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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » How do you know if your writing is any good?

   
Author Topic: How do you know if your writing is any good?
RyanB
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I know there are varying definitions of good. Your writing might be "good" because it makes you happy to write it (a diary) or because one person likes it (a greeting card). I'm talking about "good" in the sense that a significant number of people enjoy reading it.

The answer seems obvious. And I used to think it was. If a significant number of people read it and indicate they like it, your work is good.

Unfortunately, it can take a long time to get that feedback, especially for short works, because it's hard to find enough readers to get that feedback. If I submit a short story to Asimov's or F&SF, it may be 8 months before I hear anything. If the story is accepted it must be pretty good. If it's not accepted it may still be good, but not at the right audience.

You could publish the story yourself (on a blog, Amazon, Smashwords, etc.), but if you're unknown it's going to be hard to get an audience for your work, even if it's free.

It's also easy to get a handful of readers, here at hatrack, critters, real life friends, etc. But I've learned it's hard to judge the quality of a work based on a small sample of readers, especially if you're writing something that's not for everyone. You'll often get mixed signals which are difficult to sort out.

So how you get feedback quicker than a year?

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Denevius
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The harsh truth is that most writing sucks. So the question isn't whether or not your writing is any good. The real question is, why are you writing in the first place?

I will never be a martial arts master, but I've always enjoyed martial arts. I don't do it to become some awesome fighter. I do it because it's fun, it keeps me strong, and it sharpens my mind, all of which are really important as I get older in age.

The lie people who write tell themselves is that they do it because they love it, or because they're compelled to. The truth is that they do it to be famous and rich. This motivation is probably not the best way to ever actually become good at writing.

Anywho, my response to anyone wondering how do they know if their writing is any good is, what difference does it make? If you suck at it, would you quit? And if the answer is yes, then that's the surest sign of all that your writing isn't any good at all.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by RyanB:

So how you get feedback quicker than a year?

Join or form a writer's group, preferably a small one where it's harder for freeloaders to get away with it.

In general you can tell craft progress by changes in feedback, which I think is more reliable than trying to gauge your absolute position. As your prose style and plotting improve, critique partners begin turning around critiques faster. Why? Because plot propels a reader through a story, awkward prose holds him back.

You know your characters are getting more depth when you start to get interesting and surprising feedback. You know you're getting better at connecting readers to the characters when the feedback becomes emotional. I treasure the first critique I got where the reader was angry at me for a mistake a character made.

In general, if you want to receive more critiques you have to give more critiques. But if what you're asking is how to get *editors* to reader your MS faster *and* give feedback, I have no idea.

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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:

In general, if you want to receive more critiques you have to give more critiques. But if what you're asking is how to get *editors* to reader your MS faster *and* give feedback, I have no idea.

I've gotten excellent advice from critique groups: technical details, grammar problems, lapses in voice, things that don't make sense, etc. I almost always get something that will make the story better.

The problem is they don't really tell you whether your writing would be enjoyed by the correct audience. Maybe the critter is the right audience, maybe they aren't. Even if they are, they're going to be more focused on what's wrong with your story.

For example, if I was critting Tina's gold winning story from the last WotF, I would have told her it was a wonderful story with great style and pacing. Then I would have went on to detail the plot inconsistencies and how the ending didn't work.

Most every critter will try to give some good feedback along with their suggestions. I bet the crits weren't very different from crits she got for her rejected stories. I bet the only way Tina found out that story was good was when it won WotF.

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genevive42
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Ryan, first you might have to get through the stage where your writing becomes clear. If your crit partners are consistently confused about what's going on in you story, this is where you are. That's okay, you just need to keep working at it.

After you achieve the skill of clarity, then you need to look at the things in your writing people really respond to. Do they like your story and enjoy the characters even if the plot is a little rough? Is it milieu that's your specialty? If people are enjoying something about your writing, you're getting better. When you can produce competent stories that accomplish what you intend and get generally good feedback, you're headed in the right direction. In the meantime, be sure to work on the weak points so you can make the whole stronger.

After that, the trick is learning what makes people really love a story, and that is a tough one because every reader and every editor are different. I have stories my readers have really enjoyed, but that have gotten nowhere with editors. I have stories that did very well in multiple markets, but bombed in another - and I'm not talking a wrong fit for the publication. The truth is, there's a certain amount of luck involved in getting the write story in front of the right editor at the right time. Rejection does not mean a story is no good. But this is the stage that I'm trying to figure out. I can write solid stories, even good stories, but they don't always seem to be publishable ones.

However, this is exactly what you're asking. You're asking about how you develop the confidence to know when a story works and when it doesn't.

Never expect the response from submitting a story to give you the feedback you're looking for. Crit groups, online or live, are probably your best bet. I will say that the WotF group here on Hatrack is exceptionally good. The people have a distinct intent to help each other improve their writing. I learned a lot there.

If someone loves or hates your story, don't believe everything they say, but look for the bits of info they give you that ring true. Be as honest with yourself as you can about your story. Even if you love it, ask yourself if it's really accomplishing what you're trying to achieve. You can still love it, but admit when it doesn't work. Conversely, your critters can offer advice and you may need to know when to disagree with it and stick to your vision. Look for the reason behind their comment rather than taking the comment at face value.

And this all comes back to how do you get feedback? MattLeo is right. You have to give crits to receive crits. Try to be as thoughtful in your crits as you wish those critting your work to be. And I'll reiterate that the WotF group here is awesome.

Ultimately, you'll get to a point where you recognize what's working and what's not. And the still frustrating thing is that answer is still different for everyone.

Don't feel you have to get a bazillion crits to get a clear picture. Look for what is making people make a comment in the first place. I usually get three or four crits per story. When multiple people comment on the same point, I know it's a bump I have to fix. if the comments are very individual, evaluate them against your own sense of what you want the story to say.

Keep writing and you will get better as long as you keep pushing yourself too improve. Truly, perseverence is the key. You will get there.

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shimiqua
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Well, I'm of two...no wait three... opinions on this.

One, I think most writing is a pile of hay with strands of gold hiding inside. When I was first starting out, I kept rereading specific passages that worked, and skimming passages that were awful. I was very impressed by myself. Look at all that gold, I thought.

When I let other people read it, they pointed out the hay, and sometimes it felt like all they saw was the hay. And then sometimes I thought that the only thing I could write was hay.

So I got better. I removed what I could. I changed what I could. And now I'm at the point where I see myself with about half hay and half gold. (but I think very very highly of myself and my own writing. To the point of delusion)

Now of course, half of it is still crap. But that doesn't mean that even at the very beginning of my career as an author I didn't have the ability to create gold. Even when there's only one strand, or sentence, of gold in a story, it still has value. If you held a handful of hay in your hand with just one strand of gold in it you would never even think about throwing it away.

