I recently read a book called StrengthsFinder 2.0 that talked about not focusing too much on your weaknesses (i.e. trying to become well-rounded), but rather to capitalize on your strengths. The idea being that an adequate natural talent can become decent with effort, but a strong natural talent can become awesome with equal, or even less, effort.
Although the book and its focus is designed to help people find their overall strengths in life with correlative advice on job choices and how to interact with other people with other strengths, I decided to apply it to my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and decide what weaknesses might simply need shoring up or “out-sourcing” as opposed to what I should truly focus on improving.
Here are two of my strengths and two weaknesses. Feel free to share brief versions of yours in the comments below.
Strength: action scenes
I’m a very visual person, so my stories tend to read like descriptions of movie scenes. I may throw in a sound or a smell every now and then, and a smattering of touch or taste, but I primarily tell you what’s happening as I see it play out in the movie of my mind. Consequently, my plotlines are typically fast and action-packed.
Weakness: feelings and character-building
As an antithesis to my strength, my plotlines quite often move so fast that the reader barely has time to take a breath, and neither do the characters. I often have to remind myself (or be reminded) to show what my characters are thinking and feeling, and what motivates them. I tend to find writing about such things boring, and–as I can’t imagine why a reader would want to read something that I, as a writer, find boring–it’s difficult to justify the effort.
I often hear people ask how to write natural dialogue (obviously, it would fall into their weaknesses category), but going back to my description-of-a-movie-scene style of writing, I find that the dialogue flows rather effortless as I, again, watch the movie play out in my mind.
My first effort at a novel started when I was 16 and ended around age 20. In that amount of time (random moments grabbed here and there between school and work obligations), I wrote a decent first draft. Then I started editing it. Or rather, trying to edit. Since I regularly practice discovery writing as opposed to advance outlining, what I had thought was editing was really just a hideous amalgam of proof-reading combined with discovery re-writing, if you will. I ended up taking it in a completely different direction such that the story wound up with the same beginning, a gradually divergent middle, and two completely different endings—neither of which I liked. So what to do? I balked at the idea of engaging in hours of surgery to separate the conjoined twins I had inadvertently birthed, especially after the hours over years it had taken to create them in the first place. In frustration, I finally chucked the whole project and chalked it up toward experience.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? Do you feel that you’ve been focusing your effort on trying to improve areas where you are simply adequate, or do you know your strengths and how to hone them to become the best writer you can be?