Every writer has strengths and weaknesses, and we learn what these are as we write. At some point, we realise just how many skills we don’t yet have.
Sometimes we recognise a weakness in our work: “oh, I need to work on that.” Other times, we read someone else’s text and think “They’re not as good at this as me, although they’re better at this.” and the third, possibly most scary revelation, is the “this is perfect and i’ll never match it.” Cue meltdown.
And that’s okay. Have a meltdown. Go to panic buy “how to write” books. Cry and think about giving up.
But don’t give up.
Everyone reaches this stage, probably more than once in their career. Hell, likely more than once per book they write.
I know I’m not a descriptive writer. When I beta-read other novels, I have to make a disclaimer for each comment regarding descriptive passages, because I skim paragraphs of description. I can manage maybe three sentences. Then I’ve got a picture in my head and please move on. I’m not going to change my picture no matter how much more information you give me.
I learned this when I read Tarka the Otter at the age of 10 – I don’t skip bits in books, and that means I sat there getting frustrated as it told me about some reeds when I already knew what my version of Tarka’s home looked like. In fact, I didn’t finish the book. I’m still at page 88.
So my writing tends to have two sentences of description and then a paragraph of action/conversation/thought. When I check my own work, I know I need to go back and at least add another 2-3 sentences of description after or during that action. That way it’s not overwhelming for people like me, yet those who need/want the description have it.
Re-writing Resilience has given me a glimpse at another weakness, besides description. Emotions.
I’m pretty good with inner thoughts, showing character’s voice in how they think. But actually getting across an emotion, showing that through action and tone… That’s something I’ve actively needed to work on. And when I got beta-reader feedback from the first scene of Planes Shifter, there were still some “but how is she feeling?” comments.
On Saturday, I’m planning to open my printed copy of Planes Shifter to begin editing everything that’s not storyline. Style, characters, pacing, words used. I know the description is likely to be weak. But now I also know to have a look at the emotional content. Are my character’s thoughts also displaying emotions? Have I used enough physical cues to show her feelings?
The messages about getting traditionally published are very similar:
“If it’s good, we’ll take it.”
“With style, substance, characters, and description – balance of all this with a clear voice – essentially we pick the best.”
Knowing that as it stands, my writing doesn’t have all that, I feel like I’m staring into that void. How can I gain all those different skills?
Then I remember how I feel looking at a third draft instead of the first. I just need to be aware, to actively seek out those new skills, and practise.