Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Short (Non-Scientific) Quiz on Your Writing Craft — Find your strengths

Different writers have different strengths. Does that seem strange? I'm not sure why it should be, but I continue to run across people who only separate writers into "ones I like" or "ones I don't like." Often this translates into who they consider to be good writers or bad writers.

This is fine for people who don't write themselves, but it lacks specificity, and that's problematic for those who hope to create and sell works -- especially fiction. Happily, most writers learn to critique along the way, and that leads them to a better appreciation of the strengths of the writers they read. Curiously, it doesn't seem to lead to close examination of their own strengths.

About a year ago, I created a productivity quiz. People seemed to like that, so how about a strength quiz? You aren't stuck with one answer for each. Choose all you feel (mostly) apply.

As a storyteller, I:

A. Hook readers into stories with us and downs and satisfying endings.

B. Create logical stories that make their points.

C. Get down impressions that people find engaging.

D. Tell stories clearly enough so that people don't get confused.

E. Throw things together and hope.

In creating characters, I:

A. Introduce seemingly real people who go through distinct, emotional, and transformative experiences that readers can't forget.

B. Freshen and individualize archetypes that engage readers and encourage them to come along on their journeys.

C. Present goal-oriented protagonists who face obstacles take on risks.

D. Assemble a cast required to act out the story I've chosen.

E. Grab a copy familiar characters from stories I know.

My descriptions:

A. Immerse readers and engage their senses so they feel as if the stories are happening to them.

B. Make sure readers have a sense of time and place, can visualize action, and are clear about important aspects of the setting that will impact the story.

C. Include enough cues to the physical dimensions (place, character appearances, tasks) so they are oriented effectively.

D. Provide enough description to keep readers from getting lost.

E. Describe a lot or a little depending upon what comes out as I compose the story.

My plots:

A. Are fresh, full of surprises, logically sound, and deliver both emotional impact and insights.

B. May get crazy and cheat a little, but they are always entertaining.

C. Have plenty happening and don't confuse readers.

D. May include digressions and omit potentially effective scenes, but always come across to careful readers.

E. Include what I believe readers need to understand, along with my favorite scenes.

My writing style encourages readers to:

A.  Read aloud and reread my work just for the joy of the language.

B. Engage so thoroughly they forget they are reading.

C. Read quickly to get to the good parts, skipping portions as appropriate.

D. Work past difficult passages so they can get to the end.

E. Ask someone else to read it for them and provide a summary.

Okay, that gets things started. I could easily add choices here that would reveal strengths and developing high concepts or mastery of genre tropes or humor or dozens of other skills and talents that attract readers to their favorite authors.

I hope you have lots of "As" and "Bs," but don't fret if you don't.

Here's the point: you can look through these areas of writing (and add your own) to get a better understanding of where your strengths are. Weaknesses, too, but don't let those dominate your thinking. Though it might be tempting to devote yourself to shoring up your weaknesses, knowing your strengths gives you targets for education and practice at what you do best.

Since readers come to writers for their strengths and usually excuse all but their most glaring weaknesses, it might be a good idea to spend at least half your efforts at improving your craft in the areas where you are most strong. These are opportunities to become so good, you'll stand out as a writer.

"Going with your strengths" has been a successful strategy for athletes, but I rarely hear it recommended for writers. So, while you may want to put some work in wherever your answers were "E," don't neglect those for which your answers were "A" or "B." You may find that slight improvements where you're strongest will get your work noticed.

No comments:

Post a Comment