Story Excerpts

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

Every writer has a weakness.  For some it's plot, for others it's character depth.  Or grammar and spelling, loose ends, subplots, inconsistencies . . . you get the picture. :-)  It's imperative that a writer be familiar with their strong and weak points -- otherwise, how does one improve?

I don't have a critique partner yet, so I try to evaluate my own work based on the books/writing style I appreciate as a reader.  One of my weaknesses is forgetting to use the five senses in my scene descriptions.  I've noticed that I tend to do really well with what the character sees and hears, but hardly ever do I describe what she/he feels (physically, as in weather), smells and tastes.  Well, I guess "taste" is something that would be used infrequently, since we're not always eating something . . . or at least we shouldn't be.  *putting down the candy cane*  To combat this tendency, I've started color coding the sentences in my story that describe the five senses.  That way, if I see a lot of red and blue in a page, I know that I'm doing well in showing what the character is seeing and hearing.  But if there are no orange, purple and green sentences, then I realize that I'm omitting important details that can help transport the reader into the time and setting.

Another of my weaknesses is character development, and I think all writers struggle with this in some way.  I do make it a point to stay away from perfect people and stereo-types.  The hero and heroine must have their flaws as well as endearing traits.  I also try to not carry a character I've written for one story, into another.  Sadly, I've seen this.  An author's hero in one series is practically identical to a hero in another -- he just has a different hair color and a different name.  To keep from doing this, I made the characters in my WIP near opposites of those in For the Sake of One Lost.  (Their time period and cultural differences made it pretty easy.)  I'm trying to give depth to my characters by filling out a questionnaire for each -- bad habits, odd quirks, favorite foods, secret fears, emotional hang-ups, winning qualities, etc.  It would be wise to start filling out character questionnaires before I start writing the story, and maybe one day I'll get smart enough to do this.

Okay . . . humor is a strength.  I'm not good at weaving humor into the story narrative, but humor in dialogue happens easily for me.  I've been kind of disappointed with the lack of dialogue humor in my WIP, and I've blamed it on John's more serious personality type.  I'm hoping that my second draft will bring more of that "Gwen's" touch to it. 

Plot.  I can't really list this as my strength because I've seen how my story ideas turn out.  My story ideas are basic romance adventures where the hero rescues the girl and blah blah blah.  Entertaining, but no real depth to them.  But when I let God have the reins, He turns my ideas into wonderful, moving pictures of redemption, sacrifice, trust and forgiveness.  For those of you who are following my WIP, my idea was for John to go back to Ireland, find out later that Louisa was kidnapped, and return to save the day.  But God showed me that it was better for him to be attacked on the road to Ireland, turned back to the Howes, and experience the horror of Louisa's kidnapping with them -- wounded and unable to do anything but pray for her at first.  :-)

Do you recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?  Do you have any strengths or weaknesses to add to my list?  Anyone want to point out a strength I listed that should be a weakness?  LOL!  Yes, I just left myself wide open to criticism.  Come on.  Hit me with your best shot.  :-)


Loree Huebner said...

Conversation and plot are my strength.

I tend to be a bit long winded in description. I must watch my sentence structure at times too.

I don't have a personal critique partner either (I do have a group I attend occasionally, but the critiques can be uneven in a larger group), but I have been advised to get one. It helps to have that view that we can't see because we're too close to the story.

Your writing is beautiful, Gwen. You're on the right path to polish it so it will shine.

Michelle Griep said...

I totally agree that characters MUST be different in subsequent books (unless it's a trilogy, of course). I've noticed the same thing, Gwen, when reviewing a new release from an author that sometimes the hero/heroine are eerily just like the previous set.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Thanks Loree! I would love to swap chapters with you when you want some feedback! Sentence structure is one of my strengths . . . I think? :-)

Michelle, yeah, it's totally disappointing when you come across characters that are similiar to those in another series written by the same author. It puts you in a position to judge between the different stories, and decide which one is the best fit for the characters.

Susan said...

