Friday, December 6, 2013

Know your strengths and more importantly, your weaknesses

Here’s the deal, no two people are the same. 

No two writers write the same way. Every writer has a different way of doing things. Every book has something new to tell and a unique way to do it. 

Do what’s right for you. 

But first, you have to learn what’s right for you. It takes some time to really get a firm grip on what works and what doesn’t when writing. ESPECIALLY when writing for kids. Take some time to assess yourself. What is your favorite part about writing? Is it plotting, strategically placing events so that they make the biggest impact on a story? Is it your characters and their emotional depth? Creating an entirely new world? That’s probably what you’re the best at. The things you love, love, love doing. That’s what comes naturally to you.

But what’s equally important, is what you’re not-so-great at. What do you struggle with? This doesn’t often coincide with what you hate doing, so you’ll have to dig a bit deeper to find it. You might even need other people to tell you (you’ll forgive them eventually)
It really doesn’t matter what it is, because like I said above, everyone is different. As long as YOU know what you’re good at and what you need to work on.
Example, I’ve realized recently that plotting is not my strongest aspect as a writer. I love concepts. Ideas are totally my thing. I love emotion, and have found I do a pretty good job at expressing it through my writing and occasionally through my character’s voice.
But setting up a story, with events that pull you along and won’t let you go, well, that’s something I’m not so naturally good at, it seems.

I’m working on my fourth  novel and through my ups and downs and epic trials of my first three,  I’ve learned a few things about plotting.  

I suck at it

Okay, not really. But I could definitely let myself think that if I wanted. The notes I get back from agents and editors often seem to have to do with the story line. So clearly, I suck… right?

Wrong. It’s just something I need to work on.

So learn what you’re good at, and what you’re not.
Think about it. What are you good at?

Because the things you’re good at are the things you want to put an emphasis on when approaching an industry professional. No, not by TELLING them you’re good at it, but by showing them (the old show don’t tell thing again, I know).  Find a way to SHOW them the things you’re good at as early as the query. Show them the amazing character arc in the query. Show them your incredible writing style right away. Show them the character that jumps off the page and bear hugs you until you love them.  Whatever it is that you are best at, that’s what you need to show RIGHT AWAY.

And study the things you aren’t good at and learn how to make them better. Think about those things before you start writing. “Conflict, conflict, what’s the conflict!?” “Does this scene build on the one before it? What’s going to come next and why does it matter?” Those are things I personally need to think about. I might even start filling out a beat sheet for my novels, before, after, or during the actual writing. Whatever I need to do to make sure I limit my flaws.

Be totally and completely honest with yourself. What are you not-so naturally talented in? How can you work to make that better?

Put your best foot forward and do your best to make sure your other foot doesn’t lag behind you.

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