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  1. #1

    Default And now the SWOT chart



    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 youíll 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 (donít forget deadlines) to put into that business plan weíve 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 Iím 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!!!


    There is a common mistake I see people make when working with their strengths and weaknesses, so Iím 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 heís not on any sports teams. Several of the coaches asked the parents to let him join their teams, but the parents wonít agree. Why? Because heís 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 heíll be mediocre in both. Which one is better? Heís never going to be a math teacher. He doesnít like it and he doesnít 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 wouldnít make him happy, so whatís the point?)

    So when I say improve your weaknesses, Iíd like to add, BUT not to the detriment of your strengths. We are tempted to look at our strengths and say, ďOkay, this is what I already know. Now letís pay attention to things I donít know that well yet.Ē Know your strengths and play to them. That is what youíll 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 itís important to address your weaknesses, itís just as important to take your main strength and work it into something that will make you stand out in the marketplace.

    Good luck!








  • #2


    I love SWOT charts - they're such a useful situation-assessment tool - and I agree that it's important for writers to take stock of their assets and lacks.

    Looking at the way you defined 'external' threats and opportunities, I wonder if this isn't too limited. Is the marketplace the only source of threats and opportunities for a writer?

    I believe there are many, many more. The writer's family, for example, can be a source of threats and opportunities. A controlling spouse who is jealous of his wife's writing pleasures and forbids her to write is surely a serious external threat. A supportive spouse who supplies her with coffee and encouragement and takes the kids to the zoo give her her an undisturbed writing afternoon is an external opportunity.

    Other external threats and opportunities are all around us. A computer which keeps crashing is a threat. Lack of quiet writing space is a threat. A well-functioning computer with internet access is an opportunity. A constructive critique group is an opportunity. A friend who offers to organise a publicity opportunity is an opportunity.

    Would you agree?
  • #3


    Rayne, you are so right! I agree completely. I need to expand my notes. Thank you for catching that!!
  • #4


    Thanks for this great tool. I have used it off and on for many things in my life including whether I should date this one particular guy or not! I have also used it for writing term papers. I will have to try this when I get stumped by character/story development. It has been a while since I've done this so it was a nice reminder of how helpful it can be. Thank you for posting it!
  • #5


    Lady Rook, I'm glad you liked my posting! I have to say, I never used this for dating. I only learned this tool after I've gotten married. :-) I do love universal tools, though. It's nice when you only have to learn something once and you can use it for many purposes.

  • vrleavitt's Avatar
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    Excellent post and a VERY helpful chart. I did one over the weekend and it really helped solidify what I have in my corner and what I need to work on. These things are always out there floating around in our heads I think, but to see it laid out in an organized fashion helps to 1) make it more real and 2) put it into bite size pieces so we can easily come up with more of a plan instead of feeling overwhelmed and giving up.
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    Thanks for the chart, Dana. Unlike others here, I'd never heard of a SWOT chart before. It's going to be really useful for me.

    Rayne's point was dead on. As I was thinking of threats, the first thing that popped into my mind was my day job which has no bearing on the marketplace.

    Still, thinking about the marketplace made realize another weakness, though. I have no idea what's going on in the marketplace. I need to remedy this fast.
  • #8


    vrleavitt--Sounds like you're making great progress. Good luck with your project!!

    Lori--Day jobs are definitely a major threat. Hard to keep momentum going with a writing career when all you have to give it is stolen moments. I talked in the first lesson about things I did to get published, but I missed one factor. I got laid off from work. Finally being able to write full time made a big difference. I know at least 3 other writers who got published, after years of trying, soon after they lost their jobs. Not that I would wish that on anyone!!!

    Keeping up with the marketplace is an issue I also struggle with. I'm currently in Europe due to my husband's job. So it's not like I can walk into Borders and see what's selling. I ended up getting an international subscription to RT BookReview magazine that lists all the romances that come out in a given month. So that tells me what publishers are buying (well, were buying a year or so ago.)

    From what I hear from friends, paranormal, YA and erotica are selling really well, while romantic suspense is a difficult sell right now.

    Good luck with your books!
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    love the SWOT chart! I use something similar for my characters but this one seems more streamlined. thanks for sharing it with us!
  • #10


    You are so welcome, Joycelyn!!!
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