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  1. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    How to tell if my writing sucks

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Dr.Meow, Jun 20, 2017.

    I'm genuinely trying to determine whether or not my writing is garbage, or if it's "okay" and just needs to be polished. I'm not just concerned because I'm doubting myself - okay, so I am kinda - but I really would like to hear how other people determine if their writing is good, bad, or just plain ugly. I don't have anyone I trust to read my stuff yet, meaning I can't have my family do it, and definitely not my fiance (though she is supportive), and I do have some "friends", but I'm not too close to them nor am I sure about their judgment.

    I can't afford for someone to tell me it's good when they could be lying, or even just not qualified to judge. If it's bad, I need to know, but I'm stumped as to how to tell for myself, I'm too critical. Been reading Brandon Sanderson stuff lately, and I love his work, so when comparing them together I get mixed results. Sometimes it seems like the stuff I write is on par, then at other times it feels like a lump of goo next to an artfully decorated and sculpted cake.

    I can't post my work to the forum because I do plan to publish this work traditionally. I suppose I could ask someone on WF to read it who likes fantasy, but I'm not sure who would have the time, and I guess I get worried about the response as well...just a little bit. ;)
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    The story you posted about the djinn a while back didn't suck. It needed polishing, but I've never seen a piece of writing by anyone that didn't need polishing. Even the Pulitzer legends write dogshit from time to time. It's not fatal or anything.

    And honestly, the sooner you get your writing-soul crushed the better. That's the first step to being an effective writer--surviving an ass-kicking. If every boxer retired the first time they got knocked down there would be no boxers.
     
  3. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    Something else you could do is read critiques here on the forum. Not just for your pieces, but for other pieces as well. Look over a piece in the workshop, think about what your critique would be, and see how it compares to other members' whose opinions you respect. Use that to hone your own critiquing skills and start to critique more pieces. For me, this was the best way to learn to tell what problems were present in my own writing--once you can easily identify problems in others' writing (not just "something feels wrong here," but actual issues you can name and suggest how to fix), it should become a lot easier to do the same with your own writing. That's actually the main purpose for the workshop, after all.
     
  4. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    True enough, and technically I have survived a couple soul crushing moments. I guess I'm not really that afraid of it, no one could give me as harsh of a critique as I've had before (it takes a very special person to really be that critical - that's why I love her...and why I won't ever ask her to critique my work again either, but that's cool).

    If you had the time, bro, I'd much appreciate you reading a couple chapters or three. I haven't asked because I figured you were busy, but now that you're here... XD
     
  5. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, I've learned a lot from the forum since I joined. This I have done...as well as taken critiques that I've gotten personally from here. I suppose this more me questioning myself more than I'd like to admit. U_U
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I'm not sure it's ever possible for us to judge our work objectively. For a start, there's really no such thing as objective once you get beyond the mechanics (spelling, grammar, etc). For all the books I love, even ones generally regarded as classics, there are people who despise them and think they're trash.

    Secondly, we know what we meant to write, and so we're likely to read what we meant. Somebody else might get a completely different set of impressions from the same words. For example, I sent the same chapter to two people. One wrote back that the MC was lovely, generous, kind, etc, the second wrote back to say she was horribly selfish. Same words, polar opposite opinions.

    Beta readers are the only way to tell if your work is hitting the mark you want it to hit.

    If you plan to be traditionally published, you need critique. Sure, negative feedback might hurt at first. But would you rather hear it from somebody on this forum (or wherever) or from an agent or publisher who's rejecting you?
     
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  7. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    Ever the wise one, Tenderiser. That's very true, there's critics who don't like the greatest of authors, so there's an audience for everything I suppose.
     
  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think the best way to find out if your writing is good enough to get published is to try to get it published. Assuming you write novels, get one as good as you can get it, then start submitting it.

    If you plan to self-publish this obviously won't work, but if you're looking at getting a publisher, I think it's really the only way to know for sure.
     
  9. RWK

    RWK Member

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    If you read it, and realize, "Man, this sucks."

    That's how you know. Please yourself first (as a writer), and others will like your work.

    How many others depends on where you fall on the scale from 'doesn't suck' to 'really great writer'.
     
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    That doesn't work for me. I don't have that kind of perspective on my writing, and I've finished three novels. Quite often the things I worry about are the things beta reads love and tell me not to change, and vice versa for the things I thought sounded great.

