Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Know if Your Writing is Good

One of the problems we writers face is that we have trouble determining if our writing is good or not. We want to believe it is, so our judgment is biased. Agents and publishers are no help because they don’t have time to critique our work. Friends and family are no help because they want to encourage us (or discourage us) and what they say may not be accurate. Critique groups aren’t much help either because there’s a tendency to either say another author’s work is good so that the author will feel good about the critic or to slam it so the critic’s own work looks better in comparison.

Here’s something you can do to get past these problems. Write a passage and forget that you did it. I mean that literally. Mix that passage in with similar length passages from other writers, but good and bad. After you’ve had sufficient time to forget what you wrote, go back and pick the passages that you think are well written and those that aren’t. Once you’ve done that, look at how well you rated the passage that you wrote.

I’ve sort of done this myself. I saw a Word document I had saved and found a writing example inside. My first thought was that I had saved the work of another author, but I didn’t remember why I had it. I approached the work with a critical eye, like I normally do, but I concluded that whoever had written it wasn’t a bad writer. Then I started to notice that the voice was similar to my own. I kept reading and discovered that I had written it. Frankly, I’m glad I liked it. It would have be bad if I had read my own work and thought it terrible.