We all have our own personal strengths and weaknesses as writers. For instance, my sister is a dialogue guru. Her characters all sound unique, the dialogue sounds natural, and she uses dialogue tags successfully. Believe it or not, my sister and I don’t share talents. My dialogue is not only stilted and sometimes forced, but my characters often go pages without talking to each other. It’s safe to say, this Tuesday’s tip is not going to be about how to write good dialogue–not until I master it anyway.
My point is we all have weaknesses–areas that are holding us back from mastering the art of writing. My tip this Tuesday is to practice what you aren’t good at. It may be you need some practice showing instead of telling, or using active voice instead of passive. You might need to practice writing dialogue, like me. Maybe you aren’t good at describing settings, action scenes, or sex scenes.
Identify your areas of weakness
For some of you, this will be easy. How honest are you with yourself? Let’s be honest, as writers we either think our writing is gold or crap. If you aren’t sure, have someone else read a sample of your writing to locate areas where you need a little polishing.
Find resources that will help you master your flaws. After all, you’d never try to make a car repair or try a new hairstyle without looking up a YouTube tutorial, right?
- Go to the library. You know, that place that has books. Does anyone go to the library anymore? I’ve found dozens of writing resource guides at mine. I also owe them money. Curse you, late fees!
- Hire or talk to an editor. Editors can help you resolve grammar, syntax, and content issues.
- Enlist some help from beta readers. Chances are, if you have a flaw in your writing, your beta readers (not family or friends) were the ones who called you out on it. You can ask them for advice on how to resolve your writing issues.
- Talk to other writers. Find someone who excels in the area you flop. For instance, my sister forgets to describe scenery. I help her by letting her know, as a reader, what I want to have described.
- Lastly, never underestimate the power of Google.
The dreaded P word. We all just want to magically be good at something, don’t we? Well, we can’t be. I’d love to just pick up a violin and start playing, but I’m going to have to practice . . . and purchase a violin and hire an instructor. Off topic. Anyway, say you are practicing writing dialogue, you can draw a comic of your characters and put their dialogue in word bubbles. No artistic skills necessary–just draw stick figures. If you’re practicing writing descriptions, start by writing a description of your bedroom, your office at work, or your cat.
How often should you practice? This is entirely up to you. I recommend a few hours or a day each week–whatever you have time for. Take a few hours to locate a new weakness and polish it until it becomes a skill.
You’ll never get good at something if you don’t do something about it. I could go on tirelessly about my forced, practically non-existant dialogue, or I can find ways to improve it.