Strengths and weaknesses …

I’ve been working on a handout for a workshop that I give on how to create unique paranormal characters. One of the things that I mention in the handout is knowing your strengths as a writer. It really can save you a lot of time and make your stories stronger if you realize what you do well and what you might need help with. So I thought I’d share what I think my strengths and weaknesses are. Here goes:

STRENGTHS

Strong heroines: I love reading about strong heroines, and those are the kind of gals I like writing about too, no matter if I’m penning adult or young adult books. My heroines are always going to be smart, strong, sassy, sarcastic, and capable of saving themselves — or at least putting up a heck of a fight until help arrives. ;-)

First-person point of view: I love, love, love writing in first person. It’s just the point of view that really sings to me and makes me feel like I’m really connecting with a character and showing the world through her eyes.

Fight scenes: Fight scenes are definitely one of my favorite things to write. I always enjoy figuring out how my heroine can defeat the bad guys, whether it’s with her brains or her brawn. Most of the time, I think about the big fight scene at the end of the book and how the heroine will win before I do anything else.

Food talk: I like writing about food almost as much as I like eating it. LOL. I didn’t really consider this a strength, but I’ve had so many people tell me that they always get hungry reading my books. Plus, when I sold my Mythos Academy young adult series, my editor asked if I could put some more food stuff in there because she had read the Elemental Assassin books and really liked how I talk about food. So now, I’m listing it as a strength.

Magic/world building: I think I’m pretty good about coming up with interesting magic, powers, and creatures for my books. I always try to think outside the box and come up with different takes on things.

WEAKNESSES

Third-person point of view: I don’t feel like I write in third person as well as I do in first. Third person always feels dull and flat to me. This is frustrating because so many romances out there are third person, and that’s what editors/agents are looking for — third-person paranormal romance series. Those are the types of books that seem to be the most popular, but writing in third person just doesn’t come easily to me. I’m hoping to work on that, though.

Epic fantasy: As much as I love reading epic fantasy, I just can’t write it that well. I’m not sure what it is, but the descriptions and story just never seem to flow when I try to write an epic fantasy books. I need to write in a world that has cars, electricity, and indoor plumbing. I wonder what that says about how wimpy I am. LOL.

Repetition: I’ve seen several reviews that mention the repetition in my Elemental Assassin series. Part of it is necessary and intentional. I can’t assume that everyone has read all the books in the series, so I have to set up and build the magic system/world every single time. You just can’t escape this when you’re writing a series (especially when you need to set up something in book one that won’t pay off until book five).

But I realize that reading that same information in every book can get boring for fans of the series. I know when I read the latest book in a series (like the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher) that I tend to skim some of the magic/world building stuff that I’ve read before. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not as skillful as incorporating the magic rules every single time as some other writers are. Anyway, it’s something that I’m trying to get better at.

Magic/world building: I might be good with coming up with powers/creatures, but I never seem to put quite enough magic/world building in my early drafts. When I sold my Mythos Academy series, my editor suggested that I go back through and add in more world building and really try to transport the reader to this magical world that I had created. And I realized that I’d gotten that same comment before from other folks. The magic/world building is in my head, but enough of it doesn’t always make it onto the page the first few times around.

So there you have it. Some of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer — things that I do well and other things that I’m working on getting better at.

What about you writers out there? What do you think your strengths/weaknesses are? For readers, which writers do you think do fight scenes well? Romantic tension? Magic/world building? Share in the comments.

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19 Responses to “Strengths and weaknesses …”

  1. Anna says:

    Fight scenes – As a reader, the best in this category would have to be Ilona Andrews. If you’ve ever read Magic Strikes you would know what I mean. The gladiator-like competition of the Midnight games was the best set of fighting sequences I have read. For the most part, I don’t get too distracted by a fight scene unless it’s poorly written. For example if the heroine is only capable of two or three moves and takes down the villian who outweights her by one hundred pounds.

    Romantic Tension – You do a good job of romantic tension. The characters have credible issues that make or break a relationship. Gin always put her mission first and didn’t allow herself to be distracted by her romantic prospect. Other authors that do a keen job are Ilona Andrews, Jeaniene Frost, Kresley Cole, Patricia Briggs, Larissa Ione, and J.R. Ward to name a few.

