Write On 2017! – Strengths And Weaknesses

I want all of you to picture yourself on a boat. Any boat. Any body of water. Might be sailboat on the ocean or a kayak on white water rapids. This boat represents you on your writing journey.

Are you in your boat? Good. Because it’s time for the next installment of our Write On 2017! series, which explores ways to help you stay on course and on fire about your writing. Today’s topic: things that propel your writing, hinder your writing, and yes, sink the dang boat. We’ll call these Strengths and Weaknesses. 

Your Assignment: Identify your writing strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s start with your strengths. Picture you and your boat moving effortlessly through the water. You have sunny skies, good winds, and plenty of fuel in the tank. Now identify specific reasons why you are making such amazing headway in your boat (writing career). In other words, list your writing strengths. Here’s our Write On! worksheet if you need one. Don’t be modest. Hint: Look at the craft of writing, business of writing, and personal/writer’s life.

For example, strengths can include things like:
* I am good at world building.
* I write engaging and natural dialogue.
* My family supports my writing.
* I have robust social media accounts with daily interaction.

Now picture yourself in that same boat. You’re getting battered by wind and rain. You’re taking on water. The sharks are circling. Take a few minutes and identify specific things that hinder your writing career, especially those that have the potential to sink your boat. Hint: Look at the craft of writing, business of writing, and personal/writer’s life.

Weaknesses can include things like:
* I struggle with pacing. My stories are sluggish and bloated.
* I start stories but don’t finish them.
* I am in a toxic writing group.
* I spend too much time on social media and not enough writing.

Why this exercise? It’s important to know your strengths so you can exploit them. For example, if you’re good at writing dialogue and you’re having a tough writing day where the words just aren’t flowing, by all means, start writing dialogue! Also, when you’re facing down that big, burly Doubt Monster, acknowledging your strengths is like lobbing hand grenades at the beast. Knowing your weaknesses will help you identify concerns that can undermine your career. If you struggle with plotting, get yourself craft books on plot. If you’re having a hard time getting into a regular writing routine, get yourself an accountability partner. One more thing…knowing your weaknesses will help you determine goals, which will discuss next week. 🙂

Your EXTRA CREDIT assignment: Develop a fix-it strategy for one weakness.

In the comment section below, list one weakness that you want to work on in 2017, and as a community we’ll brainstorm fix-it strategies. Got that? This is an interactive exercise where you’re invited to post creative and constructive suggestions for your fellow writers. The last time I did with exercise with  a class, one author said she got stuck on a writing project because she had to do research and she hated research. The class brainstormed a number of ideas, ranging from “hire someone to do the research” to “reward yourself with a chocolate sundae every time you researched a sticking point.” Looking forward to brainstorming below. Write on!

This is Part 4 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Photo: CC Image courtesy of Ken Teegardin on Flickr

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

59 responses to “Write On 2017! – Strengths And Weaknesses”

  1. Liz Talley says:

    Ooh, this is tough but necessary.


    I’m a go getter and don’t make excuses (much)
    Good at writing characters
    Adequate social presence for mid-list author
    I’m open to change and a team player for writing organizations


    Being technically savvy
    Being business minded
    Struggle with plotting

    Already found one way to deal with plotting. I have two other writers I walk with. We plod and plot. It’s perfect because one writers suspense and the other wome’s fiction. No crossover stories and they bring a different perspective.


    • Thanks for being the first to chime in, Liz, and the vulnerability to share a weakness.

      My fix-it strategy for not “being technically savvy”: use platforms that don’t require a great deal of technical knowledge. For example, create ads and quote cards on a program like Canva and for your website use something like WordPress that is relatively easy to update once your site is built out. I am definitely not tech-savvy, but I easily update my website.

      Also, I wonder if another fix-it strategy for you might be to accept that you need to hire a techie for certain projects and just be okay with it. You have a very limited amount of time. Is that time best served learning and doing tech stuff?

      Okay, readers, any other fix-it strategies for Liz??

    • Nicole Terry says:

      I’ve wondered about the techie stuff. Some people advocate the use of all types of social media to reach everyone, That to stay relevant you need to keep up.

