Play to Your Strengths

Baby Daughter moved to Pitts with us because the job market is better out here than in S. Cal. As she goes out on interviews and re-tools her hundredth revision of her cover letter, I came up with the idea that it might be a good idea to highlight her strengths. She excels at research and analysis, so I suggested she lead with this in her cover letter as a way of grabbing an employer’s attention.

Same goes for writers. You have strengths that bring your writing to above par, so it’s logical to play to those strengths…be they dialog, plotting, creating tension, unique voice, character development – whatever. Yet I see many submissions where authors don’t realize what their strengths are, so they can’t play to them. For instance, I read a story that was a mixed bag. It was obvious she was very strong in the dialog and character development arena, but had little idea what to do with them. Her characters were so rich and her dialog was so witty, that she sucked me right in. Problem was, there wasn’t enough of it, so the story fell flat.

Instead of revealing much of the action and plot via her fabulous characters’ dialog, she relied on her narrative, which was as dry as my attempts at making meatloaf after tipping back a bottle of wine. The result was a choppy mish mash of deliciousosity and cracker-crust crumbles.

I’ve read other manuscripts where the narratives were simply gorgeous, yet the writers decided to rely on dialog to save the day – which it definitely didn’t do. As writers, we need to know our strengths so we can exploit them to our highest and best use.

Does dialog come easily to you, or are you more comfortable writing narrative? Do you have a tough time writing three-dimensional characters? The idea is to analyze where you excel so you can create a strong story based on the writing tools that come most easily to you. Conversely, knowing your strengths will also highlight your weaknesses and allow you to either work on perfecting those weaknesses, or write around them. Either way, you’re writing with intention.

As for Baby Daughter, she had a fabulous interview, and we’re sitting around with bated breath.

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