The Art of Mirriam Neal

//writing strengths + weaknesses

A few weeks ago, Cait over at Paper Fury did a post on her writing strengths and weaknesses. (She failed to mention that she is, in fact, possessed with a muse who types at about 300 WPM and writes 15,000 words a day when she’s in a lazy mood. I’ll never understand how she does it, but I tell her off every time she posts a word count update so her head doesn’t swell.)  Anyway, I loved the idea of putting it out in the open and seeing YOUR writing strengths and weaknesses as well! Let’s start with the weaknesses and get the nastiness out of the way first, shall we?

Weaknesses

  • Filler words. My first drafts are always absolutely riddled with words like ‘realized’ and ‘saw’ and ‘looked’ and ‘then’ and… ‘and’! In many ways these are what first drafts are for, but still, it’s a lame feeling to look over a paragraph as you’re writing and see where it could be three times more powerful….and know that if you stop to edit now, you’ll lose your momentum. (It also doesn’t help that half my word count during NaNoWriMo – or JuNoWriMo – is thanks to word warring.) L A M E, I say.
  • Sometimes I cut corners for the sake of the story, when I (probably) shouldn’t. Since I tend to make up most of what I write on the fly (I have a vague outline, but everything between the major plot points is basically done by the seat of my pants). So sometimes my plot points don’t exactly make total sense, and then I have to either change them completely or try to fix them with awkward, clumsy patch-jobs that really don’t fix anything. It’s lazy! I need to stop! I keep doing it! Why!
  • I have patterns. My own personal tropes, if you will. I like snarky, broody characters. I love bad boys with hearts of gold. I love spunky, feminine girls. Apparently I love them a lot, because they can be found in almost all my novels…which, uh, isn’t exactly unexpected. And I want to be unexpected; so it’s something I’m working toward. Smash those stereotypes!
  • Between-scenes. I have point A and I have point B, but between those two points needs to be something. Dialogue. Action. Y’know, those scene things. Those are definitely not my strength. Sometimes I end up rambling for pages and then I have to cut out huge chunks later because I had no idea what I was, only where I wanted to be.
  • I’m not actually great at writing girls. Guys? Yeah. I’ll write about guys until the sun goes down. I find them much easier to understand, because I’ll be honest – I don’t get girls most of the time. Hence, most of my main characters (and favorite characters) are guys. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a favorite female main character.

Now on to the things that I can be proud of. Much nicer subject, that.

Strengths

  • Snark and sarcasm. These abound in my novels, and witty banter is one of my biggest strengths. The downside? Not every scene requires a showdown of wits. (Whaaaaat?)
  • Characters. Creating colorful characters (say that five times fast GO) is one of my favorite things to do, bar none, and I’m good at it. I can think up five characters at the drop of a hat. Can I do this with plots? Eh…no, but I’ll have fifty good characters to insert into said (nonexistent) plot.
  • Unexpected twists. Granted, I can’t really take credit for this. Most of my characters decide to do unexpected things and don’t even bother to ask my opinion, but that’s what you get when you sign your life over to hooligans.
  • Humor. I guess this can fit in the ‘snark & sarcasm’ category, really – I have a huge sense of humor. It runs wide and deep in my family, and I can’t escape it. Even the most serious and gritty of my novels (Acesso, anyone?) have humor sprinkled liberally throughout. A story without humor is, in my opinion, no story at all.
  • Themes. I love themes. I love moral threads. I love parables and lessons I can take away from stories. Am I good at keeping them non-preachy? I could be better. Have I gotten better over the years? Oh yeah. (Pocky in Monster versus Castle in the Salvation series, for example.) But weaving themes and morals throughout my books is very important to me, and something I’ve become pretty good at doing over the years. I like to have something substantial even in my fluffiest novels.
  • Relationships. If creating characters is my favorite thing, tying characters together with various relationships is my second favorite. Character interaction, mannerisms, the way they react to one another – these are highly important to me, and I really enjoy exploring how characters relate to each other. They often surprise me, too. Bonus points!

What about you? What are your writing strengths/weaknesses? Do I have company, or do I stand in solitude?

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