Go With Your Strengths


Go With Your Strengths

This week's tip is:

Go With Your Strengths.

My favorite chapters of my current novel project are the ones that are strongly informed by place. I know my hometown and another city very well, and readers of my draft chapters always respond best to the chapters that use those places in an intimate way, moving about familiar streets, using details that are real or are informed by real experiences. Then there are other chapters where I'm trying to write about regions of the country that I've barely experienced, that I can only recount by explaining things that I've read about these places. As a result, they're clearly weaker; they rely on cliches and hearsay. My readers can't put their fingers on it, but they all agree these chapters just aren't cutting it.

So it's time to play to my strengths - and time for you to do the same. Instead of struggling and limping along with an idea that you know isn't your best, try turning the idea around in a way that complements what you're good at. If it's dialogue that you're best at, why did you have that scene with mute characters only? Try altering it so that people speak. If you're best at describing places you know, like me, then set more chapters in places that you know. It will help enrich your writing.

One of my writing teachers was very frank about the games of smoke and mirrors that real writers play. Good writers, he said, know what they are good and bad at, and they just find ways to display the good and hide the bad. They cleverly avoid the parts that expose their weaknesses, and showcase the parts that display their strengths. You can do the same. So today, choose one concrete thing that you're good at - and write a scene exposing that talent.