Writing Weaknesses

If you're a writer, you have them. It may be presumptuous--who? me?--but I believe even the most accomplished writers have their weaknesses. Of course, if these authors have made it not only into print but have managed to repeatedly climb the NYT Best Seller lists, I must assume their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses.

The same holds true for those who can claim professional status even if their books have resulted in moderate sales or worse. Perhaps their books are more well written, their conflict tighter, their characters more believable than their NYT Best Seller counterparts. It's certainly possible. But why then do their books not receive the same recognition and acclaim?

It's a question that you'll find discussed in a variety of places and by a variety of people. Books have been written to help aspiring and mid-list authors alike achieve a higher level of writing.

I own a few of those books. I read them every now and again...bit by bit when the writing bogs down.

Exercises and advice aside, I've come to realize admitting your weaknesses is the first step to improving. You can't fix what you don't realize is broken. If you mistakenly label action as conflict, you're not going to understand why your characters seem to be moving aimlessly through an obstacle course. If you believe your characters are fully developed, you won't see how flat they appear while on-screen. If you see description as a waste of time or superfluous, you're not going to realize your story takes place in a void.

Your readers will. They'll notice the clunkers. Every one.

So how do you recognize your weaknesses? They're likely a weakness because they have fallen off your writer's radar. When you're busy worrying about the presentation of your story's main conflict, it's easy to forget things like setting, theme, and characterization. Some oversights may not be noticeable while writing. You think you've included all the necessary elements. After all, it makes perfect sense to you so you must have succeeded.

Not so. You're simply blinded to the holes your subconscious automatically fills in. This is why editing is so important. After a bit of distance, the flaws jump off the page. Be warned: they may even mock your initial efforts.

Some things are easily fixed and cannot be considered a weakness. Everyone has typos. Everyone leaves out words or jumbles them into unintelligible sentences. Yes, they do. Don't argue with me on this! Seriously. Do you want to make me cry? Alright then, behave yourself.

The weaknesses begin to become apparent as you move from scene to scene, chapter to chapter. After you've written enough manuscripts, you'll soon realize some of these flaws follow you from story to story and you realize your writing has inherent weaknesses.

I have several weaknesses. The most irritating is my presentation of conflict. My story's have conflict but I never nail it in its presentation. I take something that could be powerful and turn it into angelfood cake. Don't ask me how. I have no idea. Excuse the expression but I tend to pussy-foot around conflict.

I also tend to be very vague. I'm thinking it's keeping the reader in suspense but, in retrospect, I believe it only confuses things unnecessarily.

Have you discovered your weaknesses yet? And how are you coping with them?