is so important when it comes to improving any skill.
      I know what you mean about plot structure! I’ve had the same problem in the past in that I would know the first half of my story really well, but only have a vague idea of the second half of my story. Recently I’ve started using the Snowflake Method, which forced me to flesh out the main conflict and the ending very early on in the process. I feel that this method has helped me a lot in the outlining process so far!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mel says:

        I’ve heard of the snowflake method! It seems like a useful way to flesh out a story and get into details. I’m currently reading a book about outlining with a lot of methods I think will help, but I’m also quite tempted to try the snowflake method as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Hello Mel πŸ™‚
        I love using the Snowflake Method because it forces me to be detailed and systematic when it comes to fleshing out my story. If I were left to my own devices, I would probably just outline the first half of my story and plan out my major characters, skimming over the other parts that are essential for my story! I wrote another recent post just about my experiences with the snowflake method in case you are interested in giving it a try πŸ™‚

        Like

  9. gracereads says:

    For me it the opposite on all of these… I especially suck at dialogue because, in real life, I’m not good at conversations and all that jazz. Descriptions I’m more than fine with, and plots. I will say I’m great at killing off characters, though – very creative with it too!

    Great post! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello Grace πŸ™‚
      I am not amazing at real-life conversations either however I have lots of fun writing fictional ones! It also helps for me to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and pick up some of their habits πŸ™‚
      Sounds like you are quite comfortable with descriptions and plot, which is great! Killing off characters is a necessity sometimes- I’ll have to do this in my current novel too.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Norrie says:

    The first step towards progress in most things is to recognise your weaknesses πŸ™‚ Now that you know them, you can improve them!
    I love a good dialogue, but as you said, if there’s no description as for the surroundings i tend to zone out. That’s why i don’t really like reading plays. πŸ˜€
    Good luck on your writing journey! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    WOW! I love this… I’m blessed to have a writing partner who is good at what I’m not… she loves writing the action and description and I love the conversations and relationships and character growth. I love saying the same thing multiple ways … its not something I do deliberately but its hard for me to let go and if I say it differently then it should have its place, right?! hahahaha. So I need to work on that… my writing partner has to go behind me and help me eliminate those… she calls it 1+1=1/2. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hi Dani. That’s awesome that you and your writing partner have different strengths and compliment each other πŸ™‚ It is a blessing to find someone that you work with so well together!

      Like

  12. Charlotte Cyprus says:

    I feel you on the whole settings thing. I usually explain how nothing looks in the first draft and then have to go back later and add it in.

    The only way I get to know my characters is through dialogue. Usually after the first draft my characters become more solid because I establish their patterns (and I sometimes take notes).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Glad that I’m not the only one who finds setting descriptions difficult! Usually I can only manage one or two sentences about the setting and that’s it lol. It makes sense to save it for the editing process πŸ™‚

      I agree that dialogue is essential for getting to know our characters, both for ourselves and our readers. It is a great idea to take notes as we go along πŸ™‚

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s