      However, I’ve seen several posts about only using the ones you enjoy and/or will use the most comfortably. That your fans will understand because it’s a part of you. I personally like the idea of this. I’m not comfortable with all the different types of platforms. Some of them make me feel so old if not dumb. I’d rather spend the time I’d spend on updating people about my work/books writing the next one.

      But then again, that’s me (the hater of Facebook). 😉

    • As far as focusing, making a goal list each day helps me.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      For business-minded: Consider detaching yourself from the fact that you’re a writer. Your books are “the product.” The money is just “assets and liabilities.” Then find a person who is running a business to help you plan how to sell your product and manage the necessary noise.

      • Good for you, Liz, for having such a clear list and being open to change. Maybe the people you work with in your organizations can help with the techie stuff. And I agree with creating a structure to help you focus–daily and weekly lists work for me.

  2. I’m great at world building, but my characters lack depth and emotion. I need to ramp up my characters.

    • Vicky, I’ve done a workshop on emotion that many have said was very helpful. I also posted a emotion blog here too. Here’s the link to it.

      Have you tried interviewing your characters and really dig down to raw feelings? Ask them how they feel about the other characters and situations in the story. Poke them with the gossip you’ve heard.

      We all have experiences we can draw on, and if you haven’t experienced what they’re going through, someone has. Research. There are a lot of interviews out there.

      Also, The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi is a great source for writing expressions.

    • Vickie, I share your pain. For the most part, I enter story through plot. Characters and the emotions that drive them are tough for me.

      My fix-it strategy for you: get to know your characters better by writing a scene in the FIRST PERSON. You’ll get better access to your character’s head and heart. All of my young adult books are written in first person, and after writing them, my suspense books (third person) got better. 🙂

      For the record, deepening characters was so tough for me that I spent years studying the subject (I second the Ackerman/Puglisi book!) and eventually started teaching a workshop for people like me who struggle with character. Here’s the worksheet from my workshop, Character: The Heart of Good Story.

      Any other suggestions for Vickie??

    • Nicole Terry says:

      I purchased a book by Susan May Warren (How to Write a Brillant Romance) that talks about identifying a character’s Dark Moment story. Then using it to plot based off the greatest fear, lie and wound it created.

    • Hope Ramsay says:

      Hi Vicky,

      My suggested fix-it for Characters, is to try using personality archetypes. You can find a list of archetypes here:

      Use the “dark” and “light” qualities of your character’s archetype to help you discover his/her story arc. As yourself why your character is behaving badly, what’s in his background, what caused him/her to have these personality tics. Then ask yourself what would have to happen to the character to move him/her into the light.

    • PennyH says:

      A really good resource for characters is to think about the character arc – KM Weiland has a great new book out about different types of character arcs – how to strengthen them and you can also see how much they intertwine with and enhance your plot and vice versa.

  3. Great exercise, Shelly. I really had to look at myself and my work.


    1)Open to learning.
    3)Work with both left and right brain equally well, I think, which helps with business applications as well as creative adventures.
    4)The ability to write realistic dialogue
    5)The ability to connect with readers emotionally.
    6)Brainstorming. I love to come up with the usual.


    1)Lack of patience when my goal is insight. It can take me forever to get there, trying to get a project right, but once the goal is near, I’m like a racehorse heading for the finish line. Sometimes this can lead to missed details.
    2)Sometimes focus, but setting daily goals help with that.
    3)Volunteering in all aspects of life. I like to help, but I really do need to sit on my hands more.
    4)Evening television. I can get lost in movies for hours. That time has to be put to good use somehow. Character or plot study, but I just like to veg.
    5)Perfect grammar. Simply put, I suck. I review Elements of Style and an old grammar book constantly.
    6)Confidence. Sometimes when I read others work, I wonder if I can ever be that good.

    I’m sure there are a lot more.

    • Nicole Terry says:

      TV isn’t a weakness but vegging in general is! I’ve found that if I’m in my office staring at a wall or reading (which is my problem)so much I can’t work, I leave.

      I’ll take my laptop and physically leave my house. I go to a library or a park somewhere and write. Sometimes it’s enough to get my brain in the writing frame of mind.

