In which I let you in on my secret (or not-so-secret) flaws and my maybe-possibly strengths.
I've seen other bloggers post on this subject in the past, and it's been fascinating to see their self-assessments, to see where other writers excel and where they recognize their weak points. So I thought I'd do it myself, partially as an exercise in honesty and partially to see what I come up with.
(But not really, because I never crack my knuckles.)
Disclaimer: These strengths are not always strengths; likewise, the weaknesses are not 100% weaknesses either. These are tendencies, broken by the occasional anomaly. Continue.
I've been told since my early novel-writing days that I know how to pace a story. This mystifies me somewhat, because at that point I hadn't really studied the craft. But I did inhale stacks of books. Perhaps that's one of the best ways to learn. Anyway, I suppose I'm good at moving the story along and spending an appropriate amount of time on things. (Gosh, you guys, I feel like I'm bragging. That's why I'm getting the strengths out of the way first.)
This used to be a big weakness! My WIP series started out as a generic fantasy world: medieval England-type setting populated by humans, a handful of stock fantasy creatures, and a cut-out king. Nothing was fleshed out or truly lived in. I hadn't a clue about currency, worldview, religion, society roles, neighboring kingdoms, geography, or even the physics of things. It's still that—still a medieval England-ish place and whatnot, but over the years I've come to recognize some of the flaws, and have slowly shaded in the details. People comment on my worldbuilding, so I suppose it's working?
Again, this was previously a weakness. Actually, it was pretty much nonexistent in my first drafts. Perhaps it was my dabbling in poetry, or simply becoming more aware of the little things, or just absorbing the artful words of others . . . But now creating vivid descriptions is one of my favorite things. I love metaphors. I love personification. Ascribing unusual qualities to things makes my writer self shiver with delight, such as when a sound is described by color. (This is one reason why I adore the Auralia books by Jeffrey Overstreet.)
I feel deeply. I've been known to exaggerate situations in my own mind, and then feel silly when I put it on paper or say it aloud, because huh. It wasn't so big after all. I also empathize with others. So putting those emotions into characters is really fulfilling. I have not been to the very depths of despair, but I've experienced sorrow of a kind, so I amplify it for that character in her darkest moment. I have never felt murderous inclinations, but I put my moments of hatred into the mind of a villain.
Yes, I did just list that as a strength, but it's also a weakness. Because sometimes my love of emotion and prose and worldbuilding bog down my pacing! Case in point: The Brightest Thread, in which I ran ten thousand words too long. I've always struggled to write anything short. When given short story assignments in school, the silly things would unspool into grandiose plots. And when I edited book 1, it jumped from 68,000 words to 131,000. Conciseness and I are not the best of friends.
So this is mildly embarrassing. I have found myself on numerous occasions typing happily along, sending characters on their merry way to death and destruction, only to be struck by a disturbing thought. "Why are they even doing this?" I seem to be a plot-driven writer, and so it takes conscious thought to beef up the character side of things. After all, what's a story without characters? And nobody wants to read about a prince who goes gallivanting off to save the princess for absolutely no reason, or a villain who wants to rule the world simply because that's what villains do. I think I'm growing in this area, but I still need to make sure those characters have minds and motives of their own, rather than plodding along from plot point to plot point.
I write high fantasy a lot. Battles are inevitable. But I have never wielded a sword in my life, nor directed an army. So keeping the fights believable isn't easy. The actions can start sounding repetitive. The movements of armies can become robotic and illogical. And tactics! Yikes, I need to work on those! (John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series does so well in that area.) Instead of just "FIIIIIIIGHT!!!" I'd like to have moves and countermoves, brilliant schemes and even brilliant-er foils. Have I mastered that yet? Well, I'm . . . getting there.
In the tortoise and the hare fable, I am the tortoise. (Hey, does that mean I'll win?) While others pump out thousands of words a day, sometimes a whole book in a month or a week (Cait, here's looking at you!) I have been grooming one book—and its half-finished sequels—for oh . . . about seven or eight years now. Yep. Haven't moved on. Oh, I've worked on other projects in between, such as my Rooglewood retellings, but by and large my focus has been on this one thing. And it's taking forever. I hope that once my dream of fulltime writing is realized, I'll discover that I'm really the Flash of writing, otherwise a whole generation of readers might pass before a sequel ever comes out.
There you have it, folks. Some of my strong points and some of the areas in which I need to grow. Now I'm curious—what are your strengths and weaknesses in writing? Do we share any? Have any of your weaknesses developed into strengths (hopefully never vice versa)? Share in the comments!