A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blog Chain - Schizophrenia

Today we're going to talk about the very serious subject of Schizophrenia.

It's not serious.

Shut up and let him talk.

Ba dum dum dum!

Seriously though, welcome to a new year and to a new round of blog chain questions.  I seem to say this alot, but the question posed by the ever-challenging Sandra is another one I found really difficult to answer:

What do you think your strengths and weaknesses as a writer are? Did you have to develop your strengths, or did they come naturally to you? How are you trying to overcome your weaknesses?

The hardest part for me (which I'm sure surprises nobody) was coming up with strengths.  I hope I'm not alone in this, but identifying my strengths is a difficult task.  With that in mind, I'll start with my weaknesses.  

One weakness I have is not describing enough as I write.  I have an image in my mind, but I either forget to put details in or I subconsciously assume the reader is seeing what I see.  The good thing is that (thanks to recent critiques and people willing to tell me so) I am aware of the problem and am working on it.

Another of my weaknesses is the fact that I'm a pantster by nature.  I HATE to sit down and write in an organized manner.  In fact, it severely stifles my creative process.  I can't do character profiles, I can't chart out where I'm going with a story (on first draft at least), and it causes me alot of problems.  I leave out things and I find myself slamming into plot walls.

Probably the most important weakness I have is distraction.  If I don't actively focus on the writing task at hand (or if I allow external things to distract me), I easily lose momentum.  And once I get distracted, the quality of my writing plunges into ugly depths.

On the good side, I do have a few strengths.  Being a pantster is a good thing for me, in some respects.  I truly believe I find the story better by just writing it than by plotting it.  I discover the characters better this way, and I am (in later drafts) able to refine them easier.  I even surprise myself sometimes with where a story takes me, which I count as a plus since I figure if I didn't expect it, the reader won't either.

I believe I have a knack with creepy and suspenseful writing.  It's something I enjoy, and I can tell when the writing is not quite in the zone, so to speak.  I am also willing to sneak into the dark places where others might not tread.  If I need a truly evil character, I have no problem making it so and not pulling any punches.

I'm getting much better at beginnings, whether it's the beginning of the story or just a new chapter.  This wasn't always a strength, but I've worked on it and have improved.  I can see when an opening line isn't going to catch the reader's attention as much and when it's really good.

The reason I titled this Schizophrenia is because I don't think I'm of one mind with regards to my writing yet.  There are some weaknesses I have (which I'm improving on where I can) and there are some strengths (which I try to identify when I can, just for a pat on the back if nothing else).  Probably the only thing that comes naturally to me where writing is concerned is the fact that I'm a multi-headed hydra trying to control and refine myself AND my writing.

At this point I'm going to turn it over to the illustrious Michelle McLean for her answer tomorrow.  If you haven't had a chance to check out how Michelle Hickman answered yesterday, get on over there.  She's awesome, and so is her answer.

As you think through this question yourself however, be careful.  It's easy for us as writers to identify our weaknesses (and we probably see more than are really there).  Take the time to identify your strengths as well, and make sure you celebrate them.


Michelle H. said...

Great answer! While you see being a panster as sometimes a weakness, you also see it as a strength. I think if you can identify the problems and turn them into solutions, you have a firm grasp of your writing abilities.

And it never occurred to me until you mentioned it, but I sometimes have a problem with beginnings, especially when it involves longer stories. Something I'm hoping to work on :)

Angela Felsted said...

I agree about stories coming across as less contrived when they're pantsed. Good post.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Description is definitely one of my weaknesses. But I never realized my strength of characterization until after my book came out.

Eric said...

Michelle - Thanks. Yeah, being a pantster is a double-edged sword, but it's fun nonetheless.

Angela - Thank you. That's one thing I like about it, for sure.

Alex - Hmmm, you must be understating your ability with description. I don't see it in the final form at all ;)

Matthew Rush said...

I know that my writing is stronger than my story telling (description and voice over plot/pacing/characterization). But, my writing can also be a weakness when I go on for too long (which is often).

Eric said...

Matthew - That's good that you have strong writing. For me, that's the harder part of the equation. And going on too long can be fixed in revisions, so that's okay.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I don't believe pantsing is necessarily a weakness, as I'm more of a pantser than a plotter too. However, I do think that's part of the reason it takes me so long to finish a draft.

I hope I'm not too challenging. ;)

Eric said...

Sandra - Nah, not too challenging. I always enjoy these questions, and this one is no different. I also take a long time to finish a draft, so I feel your pain.

Icy Roses said...

I am, like, a REALLY BAD pantser, so I definitely envy you. I wish I could just sit and create stuff, but it usually ends up being a) really, unforgivably bad or b) nothing comes out. :(

Shaun Hutchinson said...

We have a lot of the same weaknesses. I have to build my writing around how easily distracted I am. I bought a cheap netbook JUST to write on. All it's got on it is Word and this program called Freedom that allows me to block the internet. The fact that you recognize this is a good sign. It took me two decades to figure out how to deal with it.

Also, I think bad beginnings may be a side-effect of pantsing. Most of my beginnings suck. For me, it's because in my first chapter or two, I'm exploring. Getting to know the characters. After a couple of chapters, I've gotten down the pacing and structure and learned who the characters are. But it's nothing to go back, taking what I've learned, and rewriting that beginning. So I wouldn't stress too much over it. In fact, even if no one reads those first couple of chapters, they're usually the most helpful to me.

Cole Gibsen said...

Ha! You're not alone. I'm worried about outlining my strengths as well. And in a way, I'm not so sure that pantsing is a weakness. Anytime you sit your but in a chair and your hands on the keyboard you're doing something right. That's my take on it, anyway :D

Anonymous said...

Good point about how all this stuff imagined up somehow gets lost in the tranlation of making onto the written page. I, too, slip up on that and forget to add certain details that I see in my mind but forget to describe.

Nice post!

Margie Gelbwasser said...

I really like how you made pantsing (um, I mean being a panster in writing) both a strength and a weakness. I don't outline from the beginning either (but do about halfway through the book) and this trait can be both a positive and a negative. And the fact that you're always working to improve weaknesses is a really great strength.