It was only until I did this exercise with the workshop kids that I realised, I never actually asked myself this question. Actually, it's several questions. And these questions have a habit of breeding like rabbits. Indeed, people should use the phrase "breeding like rabbits" when they could say "breeding like questions."
That was a tangent. Note to self - good writers avoid those, or where they cannot be avoided, they are removed in the editing process. Note to self #2: Write a blog entry on editing.
Creating a writing profile will not only help to get you started, but it's a good way of tracking your progress as a writer. It's also a nice thing to look back on in a few years' time and cringe at - affectionately.
Take a large piece of coloured paper or card, and a chunky marker. The louder and more garish it is, the more expansive you'll be making it, and the less likely you are to lose it.
Write your name in the middle, draw three large rings around it. Fill the first ring with the genre/s you are interested in writing. For example, Crime, Horror, Fantasy, Romance.
In the second outermost circle, write down all the positive words/phrases you associate with your writing. i.e. your strengths. E.g. Descriptive, fast paced, well drawn characters, humour, expressing emotions, explosive beginnings, good plots etc. Most people find that this is the most difficult part to do. Why is it so hard for us to admit to what we're good at? But we find it so easy to criticise ourselves! Someday we will all learn to recognise out strengths as well as our weaknesses. Until then, ask your friends, family and teachers to tell you what you are good at. You deserve to know. Take it, and pin it to you like an imaginary badge. Shine it up and look at it whenever the dreaded block descends. Let it remind you that you are a writer and you are damn well going to keep on writing.
So where was I? Ah yes, the third circle. Here is where you are going to mention the things you could improve on - areas for development. Notice my language here. I did not say, the things you absolutely suck at. I did NOT say the mistakes that will hold you back from ever being a successful writer. I said ... development. Because even Shakespeare could have learned an extra thing or two. So be honest with yourself, but don't be too harsh. You are capable of much more than you think. So here you might say...pacing, because while you write great, engaging openings to your stories, your endings might be very rushed, because you're tired, it's 3am and the thing has to be finished by 9 in the morning - or you're just fed up with your story. Then discipline might be your area for development. I said that mine was dialogue. I want my characters' conversations to seem more real, and natural. I also said sentence structure - so that not all my sentences begin with, "she", "he" or "they".
If you have room left (you may have to squeeze it into the corners) start thinking about new ventures you want to try. For instance, I would love to write a murder mystery. Or a memoir. I want to write more poetry. So I forced them in in tiny, cramped writing.
That done, you have begun your author's profile. Keep it, look back on it often. Add to it, this probably will mean moving on to another page. Now you can use this profile help you pick what you would like to work on next. Tick off each area for improvement once you feel you have mastered it.