      • I’ve tried writing at libraries and coffee shops and found I’m too much of a people watcher. I just can’t produce word count there. Thanks for suggesting though.

        I like Shelly’s idea of no TV nights. I might try that or even no TV before nine when I need to veg. There are some late sprints going on. I’ll need to get there.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Grammar is a hard one. Do you know any teens or college students who are good at it? If grammar has been freshly-pounded into them, they might be willing to do a light copy-editing for you at a reasonable fee.

      Also, I know of a website where you can dump in about 500 words and it will find all of the grammar problems for you. I’ll see if I can find the link.

      Evening TV: Maybe you should just forgive yourself and see your interest in TV as a positive. Keep paper and pen ready, and just down plot points, dialog, character development… and think of it as training. Example: I’ve been watching THIS IS US–and holy moly, it is stretching me as a storyteller.

    • PennyH says:

      I end up doing the writing everywhere I go, so I decided to check in on my grammar a few years ago… I grabbed a cheap, online grammar class from my local community college. I also grabbed one on editing. Great skills boost. Grammarly also has an online resource – part free, part you can pay for (enhanced stuff). Think of it as advanced spell check. Great options and all will boost your confidence and skill set.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Autumn! Here are a couple of fix-it strategies for #4 – Evening television.

    Pick TWO nights a week that will be TV-free. Allow yourself music or candles and other pleasures, but no TV. The idea of getting rid of all TV might feel overwhelming, but small bites are often so much easier to swallow. 🙂

    Also, your mind and body need down time. They need to rest and recharge. Is it realistic and advisable that you write every night? Personally, watching great movies is one way I fill my creative well. So I guess there’s a hidden fix-it strategy here…for those nights that you need to veg, don’t beat yourself up. <3

    Any other suggestions for Autumn??

  5. Nicole Terry says:

    Weaknesses is something I’ve been struggling with for weeks now.

    -Create interesting and well-rounded characters
    -Plenty of ideas to write about
    -Time to write

    -finishing a manuscript
    -showing and not telling
    -laying the romance foundation to make the HEA believable (my characters all go, go, go but don’t stop much to feel)
    -imposter syndrome (I wonder all the time why my story is so important compared to the others who write in my genre. They’ve done a better job of telling a story so why should I bother?)

    I have more weaknesses but I needed to stop. :/ I’ve attended numerous workshops and purchased dozens of craft books to help w/my weaknesses but I can’t seem to get over the hump. Frankly I’m worried. If I want to make this a career, I need to be able to overcome (or at least maneuver) around the obstacles.

    • Thank you, Nicole, for sharing a little piece of your writing world! You bring up a point I wanted to share in the main article, but it was getting too long for a blog post. 🙂

      *** Every writer has weaknesses, and some of those weaknesses will never be overcome. Weaknesses are part of the human condition. The issue is when weaknesses become liabilities that have the power to sink our boats. The key is to keep a weakness from becoming a precision underwater missile. ***

      Since you mentioned PLOTTING twice, I’ll offer a fix-it strategy. I’m a plotter, and my go-to plotting method is Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Story Structure with Five Key Turning Points. I also love Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet from SAVE THE CAT. Clearly, screenwriting techniques work for me when it comes to plotting.

      Hmmmmmm…I’m guessing you don’t need more craft book recommendations. So I’m going to think outside the box…

      1. Write your ending first. This is what I do with my straight mysteries. Knowing where I end makes the middle and beginning much easier.

      2. Write a short story with clear opening, rising stakes, black moment, resolution. Perhaps seeing condensed plotting may toggle some switches for you.

      3. Write your subplots separate from your main plot then weave them together. (I have done this for more than one book!)

      4. Work with a plotting partner.

      5. And dare I say it? Stop plotting. Are you really a pantser or a scene-sewer? Diana Gabaldon talks about writing major scenes then sewing them together.

      Good luck! Any other strategies for Nicole??

      • Nicole Terry says:

        I am indeed a scene-sewer! I write out of order then go back through and piece them together.

