by Anna Buttimore
In writing, as in so many areas of life, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Even a really good writer will have elements of the craft that he or she is not particularly good at. Tolkien, for example, wasn’t very good at battle scenes, and the film-makers charged with bringing his books to life for the big screen reported that they relished the opportunity to fully create a dramatic and authentic fight because there was so little to work with in the books.
A friend of mine is currently editing a book. She says that the writer is extremely good at writing interpersonal relationships and she is often moved to tears as she read these powerful sections, but is very poor at creating a fully visualised and relatable setting.
I’m not particularly good at characterisation or dialogue, but readers of my books have said that they like my descriptive scenes. I’m also a bit of a horror for writing myself into a corner. I’ll have my character say something like, “I’ve got a brilliant idea for a prank we can play on him to get our own back for what he’s done” and then have to spend the next few weeks trying to figure out what brilliant idea she might have had. Yes, really. That is actually the current situation with my work-in-progress, and I have resorted to asking random people “what’s a great prank to play on a guy on a cruise ship?”
When I was writing Honeymoon Heist I had my characters hide out on a beach. And there they stayed for ten years because I couldn’t figure out how to get them safely off that beach, so I gave up and started working on other projects instead. (If you want to know how I eventually had them escape their sandy prison, you’ll have to buy the book.)
Even the greatest writers have areas they’re not quite as good at, and other things they do really well. Maybe part of being a great writer is learning to work with what you can do as you work on what you can’t.