Posted On October 5, 2011 by Print This Post

No Time for Modesty: Discovering the Genius in Your Writing with Inara Scott

Author Inara Scott returns to the RU campus! Inara’s second YA book, The Marked, hits the shelves in April 2012, and her latest book, Radiant Desires, debuts next month. 

 No pop quizzes today, but Inara’s asking a question that’s definitely thought provoking… 

“What’s my strength as a writer?” This question haunted me as I got on the plane to head home from the 2011 RWA National Conference. At the conference I’d attended a panel of writers talking about writing and publishing their second books. One important lesson these panelists discussed was the need to identify their strength or signature style and exploit that in their second book. Diverting from this path (for example, trying to load up on the action when your strength is witty dialog), the panelists found, led to a lot of revising and heartache.

This naturally got me thinking – what was my strength? Did I even have one? If so, how would I find it? 

Turns out, this wasn’t such an easy question! But I think finding the answer was a powerful tool – maybe even an essential one – to my growth as a writer.

Now, finding your strength doesn’t mean you can’t ever try something new and different. Change is essential to all things, including authors. But you should be aware of how much you may challenge yourself – and your readers – by doing so. More importantly, knowing your strength will give you a leg up in writing the best possible manuscript.  If you’re damn good at witty dialog, why not seek out the opportunity to throw your characters into unusual situations and let them talk their way out? If you write rich, atmospheric books, how about finding ways to make the setting a key element of the story?  If you’re gifted at creating memorable characters, why stop at just a hero and heroine? Try an ensemble cast, or build in some subplots.

This all sounds good, you say, but how do I figure it all out? Exploring yourself as a writer takes time, which we obviously don’t have in a short blog post. But I’m going to throw out a starting place. A jumping off point for your journey.  

 First, I’m going to give you some archetypes and authors, and I want you to think of several more. Snappy, witty dialog: Jennifer Crusie, Susan Sey. Rich, detailed settings and authentic characters that transport you to another time and place: Mary Balogh, Christina Brooke. Quirky, flawed characters that crawl into your heart and make you cheer when they get their happily ever after: Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Larger-than-life alpha males that beg to be tamed by a strong woman: Gena Showalter, Jessa Slade, Alyssa Day.  

See where I’m going with this? 

Now, I want you to open up your WIP and get a pad. Skim through a few scenes, or the whole book, and take some notes. What do you like best about what you’ve written? What stands out for you? Is it dialog? Setting? Are there characters you adore? The mood you create in a particular scene? 

This is no time for modesty or self doubt. What do you love? What speaks to your soul? Where does your writing sing?

Now you get to play the matching game! What archetype can you claim for your own? Once you have this information you can use it everywhere you go: when structuring new stories, when revising, when looking for comparables in the market…even when talking to your editor. 

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Hope you had fun playing my little game. Now, leave me a comment and tell me about your strength. I’ve got bookmarks, temporary tattoos, and stickers to celebrate the release of my latest book, Radiant Desire. Everyone who comments wins!

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We hope you’ll join us on Friday, October 7th, when author Janet Mullany steps up to the podium.

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Bio: Inara Scott writes paranormal young adult fiction for Disney-Hyperion and steamy adult romance for Entangled Publishing. She loves to hear from readers. Find her at www.inarascott.com, Twitter (@inarascott), Facebook, Google+, or wherever chatting may occur.

 

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33 Responses to “No Time for Modesty: Discovering the Genius in Your Writing with Inara Scott”

  1. Inara – Thanks so much for being with us today. I’ve been told by judges on contests that my strength is my voice and my dialogue. So, I try to capitalize on that as much as I can.

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | October 5, 2011, 5:38 am
  2. Hi Inara – great post! My strengths are my voice and dialogue, like Robin. Those two things are so easy for me and the rest is sooooo hard. I joke with my CP all the time that I should be writing scripts because my first draft has talking and not much else. LOL

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | October 5, 2011, 6:38 am
  3. Morning Inara!

