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Know Your Strengths

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Here's a question for all of your writers: What’s the strongest part of your writing? Have you gotten feedback from readers or other authors that help you identify the parts of your work that really keep people interested? Maybe your descriptive scenes are impressive, or maybe your dialogue carries the readers through the story. Are you great with the opening hook, or does your ending make readers ready to line up for your next publication?

If you’ve never thought about what your strengths are, take a minute to ask yourself what parts are easiest for you to write—what parts of your writings are you most excited about. The answers should give you hints as to what your strengths are. So, it’s great to have strengths, right? Well, of course. When I review manuscripts, however, I find that authors often make one of two mistakes: failing to work on weaknesses or overcompensating for those weaknesses.

When we don’t acknowledge that one part of our writing is weaker than another, we then tend to not work on honing that skill. I read one short story recently that was full of descriptive scenes that were truly magical. I was drawn into the setting and character descriptions. The dialogue, however, made me want to stop reading. I didn’t care about what was being said because the words were forced. The writer clearly needed to hone the skill of writing dialogue.

The same sentiment was felt for the author who drew me in from the start with a thrilling conversation between three characters. The descriptive scenes, however, left me feeling bored.

When we overcompensate for our weaknesses, we often overwrite—we become wordy and tend to put in six-syllable words to try to impress our readers instead of polishing our skills. We hope our lengthy sections of the book filled with ornate words will carry the reader through our weakest points.

What’s my advice? Lean on your strengths but balance them with improved writing in all sections. Practice writing sections with dialogue or descriptions and ask for feedback on those small sections. Go to a seminar or take a class that will push you. More than anything, though, write and rewrite until you find that balance. Editing helps you keep readers interested.

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