Today is a day for taking stock of what we got and what we need. Think about it like looking into the pantry before writing your shopping list. Consider each of the following areas for at least 10-20 minutes, and then write your list in the table provided below. Try to be as comprehensive as possible.
STRENGTHS: (internal) What are the skills and qualities that you have right now that will help you achieve your goal? How could you play to your strengths?
WEAKNESSES: (internal) What are the skills and qualities that you lack right now, but you’ll need in order to achieve your goal? What do you have that needs to be strengthened/perfected? How could you achieve that?
OPPORTUNITIES: (external) What opportunities exist currently in the marketplace that will bring you closer to your goal? These are the things that you should approach and take advantage of. Come up with specifics.
THREATS: (external) What negatives exist right now in the marketplace (e.g. trends, economy etc.) that you need to overcome in order to reach your goal? How will you do this? Find a solution to turn each threat into an opportunity.
Once you complete this exercise, you will have a few more action items (don’t forget deadlines) to put into that business plan we’ve been working on.
You can use this same chart not only to aid your own journey to the top of the bestseller lists, but for helping with the plotting of your novel. Try filling out a blank chart for your hero and another one for your heroine. When I do this, it always helps me get to know their characters a little better. Also gives me some new ideas for the plot if I’m struck. What is a story plot if not hero/heroine overcoming obstacles/threats? The character arc is them turning a major weakness into strength. I would strongly recommend that you try this for your work in progress and see if you get some new insights.
This is a tool I learned in business school and as far as I know no other writer uses it for writing purposes. So I would really love feedback whether or not you find it useful. Would you please let me know? Thank you!!!
ANOTHER WORD ON YOUR STRENGTHS
There is a common mistake I see people make when working with their strengths and weaknesses, so I’m going to talk about it here.
I have a nephew. He is great in sports. They recently had a sports festival at his school and he won several gold medals despite the fact that he’s not on any sports teams. Several of the coaches asked the parents to let him join their teams, but the parents won’t agree. Why? Because he’s not good in math (B-). He needs to stay home in the afternoon and practice math.
Here is the way I see it: He could be great in sports and make a living from it and suck in math (so what?). Or he’ll be mediocre in both. Which one is better? He’s never going to be a math teacher. He doesn’t like it and he doesn’t have a natural talent for it. (Ok, he probably could be a math teacher, but it would be a bloody struggle all the way and wouldn’t make him happy, so what’s the point?)
So when I say improve your weaknesses, I’d like to add, BUT not to the detriment of your strengths. We are tempted to look at our strengths and say, “Okay, this is what I already know. Now let’s pay attention to things I don’t know that well yet.” Know your strengths and play to them. That is what you’ll be known for. Who is the funniest author you know? Who is the author who can make you cry every time? Those are the strengths those authors are playing to. What is your most amazing strength? This is going to be your selling feature. This is what people will say when talking about your books. So while it’s important to address your weaknesses, it’s just as important to take your main strength and work it into something that will make you stand out in the marketplace.