        I’ve heard of the Hague’s method but haven’t actually looked at it. I’ll try it! Thank you. 🙂

        The one thing that struck me about your advice was the plotting partner. I write alone. I don’t have beta readers, alpha readers, CP’s or anything. I tried a CP but we kind of drifted. I’m not even sure I knew what I was doing. Maybe I need to cultivate a partner.

      • Elizabeth Langston says:

        About CPs/plotting partners: I’m like you. I write alone. I’ve never really had a CP or critique group. Consider entering contests–both as a judge and a contestant. RWA chapters have many great contests. If they have skilled judges, you’ll likely have feedback that helps. (Although, beware the East German judge.) Also, if you judge contests, you’ll be able to see problems in other authors’ stories that might give you fresh insight for your own.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Imposter syndrome – I would say that nearly 100% of authors experience imposter syndrome, so if you’re feeling it, think of it as a good thing. (Kinda like being nervous before public speaking; it shows that you care.)

      Also, think about how much room there is for everyone to have a place at the table. I think about it in terms of baking; there are a lot of chocoholics and lots of chocolate-centric desserts. I’m allergic to chocolate, and I would desperately love to have citrus or caramel desserts. They’re just harder to find. Be a “caramel” writer. Somebody needs to hear what you have to say!

      • Nicole Terry says:

        Chocolate! Your speaking my language! I like it. I’m going to be a “caramel” writer. 😀

    • Hope Ramsay says:

      Hi Nicole,

      I’ve got some suggestions for your plotting woes. First, I agree with Shelly, check out Michael Hague if you haven’t already done so.

      Second, drop by the weekly brainstorming sessions that the RSS is having as part of the writing festival. The next brainstorming session is Thursday from 7-9 pm eastern in the Winter Writing Festival chat room. You’ll have a chance to talk about what’s not working in your story and we’ll brainstorm with you.

      Third, don’t think about plot. Really. Think about your characters first. You will find your story from the characters. (This is really what Michael Hague’s story workshop is all about. It’s about character development not plot.) So ask yourself what your hero or heroine needs to learn by the end of the book in order for him/her to be transformed. (If it’s a romance, then what do they need to learn in order to be worthy of love). Then sit down and map out 20 things that could happen that would teach them what they need to know. When you’re done you’ll have 20 scenes.
      Finally, if you don’t write in a linear fashion, you might think about doing all your writing using Scrivener instead of Word. Scrivener is set up in a way that allows you to write scenes out of order. I’m a pretty linear writer, but since I’ve been using Scrivener, I find myself doing more and more out of sequence writing than ever before.

  6. PennyH says:

    -interesting character/story ideas
    -tech stuff
    -Can distil things down into good info bytes – at least for others.
    -Editing, finding issues and options, and helping – others.
    -work hard

    -taking on too much stuff-overreaching
    -Focusing too much on getting stuff done & trying to force it. I am exhausted with working so hard (full-tilt all the time) and feeling like I am accomplishing and completing nothing no matter how hard I work, study, or write.
    -I have yet to finish – in my opinion a solid first draft of a novel start to finish. I can finish smaller works – regularly but seem to have problems with novel length items – my current pile of “not quite complete” novels seem to have terminal problems (not just being finished, but being able to finish through major issues). I think I have issues with: weak antag presence and interaction, story ideas “too big” – maybe they need to be split up or slimmed down.
    -I overthink things – often

    I’ve been a pantser, mostly – I’ve worked a lot on story craft and structure (it is so much easier to see and find issues NOT in your own stuff) – I worked on being a re-forming pantser last year, with re-doubled effort and now I’m afraid to get back into the shark-infested waters. I’m writer gun-shy right now.

    My ideas for a fix? I will work on shorter stories, work on completing and getting confident with them and stronger with all I know. It gives me a chance to experiment, and as smaller steps to a larger whole. Not feel confined to one, big hot mess with filled with amorphous problems. I need to feel free to exercise other creative muscles (like my art) and let things flow – I need to be able to breathe and not be chained down to a sinking ship.