I think our job is to make ourselves better. To recognize the difference between gold and hay, and realize that if you can tip the balance more than fifty fifty, (as I am trying to do) people won't notice the hay at all. Editors, for example, have hay fever, and they know how to change it to gold, or trim it out. They're amazing people with superpowers. Not enemies or gods to bow down to.

Which leads to my second opinion. Writing to prove you are good enough is a valid motivation, but a horrible punishment to tack on the end of something you love to do.

Write for yourself.

Write the best dang stories you can come up with, and fix it until you are satisfied. Then let it free, and hope it finds people who think the same way you do, because then your story will connect you to your tribe. That's what a story is for in my opinion.

There are people out there who are aching to read that story that's in your head right now. Make it the best you can and then let it free.

And then move on to the next one.

My third opinion, is that no matter what you do, you won't be able to change your words into scripture. There are no golden words (but you just said...) There are only THE RIGHT WORDS. Our job it to write those right words, and then write other words, and change them until they are the right ones.

And that's it. It's that simple, and that hard.

[ November 14, 2013, 12:17 PM: Message edited by: shimiqua ]

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wetwilly
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"Your story will connect you to your tribe. That's what a story is for in my opinion."

I really like that, Shimiqua.

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extrinsic
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quote:
RyanB:
How do you know if your writing is any good?
So how [do] you get feedback quicker than a year?

That you've reached the place along your Poet's Journey where you ask those questions is a signal your writing growth is maturing, ready for the next leg of the journey.

Different questions; same answers: When you're able to evaluate your own writing skills. When your writing is strong and clear, structurally and mechanically sound, emotionally evocative, and timely and relevant. When you can provide your own best feedback. And not coincidentally, when your critical reading skills and editing and revision skills, especially reading skills, advance to the point you can accommodate your writing wants and problems satisfyingly.

I've followed the development of many writers' skills' development and careers. Of course, their early works are clumsy. Many of their later works continue to demonstrate skills development, some plateau shy of a zenith. Some of their early works don't see publication until after their revenue performance is established, then sometimes in short story collections, sometimes subsequently revised longer fiction, sometimes stat--published as it stands.

Reading closely, comparing and contrasting, decoding method, meaning, and intent, and assessing voice and audience appeal features will develop your writing, editing, and revising skills, also, develop your ability to write, assess, edit, revise, critique, and provide feeadback for yourself and appeal to an intended audience. Developing your reading skills will develop your writing skills, and both will evolve, becoming more satisfying and rewarding.

A comparative shortcut through the maize of possible, infinite reading material is to first define your audience so that your course is not distracted by the myriad. Who reads what you also like to read and write? What are their wants and problems, their fears and worries, their sorrows and heartaches, their joys and passions, their values and beliefs: spiritual, political, cultural, and social? What are their thresholds for instructing, cautioning, correcting, controlling influences of literature? If none, for example, then the story type cannot express poetic justice. Realism, Modernism, or Postmodernism is your and your audience forte. If your audience seeks comfort, direction, guidance, vicarious trial and error experiences, then by degrees, depending on age range and emotional maturity, incorporate poetic jusitice. Then Romanticism is your and your audience's forte. Clearly and strongly define your and your audience's meaning seeking from literature first. Once you've defined an audience, realize that staying relevant with them means staying abreast of their evolving sensibilities and sentiments.

Then read, read closely, read widely though intently within that defined audience's canon, and read some more. Writing is reading; reading is writing. Add reference reading and study too: grammar handbooks, style manuals, dictionaries, and literary criticism and analysis.

Also, network closely and regularly with like-minded writers and others who share that audience's sensibilities and sentiments. Promote those writers and others working within that audience's works as well. Promoting their works has two unseen, rewarding benefits; one, they may or will promote your works as well, since you share passions about an aesthetic; two, promoting their works expresses your aesthetic more clearly, strongly, and appealingly than if you directly expressed your aesthetic on its own. You imply, your audience infers. This is promotion magic.

[ November 14, 2013, 01:04 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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shimiqua
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^Brilliant.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by shimiqua:
^Brilliant.

Your "Your story will connect you to your tribe" is brilliant too. Isn't that what this storytelling compulsion is about on any level? For briefing and debriefing conversations, for social bonding, for social recreation satisfaction, for spiritual and emotional satisfactions, for fame and fortune satisfactions, for the satisfactions of an approving and engaged audience.

Edited to add: The hay and gold analogy is also spot on. When strengths outweigh shortcomings . . .

[ November 14, 2013, 06:49 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
The harsh truth is that most writing sucks. So the question isn't whether or not your writing is any good. The real question is, why are you writing in the first place?

I will never be a martial arts master, but I've always enjoyed martial arts. I don't do it to become some awesome fighter. I do it because it's fun, it keeps me strong, and it sharpens my mind, all of which are really important as I get older in age.

The lie people who write tell themselves is that they do it because they love it, or because they're compelled to. The truth is that they do it to be famous and rich.

Hi, Denevius.
I agreed with everything you wrote except the last, which is a bit too generalized. Therefore I'll do similarly: Anyone with neocortex greater than a salamander's knows one does not choose to write to become rich.

Famous? Maybe--although the late J.D. Salinger would have vehemently disagreed.

quote:
This motivation is probably not the best way to ever actually become good at writing.
I disagree here as well, although it is a matter of opinion. Personally, I think nothing focuses the mind and hones ones abilities better than the need to survive, and if writing is one's means for shelter, food, and clothing et. al., I believe such drive is a stronger motivation to become "good" than those of us for whom it is not.
quote:
Anywho, my response to anyone wondering how do they know if their writing is any good is, what difference does it make? If you suck at it, would you quit? And if the answer is yes, then that's the surest sign of all that your writing isn't any good at all.
It may certainly change my goals. If this is truly something I wish to improve, I might seek a mentor, a course...hell, even a writing workshop forum (nah, forget the last). I suspect if the desire to be published exceeds the desire to write is where one should stop and reflect.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by RyanB:

... Then I would have went on to detail the plot inconsistencies and how the ending didn't work.

Well, I wouldn't put too much store in that. I know that once I started reading critically I began to see faults in most stories, even great ones. I can pick up a book by one of my favorite authors and I will nearly always see logical inconsistencies and even occasional patches of expedient (read: lazy) writing. Quite a few writers are perfectionists, but writing is very seldom perfect. A piece of writing usually has to work despite its imperfections.

