Question: What's your Achilles heel?

Fanfare! Long Long listed for the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize

Claire G

Full Member
Oct 26, 2022
Birmingham, UK
I have lots(!) but I'm particularly thinking of my tendency to forget to describe the setting of a scene (@Pamela Jo reminded me of this - thank you!). I picture it in my mind as I type but I'm too focused on the characters' actions and dialogue to record what it's like where they are. I don't mean lots of purple prose, just something. I have to go back and add bits in. I heard an interview with Gilliam McAllister and she writes several drafts so that she can focus on one aspect of narrative at a time and then adds layers with each subsequent re-write, which is an interesting way to think about what it takes to create a polished novel.

What's your Achilles heel?
 
I have lots(!) but I'm particularly thinking of my tendency to forget to describe the setting of a scene (@Pamela Jo reminded me of this - thank you!). I picture it in my mind as I type but I'm too focused on the characters' actions and dialogue to record what it's like where they are. I don't mean lots of purple prose, just something. I have to go back and add bits in. I heard an interview with Gilliam McAllister and she writes several drafts so that she can focus on one aspect of narrative at a time and then adds layers with each subsequent re-write, which is an interesting way to think about what it takes to create a polished novel.

What's your Achilles heel?
When I watched the video on How to win a contest I twigged. This is the last thing you do. It's the pretty touches you put on frosted cupcakes or that little flick of eyeliner at the end. Not to beat ourselves up about but to enjoy as the reward for all the heavy lifting with the plotting, and the dialoguing and the characterising.

The layering thing is what you do when you create a garden. There are a lot of parallels. Like the first thing you do to create a garden is to limit the perspective ie chose a POV. Ok maybe I'm talking myself into going back and "layering" Feckless instead of rewriting. My ADD brain gets bored and I have to talk it into finishing the novel instead of starting something new. That's my Achilles Heel. When I was a kid I actually could not physically reread something. I would open a book remember it and could not go on. It was like my brain disc was full and would not allow overwriting. Made studying for tests difficult as I didnt necessarily have access to that memory file wo opening the book.
 
Last edited:
When I watched the video on How to win a contest I twigged. This is the last thing you do. It's the pretty touches you put on frosted cupcakes or that little flick of eyeliner at the end. Not to beat ourselves up about but to enjoy as the reward for all the heavy lifting with the plotting, and the dialoguing and the characterising.

The layering thing is what you do when you create a garden. There are a lot of parallels. Like the first thing you do to create a garden is to limit the perspective ie chose a POV. Ok maybe I'm talking myself into going back and "layering" Feckless instead of rewriting. My ADD brain gets bored and I have to talk it into finishing the novel instead of starting something new. That's my Achilles Heel. When I was a kid I actually could not physically reread something. I would open a book remember it and could not go on. It was like my brain disc was full and would not allow overwriting. Made studying for tests difficult as I didnt necessarily have access to that memory file wo opening the book.
I've learned to give myself permission to work on whatever's calling to me at the time. I don't like to feel that writing is a chore so I'm happy to shelve a project and work on something else for a while. If I really care about it, I know I'll return to the original project when I'm ready.
 
I follow the layering principle. When I'm writing my first draft I often write [describe clothes] or [describe room]. The second time, I'll add the details. The third time I'll tweak so I'm not info dumping. However, some scenes come fully formed as part and parcel of the narrative and the scene setting is essential to that point in the story. These descriptions arrive in the first draft.

My Achilles heel is gullibility. Because I tend to believe everything unless proved otherwise, I tend to miss contrived sounding plot devices unless they're pointed out to me. (Though it does make suspension of disbelief in books I read incredibly easy.)
 
I've learned to give myself permission to work on whatever's calling to me at the time. I don't like to feel that writing is a chore so I'm happy to shelve a project and work on something else for a while. If I really care about it, I know I'll return to the original project when I'm ready.
That is how I started, but now I have obligations. Things that need to be finished. I've screwed up having to turn in work that I'm not proud of. Ack. Hate that.
 
I have lots(!) but I'm particularly thinking of my tendency to forget to describe the setting of a scene (@Pamela Jo reminded me of this - thank you!). I picture it in my mind as I type but I'm too focused on the characters' actions and dialogue to record what it's like where they are. I don't mean lots of purple prose, just something. I have to go back and add bits in. I heard an interview with Gilliam McAllister and she writes several drafts so that she can focus on one aspect of narrative at a time and then adds layers with each subsequent re-write, which is an interesting way to think about what it takes to create a polished novel.

What's your Achilles heel?
I work in a similar manner.
Add in description on a second pass through. My firsts drafts are always talking heads and stage direction
 
What's your Achilles heel?
Not planning enough. I naturally sit on the panster end of the spectrum, but have learned that taking some time to think about what character arcs and plot beats I want in advance pays off dividens down the track when I have to edit. Unfortunately when I have an idea, I my first instinct is to write first and ask questions later.
 
Unfortunately when I have an idea, I my first instinct is to write first and ask questions later.
Me, too.
But that can work. It has the beauty of spontaneity. If you've ever read a ms. with a chunk that has been slaved over, written and many times re-written, it just jumps out at you. (unless, of course, it's your own ms. ...)

I also tend to cherry pick writing the easy bits first, which I don't recommend to anyone. That gives you a lot of fun, followed by a LOT of slog.
 
Impatience is my bugbear.
My butterfly mind always want to skip ahead, flit from one thing to another. Then, when the going gets tough and I realise there is some hard slogging to be done, my left brain kicks in to overthink it and take away all the fun. So I go back to my butterfly for inspiration.
It's a miracle anything ever gets done.
 
I absolutely layer. I tend to write really sparse first drafts. My editing passes then focus on specific layering tasks--adding description, adding emotions, etc.

My Achilles heel is probably relying too heavily on dialogue (because I find dialogue easy to write, and readers consistently say I do it well). One of my editing passes is always to REMOVE dialogue and add action.

And then of course there's marketing ... which I absolutely suck at and which is such a critical component of the whole 'I'd really like to be able to make a living at this' idea.
 

Fanfare! Long Long listed for the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize

Back
Top