    The thinking is that you should always finish your sh!#. But…is wallowing in mucky failure until you drown a good idea? Maybe it should be “If something’s not working, try something different.” I think I need to stop overworking the learning and the rules, and the thinking, and really find my own way that actually works.

    Sorry – you got me too reflective. Probably wish you hadn’t asked now, huh? 😀

    • Reflection is good, Penny, and this is a good place to do it. Reflection forces us to stop, breathe, observe, and when we’re ready, make changes. 🙂

      You came up with some fantastic fix-it strategies of your own about overreaching/overthinking, and I’ll add to those.

      1. Take time off from writing and DON’T FEEL GUILTY about it. Use this time to fill your creative well. Immerse yourself in your art, good movies, nature walks, museum visits, or what ev takes you to that rich, delicious place that feeds your artist’s soul.

      2. Move on. If you need someone to say it, I’ll do it. Give up a sinking boat.

      3. Read Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from this venerable craft book:

      “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

      Good thoughts, Penny, as you get through the muck! Any other suggestions for Penny??

    • I love the idea of writing shorter stories to get in the habit of finishing!!

      Even if you never submit it, you could pick a Harlequin line and write a story for it (make sure it’s a short one). They provide fairly strict plot guidelines and word count maximums, so you’d have a nice set of parameters to work from. With more structure set in stone from the beginning, you might find you have less to overthink!

    • Hope Ramsay says:

      Hi Penny,

      It sounds like you also have a very aggressive inner editor. So maybe you finish a first draft but can’t manage to edit it because you read what you’re written and it all sounds like crap. You worry about your story. You worry in general. So, if that’s part of your problem I have a few fix-it suggestions:

      1) Try fast drafting those shorter works. Turn the editor off and just write. You can always sprint write in the Winter Writing Festival chat room.

      2) For story problems, find some friends to brainstorm with. It’s amazing how talking through a story problem with someone else can open your eyes to things you didn’t see before. To that end, we’ve got brainstorming sessions ever week during the Winter Writing Festival. This week’s session is Thursday evening from 7-9 p.m. Eastern. I moderate these sessions, they are positive and uplifting and regularly solve story problems. So drop by if you have time.

      3) Find some beta readers. Let me read your work and give you some feedback that doesn’t come from your inner editor. You can take or leave their advice. And even though criticism can be harsh, it’s something a writer has to live with. Usually the external critics are a whole lot nicer than the one that lives up on your shoulder and whispers in your ear that you are no darn good. 🙂

      • PennyH says:

        Thanks. I definitely want to get to the brainstorming session. I haven’t been able to do much the last couple of weeks as any “extra” time has been with my mom over at the hospital or care center. I do really want to get home and try for tonight. 😀

  7. Rita Henuber says:

    Long ago I stopped looking at things as strengths and weaknesses. For me they are all challenges. Some more. Some less. Shrug. I find saying something is a weakness — Oh, well. It’s one of my weaknesses.—sets me up to fail or not do it very well. Defining it as a difficult challenge prompts me to work harder. Also being honest and acknowledging what I can’t do, as in formatting, and having a professional handle it is quite satisfying.

    • Excellent point, Rita! Writers must, must, MUST use a writing plan and language that works for them. I love that “challenge” lights your fire and am sure some of our readers here will find it powerful and motivating.

      For someone like me who’s done SWOT analyses (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) for business clients, the word weakness is rather benign.

      Again, it’s all about knowing and honoring the writing self.

  8. My biggest weakness? I struggle with endings–several manuscripts remain unfinished because I get to the ¾ point and realize that the entire premise is absurd and cannot be salvaged. Another several are finished but I refuse to shop them because they have embarrassingly bad endings.

    I feel like I write a serious novel but when I get to the end it becomes a farce!

    • Nicole Terry says:

      I understand. I wanted to write these beautiful and deep character driven romances that would people fall in love with the world. But they never worked out. I’d start off strong then something would happen and BOOM! I couldn’t go any further.

      Some investigation–i.e. looking hard at what I enjoyed reading and the authors I tended to re-read–and reading of many blog posts and I made a discovery. My Voice wasn’t suitable for the types of books I was writing. Apparently I’m not a deep sort of person.