I know we all want to avoid being caught making mistakes, but there's more to writing than avoiding errors. I've seen plenty of diligent writers who reach a point where they write nice prose and well constructed stories, but probably won't ever write a story anyone will care about. On the flip side, I've encountered a few writers who just might have greatness in them, but won't ever get published because of their incorrigible writing habits. You've got work both sides of the equation.

quote:
The problem is they don't really tell you whether your writing would be enjoyed by the correct audience.
Well, it seems to me your question contains its own answer: you have to get you writing into the hands of someone in the "correct audience" and see how they respond. You might even consider conducting your audience reaction research like a focus group.

If you are looking for a quick answer that tells you what to focus on next, perhaps you should consider paying an editor or writing coach to critique your story.

Aside from that, the only way to tell how the whole universe of readers will respond to a story is to publish and market it.

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by RyanB:
... if I was critting Tina's gold winning story from the last WotF, I would have told her it was a wonderful story with great style and pacing. Then I would have went on to detail the plot inconsistencies and how the ending didn't work.

This made me chuckle.
I've been blessed to have some excellent writers here, including a WOTF winner, provide me critiques. I appreciate them greatly. However, I find there is no magic formula. One story I wrote that everyone loved was soundly rejected by WOTF, and another which was felt to be problematic (including a comment that the protagonist was not essential to the story) was subsequently selected as a WOTF Finalist [Smile] (non-winning, unfortunately). [Frown]

I'll add one thing: I find, with rare exception, that the story I complete and think is brilliant today, I tend to think is crap upon re-reading a year later. Either it is (which is depressing), or I'm becoming ever more self-critical, hopefully constructively (which may mean I am slowly, so very damnably slowly, learning).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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Before proceeding to my own response I just want to say that I, as so often, agree with Sheena...in this case, particularly Sheena's second stated opinion. The others to an extent to, but especially the second one.

genevive also expresses a lot of my thoughts and experiences in her post and I essentially agree with the majority of what she says.


Now, lets break this down a little. You ask, how do you know if your writing is "any good?" You then also more or less express a specific definition of "good" (a significant number of people enjoy reading) and posit the question of, how do you know when your writing has reached this point?

Well for the first part...I don't believe there is such a thing as "good" or "bad" art of any kind. I believe all art into which thought time and energy are placed has merit. I believe it can have a range of purposes, and that enjoyment is almost always one of them and that a particular piece of art succeeds or fails based on achieving or failing at the purposes for which it was created. However, because all of the purposes for which art is made for the most part are subjective in nature or nearly so, all pieces of art both succeed for some, and fail for others.

I like to use this example...art, be it literature or any other kind, isn't like building a boat or other thing that has a specific, physical purpose that either works or doesn't and is the same for everyone. If you build a boat that won't float, its a "bad" boat and doesn't float for anyone. Stories and other art, however, have purposes that can't be universally objectively measured and therefore their success or failure is individual to each person.

Now of course many disagree with this and try to assign objectivity to art. Indeed even your reasonable definition of good as "enjoyed by a significant number of people" is rejected by many elitist types; some feel that "crap sells" and most popular art of whatever kind is "bad." Indeed some even divorce enjoyment from quality entirely...I've been cheerfully told by people many times that they enjoyed X or Y movie or book but still "realize" that it is "bad."

Because of the subjectivity of art (basically its going to be "good" for some and "bad" for others, no matter what you do) I feel that your starting point should be whether YOU consider it "good." Do you enjoy it? Do you feel a given piece of your work accomplishes what you created it to accomplish?

Now of course that being said, for all of us part of our own opinion of our work is going to be based on, and part of what we desire for our work is going to be, whether or not others enjoy it (or I suppose, for the elitists, whether or not it fits whatever particular set of criteria that in their opinion defines "good") and this brings us to my main question about your definition/question about being enjoyed by a significant number of people: how many is enough? Also, another problem is, depending on how many you consider enough and whether or not you are using that as your sole determiner, you won't really know if your writing is "good enough" until you have either achieved that goal...or given up.

So here is my advice to you, for whatever it may be worth.

Write. Tell your stories. Get them critiqued, but as genevive says, mountains of critiques are not necessary to help you shape your story into what you want it to be and, the critiquer is not always "right." Beware those whose critique style consists of telling you the completely different story you should write instead of what you have written.
Crit other people's work extensively. This will increase your chances of getting critiques and the critting itself will help you understand your own desires as a storyteller and a reader.

Revise your work to whatever extent you feel is needed, then submit it. Repeat this process ad infinitum, and let "nature", or rather, human opinion, take its course. But bear in mind (again as genevive says) rejection does not equal "bad story." Not by a long, long shot. And there is a great deal of luck involved because in the end, one way or the other, it almost entirely boils down to opinion, whether an editors opinion of your story in itself, or their opinion of whether or not "the masses" will desire it, or whatever.

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extrinsic
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Art, as subjective as appreciating art is, may follow utility--form and function--or be aesthetically appealing, or both. A sculpture made to resemble a pitcher, with aesthetically appealing proportions and lines, may only hold enough fluid to fill a thimble, may be made from materials that shouldn't be exposed to liquids. Is that utilitarian? No. Is it art? If the intent and meaning are accessible and appealing, yes. What does it mean? If an auditor has to ask that question, the meaning isn't accessible. Say the pitcher is an ironic statement about mass consumption, maybe about ostentatious display of wealth. Is that meaning accessible? Does the audience find the meaning offensive?

I'm working on a driftwood sculpture mounted on a wooden platter. The three-foot long driftwood piece resembles a prawn's head. The sculpture uses other items that are traditionally functional, but intentionally not functional. It is aesthetic art. Mounting the prawn's head on the platter as a wall hanging installation implies an ironic statement about trophies. That the piece is only a head, not the tail meat, also implies an ironic statement about food service hospitality. Serving the waste on a silver platter, so to speak. This is Postmodern art, self-aware challenging and questioning presupposed notions of propriety.

Are the meanings accessible? Maybe. If I emphasize their meanings in an accessible and appealing way without calling undue attention to the particulars, so that I imply and audiences infer. Maybe "Prawn's Head" on a platter needs a brass trophy plaque that reads "Prawn's Head / Litoral Coast 2014 / Blue Ribbon Seafood". I'll see how that piece and a couple others I'm developing do at the next art show.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
The lie people who write tell themselves is that they do it because they love it, or because they're compelled to. The truth is that they do it to be famous and rich.

Well, I have nothing against that particular fantasy, but I can honestly say I have never had it.

Of course you can't criticize other people's *fantasies*, but as a practical program of fame and wealth building, writing fiction leaves something to be desired -- and that thing is any reasonable prospect of success. Even a talented writer would be better served by taking a job flipping burgers and plowing the proceeds into lottery tickets.

