Saturday, June 20, 2009

Strengths and liabilities

I recently heard a panel of authors discuss their bad habits as writers. My immediate reaction was one of utter relief: "Oh, if you, who wrote that book that I've been rereading as a favorite for 17 years now, cannot plot either, then there's hope for me." Then one of them mentioned that many of the same things that she thought of as her bad habits were really just the dark side of her natural gifts.

That was a thought that really resonated with me. It's certainly true in my own writing. I love pretty words. Elegant language, delicately arranged into poetic patterns, seduces me utterly. I've read Shakespeare for pleasure since I was ten, and I used to read the thesaurus for fun. (Out loud, of course, so I could hear what the words sounded like.) I'm good at words and language. And so when things aren't going well in my writing, it's so very much easier for me to just sweep the flaws under the edges of a well-turned sentence.

Of course, I got called out on that at Clarion. One of my instructors basically said, "That's lovely. You can do that, or you can be good." It's so much harder to put the real emotions on the page, to understand what the character really wants, what the story needs. But I want to be good. So while I am grateful for my gift, I try not to let it become a curse. 


  1. Oh plot.

    I keep saying that when I look at my own stuff in much the same tone that one might say, "oh bugger."

  2. As far as I'm concerned, that is exactly the tone in which one should say, "Oh plot."