Over the ten or so years I’ve been writing, I’ve learnt a lot about what comes naturally to me as a writer and what doesn’t. I tend to be able to create multi-dimensional characters, have hooky type plots and I’m also not completely useless at grammar. Writing, however, is very much a learnt art so there is a lot more than didn’t come naturally that I had to learn through critique partners, blog posts, freelance editors and my time as a literary intern. Hopefully some of what I learnt will be of benefit to you too!
- My characters tend to be a little too emotional! I think a little of this comes from the fact that I’m a very, very emotional person. It takes a while to learn that the way you view a scene (or more specifically, the way you view your character viewing a scene) is not universal. If there isn’t enough context to why your character is reacting the way they are, then it will often come off as melodramatic. Also, your background will make you subjectively take in something much differently than someone else might. Often, the only way to realize that a scene just isn’t coming off as intended is through having someone else read over your work. There are too many scenes to count that I’ve had to tone down on character reactions.
- I’m not good with setting! When I’m right in the thick of writing, I just don’t like slowing down for setting cues. Once I realized this, I made an effort to go back during revisions and see where additional sensory setting cues needed to be added. Again, this is where someone else reading over your work can really help you realize where your setting just isn’t strong enough. (You will see this suggestion a lot so, yes, go get some beta readers and CPs!)
- I leave the plot hanging! It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that every plot line had to be an arc, and every plot arc had to be connected and resolved. Even though it ended up costing me A LOT the best thing I did to learn about my weaknesses in this area was using an amazing freelance editor for one of my novels. (I’ll write a post about this later). Now I make a pointed effort to keep track of all my different plot lines and how each one is progressing through the story. This sometimes means rewriting a lot during the editing stage, but it’s always worth it.
The great thing about writing is that the more hard work you put in the more you get out. So the bottom line: you can do this (that’s what I tell myself, anyway). You can learn and you can definitely improve. So go do that!