Put me in the compelled category. For me writing is more like tinkering with hot rods or homebrew ham radio rigs than it is a path to wealth and artistic glory. I'm dreadfully lazy about submitting stuff to markets, nor do I think I have much chance of ever getting published. But still I write for other people, because that's the only way I know for sure that I've successfully got what's in my head down on the page. Writing without sharing is like building a hot rod without ever driving it fast.

Be careful about making assumptions about the motivations of others. When I was an MIT student, I knew a chem student thrown out for synthesizing illegal drugs. I grant you this was a very bad idea, but the assumption of the authorities about his motivations was wrong. He wasn't making the drugs to sell or use personally; he made the drugs because he found the synthesis processes beautiful and challenging. He was the classic, clueless geek who couldn't resist the forbidden fruit. He'd never have sold his drugs because those were his trophies. The actual drug dealer in the dorm was never caught -- he graduated and went on to medical school.

For me humor, like beauty, is a consciousness-altering phenomenon. When I write a humorous scene, when someone laughs I know I've got the synthesis pathway just right. And it's the only way I can be sure I got it right. I of course will always get my own jokes.

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shimiqua
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quote:
If a significant number of people read it and indicate they like it, your work is good.
Nope.

The only real proof of quality is time.

That, and impact, which is mostly unmeasurable, and often personal and unspoken.

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MAP
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quote:
Well, it seems to me your question contains its own answer: you have to get you writing into the hands of someone in the "correct audience" and see how they respond. You might even consider conducting your audience reaction research like a focus group.
I agree with so much that has been said here, but I want to comment on this advice. I believe if you are giving your story to people outside of your target audience, you most likely wasting yours and their time (although there are some people who are brilliant at seeing the story for what it is despite personal tastes but they are rare). People who don't read the kind of books you are writing tend to get hung up on things that they don't like about those type of stories. These may be the very aspects of the story that draws your target audience in. So you need to find your audience, and it is easier than it sounds.

Here is what I did. I read the first thirteen of people here on hatrack (or equivalent samples on other writers forums), and I sought out those people who were writing stories that I wanted to read. Those are my people, my tribe. And they have turned out to be amazing beta readers. Not just in giving me validation, not that I always get that, but in pointing out ways to make my stories stronger.

I don't know if my writing is good enough. That answer may never come, but I do know that it is better than it was because of my tribe, and that gives me the confidence I need to keep working on this crazy writing dream.

Also, because internal validation is nice too. Try reading your first stories and comparing them to your latest. I bet you will see a world of difference. Like I tell my kids, don't worry about how you are doing compared to other kids. The only thing that matters is if you getting better.

[ November 14, 2013, 11:46 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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I just wanna chime in for a minute on the subject of audience. I tend to be a weensy bit resistant to the idea of having a "target audience" for several reasons, one probably being my intense dislike of the concept of demographics and such, another being the fact that I personally like almost anything with speculative elements and tend to have it in my head that other genre fans feel the same. I also write a wide range of things, in a wide range of tones and levels of intensity...much of my stuff is very lighthearted and positive, but I also write considerable amounts of pretty dark stuff.

That being said, I think what MAP says is very true and that often the "re-constructive" critiquers I warn against above are basically "out of audience" people.

Of course, when you are just searching for feedback, it can be hard to tell who is who. But most of us do eventually develop a circle of like-minded writers who are able to give useful input.

Perseverance and patience are probably a writers best friends.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
I also write a wide range of things, in a wide range of tones and levels of intensity...much of my stuff is very lighthearted and positive, but I also write considerable amounts of pretty dark stuff.
[snip]
That being said, I think what MAP says is very true and that often the "re-constructive" critiquers I warn against above are basically "out of audience" people.

I think the observation about re-constructive critics being out-of-genre is right on the money. Genre writing gives you a lot of pre-fabricated stuff to work with, and those pre-fabricated pieces often have flaws in them that are part of the genre.

But I would stop at the advice "seek out your target audience" and not go further to say "avoid people not in that audience". We've all received off-topic critiques, and that hasn't killed our artistic spirit.

I think it's OK to seek and give critiques outside your genre, as long as both parties understand that's what they're doing. Working outside your comfort zone can be beneficial, especially as a critic where you're more in control of the tone of the critical conversation. Stepping outside of your comfort zone every so often gives the imaginative muscles a good stretch.

I have a friend who writes urban fantasy and occasionally paranormal romance. Through connections with her I ended up critiquing a friend-of-a-friend's erotica MS. Aside from the overpowering urge to flush my eyeballs with bleach, critiquing the MS was an interesting experience. The basic genre-writing mechanics weren't much different, and I was able to give useful advice on plotting, tension building and characterization. In addition, I got insights into something that neither erotica nor science-fiction writers on the whole do very well: building erotic tension. Romantic tension is about frustration, not gratification. That insight is another tool in my narrative toolbox.

In some ways critiquing a way-out-of-your-genre MS is easier than a MS in a closely related genre. I once sent the author of a post-apocalyptic techno-thriller an analysis demonstrating that the novel's inciting global catastrophe was physically impossible. This would have been useful information for an SF author, particularly hard SF, but it was irrelevant for the author's genre. Techno-thriller and SF look similar, and the audiences overlap, but there are differences. A pure techno-thriller audience probably wouldn't notice if the physics in a story was wrong, but they'd notice if the author confused the terms "clip" and "magazine" when discussing firearms.

One of the things I believe stepping out of your comfort zone might help with is the phenomenon of the well-crafted manuscript that feels like you've read it before. I suppose there's a place in the world for manuscripts that fall squarely inside some sub-genre, and rehashing old tropes is par for the course in genre writing, but I always feel disappointed when I read a genre novel that doesn't seem to aspire to add *anything* new to the genre.

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Merlion-Emrys
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You may be right, but I wasn't necessarily talking about genre as much as "story type" and style, to some extent. And also, authorial intent in general (of course I'm not big on genre labels anyway.)

In fact, sometimes I think it can be even worse if the story is in the person's preferred genre but its nature or style is something they don't care for, as sometimes it seems they almost become angry at you for doing something with their genre that they don't like.

I think it also crops up a good deal if you are writing something that doesn't really fit into existing genre labels and people tell you what you need to do to make it fit.


While it is probably theoretically true that stepping out of your comfort zone on whatever level can be good, I think it is still also true that what I call re-constructive crits are not terribly helpful to the author and if anything may drive a newer writer to believe they need to reconfrabulate their story to match the person's ideas.

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RyanB
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Thanks everyone for the comments.