    Beautiful book cover…very nice! =) My strength is voice. And possibly dialog. I know that a seriously detailed and twisting plot ISN’T!. =) But one of those things to work on…

    Congrats on your second release! =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 5, 2011, 7:04 am
    • Hi Carrie! Thanks for the cover love! I have been gushing about it ever since they sent it to me!

      I am also not a master of the twisting, surprise mystery plot. Isn’t it funny how mich easier it is to find your weaknesses, than your strengths?!

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 8:12 am
  4. Hi Inara,

    I like to write dialogue. Hopefully, it’s good. Talking about rich atmosphere reminded me of a story I read in a critique group. There was a fire sweeping through London. The writer made it a character. The heat and destruction were compelling. It impressed me because scenery is my weakness.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 5, 2011, 8:03 am
    • Hi Mary Jo! I’m also not a setting wizard – which is why I was a little concerned when my editor told me she wanted my boarding school to become it’s own sort of character in my Delcroix book. I’m not sure I ever really succeeded; I guess our editors need to know our strengths and weaknesses too!

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 8:14 am
  5. Inara –

    Thanks so much for being at RU today. If a writer isn’t totally self-aware when it comes to her writing strengths, how do you suggest she try to determine what they are?

    I’m with Carrie in that I’m fairly certain plot isn’t my strength, but I’m trying :-).

    How far does a writer go in developing weaknesses without compromising strengths?

    Thanks!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | October 5, 2011, 9:23 am
    • Kelsey,

      Those are good, hard questions! As I said in the blog, I think you DO know in your heart what your strengths are, it’s just a case of looking at it through a different lens. I suggest looking through bits of your current MS that really sing for you and that you feel good about, and trying to pull apart what is highlighted in those scenes. Are they descriptive? Dialog heavy? Contain interesting character development? Look at a scene you’re struggling with and try to get at the same question. Review previous drafts–where do you start a scene? Is it with dialog (like Kat?) or setting? when you get an idea for a book, does it usually center around characters, or plot? Though we are occasionally drawn to things we AREN’T good at, I think as writers we naturally gravitate toward our strengths. So look for the places where you already live, and identify them. Own them. And feel proud of them.

      Writers can’t ignore weaknesses (and our editors won’t let us!). The trick is in working to fix the weaknesses, but not making them the center of the book. Celebrate the strengths, fix the weakness.

      Does that help?

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 12:43 pm
      • Inara –

        Absolutely!

        One thing I would recommend for writers is when they get down (and we invariably do!), to be able to reflect on those strengths in some tangible way. Re-reading their writing is an obvious way, but I also keep my strengths listed in a sketchbook and look over it from time to time when I need a boost.

        Thanks again,
        Kelsey

        Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 5, 2011, 2:59 pm
      • Celebrate the strengths, fix the weakness. Words to live by!

        Posted by Sonali | October 5, 2011, 6:27 pm
  6. Thanks for a really helpful blog, Inara!

    I’ve been told my strength is in my voice, but I’m not sure how to capitalize on that. I often final in contests – and almost every time the entry goes to an additional judge because of a wide gap in the scores.

    I’ll get really high scores from the people who like my voice, and low scores from those who don’t. (Of course, the low scores aren’t just because of the voice – usually I’ve messed something up, too.)

    I’m not sure how to identify my other strengths, unless I just ask my critique partners. I’m feeling a little stupid that I don’t know this!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | October 5, 2011, 1:06 pm
  7. I wonder if I can figure out my strengths through the process of elimination. I’m pretty sure setting isn’t a strength. I have fun with plots, but have a tendency to over-complicate them. I love writing heroes, while my heroines are a struggle. I love to write dialogue – not sure if that’s a strength, or a reflection of my own tendency to talk a lot.

