Nova, who is generous enough to consider me a real writer, has tagged me for a horrible, awful, bad meme. She wants me to list my five strengths as a writer. Obviously that’s crazy. How about ten weaknesses? Or a more general post on why I suck? That would be easier.
Oh, FINE. But I’m going to do my five strengths as a collaborative writer.
1. I am ruthless. I know when to cut and I just do it. The only place I have difficulty doing this is with dialog — I am always convinced I will lose something great if I cut a line Will wrote. But with everything else my figurative red pen slashes left and right with wild abandon. Here’s an example: we’re working on two outlines right now, a modern ghost story and a western. We’ve been working on the ghost story for a while and we just couldn’t get things moving quickly enough. It was all character development, character development, mood, mood, mood, and it was good but nothing was happening. When I started working on the western outline, I wanted to avoid that so I started in the middle. Skipped right over all the backstory and character introductions and just put that stuff in later. That outline was finished in an afternoon (and it’s good). So I went into the ghost story and said, “Hey, can we move this action from halfway through to right here at the beginning? We can meet the characters after.” And you know what? It works brilliantly.
2. I craft a near-perfect sentence. I have good grammar, excellent spelling, impeccable punctuation, and a way with words. Sure, I do not use these skills very often here, but trust me — I have ’em. And when one is ruthlessly editing a script down to the bare essentials it helps to be able to actually get your meaning across.
3. I am a little bit evil. I don’t pull punches when I write and I know when (and how) to push something to the next level. So if something is a little disturbing, I can make it outright horrifying, and if something is sad I can make it heartbreaking. I think I do this without going too far (unless too far is called for), which is sadly rare.
4. I know my weaknesses. Wait, hear me out! This really is a strength. Will and I divide the work up in what I think is a fairly non-traditional method for collaborators. I know that I am not good at first drafts because I don’t really hear the characters in my head, so Will does the first draft. Lest you think this makes me an editor rather than a co-writer, we outline everything first in great detail, and my second draft often takes drastic departures from the first. It’s a great way to work because it plays to both of our strengths. (I actually have been working on a post about our writing process for months. One of these days I will finish it.)
I can type. Sorry. I am pretty. Whoops! I don’t know how that got there. I can take notes. Phew! I thought of a legitimate fifth strength. In general, I can hear critique of my/our work and think about it honestly and objectively and go on to implement changes without bristling too much. I make an exception for idiotic notes, of which we have received (and ignored) many. But when it is necessary, i.e. we are working for someone, I can take even the dumbest of notes and make it work. And I am always willing to consider that something I think is a stupid idea might actually be a great one, or at least inspire something better.
Here’s the part where I tag other writers (and please know that I consider this absolutely optional):
Edited to tag more people, because I can.