I’m listening to a workshop given by Christopher Vogler and Michael Hague, and an interesting thing Christopher Vogler mentioned is that often, a writer’s own psychological and social limitations will come out in their writing.
If a writer personally doesn’t like women, he can’t write believable women characters in his fiction. If a writer doesn’t have good conversation skills, their dialogue ends up being stilted and unnatural. If a writer tends to be a people-pleaser and only wants everyone to get along, their characters will have very little interpersonal conflict.
This is a difficult thing for writers to work on, because there’s often deep-seated psychological or social roots that form the basis of their own limitations, and let’s face it, no one wants to dredge up their own personal pain.
However, if you’ve begun to see trends of what your critique partners or contest judges or editors say about your writing, take a long look at yourself. Is there perhaps something within yourself that is limiting your writing in some way?
I am a Christian, so what I do is pray and ask God to speak to me about things I need to work on, and for strength to help me face things that are painful. Right now, I’m dealing with forgiveness issues and noticing my characters are a bit bitter and unlikable. Go figure. LOL
Seriously, this might be something significant for you. Look at your own limitations and see if they might be impacting your writing.