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

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » December 12th, 2009, 12:33 pm

Chopsy wrote: 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)!!
You know what stories you don't find on those sites? The stories of the tens of thousands of manuscripts that didn't make the cut. So don't be too encouraged by the .1%. There's a 99.9% chance of not belonging there.

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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, 1:12 pm

Thanks for pointing that out Lorelei Armstrong. I simply replied to the poster before me who mentioned some well known examples of successful novels that were originally rejected. I am all too aware of the huge amount of writers who didn't 'make the cut'. I think some of us just like to look on the positive side, you know?

I have had a portion of my work critiqued by a group of NY editors who run a website anonymously (they keep their identities a secret as their employers would not approve). In their opinion, I needed to focus on 'show rather than tell' a little more. On the positive side, they said I had a wonderful voice and not to stop writing.

Are there any critique groups you can recommend - for those of us who are happy writing commercial rather than literary fiction*?

(*Although John Updike insisted that all of his works were 'literary' simply "because they are written in words")

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

Post by lovelylj » December 12th, 2009, 4:43 pm

I'm glad to have read this thread it's a good question. I think that if the story is good people will forgive the writing and skip to the heart of the tale.

Often times my issue with reading is when a story is drawn out and you forget why you're reading this part or you forget what the characters are doing and why it's important.

I sometimes hear readers complain that a story was too short but, I think, do you really want fluff? I think fluff can bog down a story. I think that being a good writer is up to the reader, look at the Twilight books. People love them, my sister won't shut up about it and she's 39. But there's other people who call Meyer's work drivel. I'll find out soon enough, the first book is on my desk now, but I don't read other people's work at the same time I'm writing my own, I kinda messes me up a bit.

I think that there will always be someone out there who enjoys your work and that you should keep writing. I've read stuff that I've written years ago and went like, 'I could write this better.' The fact that I can see the mistakes means that I've learned.
Lauren A. Johnson
http://www.laurenjohnson.me

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

Post by a_r_williams » December 13th, 2009, 1:11 am

Good question with a lot of good answers.

I think it is gut. You have to believe you're good enough, or will be. Even if you are good enough you have to put in the work to succeed. You have to perservere and have discipline.

As someone above pointed out, have people who do not know you, but are writers, editors, publishers, or critiquers read your stuff. Set goals on improving parts of your work to make it better.

Search for small successes. The fact that people have asked for partials means you're doing something right. Or you can look at getting only rejections, to get rejections with feedback, to getting rejections that made it to the second tier as steps toward improvement.

If you like to write stick to it. Try to learn and improve everyday.

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

Post by choculagrl » December 13th, 2009, 1:25 am

I can't answer your question because I frequently wonder the same thing. Like the other day, when I was re-reading an Amy Tan book and thought, "Why do I bother? I am a universe of suck compared to this woman?" But then again, I'm sure we've all had that sparkly moment at B&N or something when you pick up a published book full of heinous suckitude and your writerly little heart is filled with hope once again :)

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

Post by Chopsy » December 13th, 2009, 5:53 am

Thanks for the further comments guys.

You made me lol choculagrl - that's exactly what I do! I read one thing and want to slash my wrists, then I read something else and think how the hell did this get published? I always take comfort in that fact that I can see how bad it is, so hopefully that translates to my own work too.

The best advice I ever got was to leave something alone for a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes. Its amazing what jumps out at you when you take another look.

I've had a couple of requests for partials this weekend so maybe I will get some feedback from those. One of them is from Kensington and the other is from a fairly prestigious agency. To say I am pooping my pants over it is an understatement (and gross lol) but I am also cautiously excited. I know the odds are against me so I am not holding out too much hope, but I did get a thrill from the requests. Further down the road, when I am a little more jaded about requests for partials, it won't be quite this much fun so I am enjoying the moment!

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

Post by ronalb » December 18th, 2009, 4:46 pm

Hi Chopsy,
it's that question that haunts us, isn't it?
Probably a critique group could help you shed some light on your doubts. Try it online. You won't see the people there, so the chances for a honest critique are bigger. www.critiquecircle.com is one of those and there you can ask members to concentrate on the aspects of your writing that interest you most.

cheers,

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

Post by Chopsy » December 20th, 2009, 11:34 am

HI - thanks for the comment and the link. I will check it out.

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

Post by saskia » December 23rd, 2009, 3:06 pm

Hi Chopsy,

This is my take on it. You don’t know.

There are two things here: some kind of artistic judgment of your work and will you be published.

As far as the artistic judgment – what’s good enough for some folks isn’t for others. Some people hate Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and other “great” writers. A lot of what people like is about taste and that differs vastly between people.

