I was talking to another writer a couple of weeks ago and we were moaning about how neither of us had any real idea if what we were writing was any good or not. He said that he had 'no sense of the piece' (because he's all intellectual and that), while I said that I did: it was all crap.

Does anyone else have difficulty knowing if what they're writing is any good or not? Or are we all dribbling, insecure self-loathing weasels with 'no sense of the piece'?

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You watered down Laphroaig?! Are you mad, woman?!
This is my first ride on the publishing-go-round and I am dizzy. I had six pretty good reviews, but then yesterday a potential reviewer sent me the book back in the mail, said she couldn't finish it because she hated my protagonist. I am now convinced I was a fool to write a novel, that I suck beyond compare, that I have no business pretending to be an author. What was I thinking?
You have six pretty good reviews, then this. Maybe this person sucks at being a reviewer! And you're not pretending to be an author - you are one, and you have a book out to prove it. That beats the shit out of pretending to be a reviewer, then displaying an inability to read a book and then comment on it. Hah! Suck eggs, lady!

(Oh dear - I think I need a little lie down now. Excuse me, won't you...)
Strange, isn't it: we have enough nonce to create entire worlds, populate them with people, throw in love and hate and violence and hope and all the rest of that good stuff... and it all comes right out of our heads.

And then one stinky review makes us feel like complete idiots.
Thanks, Julie. I wrote her back a short note thanking her for her time, but I really wanted to say "you mirthless, sexless twit, if I didn't offend people like you, I wouldn't bother writing."

Ooo, that helps. I should have taken the low road yesterday.
see is the key here "potential reviewer" just being a reader myself I wouldn't beat yourself up about a personal opinion....as a reader I read what I like but if I reveiwed well then there should be some sense of at least giving an honest critique with a proviso that while the writing, plot, characters etc are wonderful this book just didn't trip the light fantastic because I only read...noir, thriller, cozy whatever the genre...so cut yourself some slack.
Being American, I can't say I've ever thought anything was "shite." However, I do suffer from intense bi-polar love-hate cycles with everything I write. It really is hard to be objective when you're down in the trenches. I always think my work is utter crap right before I submit it.

I think maybe that's a large part of what it means to be a professional writer. A lot of wanabees let the fear that everything they write really sucks keep them polishing and rewriting the same unpublished book for their entire lives. The pros just bite the bullet, kick the bastard out the door and then move on to the next one.
This is a more concise and interesting way of saying what I just think I sorta said, Christa.

(Damn, I suck.)
Allow me to be a something of a contrarian. I suspect many writers have a clearer sense of the quality of their writing than they let on. That's not to say that a writer is the best judge of his or her own work. Heavens! But if we don't have some sense of the quality of our work, how do we get anything done? And how do we know when something isn't ready to be seen by others? (I have three novels in a (digital) shoebox that will never see the light of day, and it's not because I'm wracked with self-doubt, but because I know they just aren't very good.)

Here's the thing, if we actually say out loud, "That's a pretty nice passage I just wrote," well, we're probably going to come off as arrogant or blind to our own weaknesses, even if, well, it IS a pretty nice passage.

I do want to reiterate that I DEFINITELY DO AGREE that a writer is not the best judge of his or her work. I share my own stuff with 6 folks in a critique group because I know I won't always see the weaknesses, at least not without some time and distance. I also often don't see all the strengths. Beyond the critique group, I listen to my agent, my editors. Writing itself is often a solitary activity, but publishing is not, and the collaboration with others is huge.

I also suffer from horrible self-doubts and a firm belief that I am teh suck and it's only a matter of time before people figure it out. I imagine it's all part of the same package. We write because we must, we show the world because we think we've done something worth showing, and if someone calls us out on it, we're sure they must be right because whatever made us think we had a clue anyway. Except we try again, because somewhere inside we figure we've got at least a tiny clue. Right?

I believe capable writers know their strengths and weaknesses in a big picture sense, even if they're not always a good judge of the details of their work. I also know that in my own work, I need help to make my writing as good as I'm capable, plus help to grow and learn as a writer. But, you know what, I admit it, every now and then I think I write a passage or two that's pretty good.

Of course, I'm probably wrong...
I think you're right, Bill. Writers may be insecure most of the time, but a little confidence doesn't mean arrogance. I remember at a panel at Bouchercon Ken Bruen said he was talking to a writer and she said she'd just finished writing a book and he said, how is it, and she said, "Really good." He said, "I love it when writers say that." I guess he probably loves it because it's so rare.

But we sure wouldn't like to hear the surgeon say, I have no idea what I'm doing, or the pilot say, this is probably going to end really badly.
"But we sure wouldn't like to hear the surgeon say, I have no idea what I'm doing"

Or, "I'm not sure which bit comes next, I'm just kind of making it up as I go along..."

I have to admit that I like some of my short stories (well after the fact, I should add), but I've never managed to read, or gain perspective on any of my books. Every time I try it's out with the red pen, because every single word could be so much better...
That's true, I look back at what I wrote and I think every single word could be so much better. Or, often I think, man, I could have used a lot fewer words to say that.

But also, I think, we do change as we get older, our tastes change and that even applies to our own work. Sometimes I try reading a book that was favourite when I was younger and I just don't se it the same anymore. Doesn't mean it isn't a good book.

Although I've recently come to realize that I have terrible taste in music. Apparently I'm the only guy in the world nostalgic for Supertramp and that Frampton Comes Alive album. Maybe I have bad taste in books, too (which would be a real shame, because I loved Cold Granite...)


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