    Magic/World Building – J. K. Rowling did a stupendous job with her Harry Potter series. She used witches, “muggles,” and other creatures to create a rich and vibrant world in which a reader could totally lose oneself. Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series is the most elaborate world building I have seen in a paranormal romance. The Psychic race, changelings, and humans live a in alternate world of cultural conflict and benchmark laws. Other things that add to world building is a glossary. Authors such as J.R. Ward, Larissa Ione, and Caris Roane have used them. In my opinion, new terms applicable to their character enriches the world the reader is supposed to get sucked into. The creative terms shows the investment the author has put into their series. I love glossaries! Oh and maps too, ie, Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Character descriptions are nice too, which can be found on some author’s websites.

    POV – While I enjoy first person I do prefer third person. I read for the romance, along with the suspense. I want to know what is going on in the hero’s head. Some authors, such as yourself, offer other character’s pov’s on their websites. Ilona Andrews puts up Curran’s POV, which makes readers like me very very happy. When reading first person it’s important to read body language, pay attention to dialogue, interpret their actions, and look for reactions of other characters to come to a conclusion of their feelings.

    By the way, I agree with your strengths, especially the food talk! I can’t wait to see what Gin cooks up in Tangled Threads.

  2. Jennifer Estep says:

    Wow! That’s a great list. Thanks for sharing. ;-)

    You know, I wouldn’t consider romantic tension one of my strengths. I think I’m okay at it, but probably do other things better. It just goes to show that we all interpret things differently. I do try to show the things that might bring people together or keep them apart in a (somewhat) realistic way, given that I’m writing urban fantasy.

    I totally agree with you about JK Rowling. The world building in the HP series was just so clever. It amazes me how seamlessly she blended all those elements into such a great saga. I really think that series will stand the test of time. People will be reading those books a hundred years from now.

    I love maps and glossaries too. I wish more books had them, especially maps in fantasy books.

    I hear what you’re saying about the POV. I like reading both third and first person but for me as a writer first person just seems to work better. I do like writing the short stories from the different characters’ POV though.

    Cool. Glad you are looking forward to Tangled Threads.

  3. Erin says:

    As a reader, I also agree Ilona Andrews has the fight scenes down pat. Plus their (it’s a husband wife team that write together) books have a similar, female kicks butt scenario going as your books have. It’s my favorite kind of book to read and write.

    As for paranormal romances, Anne Bishop (Black Jewels Trilogy), Richelle Mead’s (Georgina Kinaid series), and J.R.Ward’s Brotherhood of the Black Dagger have wonderful characters with great romances. I think I like you and the other three because you bring out very different types of romances, ones that aren’t easily predictable.

    As for POV, I love what a lot of authors are doing in YA books. It’s first person view, but they switch characters per chapter. So you can get inside the heads of the main characters and really bond with them all. I’ve been told it’s actually harder to write in first person because you are limited to their line of sight, but I love reading the tricks Authors use to overcome that. Like in Vampire Academy how Rose can see all that is going on through the bond to Lissa. There’s many clever tricks I’m starting to find, that work and make first person all the better to read in my opinion.

    I’m such an amateur when it comes to writing, so I have many many weak points. My friends say otherwise, but I read all these great stories and look at my rough drafts and end up tossing them aside. I think the weakest for me is developing side character stories, I get too focused on the main characters the rest tend to be forgotten or used when needed.

    It’s awesome that you are willing to admit your weak points to your readers. I think in being open about it you’ll be able to overcome those weaknesses in future books. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! <3

    • Jennifer Estep says:

      I have a friend who loves the Black Jewels books by Bishop. Those are definitely on my list to try. I loved the first four BDB books by Ward, but Phury’s book kind of turned me off the series. I hear Rhev’s book is awesome, though, so I’m going to give it another try.

      I’ve thought about doing that in a book — writing it all in first person POV, but getting into different characters’ heads along the way. I may try it someday.

      I would encourage you to keep on with your writing. You’ll get better the more you write. Believe me, nobody wants to read the first few books that I wrote — they were horrendous. LOL.

