The Editing Cycle #9 – Strengths and Weaknesses


A master swordsman does not choose to fight with a bow, unless he is a fool.

Strengths and Weaknesses

This week I want to know all of your strengths and weaknesses and you’re going to tell them to me because my strength is in persuasive writing. Not convinced? Well why don’t you think about it while you read the rest of the article.

A novel can be divided into many components, starting with the larger divisions of plot; description and characters and working all the way down to sub divisions such as continuity or narrative tone. Some of these you may be good at and some of them not so good, but it’s important to establish your strengths and weaknesses.

If you know what your strengths are, you can bring those into the foreground of your novel and if you know what your weaknesses are, you can reduce the focus on them and set yourself goals for improvement. Avoiding a weakness altogether isn’t the answer, but there are creative ways to work around them.

Finding Your Strength

Identifying what you’re good at is often a fun and exciting path! Why not experiment by writing a short story which is heavily dependent on dialogue or try creating a poem with a strong focus on rhythm and sound. You can also look at your past writing and evaluate which components of your writing were successful and which were lacking.

If you’re still not sure, then write a five page short story and ask a friend what they liked about it and what they didn’t like. It’s better to ask someone who reads on a regular basis as they will be more familiar with the functions of a story, but anyone with a keen eye can be helpful.

Playing to Your Strength

Once you know your strength, if you want to write to the best of your ability, this should be a key focal point of your novel. If your strength is in writing dialogue, then put your characters into situations where they are going to need to talk to one another to solve their issues. If you make communication the reason they are able to get through a difficult obstacle, that will increase the focal point on your dialogue and take the reader’s attention away from areas you may be less skilled in, such as description.

Remember, while everything you write is a learning curve, when you are working on a serious project or preparing a draft for publication, it’s important to play to your strengths.

Minimising Your Weakness

After finding our weaknesses, it is tempting to avoid them altogether and to remove them from our novel entirely, but this is not a viable option. Afterall, what is a novel without characters or without action? What is a novel without a grounding in reality? Every component of a novel is important and many impact on one another to build each layer of a novel.

What you can do instead is reduce the level of involvement a component has. If you find characters difficult, there’s no need to have more than a small, focal group of three or four characters and a miniature well of background players. Again, three or four might be enough for your whole novel.

Another way to reduce your weaknesses is to work on improving them. Set yourself the task of writing a short story where your weakness is the focal point. Keep everything else simple and concentrate all your effort on pinning down what it is about your weakness you find difficult and what you can do to counteract this.

Discussion Corner

Now you’ve had some time to think about it, what do you think your strengths and weaknesses are?

I’m a pretty deft hand at writing dialogue and description, but when it comes to layering plot arcs, I start to stumble.

For more from The Editing Cycle click here

*Image owned by stormedclover on Flickr:


Heather, who goes by Rydia on YWS, has long been an aspiring author. In the early days of her life she attached herself to poetry and would curl up on the playground bench to scrawl down lines of forgotten virtue. Or, more likely, little virtue at all. At the very old age of 11, she joined The Young Writers Club and progressed into the realms of roleplay. Here she constructed characters to fight off dragons or rally to their allies' aid with healing spells; a joint love of gaming heavily influenced this fondness of adventure storybooks. A few more years went by before Heather became a serious novelist and she still considers poetry to be her favourite media for getting those thoughts down on paper. Outside of writing her loves include puzzle books, strategy/ fantasy games, movies, swimming, skiing (when she actually has money), crafty things, baking, food in general, fun pranks and anything involving snow.

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6 Responses

  1. beckiw says:

    My strengths are my characters and my dialogue. I seem to be able to establish a character and their personality swiftly and with ease and people seem to enjoy the dialogue in my stories and I love writing dialogue.

    My weakness is most definitely description. I find it difficult to know how much description to put in or how to word a description and tend to get myself tangled up. My Mum has kind of been instrumental in helping me work on this. She’s pointed out a few habits of mine that made my description clunky. So I’m slowly working on improving that and I can definitely see it starting to get better. It definitely helps if you have someone who can point out specific things about your weakness. Like my Mum didn’t go ‘Your description is bad’ she went ‘You have a tendency to tack stuff on the end of sentences and it’s awkward.’ So now I can go through my writing and see what she means and change it and remember it for next time.

    As for playing to your strengths…my novel project has 6 point of view characters, 8 main characters and 18 named characters and a lot of the chapters are people talking to each other 😉

    • Heather says:

      I think characters and dialogue definitely go hand in hand. It would be really interesting to meet someone who felt they were strong at one, but weak at the other. I suppose though if broken into smaller categories, there may be an element a person finds more difficult: I struggle somewhat with character relationships.

      Your mum sounds awesome! I agree that description doesn’t work when tagged on – too often it gets reduced to an afterthought, when actually it should be description first. Setting the scene before layering up the action.

    • Cadi says:

      I think I’m basically your opposite – I suck at characters and dialogue, but I love stringing words together for flowing description. <3

  2. Emily says:

    My strengths are character development, dialogue, and imagery.
    My fatal flaw is plot development and plot motivation. I get so caught in every little detail of characters and their lives that the plot dies.

    • Heather says:

      Perhaps you should try writing a short story with only two characters to give yourself a chance to really concentrate on the plot. It’s difficult to get sidetracked by characters if you don’t have as many!

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