Play to your weaknesses

Some of my most successful stories have been the easiest to write. “Butterflies on Barbed Wire” was practically a single draft and sold to like the third market I sent it to.  Why?  Well, it plays to my strengths – I wrote about characters I could relate to in situations I could relate to, utilizing technology I was very familiar with.  The richness of the environment and characters allowed me to get away with a very minimal plot, almost an afterthought of plotting.

Also it has a kind male protagonist who is vulnerable.  That’s a… thing… I know it’s getting creepier as I get older.  Sorry.

The point is, why don’t I write more like that?  I want to write stories about pretty boys suffering prettily.  Instead I struggle to encapsulate complex themes, to write about characters who are very different from me.  I have a hard time writing tight action plots so nearly everything I write is focused on a tight, action plot. And as I sit there trying to decipher clues to yet another closed-room murder mystery, I want to scream at myself because I’m not even interested in closed-room mysteries, dang it!  I just know that they require what I’m worst at, so I try to do it.

People – I am currently shopping around three hard science fiction closed-room murder mysteries and I do not get me at all.

It can feel like I’m handicapping myself. I sit down to write, see an easy path, and force myself away from it.

“Why do I deliberately play to my weaknesses?” I asked my husband, lying awake in bed.

The long-suffering saint rolled onto his side and said, “Well, what interests you is always going to be what is most mysterious.”

Well, huh.

We focus on what eludes us.  I love that Brian phrased it as a mystery instead of a failing.

Why do we seek the stars? Not because it’s easy!  Precisely because it’s hard.  And just maybe, it’s okay to be that sort of person when writing, too.

This post is me giving myself permission to continue writing what I find more difficult to do rather than just gushing out page after page of impoverished family drama.  It’s okay to play to your weaknesses.

No one gains muscle mass by only lifting what’s easy.



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