Greetings, all --

I'm new to the joint, have been lurking around a couple of days and am impressed with the breadth of writing experience here. It seems the ideal spot to ask one of the burning questions that's been plaguing me since I started my current novel (polishing the third draft now): do you ever become able to objectively judge the quality of your own writing?

I have days when I think it's pretty good, and days where all I want to do is lie in bed and moan. I know that the cure for this is probably to have some people read the manuscript and give me feedback, but I'm loath to subject it to that until I feel like it's really ready. How does one keep going, when you just don't know if you're 'good enough?' Do you more experienced folks find that your view of your writing skill has moderated over time -- become more realistic? Or is it one of those things you never really get an objective view about?



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I'm a very tough critics, and I usually know when something is good. It's the stuff I judge passable that later comes to haunt me.

Get some reader reactions from people who will be honest. It may be painful but it will help you revise.
It helps to have a huge ego. Like, seriously--monstrous. Otherwise I'm not sure how anyone does it.
I don't think you can ever be totally objective about your own work. Like other aspects of craft, you use your tools -- in this case, time, critique groups, readers, reading the work out loud -- and keep improving.
A common saying for writers is "You have to pay your dues, a million words written, before you gain a little confidence in your work."
Time away from it is the only way to gain any real objectivity about your own work. While you've got it sitting in a drawer somewhere, start working on the next story, so you won't feel so much like you're just sitting on your hands.

Personally, if I want to be as objective as possible, I have to set something aside for a minimum of at least a year, preferably two, long enough that I forget the words and the rhythms of what I wrote. It can be a startling experience. It's the only time I really hear my voice as a writer.
Ya know, now that y'all mention it, I had a hiatus of a couple of weeks away from The Book not too long ago, and when I got back to work on it again, I seemed to see it more clearly. So that 'letting it rest' thing sounds right.

I think the hardest thing, for me, is believing what I think about my own work. I expect that gets better with experience, too.

Out of curiosity, how/where does one round up objective readers/critics? I'd be very interested in having anyone here who'd like to read a couple of my chapters and give me some feedback. Leave a note on my page or at my blog (

I agree that you can never be truly objective about your own work. But I think your editing skills grow along with your writing skills. The best thing I do for myself is to work on multiple projects at one time. Maybe start a few short stories along with a novel. That way I don't feel that someone's critique or rejection of one of my projects is all I have going at any one moment. (Thanks for the invite.)
I do believe that I am mostly objective about my own work at this point. Partly, I think because of my experiences with submitting for publications. I've have studied and learned the things that generally work well and those that don't.

I know that I can and do write crap. I write anyway, because you cannot revise what is not written.

I think that if a writer can separate themselves from their work, they will have a much easier time being objective. I can write crap without being a crappy writer. (I can always revise it. First drafts are very likely to be crap, or full of crap, or spotted with crap... um, eeeewwwww....)

For some people, they require taking time away from a manuscript. I feel I work better when I study what I've written, read it over and over without getting distracted by the story. The most important thing is to read critically.

One of the BEST things a writer can do... is have a good beta reader. A good beta-- who understands what you're trying to say and clubs you when you fail to say it well-- will server a writer well. I think few writers can become fully objective without much time and much growth. I think betas are great for growth as they will help you while you learn how to be a better writer. (I <3 my first beta reader. I'm so much of a better writer because of him. =) Having feedback can help you figure out what you do wrong, and give you confidence regarding what you do write. In my never humble opinion.

(Now, I've never had any ego problems regarding my writing, overall. Finding hats that fit... ;-)
OK, now, what exactly is a 'beta reader?' I've seen the term several places, and still am not sure exactly what the 'beta' refers to - M.
I 'beta read' other author's novels after a first or second draft. Ocassionally I will do this on unfinished work. It involves reading the manuscript and commenting according to the author's direction. On one'beta read' I did, the authors requested a brutal read with grammar, pace, content, plot and writing style comments. My comments on that work were over 9,000 words on the first ten chapters. At that point, I felt the authors had a firm grip on the editing required across the entire novel. After they finished the edit, I did another read and was down to 100 words of comments. They were successful at getting an agent and last I heard, they were negotiating a publishing deal.
Like others here, I found an honest reader who said what was junk and what was working regarding a work-in-progress. I found two different readers to look over the entire manuscript when it was in good shape, since the reader who looked at pieces along the way was (she admitted) no longer objective and had a hard time seeing the big picture, having seen all the pieces as they were produced.
That is why I love critique groups! Seriously, I know that sometimes I'll read something I've written and it will nag at me but I won't quite know why. Another eye --or 3 or 4 helps.


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