Sooooooooooo, it’s come to this.
The inevitable strengths and weaknesses post.
*pushes up sleeves*
Let’s do this thing.
I’m going to hit weaknesses first. Why? Because I’m more comfortable in this arena. More on that in a bit.
Conflict – I struggle with conflict. The first book I ever wrote had zero. Like, literally none. My dear, dear friend, Alex Kourvo, told me something that’s stayed with me all these years. She said, “You have to love your characters enough to grab them by the hair and shove them face-first into the meat grinder.” So, when I feel myself struggling and wondering if I’ve got enough conflict, I hear Alex in my head, and I tighten my grip in my characters’ hair and try to shove a little harder.
Plotting – Ugh. I want to be a person who has an outline and a full-fledged plot. I, however, am not that person. Instead, as I told, Jass Takhar, in this nifty interview she did with me and Jess Jarman last week, I am the pantsiest pantser who ever pantsed. I struggle with plots because I only ever have a sort vague idea of where any given story is going and no real clue on how to get there. I sort of feel my way through the story and blindly shove the pieces together. If they don’t fit, I take them apart flip them around and try something different. Often multiple times. It usually works out in the end, but I feel like I waste a lot of time and energy getting there.
Making writing a priority – Remembering to make as much time for my work as I do everything else in my life is a common problem. Often, I’ll put off my own work in favor of working with a client on an edit, cleaning the house, doing something for someone else that could have waited a bit, making curtains, unclogging the freaking kitchen sink. Though, to be fair, that last one really couldn’t wait. But the point here is that I go through periods of not making my writing as much of a priority as I should – as much of a priority as it needs to be. Then, when I do make the time to write, it’s extra hard to get back into it again.
Out of the three of these weaknesses, this is the one I’ll be working the hardest on.
Okay, I guess it’s strengths time. I want to preface that part, by saying that about a year or so ago, we did a post about having mad skills at various things. This was a really hard post for a lot of us. As women in our society, we’ve been socialized to feel that saying something positive about ourselves is the equivalent of bragging. Even the simple act of saying “thank you” can be painfully difficult. Because saying “thank you” can/is often interpreted as, “Yes, I agree. I’m fucking fabulous.” When faced with a compliment, many women I know, myself included, have an incredibly difficult time, just saying thanks. More often than not, we feel compelled to point out all the flaws in whatever we’ve just been complimented on or explain all the ways it could have been better because we’re so uncomfortable. No one wants to be seen as agreeing about our relative awesomeness.
Interestingly enough, when men say something positive about themselves, they’re usually perceived as being confident. When women do the same thing, they’re perceived as being stuck up or stuck on themselves. They’re bragging. Look at those terms – they’re junior high leftovers back with another heaping helping of questionable self-esteem.
But, in a continuing effort to try to break this fucking pattern, I’m going to list what I feel are some of my writing strengths. And I’m going to do my level best not to point out all the flaws in said strengths or tell you how I could be doing any one of these things better. Even if it kills me.
Characters – I genuinely like my characters, and for the most part, I think they’re pretty great. I feel like they have realistic strengths and flaws and are far more character than caricature. If they actually existed, I feel like they’d be fun to hang out with. Maybe at some sort of dinner party – nothing too fancy or too hipster – no…a cookout. That seems like a better venue for them.
Dialogue – I feel like I have a good ear for the way people talk. Probably because I’m nosy and, hey, if you’re gonna have that conversation in front of me in the middle of the cereal aisle, I’m probably gonna walk a little slower and “read” the nutrition info on all the boxes of granola.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I think I do dialogue well because when I’m not feeling especially hermit-y and introverted (hey, it happens) I enjoy talking to people and listening to the way they use language. I find it fascinating that you can have five different people say the same basic thing, and there will be five different underlying meanings because each speaker’s experiences vary so greatly. I love the nuances of language and I like to that shows in my dialogue.