And a lot of what is published is about audience. You may pick up a book and think it is terrible and wonder why it was published, but it may have an audience and a big following. Not every reader is Einstein and lots of different kinds of folks read and read for different reasons.

Think about this – one hundred years ago many novels were published and did well that have since been long forgotten and if we picked them up now we would think they were total trash.

As far as an artistic judgment of your writing goes in the end you must be the ultimate judge; that’s what being an artist is about. Sure you want feed back from somewhere, but who judges the feedback? Great works of art were never created by authors trying to please anyone but them selves. I don’t mean that the authors didn’t consider any criticism; but they didn’t let the criticism thwart their vision.

So much for great works of art.

As far as being published – that is a different story and depends not only on ability but on audience for your work and being in the right place at the right time. It also depends on being a good crafts person. Forget the talent, can you learn to craft a book well so that it works for an audience and is entertaining?

As I see it you have to write and submit your books as long as you feel that is what you want to do and stop doing it when you don’t want to any more and start again if you want to again. It’s a question of how do you want to spend your life?

There are great writers who stopped writing. Harper Lee only wrote one book. Hardy stopped writing novels and only wrote poetry at one point.

-S

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

Post by Bron » December 23rd, 2009, 5:33 pm

Chopsy wrote:The best advice I ever got was to leave something alone for a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes. Its amazing what jumps out at you when you take another look.
I think this is the key to knowing if your writing is good enough or not. I just left my MS for two months. I've come back to it in the last few days and I'm picking up a lot of things I didn't the first time. So, if nothing else, set your manuscript aside for at least six weeks between drafts. Hopefully there will come a point when you come back to it and there's nothing much left to fix.

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

Post by tabwriter » December 28th, 2009, 10:41 pm

Eight years ago, my writing was not good enough. So I wrote more, read more, and researched the nuts and bolts of writing. Five years ago, my writing was still not good enough. So I wrote more, read more, and researched more. One year ago, my writing still wasn't good enough. So I...you get the idea. :)

This year, I signed with an agent. And guess what I'm doing? Writing more, reading more, and researching more. :)

If this is something you really want, then never give up. Work hard, read books and blogs, learn as much as you can (and then learn more), and apply all of that in your writing. It will show. ;)

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

Post by DSL » December 30th, 2009, 3:57 pm

You know it's good enough when you get the contract! And great critique partners will help you through the rough patches. Don't give up if you enjoy what you're doing. Good luck!

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

Post by Katrina Stonoff » January 2nd, 2010, 5:10 pm

I read once in an agent's blog (wish I could remember which one!) that if you think you might be ready, send a query to ten agents, agents you've researched who definitely rep the kind of story you're writing. If two of the ten ask for partials, you're probably ready and just need to find the right agent.

Granted, the blog entry was written before the severe downturn in the economy (though within the past five years), so the numbers might be a skewed a little. But I think it's a good idea in general. If you send out ten queries and get nothing back but form rejections, you're not ready. If you send out ten queries and get several requests for partials and a bunch of personal rejections (i.e. letters written specifically to you, specifically about that work), you probably ARE ready.

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

Post by Kaitlyne » January 3rd, 2010, 9:38 am

I wonder if that's an indication of the writing of the book itself or the query. I know for me the query was a lot harder to write than the book itself. Well, in terms of the writing. Obviously the book required much more time and effort, but for it's size the query letter was very difficult and required a lot of revision and consideration of things I had never even thought of before.

Though twenty percent is a bit nerve wracking, isn't it? I've always heard if you get a 10% request rate you know your query letter is working. I'm a little intimidated by anything higher lol.

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

Post by Vio » January 7th, 2010, 1:24 pm

How do you know your writing is good enough?

The moment a publisher offers you to buy your book. Sadly enough, I don't think there is any other answer to that question.

You can give your work to people to read, even outsides your family, and they might give you favorable comments, but that doesn't mean your writing is good enough, it only means it's good.

You can query agents and they might request partials, but this doesn't mean your writing is good enough, it means that your query letters are.

You can have an agent representing you, but this doesn't mean your writing is good enough, only that this particular agent believes so.

On the other hand: Even if you get form rejected every single time, it doesn't automatically mean your writing sucks. It could be good enough, but the agent is just booked already, or for some reason doesn't like your writing, despite it would be good enough. But of course, it can mean that your writing sucks quite hard, too. You can get requests for the whole thing and get rejected for the same reasons, of course, so even this is not a good indicator of your quality.

The only writers who know for sure they're good enough are the published ones, the rest will never really know.

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