    But then my goal with writing is that others enjoy it, not just me. It always comes back to what your goal is.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yeah, busy as hell doing this:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. RWK

    RWK Member

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    It is what works for the writer, I suppose. I write for myself, and I have thirteen novels in front of the public and am in final edit on number fourteen, so my system works for me.

    The key, as you note, is what your goals are.
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    (I meant)

    Busy as hell doing this:

     
  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    @Dr.Meow it is quite simple really.
    You don't write like me, and there
    for must not be bad at writing. :)
     
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  15. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    I don't know how 'honed' your gut is but... every single time I've had doubts and suppressed them, critiquers have pointed out just that flaw. So, apart from prior answers, I only can say trust your gut. It is right, every single time.
     
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  16. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    I honestly think the night was foggy, humid, and raining while still being dry... why can't all of them be true? Defiance! I spit on thee, mortal humans!

    Okay, I'll go back to my room now...


    Cave, don't get yourself down like that. You're suppose to be trolling us, not yourself...
     
  17. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Now now. Be careful what you wish for.
     
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  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Typing Horse.gif
     
  19. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    I think this sense of self-doubt is the hazard of being both a writer and a reader.

    I have mixed feelings when I read a really good book. I feel really happy and entertained that I read a really good story, and often it'll give me plenty of ideas and inspiration for my own writing. But there are parts I'm reading that I can't help but give a heavy silent groan: that feeling that I'll never be able to write a story that good. The job is not to replicate [Brandon Sanderson], but come up with a novel that people enjoy. There has been good advice above already, most of all, getting the opinion of betas.
     
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  20. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    I can think of two things that help me to better gauge my skill level. Write everyday. Keep journals and stories whether you finish them or not. I have journals and notebooks containing ideas, ramblings, and short stories, some of which I have no memory of writing. This provides the most objective view I can get of my writing. Lose the familiarity of the written piece, and you will stumble on the poorly written parts.

    The second thing is to read everyday. Develop an eye for mistakes in other people's writings. Notice sentences you would change for the sake of clarity or strength. I'm particularly fond of autobiographies. Not only do I get an interesting story straight from the horse's mouth, but I also get writing examples from someone who hasn't spent a lot of time writing. I'm almost finished with Barbara Eden's autobiography. It's an interesting read, but there are edits I would make on every page. This is true with most autobiographies. Develop the editor's eye while you read other people's writing.
     
  21. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I feel like there's a distinction to be made between learning to write more effectively and finding out if your work sucks or is, conversely, good.

    To my mind, a lot of the suggestions in this thread are good ways to learn to write more effectively. Betas, writing every day, etc... those are useful, for sure. But most betas will find something positive to say about even the crappiest piece of writing, and writing every day (and critically reviewing what you've done in the past) may help you understand where you are relative to yourself, but it doesn't tell you much about where you are relative to the market.

    Why not just submit some writing? What am I missing, here?
     
  22. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    For what it's worth, I have some published short stories and I can't tell you whether my writing's 'good enough' either. Some of it's clearly not, because it's not published ;)

    This isn't a binary thing. Some examples of your work are going to be better than others, whether we're talking short stories or chapters or novels or sentences. Some aren't going to be up to snuff at all and are better off scrapped. Some just need a bit more attention. I don't have a trick for determining which is which - I just try to pummel all of them into the best shape I can and send'em out the door. (I'd be a great parent.)

    That said, outside perspectives are absolutely priceless. And I'd point out that the workshop is password protected, so you can post excerpts there without worrying about it ruining your chances of traditional publishing. If you want betas, you could give the stuff I've posted in there a look to see if you'd be interested in my opinion, and I'd be happy to hear more and potentially give your project a read.
     
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  23. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Why would you submit something to publishers before doing what you could to learn to write more effectively? :meh: Once a publisher has rejected a piece, they're unlikely to look at it again if you then go to betas or work on your craft and improve it. By prematurely submitting, all you're doing is wasting your chances with that piece.

    I think it'd be really silly of Dr Meow (and anybody else) to send something to a publisher at this stage.
     
  24. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I have no idea what stage Dr. Meow (or anybody else) is at, but surely at some stage writers have to submit to publishers/agents?

    If someone is wondering whether their writing is any good, I assume they've already done everything they can to make it as good as it can be - otherwise there isn't much point wondering, because if there's still clear room for improvement then obviously not too good.

    I think we're assuming different starting points for the discussion. Does that make sense?
     
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  25. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Yeah, probably. From what Dr Meow said, nobody has read this work, so I think it'd be foolish in the extreme to submit it at this stage.

    But I don't think he plans to do that. :)
     

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