Is it any good?

Linda’s Blog August 17th

Judging our own writing has to be one of the hardest things to do. You’ve poured your creativity and probably a lot of your time into producing something that you hope will appeal to others. Obviously, they will be your ultimate test whether it’s reading at your local writers’ group or shortlisted for a major international prize. But before then, how do you know it’s any good?

Thank you to those of you who wrote to say that you found last week’s checklists useful. The first checklist was for you as the writer, and the second, to judge the protagonist’s arc.

This week, I’m going to suggest a few more checks you can do before asking someone else for their opinion or sending out to a competition, agent or editor.

  1. One piece of advice that comes up time and again is, once the first draft is finished, to put your writing away and come back to it later with fresh eyes – as Zadie Smith says with the eyes of a reader.

I recently re-read a novel I wrote some ten years ago. I’d put it away as I thought it needed quite a lot of work and then wasn’t the time. On re-reading, I was pleased to discover I don’t now think it needs that much revising. And at one point, I even found tears in my eyes as my protagonist faced yet another setback in her life!

  1. Once you’ve had a break from your writing, take it out and READ IT OUT LOUD. This will definitely highlight grammar mistakes, wrong words, superfluous words, sentences that are too long, and unintentional repetitions. It may even reveal plot points that need revising, as well as under-drawn, over-drawn, and superfluous characters.

  2. Check the 3-act structure. Do you introduce your main characters, the setting and the conflict in the first quarter of the story? Do problems for your protagonist follow in the second and third quarters? Does your story come to a satisfactory conclusion in the final third? 
  3. Does the opening hook you as a reader? 
  4. Use the character checklist for your protagonist:

Is my protagonist easily identifiable as the main character?
Does my protagonist change through the story?
Does my protagonist overcome a series of obstacles?
Does my protagonist show some of his/her flaws?
Does my protagonist have a worthy antagonist?
Is the resolution realistic for my protagonist?

  1. Do you use your setting (or settings) as part of the plot? Or could the action be anywhere? If so, try changing the setting to one that impacts the plot and/or the characters. 
  2. Is there enough conflict? Or too much?

If YOU are happy with all those checks, then I would say it’s ready for an outside opinion. Choose carefully whom you ask (I’ll be addressing this in a later blog). And always remember, it’s your WRITING they are critiquing, not YOU as a person.

Have a good week.

Happy writing.

Linda