I guess I should have noted that what brought this question on is that I just finished the first draft of a story in 7 days. The story before that took 6 weeks and the one before that took 3 months. If it takes you 3 months to write a story it's not such a big deal to wait 3 more months to get a rejection for it while you're writing the next story.

Feedback is important. Can you imagine what comedy would be like if comedians had to wait a year to find out whether a set of jokes was funny?

It seems like the best route to go is beta-readers/critters.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Oh yeah, definitely, on that level. Using the submission process to gauge the "quality" of your work is, somewhat counter intuitively, not a very good idea. For several reasons...one because as has been mentioned, rejection doesn't indicate lack of "quality", for another because relatively few publications actually offer feedback and response times vary wildly based on many different factors.

However, I still suggest not seeing even critique feedback as determining whether your writing is "any good" and rather see it as a way of determining whether the piece in question is doing what you want it to do.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I hope I've made it clear (in this "Please, Read Here First" area topic, as well as elsewhere) that we don't encourage what I think you are referring to as "re-constructive crits" here on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum.

When you give feedback, you don't rewrite someone else's words in that feedback. You can suggest an approach they may take in their own rewrites, but unless they ask for examples to help them understand what you are suggesting, you don't "re-construct" their work.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Maybe reconstructive isn't the best term, because I mean more things having to do with events, concepts...the actual story, not necessarily the words/prose.

I mainly refer to it that way because you have constructive criticism, which is useful and respectfully presented criticism...the opposite of which would be "destructive" criticism, which is when people just tell you it sucks, so "reconstructive" is when they encourage you to substantially alter the nature of the story.

I hope that doesn't only make sense to me. I do have that problem sometimes....

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extrinsic
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So "reconstructive" is when a critiquer imposes a creative vision upon a writer's creative vision that the critiquer can't or won't access? A first principle for writing critique and workshops, especially for developmental editors, is to appreciate a creative vision before offering guidance then, still, do not impose a creative vision.

And in the alternative, how about when a writer can't or will not access a critiquer's guidance as suggestive guidance, out of an intolerance for an imposition that may be nonetheless constructive after decoding what is actually meant and not as imperative as might seem on the surface? Firm assertions express conviction but remain subjective regardless.

Perhaps "impositional" instead of "reconstructive"?

However, when a creative vision isn't fully realized, guidance of an impositional nature may be constructive. For example, maybe a different motif might be stronger than a given one. Maybe third-person narration might be stronger than first person. Maybe who a given protagonist is might be stronger as an influence character and another character stronger as a protagonist. Maybe two or more characters would be stronger if rolled into one character. Maybe an event is on the static or stale side. Maybe a setting is stale. Maybe a voice is artlessly inharmonious. And all of this, of course, couched in terms of works or doesn't work for the auditor's sensibilities.

[ November 15, 2013, 03:59 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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Well, all criticism is ultimately reconstructive on some level, unless its purely of the "I stopped reading here," variety. It's a question of giving feedback in a way that's respectful. And what is perceived as respectful depends on how close you are to the person you are giving feedback to.

Rewriting a passage is a bit like opening up somebody's fridge and rooting around in it. It's outrageously rude to do to strangers or casual acquaintences, but opening the fridge might be something you're welcome to do at your sister's house, particularly if you do a lot of cooking there.

With casual acquaintances I usually feel free to rewrite an individual sentence, especially if I'm making a point about grammar or punctuation. If I'm making a stylistic point I'll include a disclaimer that this just one way to do it. But if I think a sequence of sentences needs reorganization, I'll stick to expressing the reasons why and leave the rest to the author unless he asks for more.

With friends I'm a lot more blunt and skip a lot of the qualifications, which they can take for granted. I might come out and ask for permission to rewrite a section to illustrate my point, but I wouldn't do more than two or three sentences without asking. On the other hand, if one of my friends rewrote an entire story of mine I gave for critique, I wouldn't mind at all because I know he understands what I'm up to.

It's like the fridge thing. If I need ice cubes for my drink and I'm at my sister's house, I just get them. If I'm at a friend's house I'll casually mention that my drink needs ice, even though I wouldn't mind if *he* just helped himself to ice cubes from my fridge. But if I'm at an acquaintance's house I'll take my drink warm, with a smile.

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Denevius
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quote:
I think nothing focuses the mind and hones ones abilities better than the need to survive
I used to believe this, but then I realized something, not only for myself, but for every (literally) writer I've met to date: none of us are writing to survive.

I have met some of the poorest writers from New York to California, and I have yet to meet anyone who is on the verge of homelessness. Perhaps the starving artist once existed, and perhaps the starving artist still exists. But not in any Western country. This isn't a 100%, but I feel safe in saying it's 99.9% of all cases of artists (or wannbe artists) coming out of the Western world. It is not common to see people in America starving in the streets.

The staving artist is like the Loch Ness monster, or Big Foot. It's nice to romanticize about, but basically, it doesn't really exist in this modern age.

Personally, I think all of my writing is crap, and I work from there, the idea being to make it a little less crappy, and a little less, and a little less until maybe it's not so bad. But I can't imagine a time, even if I won the literary lottery and published, and even if that publishing was in a big way, that I'd look at my writing as any good. I mean, yes, I would be able to say to myself that others think my writing is quite good; and yes, I've made a certain amount of money, and won a certain amount of awards, which reinforces the fact that others think what I've done isn't bad.

But me, myself? I'm just too self-conscious for that, to believe it was more than luck. And it doesn't help that so much that has been published, and so much that has sold and won awards, is so awful in my opinion, which is why I call it the literary lottery. Yeah, it's more than luck, but so often, it just seems like all it is is luck.

For me, it just seems like the question of whether or not your writing is good is the least important one. Why you bother to write is the important question, as long as it's answered honestly.

[ November 16, 2013, 07:40 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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extrinsic-impositional is probably a pretty good term for what I mean, or at least many versions of it, since it often isn't about re-writing passages or necessarily altering the writing itself that much. Sometimes there are elements of that, when you are basically told your whole style of writing needs to change, or that you shouldn't use a word like "eldritch" in a Lovecraftian-influenced fantasy story or that sort of thing.


But, for an example on the extreme end of what I mean, I have been told right out, from time to time, that I've "told the wrong story" then had it explained to me how I should take an unnamed character who doesn't even qualify as minor and make them the protagonist and basically entirely alter the basic nature of the story.


A somewhat lesser example: I write a lot of high fantasy adventure stories that usually have elements of combat. On most such stories, I will often have one or two people tell me I should essentially remove the combat scenes from a story, or reduce them to a one or two paragraph summary, with the person making it clear they say this primarily because they simply don't like combat scenes. Interestingly, in some instances of this they will even tell me the scenes were very "well written" but, again, essentially state that they just don't like those kinds of scenes and see no reason to use time and word count on them.

