Every one of us wants to be a successful writer--we want to know our strengths and weaknesses. We want to rely on the strengths but we want to shape our craft so that our weaknesses grow stronger with each book.
There are several spheres that I consider "strengths or weaknesses" for writers. They are as follows:
My greatest strength has been (and I assume will always be) characterization. It makes sense because since I am always people-watching whenever I'm around people (and I'm a people-person) I get a deal of research done. It's really important as a writer to pinpoint your greatest strength and then try to find the places that need work. My nemesis, I think, is plot. My first book--written at age twelve--was entirely plotless. My second, A Mother for the Seasonings, is a very simple tale. (though a good one!). I got half-way through two other books that are still languishing in their word document files, but never finished them. You see, one had too much plot, the other not enough. By the time I reached The Scarlet-Gypsy Song I knew I needed a plot that could carry me through a novel without seeming stretched thin. "Like butter scraped over too much bread," as Bilbo says. And though I was able to spin out a tale with a plot that I liked very much much, it was still lumpy-bumpy and will take a deal of editing to make palatable. I will admit that even in this book my character-love came out first. You see, I didn't have a plot when the book was born. I had a phrase:
"There was Nannykins to begin with, but she had a bad knee and left for the North."
I mean honestly. What does that have to do with a father whose children get into his fictional world and his princess who gets out of it, and massive travail and bloodshed and angst and beauty? Nothing. But somehow I came up with a plot and the phrase and the rest lies in the bloodied pages of the Gildnoirelly.
All this to say, I know that plot strength is a weakness for me. So I've been doing a deal of reading this summer in hopes of getting a little better at it. I just finished reading a book called The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. She is not a Christian writer, but her skill is certainly a force to be reckoned with. I loved the plot anyway, but she put this huge twist at the end that left me reeling and marveling and wishing I knew enough to do the same.When we do research like this, it's helpful to ask yourself several questions:
Where did I think the plot was going?
How did she tailor my opinion one way so that she could whip the story around?
What was the most dynamic scene in the story?
How does the characters' personality/character play into the way the plot turns out?
I am excited. I've done my research and I have a good, strong plot for Scuppernong Days. I actually sat down and wrote it out in my writing notebook so that I know where I'm going. Y'see, my worst part is getting only major events and having difficulty stringing them together with important nothings. Of course there is wiggle-room for the plot changing and your characters changing and your idea changing, but for myself I find I can keep plot weakness to an ebb if I structure my story. :) What are your strengths/weaknesses? How do you strengthen your weak parts?
"Be sure of only two things: yourself and the ropes beneath your hands."
-Mr. Nesbit, First Mate of The Scuppernong