My Writerly Achilles Heel

My Facebook friend, Al Boudreau, posts daily questions to writers on Facebook. His question this morning was:

Writers/Authors: We all have strengths and weaknesses in our writing. What are you most deft at, in terms of winning readers over to make them fans? What are you striving to improve about your mad skills? 

Several authors have given their interesting, often self-deprecating answers. Reading them, it’s good to know I’m not the only one out there. Here was my answer:

I think “voice” is my writing strength. My weakness is getting that shitty first draft on paper without being compulsive about getting every blasted sentence perfect. Most writers talk about over-editing their manuscripts. I over-edit my sentences.

I thought it was interesting that I had to think A LOT longer about my strengths than I did my weaknesses. Maybe that’s because I’m experiencing one particular weakness full-on in the last few days. For over a week now, I have been stuck in the thick sludge of re-writing sentences over and over as I try to move forward with a story. I don’t know if I should blame it on my obsessiveness with trying to get each sentence just right, or if I should blame it on my character’s stubborn refusal to tell me her story.

In my Monday Mashup, I posted a link to an article by Jhumpa Lahiri called “My Life’s Sentences.” In the article, she states, “Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge.” It is the same for me. I see mini stories within each sentence. Perhaps that’s why I like to write haiku. (Click here to go to my haiku blog.)

I felt a little better after reading Ms. Lahiri’s essay on her own struggle with sentences. She says:

My work accrues sentence by sentence. After an initial phase of sitting patiently, not so patiently, struggling to locate them, to pin them down, they begin arriving, fully formed in my brain. 

Still, it hasn’t helped me to get more sentences down on paper. I suppose it’s just one more aspect of waiting that tries the patience of a writer. Waiting for replies on queries. Waiting for a publisher or agent to call. Waiting for a character to tell her story. Waiting for a sentence to come.

So . . . back to Mr. Boudreau’s question: What are your writerly strengths and weaknesses?

This entry was posted in Al Boudreau, facebook, Jhumpa Lahiri, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My Writerly Achilles Heel

  1. Strengths: I'm never bored, always have plenty of interesting to me stories to write. Weakness, I can enjoy the complex twists and turns too much, so I get the description piled up ahead of the idea, ( in a cart ahead of the horse way). So I get told that I don't write easy reading. But, I write scifi & mythical type fantasy, so to me an interesting tale is more important than an easy read. Oh, then there's editing, can edit endlessly and still never get it perfect.


  2. Jan Morrill says:

    Yes, Uva! Editing is another weakness. I edit endlessly. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!


  3. Linda Austin says:

    I'm with you, Jan. I edit everything the minute I type it. My biggest strength would be editing! My second biggest problem is making myself sit down to write (I do have a busy life). Other people will grab 15 or 30 minutes of writing time as they can, but for me that feels like you just get back into where you left off and have to quit, so why bother. And this is why I like haiku!


  4. Claire says:

    My biggest weakness when it comes to writing is actually taking the time to write. I keep letting life get in the way–how stupid is that?


  5. Jan Morrill says:

    Linda, I sometimes have time, but seem to have a hard time focusing. I'm like you, it takes me awhile to get into the story again, and if I get distracted, my characters all run away and hide!


  6. Jan Morrill says:

    You sure do a better job than I do, Claire. I mean, three books in the last six months?? Or is it four? See, I lost count.


  7. Russell says:

    I can create absurd situations from everyday life and make people laugh.

    Like Claire, I have trouble dedicating time to write, especially right now when I have a construction project going.

    I really enjoy the Friday Flash Fiction. They are short, compact stories that you can knock out without investing a lot of time.


  8. Madison Woods says:

    I think, like you, my voice is my strongest writerly asset. My weakness is giving either too much or too little information in a scene. I'm either infodumping or being stingy with backstory and I'd like to find a good place in the middle.

    Russel, those little stories are a good place to store your ideas until you have time to develop them into more 😉 That's what I do with mine.


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