This is the sort of thing that annoys me and that I consider non-constructive, being told that your entire writing style, the entire nature of your story, or significant portions or aspects of your story should be removed or changed especially when its relatively clear that the reason behind the "advice" is mostly that the critter just doesn't like the particular thing (and/or in some more serious cases, because they are convinced that no one in the world and especially no editor, would even conceivably like the given thing.)

MattLeo-You're 100% right about the differences in how things are done based on how well you know the other writer. That being said, while you might go and cook in your sister's kitchen without asking you wouldn't re-arrange all her drawers and tell her it must be repainted and all the appliances and counter tops changed to suite your taste. But that, sadly, is what some folks do when they crit.

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
I think nothing focuses the mind and hones ones abilities better than the need to survive
I used to believe this, but then I realized something, not only for myself, but for every (literally) writer I've met to date: none of us are writing to survive.
I'm not too literal a literary, Denevius. [Smile]
So please do not take my words so literally.
I am suggesting that those who most wish/want/desire to be a successful writer will work hardest to achieve it.

I would like my own writing to be good enough for a wider audience through professional publication. But I don't believe I am as driven as many here to achieve it, and that remains my albatross. I'm driven more to write stories, than publish them. I need to get them out of my skull where they scratch and bite at my peace of mind. After that, they are mostly on their own, because the next story idea has begun torture my brain and my dreams. I'm a sort of literary Sisyphus.
quote:
Personally, I think all of my writing is crap, and I work from there, the idea being to make it a little less crappy, and a little less, and a little less until maybe it's not so bad. But I can't imagine a time, even if I won the literary lottery and published, and even if that publishing was in a big way, that I'd look at my writing as any good.
This sounds like a low self-esteem issue. I do not believe everything I have written is crap--it is just not good enough. My frustration is that I do not have sufficient education or experience in professional story-writing. I am merely "winging it." I both long for more formal training as the means to break through to writing at a professional proficiency, and I contrarily make excuses to avoid such training for fear of proving I simply do not possess what it takes or that such structured writing for publication may extinquish my enjoyment of it. This is my Catch-22.

Or perhaps I'm just lazy.

Writing is my pasttime, my hobby. I've earned my relative fame and fortune within my primary profession--which, compared to my writing, I am very good at. Daily, I have the opportunity to engage directly with people in need, help cure their ills or, if not, offer comfort and support. I constantly make a difference in people's lives. At such times I momentarily think, why do I bother to write?

But I do. And as much as it is painful at times (both in the writing and in the receipt of rejection after rejection), I take pleasure in completing each tale, each a minor act of creation in emulation of the One Creator. And I love even my ugly children. Don't you? [Smile]
quote:
And it doesn't help that so much that has been published, and so much that has sold and won awards, is so awful in my opinion, which is why I call it the literary lottery. Yeah, it's more than luck, but so often, it just seems like all it is is luck.

I must be less critical than you. My gauge of any work of entertainment is: was my time well-spent with it? The older I become, the more I value my "time". I recognize that is the one currency that I have ever less of, and there is no chance of replenishing it once it is spent.

I find most professionally published authors, novels, and (to a lesser degree) short stories have redeeming qualities as entertainment. True, only a few absolutely astound me, but not every embrace need be orgasmic. [Wink] There are a few published authors whose works I found nearly unreadible (e.g. Terry Brooks, Dennis McKiernan), and yet they've sold millions of books and have legions of fans. I found the most recent WOTF anthology not to the par of earlier volumes; but in light of the praise it has received, I fear this may reflect my own failings and does not bode well for my present and future submissions.

My tastes run counter to the majority today, perhaps. I am more apt to re-read a novel written decades ago than a work by a new present-day author. In regards to current literary tastes, I may be out of my time as both reader and writer.

"...so much has been published..." This is true.
I look at the thousands of books in my library, many still waiting to be read, others I've forgotten I've read; and the thousands of traditionally published books available on-line, and the millions of self-pubbed books, or free ones available. What difference would it make if a book of mine was added to the heap?

There is no escaping the dismal truth that even being published, a worthy goal of having one's writing acknowledged as "professional quality", does not equate with achieving either fame or fortune. With few exceptions, this may take decades as the number of one's published works increases and one's craft (or attention to the market audience) improves, or it may never come at all.

But to be even the tiniest spark among the stars of the Heavens....! Ah, well. This is still the stuff of dreams.

I'm not 20, 30, 40, or even 50. The idea of "taking decades" is a bit disconcerting. I can appreciate the increasing trend to self-pubbing and free-pubbing (e.g. Wattpad); and I may one day decide to take that journey myself despite the possibility of being, as one of my story protagonist's noted, "...merely a fart in a sulfur factory."

I'll still hold off --but mostly because I do not yet have the knowledge (or time) to set up a website or epub. And because I'm too old and stubborn, like mammoth jerky, not to achieve a pro-pub first. [Wink]
quote:
For me, it just seems like the question of whether or not your writing is good is the least important one. Why you bother to write is the important question, as long as it's answered honestly.

And there's the nub.
I write--be it not as diligently or as driven as I should be--because it is a challenge and (mostly) a pleasure.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
(who, I think at times, really needs a blog) [Wink]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
But, for an example on the extreme end of what I mean, I have been told right out, from time to time, that I've "told the wrong story" then had it explained to me how I should take an unnamed character who doesn't even qualify as minor and make them the protagonist and basically entirely alter the basic nature of the story.

Hmm. I can see someone here saying that they would be more interested in the story hinted at about a minor character (in fact, I was one of the many Barbara Hambly readers who begged her to write the Icefalcon's story, which she eventually did).

However, I hope the extreme example you've given above hasn't actually happened on this forum.

If it has, or something similar, I hope the writer receiving such feedback would take it with a grain of salt.

We try to let people here know that the ONLY feedback they should consider paying attention to is feedback that resonates with what they are trying to do with their stories.

We also point out, though, that if three or more independent critiquers have the same problem with the same something in their work, they might be wise to figure out what is causing that problem.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:

However, I hope the extreme example you've given above hasn't actually happened on this forum.

The 13 line limitation effectively prevents the "you told the wrong story" feedback, since one can't really tell much about a story from 13 lines. On the other hand, you can tell a remarkable amount about an author's *prose* in 13 lines.

One thing we need to remember is that while there's an art to drafting a useful criticism, there's *also* an art to making use of criticism. "You wrote the wrong story" may be clueless, but even clueless criticism can be useful if you're creative about it.

