My Strongest Weakness

Is that an oxymoron?

I’ve always known my greatest weakness as a writer is description. Dialog I could write all day, and I’m comfortable writing action sequences.

Describing the sights, sounds and smells, on the other hand? Blech.

When “Traitors” finalled in the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest, I was supposed to receive the final scoring from each of the three judges. I completely forgot about it until the contest coordinator emailed them to me this morning. Her life had some upheaval including a pregnancy, so she also forgot until today.

She attached the overall scoring of “Traitors” including the judges’ comments.

One contained a score of 81 (the lowest score). Comments included a question about whether the “. . . CBA is ready for this type of futuristic.” The short answer is “no” unfortunately. As for the story it had “a good strong opening, then it dragged.” Characterization was good, conflict excellent and dialog good.

No arguments on any of those.

Second judge gave it a score of 91 with only one comment: “Definitely a good read and a fast read. I was sad to come to the end of the sample — I wanted more!”

Every author wants to hear those words!

The third judge was a bit more thorough. He/she gave “Traitors” an overall score of 93. Added to the score sheet was the 15-page sample along with specific comments to the story itself.

Most of them focused on small continuity problems such as the main character calling another one simply “a woman” then a few paragraphs later he recognized her with no explanation as to how.

The judge also pointed out several instances of telling where I stop the story to explain something. And here I thought I eliminated most of it. Darn it. (I know I’m telling here, but adding specific examples would take too long. Instead click HERE for the 15-page excerpt and comments if’n you’re curious). Also, the excerpt in question has since been revised since the contest. The first part has since been taken out and moved to a prologue although I haven’t decided to keep even that, because I’m not a huge fan of prologues.

The judge pointed out more than once that “Traitors” is missing a lot of description, a failing I’ve known about for a long time. In fact as I’m rewriting my current WIP I’m concentrating on adding a lot more details.

Part of a writer’s responsibility is plunging the reader into our story world. Without setting description how will the reader know if they are sitting in a comfortable living room or standing on a frigid street corner? I know, more telling, but you get the point I’m sure.

Considering the comments, I’m tempted to set aside “The Red Dagger,” and applying the suggestions to “Traitors.” The problem is it’s still at Marcher Lord Press. Would it be better to wait until I hear a yea or nea on publication with them, or go ahead with the changes regardless of the outcome? Or perhaps let the publisher know what I’m doing and ask if he’d be willing to look at a revised version, especially if he’s not even looked at my submission, yet?

I’m leaning toward adding the missing details and work on the other issues the judge mentioned for no other reason than they’re fresh in my mind. I’ve got nothing to lose either way. On the other hand, I could use the practice on adding description. If I do it enough, perhaps I won’t dislike it so much. I may even get good at it.

Definitely a good read and a fast read. I was sad to come to the end of the sample—I wanted more!

3 thoughts on “My Strongest Weakness

  1. Tough choice about revise or wait. I wouldn’t want to spend time and effort re-writing just to have another editor tell me to do it differently. And don’t all writers revise until the story is published? We can’t help ourselves.
    Then again, you’re excited about the feedback right now, and that means right now is probably the time to make the changes. I doubt Jeff the Publisher would mind, especially if your judges pointed out the same issues.

    I write in three stages: 1) dialogue, 2) action and 3) sensory details. I try to focus more on smells, sounds and tactile sensations than just visual when I add 3). I love writing “dinner table” scenes for important dialogue. It’s normal for people to talk and eat. But the first words on paper are usually dialogue and the last words to get added are descriptions. You’re not alone.

    I’ll check out your 15 pages when I have a little more time. My current WIP involves psyonics, too. One of the reasons I followed yours during MLS. 🙂


  2. Hey, it’s nice to know I had one follower on MLS!

    I thought about the edits again and decided to wait. I want to finish rewriting “The Red Dagger” first. With that done and after querying agents, then I’ll go through the comments. Too often I set aside one unfinished project for another, which means I don’t complete any of them.

    Between you and me, Robynn, I think the comments came from Jeff. His comments echoes closely with the class I took of his at the ACFW conference. I can’t prove it, though.

    My stories develop in much the same way as yours with dialogue, action, description in that order. Maybe that’s why we get along so well, eh?


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