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Monday, July 25, 2022

Becoming Familiar With Writing Weaknesses

This year has been a year of revisions for me. In part, I blame my revision obsession with my frustration on the number of rejections I've received. Unable to accept there's nothing I can do about it, I've gone over my stories with a fine tooth comb.

Through the process of rejection, revision, and critiques, I've learned about a few of my writing weaknesses. 

It filled me with a sense of dread.

Nope, that isn't how I felt about discovering my weaknesses. That sentence is one of my weaknesses.
I can't tell you how many times I've spotted that in my stories now that I'm aware of it. Unfortunately, it took an editor who bluntly told me that I mentioned that phrase twice within the same half page of a story I submitted for me to realize how often I use it. 

To solve that, I downloaded a book on Kindle Unlimited called The Writer's Guide to Expressions and Emotions. While not a perfect guide, it did help me to uncover the way we all nonverbally and verbally express our feelings. I'm still working on improving the skill of nonverbal communication in writing, but this was a helpful start. Another book I picked up was The Emotion Thesaurus

All of these have become tools I use in the revision process, especially when I keep saying a word repeatedly.

This brings me to my new weakness. 

Now, I'll share another weakness I discovered.

Did you see what I did there? Repetition is my other weakness. Another tidbit I picked up from a rejection (see? Not all rejections are bad).

I'm rewriting another story of mine that's a personal favorite that I was convinced didn't need to come under my revision obsession knife. Except that it did. Why? Good ole repetition. I often will catch a word or phrasing I've used more than once and search for how many times it occurs throughout the story. Based on my findings, I'll go back and tweak a sentence or remove it completely if it's unnecessary.

It's hard to uncover every weakness in writing, but for the sake of ongoing improvement, it's essential.

What are your writing weaknesses? How do you address them in your writing process?

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, and Sky Island Journal. Read her musings at


  1. Repetition can be a serious problem when I am writing for younger readers. Sometimes it is because there is no other way to identify the topic without slaying my word count or my reading level (fossil fuels). Sometimes it is simply because I inadvertently share the same info in chapter 3 and chapter 5. It always pays to read through a hard copy and chip away wherever I can!

  2. I love The Emotion Thesaurus and still use it all the time! It would work perfectly for your example sentence. ("It filled me with a sense of dread.") Since you're using first person POV, you'd replace that emotion (dread) with body sensations and your character's inner thoughts.

    I have too many weaknesses to list, so I created a self-editing guide that addresses all possible weaknesses and technical edits. :) And I agree, rejections that contain feedback are GOLD to a writer.

  3. Nicole--The Emotion Thesaurus is like a bible. I used to only "show" emotions through eyebrows. Sometimes the eyebrows were both raised. Sometimes only one. Sometimes the eyebrows scrunched down. Oh, the way I showed a character's emotion was soooo varied. ;)

    When they give some feedback with the rejection, that means they are at least interested in helping you grow as a writer. That should encourage you (even though rejections almost always sting). Just keep in mind this: when get a rejection, it just means you haven't found the right agent/publisher for your piece. There IS the perfect one somewhere... You just have to find them.

  4. Anonymous9:48 PM

    I can’t wait to read your latest draft!

  5. Nicole--"Filtering" is a big problem of mine, where I have a character talk about what they are seeing or feeling instead of describing it through body language or emotions. Along with using the words also, so, and just. I began the second sentence with "Also" and ended up deleting it, so I'm taking your post to heart! Now I want to get my hands on a copy of "The Emotion Thesaurus" since so many here are recommending it.

  6. @Sue: I can definitely see repetition being hard for writing for kids! I have a scene in my short story where it's a bus driver glancing back, and there's only so many times I can say "he looked/glanced in the rearview mirror" without it sounding way too similar. I'm still struggling with that!

    @Angela: A self-editing guide sounds like a great idea! Actually, I may do that for myself too.

    @Sioux: So true!! Just because I got a rejection doesn't mean there isn't a place for my work. I need to remind myself of that, constantly.

    @Anonymous: Thanks! :)

    @Renee: Oh I'm a HUGE fan of "just" too. It fits so well sometimes!

  7. Yep, I've got a just problem, too, Nicole. :-) But my biggest weakness might have been my argumentativeness about my writing weaknesses. You know, arguing with a critique, trying to defend the feedback because I knew I was right. :-)

    Eventually, I started listening and learning. Though I still have my moments (or so say my beta readers)!

  8. Renee,
    Ugh! My crutch words. I didn't even think of those.
    Start and begin. As in, she started to (whatever she should be doing). I end up getting rid of this in revision. So many issues!


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