Is my writing any good? It’s a valid question asked by most writers, particularly when one wants to publish their work and share it with the world. I know that I have asked this many times. Most of us like to think that we have drunk deeply from the mead of Kvasir, that mead in Norse myths that gave people the gift of poetry. But are we poets or are we fools? Do we write as eloquently and as thoughtfully as Shakespeare? Do we write as passionate as Stephen King? Do we compose stories as mythical and poetic as Tolkien or as complex and scientific as Asimov? Can we write engaging characters, who grow on us, like J.K. Rowling, Charles Dickens, or Robin Hobbe can? Do our words present the world in a new light? Are they doorways into fantasy worlds? Or do our words lie dead on the sheets of dead trees they were printed on? All of the aforementioned are particularly important when one wants to know if the story is good enough as is or if it needs to be rewritten or just plain scraped. So, how does one know if a short story or novel one is writing has potential or if it’s a flop? Here are some pointers that have greatly helped me out.
Have numerous friends and family read it.
Okay. I know what some of you long time readers of my blog are thinking. Didn’t I write a post a year ago in which I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t feel supported enough by my friends and family who never ended up reading my writing? True. I did state as much. However, with a little bit of luck, you will always have a few friends and family who will read your work and offer feedback. Of course, what if friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings by being honest? This brings up the next point.
Have strangers read your work.
Strangers tend to be more honest and partial when reading a manuscript. While it’s not always easy to get feedback from strangers, there are some good sites to receive potential feedback. I have had some luck on Booksie.com. On Booksie you can post your poetry, short stories, and chapters of novels. Likewise, blog sites such as WordPress or Blogger can be a great platform for finding feedback, if the writer works hard on building up an audience. One way to do so is to find other blogs to leave comments on, thus getting yourself known about. Aside from the online option, face to face can be extremely beneficial. Writers groups who meet in public tend to be brutally honest. In this case, a thick skin is needed as your writing will be picked apart piece by piece in public. It’s also important to find a writing group that can be supportive of you.
Some things to consider.
Every writer has their own style that won’t resonate with everyone but will resonate with others. This is an important fact to keep in mind when having your writing critiqued. This is a rule I go by, if numerous friends and strangers like my writing, but only one or a few don’t, then I go by what the majority feels. If the majority says my story needs work, then I listen to the majority. For instance, I had a children’t book I was working on, and the majority of my readers said “this needs work,” as well as “you really need to read more children’s books.” I was thankful and took their advice and rewrote it. On the other hand, when I wrote a short fantasy story, I had many people, strangers included, praise it, but I had one friend tear into it, saying everything wrong with it. I disagreed with much of what he had to say, and since the majority liked it, I figured it was just a different taste on his part. To elucidate, some people will see Herman Melville’s work as the William Shakespeare of America, whereas others will find it long-winded and preachy. Some will see Tolkien as poetic and otherworldly, while some will see his characters as flat and wooden and his descriptions tedious. Some will see the writing of Mark Twain as witty social satire that withstands the test of time, others will find him to be obnoxious and a boor. Some may find an author’s writing too flowery, being overloaded with purple prose, while some will see it as a rich feast for the mind to dine on. Some will see another author’s writing as dull and dry, lacking emotion and passion, while others will find it crisp and straight to the point. In short, you can’t please everyone.
It’s not easy being a writer, I can attest. Like my fellow writers, I want to create stories and novels that inspire people today and for future generations. It’s easy to put blinders on, in which we are so enamored with our work that we don’t see the glaring flaws in it. On the other end of the spectrum it’s easy to take criticism so personally that we don’t stop and ask if the reader makes a valid point or if it’s only the reader’s personal preference and opinion. Hopefully these steps I’ve shared, though far from being perfect, will give a little bit of help to the struggling writers out there.