Wisdomous Wednesday: Pursue Your Weaknesses
Wisdomous Wednesday is a weekly series of posts with advice about writing ranging from craft to navigation through the publishing world. If you have some wisdomous thoughts you’d like to share here, don’t hesitate to contact me. I love advice from other writers!
Knowing your weaknesses as a writer is pretty important. But I think it’s just as important not to get caught up in what you know (or believe) to be your flaws. I think a lot of writers (and I am WAY guilty of this myself) tend to avoid writing things they’re not good at, or have no experience with. I know I catch myself taking convoluted paths through stories to avoid writing things I know I’m not good at writing–or worse, avoid writing stories I otherwise love because there’s an aspect to them that I don’t think I can handle.
Maybe in some ways it’s smart to play to your strengths and avoid the things you’re less skilled at. But I find it a pretty limiting way to write, so here’s my two cents for this week:
Pursue Your Weaknesses
Instead of avoiding the things you feel are weaknesses or flaws in your writing abilities, seek them out. Write stories that force you to explore the aspects of writing that make you uncomfortable or less confident. If, for example, you have an aversion to writing action scenes, go somewhere in your plot that you cannot get out of again without some serious action. If you have trouble incorporating more than one or two senses in your description, deprive your character of his or her sight for a chapter (blindfolds!) and see what happens when you HAVE to rely on the descriptions you’re less familiar with.
Basketball players, for example, don’t avoid the parts of their game that they suck at. If a player can’t make free throws, he stands there all night sinking basket after basket until he can do it consistently. An actor who stumbles over a particular monologue goes home and rehearses it in front of a mirror until she can recite it in her sleep. Why should writing be any different?
You can even find ideas from your weaknesses. If you’ve written yourself into a corner and don’t know where to go next, try thinking about some of the things you tend to avoid as a writer. Chances are, you haven’t done it much in your manuscript so far. It could be a cool change of pace from what you’ve already done if, for example, you’re not so good at writing dialogue, and you switch up the pacing to have a back-and-forth between your characters.
I’ve even gone so far as to get an idea for a whole novel in a quest to overcome a weakness. I’ve struggled with writing main characters who are passive within their stories–instead of driving events, events happen TO them. In trying to imagine the most kick-ass, proactive character I could think of, I came up with the idea of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which Beauty doesn’t go docilely into captivity because she has to, she picks up a crossbow and goes off to hunt down the Beast for hurting her father.
It’s all about adding tools to your kit, weapons to your arsenal. A devastating three-pointer, a deadly action scene–it’s all about practicing it, and not shying away from what scares us. Yeah, the first time we do it, we’ll probably miss. In fact, we’ll probably miss by an embarrassing margin. That’s why we practice at the hoop over the garage, in stories we can always revise before they ever see the light of day. Do it enough, though, and eventually it’ll be nothing but net every time.