Last time, we worked out a strategy for you as a writer:
‘Servicing readers' existing need for thematic elements while building up a knowledge of the marketplace and opening up routes for your public to find your work.’
We can implement this strategy by taking a look at what's called a SWOT analysis - examining Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Analysing your strengths as a writer
Strengths are the big things that you are doing well, which gives you an edge and benefits your readers.
'Strengths' might seem vague to you until you realise that there are certain specific things which attract readers. We've closely examined 'theme' as a function of the unique mode of communication known as 'fiction'. Only fiction takes ideas, cloaks them in imagery and places them in rhythmic structures so the readers potentially receive a complete 'package' of thought and emotion.
If you're writing fiction, it's almost inevitable that you are doing this yourself in your own work. Otherwise you'd be writing essays, scientific treatises, or simply lists of disassociated images. The question is 'To what extent are you doing this?'
A qualified beta reader can probably tell you. Beta readers are usually friends or family whom you've persuaded or bribed to peruse your work. Not being equipped with the necessary training to detect thematic elements and highlight them, they can't necessarily give you very valuable feedback. What you need is a specialist beta reader who can point out what already occurs in your work.
Once you've highlighted that, ask yourself, ‘How can I do that better?’ That can lead you on a very interesting journey into your own work, one which will refresh, amaze and inspire you.
In the absence of a qualified beta reader, you can train yourself to spot these things in your own writing. Take a successful work of fiction from the shelf, and ask the following questions:
What is this writer’s particular skill, talent or edge? What thematic elements do they offer readers that are unique and valuable? What types of story are they excelling in? What draws readers in?
Having spotted some strengths in your own work, you might feel encouraged to look for weaknesses.
Again, 'weaknesses' might seem vague at first: but now, by looking at your strengths first, you have a better grasp of those things which work. Ask yourself the following:
What thematic elements could you strengthen? What do your readers sometimes complain about?
Detecting departures from an ideal scene is difficult unless you can hold your work up to something ideal and make comparisons. You might want to give some thought to favourite authors of yours and anyone whose work or success you are trying to emulate. Who are these writers? What is it that they are doing? More specifically, what do they do that you don't?
It's a fascinating and potentially very enlightening exercise which you can do without having to expose your work to anyone at all just yet.
The adventure continues soon.