If the critic puts either (a) any sincerity or (b) any thought into the critique, you can usually extract useful information from it. Most of us know by now never to take even complimentary critiques at face value; that you have to think about the process by which the story created the apparent effect in the reader's mind. "Clueless" critique are no different; they just jam our thinking-box gears with emotion.

Naive readers are the most easily useful; they don't put much thought into their reactions, but you can count on them to be genuine. "I got bored at this part," you can take at face value. It pretty much means that part is boring, at least to some readers.

Feedback by authors can be tricky; often they can tell you straight away your problem (e.g. "inactive protagonist", "too much 1st act backstory"), but you can also run afoul of the author's pet writing issues, or problems he's struggling with in his own writing. But still, even when the author's technical advice is useless I find you can often deconvolute the effects of writing ideology and recover enough of raw reaction to be useful. Again, if someone doesn't give you technically useful feedback, you want to extract the effect of the story on his state of mind.

There's really only two kinds of feedback that I find utterly useless. The first is, "loved it, wouldn't change a thing." Usually that's insincere and thoughtless. The second looks like this, "I hate X (e.g. vampire) stories, and here's all the reasons why." The "I hate X stories" critiques can sometimes be useful in targeting tropes you might want to put top-spin on, but they don't tell you anything about *your* story.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
My tastes run counter to the majority today, perhaps. I am more apt to re-read a novel written decades ago than a work by a new present-day author. In regards to current literary tastes, I may be out of my time as both reader and writer.

Same here. Increasingly I find myself frustrated with the newer crop of SF/F writers, and resorting to rereading stuff from a prior era instead. Sometimes it's a relief to go back to a story I know will satisfy, which I take to mean my frustration is not entirely a matter of opinion.

As to my own writing, by now it's pretty durn good, if I do say so myself. I'm gradually bringing the older stuff 'up to code'. And I don't have the delusion that I need to write for every reader. I know my stories are not to everyone's taste, but those who like my kind of stuff love it. Good enough for me.

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babooher
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I don't think Ray Bradbury worried about whether his writing was great. He just kept on pounding the keys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlYAhSffEDM

As for me, I know that the story that made me the most money is the one I'm most embarrassed about. I also know that McDonalds makes more money than any fine dining establishment. I also know that even established writers make tons of money question how good their own writing is. I figure each story is better than some, worse than others. Each writer is better than some and worse than others. Do your best for that moment and move on. Rinse and repeat until death.

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legolasgalactica
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I definitely appreciated a lot of the previous advice. I'll just add the expert advice of someone who has written next to nothing yet.

My two cents is this:

After all the critiquing and editing and rewriting and I have a biased opinion that it is relatively "good." I would find my friends who love to read the same things I am writing. Tell them this is next best thing since Harry Potter (or whatever successful book is similar to what I'm writing) and see what their reaction is once they read it. If their expectation was at the level of a book you both consider "good," how does yours compare to that when they pick it up? Is it the kind, when at the library, people pick it up, read a little and decide to check it out? If you're giving it to someone for reading enjoyment instead of a crit, you might get a better picture and more subjective response than a writing group or critter might give. If, after reading your work, they come to you with a smile and say something like: "It was interesting but not quite a Harry Potter for me." Then you know you're writing wasn't up to the level of other similar works and you can drill down with more questions as to how bad/good it was for them and how you could improve it.

I know I'm one of the odd ducks here with completely different interests/reasons for writing/genres, etc. And why stop there? For me, knowing if my writing is "good" or at least good enough for me is very simple as explained below:

Honestly, almost everything I am writing or plan to write really only has two or three possible routes for publication and by the same token, audience. I write with them in mind. I'll know if it's good enough when I can compare my writing side-by-side with the limited comparables that have succeeded in these areas.

As far as money or fame goes, one publisher has a very targeted and active readership and only publishes the type of works I am planning--which is hopeful.

However, the Holy Grail for me would be to make it as the one or so per year that is published by an eccentric national figure who, based on his own writing and the writing of the few he has published by other writers, would love my planned project (although I'm doubtful about my writing). He has a following and active readership that makes instant best sellers of EVERYTHING he puts out or endorses. He also probably gets thousands of submissions like mine all the time, so even if it is "good enough," it will take a grand stroke of luck--or more precisely, a miracle to get it in his lap for consideration.

So if those two fail, I might be able to find somewhere to park my stuff or self publish--but basically it will mean for me that my writing isn't good enough. Not for them and so also not for me. Good enough for me would mean good enough to publish for them. If I fail in that, then my writing will have little chance to be seen by the people I'm writing for (unless I turn out to be a master self-published marketeer). And because reaching my target audience is such a large part of my inspiration and reason for writing, it would be an unacceptable failure to me. I'll do what it takes to produce the quality of products they demand. I am already 99% sure the story(ies) and subjects will sell as I know the audience and their interests well. The only variable is (gulp...) me.

[ November 17, 2013, 11:02 AM: Message edited by: legolasgalactica ]

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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
I don't think Ray Bradbury worried about whether his writing was great. He just kept on pounding the keys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlYAhSffEDM

That's interesting. Heinlein said basically the same thing: write, polish it up a bit, send it out, and start the next piece.'

Heinlein and Bradbury were both good enough to get away with that. I don't think I am.

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extrinsic
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Heinlein and Bradbury began their writing journey a strong way ahead of many writers today. They went to grade and secondary schools at a time when grammar and other apsects of mechanical style were a focus and principle expectation of students learning reading and writing. Mechanical style teaching philosophies changed markedly during the middle twentieth century, emphasizing creativity at the expense of discipline.

Writers born since then come onto the writing journey disabled by inadequate appreciation of mechanical style. Of course, most high school graduates learn the basics, the general principles of grammar, diction, syntax, spelling, and punctuation, but only about a tenth, if that, of the opus of mechanical style.

Heinlein and Bradbury's school age also was a time when rhetoric principles were a standard part of English coursework in secondary grades.

Frankly, Heinlien and Bradbury were ahead of the curve when they began their writing careers. Though both seemed able to dash off a rough draft with less effort than many struggling writers, they nonetheless revised, though a great deal less than struggling writers handicapped by limited mechanical style and rhetoric skills.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Heinlein and Bradbury began their writing journey a strong way ahead of many writers today. They went to grade and secondary schools at a time when grammar and other apsects of mechanical style were a focus and principle expectation of students learning reading and writing. Mechanical style teaching philosophies changed markedly during the middle twentieth century, emphasizing creativity at the expense of discipline.

