How do you know your writing is good enough?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Chopsy
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How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Chopsy » December 11th, 2009, 9:03 am

I have a fairly substantial amount of E-pub experience and have 7 titles available (the royalties of a couple of these have made me eligible for RWA membership) but my most recent unpublished novel is the one I am hoping to obtain an agent for.

My question is, how do you know if you've got what it takes or not? How would I know if the rejections I am getting are based on lousy writing and a tired premise rather than just not being a good fit for the agents I am submitting to? I read tales of well known authors getting rejected by loads of agents before being picked up and their novel becoming a bestseller so that obviously means it isn't wise to give up too soon.

I don't mind the wait or the hard work, but I worry that I won't know when to quit - or the true reason my novel isn't being picked up. As I am new to the process, I haven't had someone request the full MS yet - although I did send some partials. I suppose once someone has taken the time to read it, they will give me some constructive feedback?

I would just hate to turn around in a year, once I finally get someone to take a look, and find out that my writing just doesn't make the grade, you know?

How do you know when to stop trying?

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shadow
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by shadow » December 11th, 2009, 9:45 am

Never stop trying!If you know that your writing is ood and are confident then others will too. If you are not I suggest getting feedback from beta readers and so on.
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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Mira
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Mira » December 11th, 2009, 10:08 am

I agree! Don't give up! I know it can get discouraging, but let's take the worst case scenario. Let's say your writing really isn't ready yet.

Well, that just means you need more practice. The history of literature is filled with people who wrote for years and then finally hit one out of the ball park.

Dan Brown, for example. His early books are so-so, imho. But then he wrote the Da Vinci Code, and really pulled it out.

There are also writers who were good from the get-go, but took years to get published. My favorite example is Chicken Soup for the Soul, which was rejected 140 times, or something like that.

And in terms of which is it for you - well, you mention that you're new to the process, so in some ways, I might not even worry about it. Just keep writing. Your writing will change over time - who knows what it will grow into.

But I think it's important, in all this, to really take care of yourself in the process! Take breaks, have a full life - so it's not just all about writing.

But, I would say the only exceptions are if you really don't like writing, or if you're sort of following someone else's dream (like your parents want you to be a writer.) But if this is your dream, and you love writing, keep on!

That's my advice from the peanut gallery. :)

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sjp
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by sjp » December 11th, 2009, 10:20 am

Not directly an answer to your question, I have a link to a document that I think anyone interested in creating quality work (in any field) should read.

I'm not a huge fan of academia or academic research per se. However, this work is both exemplary and useful in the extreme:

"Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments"

http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf

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Chopsy
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Chopsy » December 11th, 2009, 10:52 am

Great - now I am paranoid that I have poor metacognitive skills lol! It is a fascinating article and I will read it in full later. Thanks

To the other posters, thanks for the support. Confidence is a funny thing. I have this little fear that I could be totally deluding myself about my ability and that in reality I am actually like those toe-curlingly bad acts who audition for American Idol. You hear them massacre a song and wonder what planet they must live on if they think that a) they can sing and b) others would enjoy hearing it!

Thanks again!

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Scott
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Scott » December 11th, 2009, 11:19 am

Chopsy wrote:How do you know when to stop trying?
Relatively easy for me, I'll be dead. ;)

I maintain that good writers have a strong sense that they're getting a lot of it right. Short of hiring an expert or team of published writers or agents to critique you, I have to think you just kinda know. If you're gauging your ability on publishing success, you may be asking the wrong questions.

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sjp
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by sjp » December 11th, 2009, 11:58 am

In some sense, meta-knowledge (which essentially is what your question is addressing) is about vision rather than technique/form.

That is, we create a book (as form) via technique but only see the work's totality via 'vision'. And vision tends to be a product of 'mind' rather than intelligence or talent. Of course, defining 'mind' can be a life's work.

But knowing that there tends to be a difference can be helpful. Or it has been for me, anyhow.

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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Wryan » December 11th, 2009, 2:43 pm

I don't know if my writing is good enough or not.