Describing characters. It's not something I really like to do b/c I want people to draw up their picture of my MC's - but I often forget to put any description in, and when I do it always sounds forced. I also struggle with carrying their habits all the way through - so I've color coded too!

Brandi said...

Humor and character development are my strengths. I like to inject a bit of witty banter in my stories. Heroes and heroines with no sense of humor (even sarcastic humor) are odd to me.

That being said, I need to refine my plotting techniques. I like how you have a questionnaire for your characters, Gwendolyn. It helps to figure out what's going to challenge them next.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Hi Susan! I feel your hesitation on character descriptions. Some readers like detailed descriptions of characters, and some don't. You can't please everybody, and that's the honest truth. I would at least mention hair color, eye color, body shape, pretty or not, etc. These are pretty basic, and you can add them on to sentences showing action. :-) Color coding is a big help!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Brandi, I'm grinning. Another writer buddy who's strong in the humor department! It makes me all the more excited to read your soon-to-be released book!

Plotting isn't easy. You either have a killer idea, or your trying to find your way as you go (at least that has been my experience). Outlining may be of some help, as it gives you the big picture in a glance. If your a "panster", this may be an idea that grates, but I do a little of both: I have an outline that I look at as I write the chapters, and if I come up with a better idea along the way, I change the outline.

momto8 said...

i am still in the dreaming about it stages..good luck to you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Gwen, good morning! I popped over here from Seekerville and I LOVE your webpage! It's totally scrap-bookin' fun and I think it's wonderful.

Hey, I need your snail mail address to send you the copy of Abby Gaines' "The Earl's Mistaken Bride" that you won on Seekerville at Christmas time.

Can you send it to ruthy(at)ruthloganherne(dot)com, please and thank you???

And huge thank yous for being a friend of Seekerville. And, P.S.

Really cute family! I'm lovin' the chipmunk cheeks on that baby!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Thanks Momto8!

Oh, wow, thanks Ruthy! I appreciate you tracking me down! I'm excited to read TEMB, and I am headed on over to my email now to send you my address. Oh, and thanks for your compliments on my blog and family! Seekerville is one of my favorite haunts. :-)

Sweet Peripety said...

Hi there! I'm coming over from Laura Frantz's blog! :) I was reading your comment about your books, and that pulled me in. The piece I just wrote is speculative fiction, and I DON'T have a CRITIQUE partner, sooo...maybe we could chat! LOL! My WIP is a work of historical fiction. I am such a newbie at writing a longer story so I am not too sure of how to answer the question of this post! HA! Perhaps my weakness if forgetting to tie stuff in. Sometimes I have a mental block that hinders me with it's never-ening fog. Be it from the homeschooling I do with my kids, or just me, I don't know, but as I'm editing my first completed novel, there's some "aha" moments for sure! ~AMY

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Hi Amy! Editing a first draft can be exciting. You start to spot inconsistencies, and find ways to better tie up those loose ends. I've found that outlining the book helps. I'd love to be a critique partner and chat manuscripts with you! We'll have to exchange email address or something :-)

journeytoepiphany said...

My weakness is plotting and conflict...Actually its not a good day to ask me about strengths and weaknesses...all I see are weaknesses at the moment..I need a partner desperately!!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

LOL Kim -- I have days like that too. We should swap chapters sometime. I'd love to give you some helpful feedback! :-)

Brooke Becker said...

Found my way to your blog via Blog Hop Until You Drop! I am a new follower.

It is so important to do exercises such as this in a creative career. I do them too, but don't make them public because I can be shy about my weaknesses! Thanks for sharing yours.


Mikki said...

This is very exciting and I enjoyed reading your preview.

Thanks so much for joining Flock Together last week at Mom’s Best Nest . I am now your happy follower and look forward to reading your posts.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Hi Brooke, thanks for following! It is important to acknowledge our weak points as well as our strengths -- all a part of improving our craft! :-)

Hi Mikki! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for following me! I'm looking forward to linking up with you every week!

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