      Have you tried changing the types/genres of books you are attempting? Ilona Andrews’ wrote a post last year and mentions owning your weird. Why not try writing a “farce” to begin with and seeing where it takes you. One of my favorite authors is Kristen Ashley and she’s a hot mess and I LOVE HER.

      • Nicole, this is incredibly thought-provoking!

        A) I hardly ever read romance. It’s not my catnip…and yet it’s what I write. I read mysteries, mostly, which unfortunately don’t seem to match my seat-of-the-pants writing style. I also like historicals. Historical mysteries are my fav!

        B) Why not just write a farce??!! What a question! Why not, indeed??

        Quite a bit to think about here. Thank you for your fresh insight on a problem I’ve been mulling over for years now.

    • Hope Ramsay says:


      This happens to me all the time. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where I didn’t run into a road block somewhere right before the crisis. Endings are definitely my weakness.

      So here are a few fix-it suggestions that have worked for me:

      1) Whenever I get stuck right before the crisis, I know almost instinctively, that something is wrong with the main character(s)’s arc(s). So I go back to the notes I made at the beginning (I am a pre-planner, especially of my characters) and I reexamine my character(s)’s INTERNAL goal, motivation, and conflict. I also review the question: what does the character need to learn? Then I start on page one and begin revising. By the time I get to the place where I got stuck the first time, the ending has become clear(er). This is, of course, anathema to the fast draft method of turning out a book. So, while it takes me FOREVER to finish a book, what I get at the end is better than a first rough draft.

      2) When I go through the revision and review process and I’m still stuck on the ending — that’s when I call my critique partners, or sit down over a bottle of wine with my husband (who is great at brainstorming). And once I talk it out I almost always figure out the problem. So brainstorming with friends and other writers will also help you when you get stuck.

      • Hope, it’s really heartening to hear that you have the same trouble!

        I definitely flounder for some of the same reasons — for a long time I actually didn’t know anything about structure or GMC or Romance and was just writing freely. It was actually more fun but it bogged down in the end. Now that I know more about such things I do try to set it all up in the beginning, but still, I feel like I get to the end of the story and there are too many wrinkles to iron out, so I just force it into some sort of plausible shape. It resembles an ending, but I know it’s not the best I can do. Perhaps it does all come down to re-examining my characters? I need to think about this.

        I wish I had access to your second solution! I used to be surrounded by a really great group of writers, but we moved and I haven’t cemented a new tribe out here. I’ve thought about RWA’s critique service, or trying to start something online with people I already know. That’s more to think about.

        Thank you! I really appreciate the time you took to craft this reply. Hugs!!

        • Hope Ramsay says:


          Maybe the Rubies should consider using the Winter Writing Festival chat room as a place to brainstorm on a monthly basis, or something like that. I’ve really enjoyed doing the weekly brainstorm chats during the festival and I think they have been helpful to those who have participated. Something for the RSS tribe to think about …

    • Yeah, endings are my least favorite part of writing. So I put on happy love music (think Love you for a Thousand Years from the Twilight wedding), read the last chapter and put my fingers on the keys while reminding myself what the overall theme of the book was (which I put on a sticky note in front of me while I write the book – the lesson my hero/heroine had to learn). If I’ve just had a chai latte, my muse is usually willing to show up and I’ll just type something – anything. It can be yuk, but at least I’ve got something down to fix.
      : )

      • LOL!

        Three things:

        1) I write to music, too!! *Essential!!*

        2) You’re echoing Hope’s advice in the sense that she has to re-focus on what the characters have to learn by the end of the book in order to write the ending (writing it out like that makes it seem more obvious than it actually is!). Having a permanent writing area will help this, because I could set up a vision board or whatever so I can stay more focused.

        3) I was just thinking this morning about how much Diet Coke and/or tea I used to drink while writing. I would literally drink caffeinated beverages 8 hours a day! I stopped when I got pregnant (which sucked) and never really picked the habit back up. It’s probably healthy but also not really good for my productivity!!

    • Thanks, Jamie for chiming in. Looks like you hit on a weakness shared by many.