I do know when I've written something that doesn't satisfy me personally. If I don't like it, I'm not going to put it out there. Only when I've written something that I can be proud of do I turn it over to the fearsome masses. Satisfying yourself is a huge part of the process.

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ElisabethMoore
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by ElisabethMoore » December 11th, 2009, 2:48 pm

I don't know how you know when your writing is good enough, but I do know that mine isn't. At least mine isn't yet. I write and study with the goal of writing something that is good enough someday.

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marilyn peake
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by marilyn peake » December 11th, 2009, 3:52 pm

Chopsy –

I’m in the same position as you – I have three novels and numerous short stories published by small press, and have compiled and edited several small press books. I sent the books out for reviews and entered them into contests. The books received fantastic reviews and won a lot of awards. Sooooo ... I then recently wrote a science fiction novel and decided I definitely want to be represented by a literary agent. After a couple of rejections, I decided that I needed to get a professional opinion and contacted Alan Rinzler, an Editor recommended by Nathan on his Blog. To my tremendous relief, Alan Rinzler had a very positive opinion of my novel, referred to me as a “good writer” and offered to work with me to restructure parts of the novel, e.g. expanding on some of the characters and possibly eliminating others. I’m going to begin working with him in January and am very excited about this.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Chopsy
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Chopsy » December 11th, 2009, 4:54 pm

Marilyn - that's fabulous. It must be satisfying to hear that you have what it takes from someone who knows what they are talking about. Congratulations and good luck. You must be very excited.

To the other responders - thank you for your input. I agree with many of the comments. Putting your work out there is a scary thing but I guess I just have to give myself over to the process and ensure that I concentrate on the part of this I enjoy the most - writing!

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marilyn peake
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by marilyn peake » December 11th, 2009, 5:15 pm

Thanks so much, Chopsy. I'm definitely very excited. I agree wholeheartedly when you say, "...I guess I just have to give myself over to the process and ensure that I concentrate on the part of this I enjoy the most - writing!" That really is the only part over which we have complete control.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by ErinGayle » December 12th, 2009, 2:40 am

Chopsy wrote:I have a fairly substantial amount of E-pub experience and have 7 titles available (the royalties of a couple of these have made me eligible for RWA membership) but my most recent unpublished novel is the one I am hoping to obtain an agent for.

My question is, how do you know if you've got what it takes or not? How would I know if the rejections I am getting are based on lousy writing and a tired premise rather than just not being a good fit for the agents I am submitting to? I read tales of well known authors getting rejected by loads of agents before being picked up and their novel becoming a bestseller so that obviously means it isn't wise to give up too soon.

I don't mind the wait or the hard work, but I worry that I won't know when to quit - or the true reason my novel isn't being picked up. As I am new to the process, I haven't had someone request the full MS yet - although I did send some partials. I suppose once someone has taken the time to read it, they will give me some constructive feedback?

I would just hate to turn around in a year, once I finally get someone to take a look, and find out that my writing just doesn't make the grade, you know?

How do you know when to stop trying?
A bit of trivia. Not sure my numbers are gospel, but: Gone With the Wind ~ 13 rejects, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ~ 31, Steven King ~ hundreds.

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Chopsy
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Chopsy » December 12th, 2009, 7:11 am

Hi Erin

I found a great site (not sure if its ok to link here) but it lists certain stats like 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' being rejected 137 times and Stephen King getting so many rejections for Carrie that he threw it in the trash (his wife got it back out)!!

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Lorelei Armstrong
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Re: How do you know your writing is good enough?

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » December 12th, 2009, 12:31 pm

You need to do two things:

1. Get your work read by people to whom you are not related. People who are not your friends. Granted, this is hard to manage and may not be free. Because that study that shows that the mediocre usually think they're fabulous? Applies to readers as well as writers.

2. Ask yourself what you're reading. Are you reading only in your genre? How about chucking that aside and reading literary fiction? Because "good enough" ain't. You need to be reading the best writing in the world. That is the only way to raise your game and develop the voice that will make your work stand out.

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