      Thanks. I appreciate that and hope you enjoy Tangled Threads when it comes out. ;-)

      • Erin says:

        Yeah, Phury’s story was a tough read, but mainly because drug addiction is never a pretty story to tell. I wonder how hard it must have been to write though, climbing inside that character’s head..just wow. I love following John Matthew’s story arc, and Butch’s.

        I haven’t been doing as much creative writing as I used to. I’m an editor of a patient-run medical newsletter and that seems to sack all my time that I’d have for writing “fun stuff.” I don’t know how you balanced work and writing all those books! I admire you for that accomplishment.

        Keep on doing what you’re doing. <3

        • Jennifer Estep says:

          It wasn’t the drug use that turned me off — I just didn’t think there was all that much romance in it, especially compared to the other books. I didn’t really connect with Phury or the heroine (whose name I can’t remember right now.) Butch’s and Z’s books were my favorites.

          Ah, I see. Well, I really, really wanted to quit my day job so that’s why I wrote all the time. And now it’s happened, although not exactly how I wanted it to. LOL.

          • Anna says:

            I hope you don’t my jumping into your BDB conversation, but I agree with the opinion on the lack of romance in Lover Enshrined. Cormia, Phury’s mate, wasn’t getting much love from oh-so-tormented twin. Phury only seemed to display bonded male behavior when she stepped out naked from the pool for JM, Qhuinn, and Blay to see. Of all the BDB books this is the one that received the poorest reviews. I really wanted this Brother to have a passionate story after what he suffered with Z. Disappointing.

          • Jennifer Estep says:

            Not at all. Feel free to comment on whatever post you like. I don’t know. I never really like Phury or Rhage as much as the others. But I’ll probably give her another chance …

  4. romance books fanatic says:

    I love that everyone here is really putting down their thoughts and feelings. I would say my greatest weakness as a writer is doubting my best ideas so that when I do write them, I tone them down too much. I will be back with more – just love this site!

  5. Strangeattractor says:

    I think that Lois McMaster Bujold does the best job of incorporating world-building and information into the text that I’ve ever seen. She has this rich world that lives in my imagination, but I never feel like she’s doing straight infodump. When I’ve been thinking about how to do that better, I’ve studied her writing, especially her Miles Vorkosigan series.

    Sharon Lee and Steve Miller do fight scenes pretty well, in my opinion. There’s one near the end of Carpe Diem that sticks out pretty clearly in my head. I also like Laurell K. Hamilton’s fight scenes in her Anita Blake books. Not all of the fight scenes, but some of them. I also like Janet Evanovich’s fight scenes where her bounty hunter character Stephanie Plum attempts to apprehend her ‘skips’. That’s an example of comedy and fight scenes combined well. Elizabeth Moon’s fight scenes are grounded in her experience of being a Marine and doing recreational fencing. They are good, but I think her biggest strengths are in other areas. But all of these authors are good at showing what is at stake, creating a memorable scene, and either being quite realistic, or knowing how to be unrealistic effectively.

    As for romantic tension, I’ve rarely seen it done well. I don’t even think the word tension describes quite what I like about romance. In fact, I think a lot of the romances I read spend too much time in “tension” and not enough in moving forward. It sometimes seems like the authors don’t have enough imagination to imagine what comes after some piddling problem is resolved. I know the genre typically stops at a marriage proposal, and it annoys me. Some time I’d like to read more romances where people are happily married through the whole book, and still have interesting romance within that marriage. Any book recommendations?

    • Jennifer Estep says:

      I’ve never read Bujold. Thanks for the recommendation. And I agree that Janet Evanovich does comedy really well. I loved the first several books in the Plum series. It’s yet another series that I need to get caught up on.

      As far as wanting to read about a happy couple, I’d suggest the Death series by JD Robb. The main characters, Eve and Roarke, get married around book 3/4 and are still together 30-some books into the series. You might also try the Night-Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. Her couple, Cat and Bones, have their ups and downs but they’re still together 5 books in now …

      • Anna says:

        Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife series is very good. It resides on my keeper shelf. There are four books in the series which follow the couple Dag, a Lakewalker patroller, and Fawn, a Farmer girl, on their journey of finding a purpose and place in their “malice”-ridden world. From what I’ve heard this series is lighter in world-building compared to her other series/novels but still a recommended read if you want fantasy with romance.

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