Writing Your Weakness

A few months ago, I wrote about endings.

Endings are my weakness. Well, they used to be my weakness, till I started focusing on them. Now they’re often much better and stronger than my beginnings. With practice, I’ve managed to evolve a stronger ending with decent pacing, and that doesn’t fall flat (most of the time. No one’s perfect.).

The point of this post isn’t actually about endings, though. It’s about knowing your weaknesses as a writer. Where do you fall short? I know my rough points. I am a teller instead of a shower (which is okay, but can be a weakness at times), and tend towards ambiguity.

In order to defeat these tendencies, I practice, and I ask other people for their opinions.

I like to imagine that this is my reader, right now.

Sometimes, when I write, I try to catch my problems ahead of time, but when it comes to a first draft, it’s going to need help anyway–so just writing it is far more important. You can do this, too. It’s relatively easy, and even easier if you have a thick skin to critique from another person.
  • Step one: Write your first draft. Don’t worry about style. Just get it all out on your laptop, computer, tablet, notebook, loose leaf paper, etc. Just write it all out until you can’t write any more.
  • Step two: If you do have a beta reader or editor, send it off to them and wait for their response. If you don’t, find someone. Preferably someone in the industry or someone who just loves to read.
  • Step three: Take their critique seriously, but don’t take it to heart. That’s the key ingredient to feedback. Understand that YOU do not suck. Your work does not suck (maybe it does but ignore that because who cares–suck is a matter of opinion, anyway). Your work needs work. Everyone’s does! Even Faulkner’s first drafts needed work. So put your ego aside and take it all in as things that will make you better.
  • Step four: Identify your weaknesses. This will help you with your next edit, draft, and even your next first draft.
  • Step five: Keep practicing, and repeat as needed.
Seriously, that’s all there is to it. Your biggest obstacle in this is you. You are the only one who can put aside your feelings and choose to learn. 
To this day, I enjoy it when someone edits my work. All they do is help me identify where I need to grow, and how I can turn the ideas in my head into something that other people will enjoy.
Don your thick skin and send that first draft to someone who can give you unflinching and honest feedback. Use it to enhance your writing and raise your awareness of your weaknesses so you can turn them into strengths.
I’m a writer and kind of foolish. If you enjoy absurdities and the occasional heartfelt post, follow me on Twitter. I’m also on Facebook.

In The End…

So I’m working on a short story right now.

It’s going to run around 12,000 words when it’s finished, and right at the moment, I’m working towards the ending. Those aren’t easy for me, but they’re something I’ve improved upon over the years with a lot of practice.

I have some choices to make.

I’m not really a big fan of happy endings. They can be a little too trite, sappy, or obvious. I’m a fan of fantastically disastrous endings, of gritty endings. Endings that rip your heart out and make you want to hide in your closet and eat comfort food.

Yeah, that kind.

I also enjoy ending stories with realistic and ambiguous conclusions. But happy endings? Yuck.

One of my favorite stories of Stephen King’s is Thinner, and the reason it’s one of my top ten King books is because of the ending.

Not the book.
Image courtesy MorgueFile.

If you haven’t read it (which likely means you’re not a horror fan or younger than 25 years), here comes a SPOILER alert — they die at the end. They all eat the pie that contains the curse. The whole ending backfires so spectacularly it’s beautiful. Of course, the whole story is just one cruel irony after another, but that ending…it’s the icing on the cake. Or rather, the top crust on the pie.

Anyway, it stuck with me since the first time I read it (nine or ten years old), and my father asked me what I thought. I said “a happy ending.”

He looked at me puzzled. “You think so?”

“For the Gypsies,” I told him. He laughed. I had originally just been sarcastic, but it kind of evolved from there.

But it stayed with me. The ending was a calamity for the main character and his family. Just desserts, all over, and I found that to be much more satisfying than a happy ending where the main character gets away with all his or her bullshit.

So this ending coming up in my new short story…I’m having a hell of a time deciding what kind of ending I want to develop. I’ve grown attached to the two characters, but I’ve killed off characters I’ve loved before, so do I want to do it again? Possibly.

When I have a dilemma like this, I typically write three different endings, then find the ones that just don’t work, and toss them aside. If it turns out that two, or all three of them work (which doesn’t usually happen, but sometimes it does by a freak accident), I’ll keep them all and let the publisher/editor decide which one to use. In my short story that’s coming out in October, I chose just one ending and sent it in. Luckily for me, the editor liked it.

If you have trouble with endings, write those first. I used to have a lot of trouble rushing to the end or getting stuck and not writing one at all. It’s something I still have to work on, but it’s much improved than it used to be.

Practice. That’s the craft of writing. The art is in the words themselves, but piecing the story together is the craft.