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How to Know if Your Writing is Good

Updated on June 7, 2012

When a writer is first beginning to put the pen to paper or fingers to key, it can be terrifying. Thoughts like: "How do I know if I'm good enough? How do I make something believable? Will I get the point across? What if people don't like it? What if I make some horrible faux pas without realizing it?" can eat writers - or any creative person - alive.

These fears are perfectly normal. How are you supposed to know what constitutes good writing or not?

The first thing young or beginning writers tend to do is present their work to their parents.

This is a big no-no.

Unless your parents happen to be seasoned writers themselves, or writers at all, then this is not going to be very helpful. (Even if they are writers, it might be best to not go to them for any sort of critique.)

It's safe to say that the majority of the people you know probably aren't involved in the art of the written word. As far as they're concerned, anything you do that they can't manage is completely extraordinary. I know that whenever I see someone able to make a car work again, I'm pretty impressed. However, while changing the oil is something I haven't accomplished as of yet, it doesn't constitute the title of Best Mechanic Ever Known to Exist. So it is with your writing.

Here's a good rule of thumb: if all you're hearing is "This is really good!" or "It sucks. It's boring," then this is how much good it's doing for your writing: none at all.

So how are you supposed to know if your writing is good or not?

Well, first off, don't worry about it too much. Practice makes perfect. The scariest part about creative experimentation is the beginning period where common mistakes are made and nothing seems to come out well at all. Push through it.

We can't all be Mozarts when it comes to what we can do and how well we can do it. Sometimes it takes good ol' fashioned hard work and persistence. If writing is something you enjoy doing, then do it. Even if the circle of people you know don't like it or care to read it, then that doesn't mean you have no talent. Sometimes talent is just a little seed that needs a lot of care to grow. (Or they could be the wrong kind of reader that your style of writing requires. Different people like different things.)

But before you can water your seed of talent, you need to know which direction to head with your progress. If parents and friends are generally not going to help you much, where do you go for real advice?

You can always try a creative writing course at your high school or local community college. (Try to avoid creative writing teachers who use hard grading systems and don't allow you to explore your own style. The best writing course experiences I've had are with teachers who don't penalize you for trying something new you're not that great at. Find a teacher who will constructively critique you with helpful tips that show you what is working and what isn't in your writing [and if it isn't, how could it be improved by staying true to the original intent?].)

There are also creative writing forums online that are full of outspoken writers.

But remember the golden rule of writing: Consider all constructive critiques, but in the end, it's your writing and you are allowed to do as you please. There are no set rules to what makes a good writer, no matter what anyone says. What works for them might not work for you. (But keep what they say stored somewhere; you never know when one day you might change your mind - no matter how unlikely that seems.)

Leave a comment below if you have any more tips for good writing! Or leave a comment with what kind of writing you do (poetry, short stories, novels, plays, songs, etc.)!

While they can be a bit pricey, the following books are very good for starting off, particularly "Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft." In some cases, b


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