    I don’t think my self-analysis is helping! :-(

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | October 5, 2011, 1:22 pm
    • Hi Becke–You know, sometimes if you get in a bind and really can’t answer this one for yourself, the best thing to do is go to a critique partner. If anyone knows your writing, it’s a CP! My darling Susan Sey says lovely things about my writing that I personally would never see. So I’d give that a try!

      i think the strong voice worries a lot of people, but it’s the one thing editors constantly ask for in submissions. You can fix a lot of things as an editor, but there’s no way to give someone a unique voice. They’ve got to have that to start. So if you’ve got that, I would be counting my lucky stars!

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 9:35 pm
  8. Hi Inara!

    I’d have to say my strength is my voice and dialogue, but like Becke says, if someone doesn’t like my voice, i.e. contest judges, then I’m sunk. I call it the mushroom theory. Some folks like mushrooms, some don’t.

    The first thing that struck me about Susan’s “Money, Honey” was the whip smart dialogue of the hero, heroine, and Goose. Wow! I love writing dialogue, and I often wonder if my ms is too dialogue heavy.

    Favorite archetype match ups…the alpha guy versus the quirky girl that’s definitely not his type but he can’t seem to stop thinking about her, and not particularly in a good way, because she forces him question his “greatness”.

    Thanks so much for being with us again!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 5, 2011, 2:47 pm
    • Hey Jennifer — I agree on the dialog in MH. I just adore it!

      I think it’s hard to have too much dialog in a romance. I mean, you’ve got to have the setting, plot, etc., but I think romance readers are pretty universally looking for two characters that they can fall in love with and want to hang out with for 350 or so pages. So I’d celebrate that dialog and polish it until it sparkles!

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 9:37 pm
  9. Jennifer – Dialogue is definitely one of your strengths. In particular, I’d say what distinguishes your writing is the humor in your voice. Carrie has that talent, too!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | October 5, 2011, 2:52 pm
  10. See what I mean? You always crack me up!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | October 5, 2011, 5:11 pm
  11. Hi Inara, this is really brilliant advice.
    Becke and Kelsey are right, it’s identifying that strength that’s the kicker–and your advice for digging that up was great.
    This also in a weird roundabout way comes down to writing what you love, right? If you love reading dialog-heavy books, you’re going to like writing that way and chances are you’ll be good at it?
    I totally read for language (lyrical, insightful) and for characters. I mean if it’s well written and it has characters I want to die for, I don’t care about the plot (or food or sleep :)).
    From what I hear the settings/descriptions and the language is what works in my writing. You think there’s a connection there?
    (Off to dig some more. Can us writers ever stop digging?)
    Sonali

    Posted by Sonali | October 5, 2011, 6:12 pm
    • Sonali, I love your insight into what you look for in your reading, and in your own writing. Sometimes I think in genre fiction we underestimate the power of our prose, and way a well-written bit of setting or description can transport readers to another place/time. Good for you for having it, and knowing you have it!

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 9:40 pm
  12. Hi Inara,

    Thanks for joining us today! Such a hard exercise. :)

    Based on feedback I’ve received from my CPs, agent and editor, I’d have to say tension, secondary characters, and a historical voice are my strengths.

    I will take the advice you received in the workshop to heart. I’m currently writing Bk 2. Thanks bunches for sharing!

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | October 5, 2011, 6:17 pm
    • Hi Tracey–creating tension is an AWESOME gift to have. I am working on a paranormal thriller right now and my agent keeps telling me to turn up the creepy knob. Gah! I’m not sure that’s one of my strengths!

      (of course, one might ask why I decided to write a thriller, if I wasn’t sure I could be creepy…but that’s because I hadn’t written this blog yet!)

      Posted by Inara Scott | October 5, 2011, 9:42 pm
  13. Inara, thanks so much for being with us today! Thanks to all the commenters!

    We hope Inara comes back for another visit!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 5, 2011, 10:18 pm

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