Incorporating a feminist perspective – Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a lot of tropes in romance that make me uncomfortable: lack of or questionable consent, lack of respect for female characters – often from the “hero”. The heroine only has outside interests or friends until she gets a man. I think the one that makes me most nuts is the every other female is somehow competition for the heroine. She’s constantly comparing herself to other women. The hero compares everyone to her. The pretty girls are all mean. Slut shaming. Everyone is after her man – oh noes! In a lot of romance novels, I’m seeing a lot of internalized misogyny, and that creeps me the fuck out. Most of these books are written by women, and and I feel that as writers we can do a fuck of a lot better than that. I make a very conscious effort to avoid these bullshit tropes, and I try to turn them on their heads whenever I can. Especially in my latest releases, I feel like I’m doing a good job with this.
Check out the other bloggers’ strengths and weaknesses by clicking their names.
11 thoughts on “Writing: My Strengths and Weaknesses”
Pantsing is another form of outlining. Some people do it upfront with outlines and spreadsheets, some people do it through the process. Neither is right nor wrong. It’s what works for each individual writer. You are awesome at pantsing, so zip that item right over to the “strengths” column. Right now. I’ll wait.
Conflict. You see the best in people, so it’s hard to be tough on them. Stick to the meat grinder theory.
Time. Who doesn’t struggle with that? Ask 100 writers, and 99 of them have a problem with finding time to write. Don’t compare yourself to the 1% *cough, Nora Roberts, cough*
Characters. Yours are real as really can really get real. No qualms on that. You’re an empath. You use it well.
Dialogue. Enough said (pun intended)
Incorporating a feminist perspective. I agree with the sad trend nowadays of demeaning and dismissing women as valuable humans. No, no, no. F*** no. Keep up the fight, Bronwyn. We’re with you.
Never, ever doubt yourself. You are the bestest writer, woman, friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister and anything else anyone else could want or expect. Lift up your chin and repeat every day, “I am one badass woman.”
Aaaaaaand I might be crying a little – thank you so much for all the awesome kindness you just spread out here. In other news, I miss you, woman!!!
I think we should all jump up and shout that we’re fucking fabulous! All the fucking time? But, yeah, I’m there with you. It does feel like bragging, but we’re not. I think this is a great list. Time, the fickle bitch she is… sucks it away. And you also ‘break’ characters like no one, other than Jarman, that I’ve ever seen. Does the word RED bring anything to mind? Yeah, thought so.
We really should jump up and down and shout that. We can do it at retreat! And thank you, honey. 🙂
You have the most awesome post. I plan on copying it and printing it out so I can read it each day. Since you’re so right. We, as women, have a hard time blowing our own horn because we weren’t raised to do this. So sucks for us. And, sadly when someone compliments me and I say thank you, I usually mean thank you, but I don’t believe you. *sigh* As for plotting I took am a seat of the pants person. I cannot plot it all the way out. I can’t get that organized. So I adjust and readjust until I’m satisfied. Or whatever. 🙂
I often have that same thought. Like, that person is just “being nice”. This sounds like something we all need to work on.
Oh my! Conflict. Sometimes I think it is overused. I personally don’t like conflict. I understand the need for some conflict in a story. It keeps things moving and gives some interest. But, a little can go a long way. I mean really, daily life is often a conflict all by itself. Just my humble opinion as a reader. But, whatever works for you, use it.
As for tooting your horn, go for it! I learned long ago than if I don’t toot my horn, no one else will. Maybe that comes from spending most of my life in a man’s world so I took on that “confidence.” I know I am not perfect, but damn it! I am a mighty fine woman with talents of my own too. 😀
I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable being my own cheerleader, but I’ll try. I’m glad you’re able to do that for yourself.
I think you have a good point. I mean, I do think that characters need to have something to run up against, but they don’t all need to be completely overwrought or conflict for the sake of conflict. It needs to make sense within the confines of the story.
I remember telling you how I plan and you giving me this look that I must be crazy. And then I looked at you and realize that your a panster and think “you know, everything she writes is wonderful and she just comes up with something on the fly. I should let go and be more like Bron.”
I’ve since picked my writing habits out of my tight ass like a wedged piece of underwear and tried to be more free with my writing. I couldn’t have done that without you! Graphic perhaps but a compliment none the less.
I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to give you the “I think you’re crazy” look. I was just in all kinds of awe and a little bit afraid.
Also, that is spectacular simile. Well done, you! 😀 And thank you for that compliment! : D