I don't know about that. I'm always skeptical about exactly how good the good old days were. I say this as someone who went to Catholic school in the 1960s, and studied a curriculum which was fifty years out of date. I was fortunate that it was a *liberal arts* oriented curriculum; we even studied Aristotelian logic (I remember learning to draw the Square of Opposition).

I remember when Donald Rumsfeld made his famous remark about "known knowns." That remark was excoriated as piece of maliciously obfuscated gobbledygook, it was even condemned by the Plain English Campaign, but armed my antique Catholic school education it seemed perfectly clear -- even self-evident to me. It was also clear (applying my splendidly antique Catholic school education) that it was prevarication. Trotting out a tautology is a good way to sound truthful when you're ducking a question.

And there you have the problem. To my eccentrically educated ear, what sounds like gobbledygook to most of the English speaking world seems clear as a bell. When I look at my publicly educated peers, I don't see people who can't write or can't think properly, I see people who simply haven't been trained to start a persuasive argument with a syllogistic major premise. So after I write I must cut, cut, cut; excising all the prolixity drummed into me by Sister Joan and Sister Clare and Sister Euchariist.

If you read Bradbury's own accounts of his career, his secret becomes plain. He wrote lots and lots of bad stories that got rejected, until he learned how to write a publishable story. Something to think about.

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wetwilly
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"He wrote lots and lots of bad stories that got rejected, until he learned how to write a publishable story."

Great, so I'm on the right track. I write bad stories that get rejected all the time.

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LDWriter2
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An interesting discussion-even with the side issues here I have been keeping track of it even though I couldn't think of much to say.

You guys seem past this but I have wanted to say this for a few days, so I finally get to this and it's gone on to side issues But

To the original question I say...that is where I am.

There ways I know to tell if my writing is any good show it isn't--maybe on the border of good but not far enough on the other side--and that I have been stuck there for years.

It's been said by a few pro writers that there are too many variables to depend on editors and markets to tell if you are good or improving which means you can't know because how else can one know?

A couple-a mean a couple--critters have stated a story or two have been good or my best writing so far but is a very small sample to show something.

So back to the question.

As also been stated we don't enough and are too prejudice to say if our writing is good and in my case I would have to agree.

So back to the question.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Heinlein and Bradbury began their writing journey a strong way ahead of many writers today. They went to grade and secondary schools at a time when grammar and other apsects of mechanical style were a focus and principle expectation of students learning reading and writing. Mechanical style teaching philosophies changed markedly during the middle twentieth century, emphasizing creativity at the expense of discipline.

Writers born since then come onto the writing journey disabled by inadequate appreciation of mechanical style. Of course, most high school graduates learn the basics, the general principles of grammar, diction, syntax, spelling, and punctuation, but only about a tenth, if that, of the opus of mechanical style.

And how this affects today's new writers? They spend a great deal of energy struggling with the mechanics. It doesn't come easily or naturally as they write (nor as they edit), because the automatic processing just isn't there.
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Robert Nowall
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I'm not convinced the educations and early writing experience of Heinlein and Bradbury were comparable in this manner...Heinlein went to Annapolis and did some political writing before achieving literary success in his thirties...I don't know Bradbury's level of education but he did write a great deal every day and achieved his literary success in his early or mid-twenties...
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LDWriter2
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I thought this might be a good place for this.

I just learned of this lecture series by Dean Wesley Smith ob the stages of a writer,

Right here

I believe the cost if fifty dollars

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History
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Aside: Maybe I'm not yet desperate enough, or I'm stubborn, (or just cheap), but I find myself balking at writer's video series like these--although this one is less expensive than those Writers' Digest offer for hundreds of dollars.

Conversely, I've spent far more for medical conferences. Hmm. Perhaps if I actually earned income from writing and could deduct such lectures as a business expense, the cost-return ration might (well, doubtfully for me) justify the expense.

Anyway, there is an old Jewish saying that may be appropriate to this thread:

According to Rabbi Bunim of P'shiskha, everyone should have two pockets, each containing a slip of paper. On one should be written: 'I am but dust and ashes', and on the other: 'The world was created for me'. From time to time we must reach into one pocket, or the other. The secret of living comes from knowing when to reach into each.

Respectfully,
History

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RyanB
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I've found that humans have a strange relationship with money.

Most of us here have put hundreds or thousands (or more) hours in developing our writing skills. How much is an hour of your time worth? Do you think this lecture series will save you 3 hours? Dozens of hours?

OTOH, money is a limited resource. It might be better to ask whether you'd rather have this video series or whatever thing(s) you'd spend that fifty bucks on if you don't buy this. Do you even have an "extra" $50?

Still it's a tough sell psychologically. I've gotten so much writing advice for "free" (really it cost time or gas or both) or cheap, I've bought several great "craft" books.

But honestly, my fear is that I'd buy this and find it's good advice but then I'd think it was obvious or I could have found it elsewhere for free.

Actually I did some Googling on the topic and I couldn't find much, so I doubt I'd find this information elsewhere. Although I distinctly remember extrinsic writing something here about the stages of a writer's development. At the time it was like a smack in the face because I was still early on in the progression, but I found his/her analysis to be quite accurate over time.

BTW, the best money I ever spent on writing advice was $0.99 for 2k to 10k:

http://www.amazon.com/2k-10k-Writing-Faster-Better-ebook/dp/B009NKXAWS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386013604&sr=8-1&keywords=from+2000+to+10000

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extrinsic
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My discussions of the four stages of a writer's development come from personal experience and Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction. For the former, my Poet's Journey began from being taught basic grammar and mechancial style in grade school English courses, then struggling at the intermediate stage with craft and structure, then struggling at the advanced stage with voice, then struggling on the threshold of publication success stage with audience appeal. My few successes over the years managed all the above.

The latter, Damon Knight's take on the four stages of a writer's development were also for me a blunt wake-up call, waking up from daydream writing as the first stage of a writer's development. Knight makes points and details how to distinguish where any given writer is on the journey and offers guidance on how to develop. Yet it is the curse of writing guidance's blessing that any given rhetoric text can only offer a narrow and often ephemeral blazed path forward.

Does Dean Weley Smith's take on the four stages of a writer's development offer new insights distiguishably sufficient to justify a fifty dollar expense? I expect he has his own slant. My curiosity might induce me to have a look see. However, the promotional copy doesn't entice me sufficiently to risk the cost. I've been burnt before.

I'm also resistant to online lectures. They are resource hogs when one's Internet service costs escalate from overbudget data usage. Ten videos would consume two month's worth of my data plan. Maybe I'm also not too inclined toward the intangible ephemeralness of an oral lecture. I prefer text's sustaining permanance, its searchability, its substance's openness to rereading in any order I need to.

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