      Full disclosure: I LOVE endings and whiz through them, my fingers flying, heart pounding, and often times tears flowing. (But I SUCK at beginnings. They are beastly and brutal and make me cry…and not in the good way.)

      My fix-it strategies for your struggles with endings.

      1. Look at your beginning. By the end of your story, your MC has undergone internal transformation and will have done a 180 degree turn. She will be the opposite of what she was in chap one. And better for it! So much of Act III will be about showing the new and improved version of your MC.

      2. Create echoes. Your ending should have scenes/moments/motifs/what ev that echo scenes/moments/motifs/what ev from earlier in the book. To me these are little gifties to myself and my readers, proof that the MC went through the fires and is better for it!

      3. Make sure your ending is preceded by a death…often metaphorical. Something in your character usually must die before story transformation occurs.

      4. And my fave tip about endings…in that black moment/final act have your character do what she never, ever thought she’d do. This means you’ve pushed her, yourself, and your readers to the edge. And there’s nothing farcical about that!!

      Happy, happy endings, Jamie. <3

  9. Technology is definitely my weakness. When I walk into a room with computers, oftentimes they will just crash. We joke that I’m magnetic. When my husband goes to fix things, he sends me out of the room, and sometimes the computer just starts behaving again. ERRRR… So this makes me less confident in dealing with ANYTHING technological, from trying out new social media platforms to formatting my self-pub books for upload.

    I also try to plot but my characters always take over, which slows my pacing because they keep refusing what I want them to do. So pacing is something I’m continually working to improve.

    • Haha! You and my mother must share the same anti-technilogy gene. Honestly, I’m won’t let her touch my computer for fear that she’ll infect it like a human Stuxnet.

      It sounds a bit like you need to let your muse run free? I wonder if we sometimes get caught up in someone else’s process and forget what made writing fun and EASY for us in the beginning. Maybe I’m projecting here!!

    • Glad you stopped by, Heather, and mentioned pacing. 🙂 Many of us struggle with sluggish stories. Here are a few random fix-it strategies.

      1. Let your characters have their way in the first draft. Let them be authentic and noisy and messy. Then in revisions, tighten and trim. As Elmore Leonard said, “try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

      2. Have a beta reader or CP mark on your manuscript where her attention or interest starts to drift. This will be a great way to see if you have slow-pacing triggers or habitually slow-paced areas.

      3. Amp up dialogue. All that white space gets story zipping along. And make your dialogue work double or triple duty…having it move story, deepen character, dribble in backstory, etc. (Perhaps study some screenwriting techniques?)

      Any other strategies for Heather??

    • Hi, Heather. Not sure how you fix the technology thing–try for simple applications and have others do the hard stuff? On plotting, sounds like you are making yourself fit into the wrong process/style for yourself. Embrace your writing style and if the characters want to change things, listen to them and let them help you figure out what will work for the story. I know, easier said than done when you’re missing your deadlines. 😉

  10. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Weaknesses for me are:
    – how slowly I write
    – how much I hate social media

    It takes me 7-9 months to write a book. I write the crap first draft, then 3-5 more drafts to fix the crap draft. I’m not sure how I can speed things up. It kinda feels like pregnancy; there’s just a minimum amount of time I need.

    Social media. Hate it. Like, really hate it. I’m a computer geek too, so the technology isn’t a problem. I’m very introverted and I just like to be quiet and alone. Cyberspace is noisy and crowded.

    • I don’t think 7-9 months is slow to write a book! I’d suggest that were we writing in a different genre, that would be an excellent rate of production. Perhaps for you, a solution would be to accept your (rather admirable!) rate of productivity and stop comparing yourself to writers who appear to be more productive?

      But if you truly aren’t going to be happy with a 7-9 months rate of production, I’ll ask if you are you setting strong yet achievable goals for your writing. If not, you could set a reasonable weekly goal, meet it, and keep bumping it up by 5% until you really find your maximum speed.

      • Elizabeth Langston says:

        I have monthly goals but not weekly. So maybe that’s something I need to rethink.

        I need to let the comparison thing go. But it’s been bothering more than usual since I attended an RWA chapter meeting in November. The speaker is completely indie. I think she said that she releases 4+ books a year. I have another author friend who averages 6 books per year (which is insane). I can’t sustain either pace.

