Welcome to the circle of imperfect writers. First comes the confession. I admit it’s tough, but I’ll start.
Hi, my name is John UpChurch, and I’m not a perfect writer. In fact, some of my stuff should never see the outside of my head.
I’m only being partially sarcastic, since admitting the faults in our writing isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s much easier to claim everything I write is fresh, unique, and world-changing—and much tougher to admit something needs to be tossed out for the third time.
Critiques and writing classes have been instrumental in identifying my faults. Other people see my works without reservations, whereas I try to justify the shaky spots. And that’s a good hint for any writer: if you say something like, “It’s not perfect, but I love how the words flow here,” it’s time to join the circle. Those “but” statements get all of us in trouble.
Let me detail some of my faults, as I hope this will give you insight into your own rough spots.
- Scene detail: I’m an action-oriented fiction writer (plot and motivation are my strengths). My job in the first and second draft is to get from the initial action to the climax. But I leave my characters and scenes almost sparse, and I don’t always see that because the world of the story is fully developed in my head. When other people read my initial drafts, they point out how the love interest needs the right shoes or the restaurant needs a kid popping his head over the booth and making faces. In my third and fourth draft, I try to envision the scene based only on the details I give. If it’s bare, I add.
- Emotion and telling: With both fiction and non-fiction, I tend to let my emotion propel me, which means I drive a point into the dirt. My editors and reviewers hold no punches, and for that, I’m glad. This is an area in need of massive renovations, and I still depend on guidance from others to point out when I falter. [Blog readers: sorry, no such filter.]
Don’t forget to consider your strengths as well. Are you excellent at finding rhythm in words? Can you pick the perfect word to get your point across? Is your writing starkly beautiful? Are your characters so real that you talk with them? Do you find ways to include monkeys in your writing? (Maybe the last one is just me.)
So, join the circle and admit your faults (and strengths). It can only help you improve.