Writing is a process. Sometimes, as we craft a new story or go back to edit something we have already written, we realize there are parts of our work that seem weak. Incomplete, maybe, or lacking in some seemingly unidentifiable characteristic. These weaknesses are often hard to spot if you don’t know how to look for them. But others will notice them – yet you’re the only one who can strengthen them.
Here are a few steps you can take to identify and begin to strengthen weaknesses in your writing.
Monitor your writing struggles
As with anything, the first step to breaking a habit or changing a behavior is to identify what that habit or behavior is. You can do this by keeping track of your writing struggles. As you write, if you pay attention, you will notice seemingly small things you don’t like about your writing; things that distract you; things you want to change. It’s important to point these things out to yourself. In some cases, pinpointing your own writing flaws is beneficial in the long-term.
Which aspect of the writing process trips you up the most? You’ll know it if you look for it. It’s that thing that stops you even when you’re deep into a flow state. It’s the part of your writing that makes you cringe when you go back to read it later. It might even be the thing that often prevents you from getting any writing done at all. If it helps, write down that thing, or multiple things, that bothers you most about your writing. It will make the next step a little easier to work through.
Pick one writing weakness to improve upon
Writers are notoriously self-critical, which in some ways can help you raise your own bar and reach for higher achievements. This also means that, as you begin to look for weaknesses in your writing style or process, you might end up creating an entire list of characteristics, habits and behaviors you want to change. Really, there’s nothing wrong with this. As long as you don’t try to rush into ‘fixing’ every single one of these things right away.
Focus on just one thing at a time. Trying to work on improving multiple parts of your writing style or process at once can be overwhelming, which makes you more likely to give into the temptation to give up before you’ve made any progress. That might make you feel like you’re not making any progress or you’re advancing too slow, but be patient. It’s better to gradually improve on one weakness at a time than try and fail to be better at everything all at once.
Set goals and take it slow
Setting improvement goals means you are committing to improve upon an aspect of your writing you aren’t satisfied with. If you’ve identified one writing weakness you want to work on, such as incorporating better character development into your stories, you’ll want to make it a formal goal in order to motivate yourself to actually put effort into making that kind of change happen for yourself. If setting writing goals is your weakness, then make it a point to set more writing goals. Don’t just say you want to do something; take action steps. Make it happen.
Again, slow and steady is often the way of the successful writer. If you have ever read or written something that was done in a rush, you already know how negatively that can affect a person’s output. It’s the same idea with strengthening your weaknesses. It’s okay if progress is slow. That doesn’t mean you aren’t making any. It means you’re putting in the time and effort necessary to make a big change and improve your writing in the long-term. That’s a good thing. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Always remember, regardless of how many ‘weaknesses’ your writing struggles with, that focusing on your strengths is just as important to your success, if not more so. If you’re having a hard time with a part of your writing process and it’s making you feel discouraged, counter that feeling by listing off a few things related to writing you’re really good at.
Stay positive. Keep working hard. The more you write, the better your writing becomes.
What’s your biggest writing weakness? Your biggest strength?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.