        • Damn it, I’m all done with the cult of productivity within our community!! Like most of us, I’m not in a position to perform at that level, so I will not tolerate any career plans that include producing four books a year!!

          I think of one of my favorite books — The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It took her ten YEARS to write that thing, and it was worth every second she slaved over it. I’m grateful to her for that book, even if she never writes another.

          I think we have to decide what’s important to each of us. I definitely feel the siren call of the money that can arise from insane productivity! Money might be one of my goals, but it’s not what motivates me to WRITE. So we each have to determine what motivates us to write, what satisfies us within our working world, and write goals to achieve THAT measure of success.

        • Tamara Hogan says:

          *chiming in late in the game*

          Beth and Jamie, my sisters! I have the same issues and concerns. An admission: Over the last year or so, I’ve pulled away from some corners of the romance writing community out of sheer self-preservation, because the focus on pace of production just clobbers my self-confidence. My ‘natural’ writing pace right now is one book per year. Compared to most writers in our genre, I will always come up short in comparison. Always. I think my stories would start to suffer if I tried to pick up the pace. My health, and my work/life balance, would certainly take a hit.

          Ultimately, I need to find a rhythm, and craft a strategy, that preserves my joy in the process. So I find myself off to the side, marching to the beat of my own drummer. 😉 But I’m used to it. I like it here.

        • Hope Ramsay says:

          I would also like to chime in. I cannot fast draft. I’ve stopped trying to and I’ve discovered that I actually write more and am more productive just being myself. I always go back and edit what I wrote the day before, and people tell you not to do that. I always get stuck about 3/4 of the way through and go all the way back to the beginning and revise before the first draft is even finished. I can’t really write a book in less than 4 or 5 months. I think you just have to accept that your process is what it is. And, quite frankly, having read your books, I can see how you have taken your time. You are a fabulous author who cares about the words on the paper. Some of those authors who brag about writing 6 or 7 books in a year do not necessarily turn out books that are very well crafted. So, really, I would not characterize being a slow writer as a weakness. I think it might be a real strength. 🙂

          • All, I just want to say again that only in Romance is one book per year slow!! Some of the top Fantasy writers regularly take years to output a new work, and of course no one expects a literary fiction writer to churn ’em out. (Note: I do know that Elizabeth Kostova published a second novel, but it wasn’t very good and I think she’d have been better off taking a few more years to perfect it).

            Hope, multi-Rita-winning author Irene Hannon also writes like you do. She’s told me that she basically does one draft — she edits what she did the previous day before moving on, and if there’s a problem, she goes back and irons it out before proceeding. By the time she gets to the end, it’s basically already revised and ready for submission.

            You’re not alone!

    • Elizabeth, the Ruby Sisters have offered some thoughtful and frankly damned good advice on “writing slow”, so I’ll offer a fix-it strategy for your aversion to social media.

      Give yourself permission to get off social media for X amount of time. Don’t think about it. Don’t feel guilty about it. And don’t beat yourself up about it. When time’s up, assess your personal and professional well being. Do the benefits of maintaining a SM presence outweigh the costs?

      Any other fix-it strategies for Elizabeth??

      • I agree that slower writing is not a bad thing. In social media, Shelley offers good advice. Maybe you can find one social media platform (Twitter or whatever) you don’t hate and do a bit there, once you’ve taken a break and assessed things. We don’t have to be on all social media to be professional writers.

  11. […] developed an inspiring mission, created a forward-focused vision, and took a candid look at your strengths and weaknesses. You are now ready for the serious and empowering work of goal […]


Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Hope your mom recovers quickly, Tammy!
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: I really love the sense of place, time and character that you’ve established in just...
  • Autumn Jordon: Kylie, Good opening. I wondered immediately what the two villains might be scheming about? I might add...
  • Tamara Hogan: Kylie and Ruby community, My apologies in advance for being scarce at the blog today. I’ll be...
  • Autumn Jordon: Also proof to IRS that this is you’re serious about being a businessand not just a hobby.