Okay, sure. At some point, we have to ask ourselves, is what I’m writing any good? But that shouldn’t be your priority through most of the writing process. The problem is, “good” really only happens towards the end of the process. The time in between the first and final draft is either “not there yet” or just flat out bad. Your writing won’t be good most of the time, and honestly, it’s not supposed to be. And because of that, if you judge your daily success and progress on if you’re writing well, you may find yourself frustrated and discouraged ninety percent of the time.
So instead of asking yourself if what you’re writing is good, consider these four questions:
Is what I’m writing making me happy?
This is the first question I ask myself at any stage of the process. If writing a story is making me happy then I know it will make someone else happy (eventually). Maybe it isn’t good yet, but if it’s making me happy to create, then I know if I keep at it, it will make someone else happy to read. If it brings me joy, there must be something real and good that I can use to improve it. It may need work. It may not be “good enough” to publish, but if a story is making me happy, then I know I’m headed in the right direction.
This is how I decide if a story is worth writing when it’s in the early stages. The writing might not good, and the story may be inconsistent at times, but if I like writing it, then I know it’s a story worth telling. It’s worth putting the time and energy in to make it as good as it can be. Now, writing is hard and there may be times that I get frustrated, or there may be aspects of the story I don’t like, but as long as I’m not indifferent to it or bored with it, I know I need to keep working.
Would I be a fan of it?
If I wasn’t writing this book, would I be a fan of it? If the answer is yes, then I know I’m doing something right. Because fandoms are a real thing.
How often have you bonded with someone because they have the same taste in books, music, movies, or TV shows as you? Often, you don’t just have one book in common, you have several. If I’ve written a book that I feel like I would be love and want to share with my friends if I hadn’t written it, then I know I’m working on something that has the potential to be great. Is it perfect? No. Will everyone like it? No. But if I can honestly say that I think people who like the same type of entertainment I like will like this book, and I know it’s worth committing to.
And if I find I wouldn’t be a fan of it, then I have to take a hard look at why. Those reasons will become my targets for revision.
Am I telling the story I want to tell?
It’s impossible to know if you’ve written a story others might want to read, but you can decide if you’ve written the story you set out to tell. That’s what’s in your control. I often start writing a book with a core concept I want to convey. I measure my success not by how many people like the book, but by how many people get and appreciate that core concept. If I can say that I told the story I set out to tell and if most readers seem to be understanding the story the way I want them to understand it, then I consider it to be a “good” book. And if my readers aren’t getting what I went them to, then that’s an area I need to focus on in revision.
Is the story the best I can make it?
Every story has room for improvement. Every story can almost always be “better.” But just because it can be better, doesn’t mean that it’s not good. The more you write the better you will get. However, there will come a point with each book where you’ve done the very best you can. Even if the book itself can bet better, you’ve done your best with it. You’ve tapped out your skills. Perhaps an editor or critique partner can give you more suggestions, but it’s safe to be satisfied when you know you’ve done all you can.
Your best is good enough. Maybe it’s not good enough to be published yet, and maybe you can still get better, but if you can feel like you have told the story you’re trying to tell the best that you possibly can, then you should be proud of what you accomplished. You will only get better from here.
I hope this gives you a good idea why good writing isn’t always the most important thing to consider.
If you can get to a place where you’re own approval of your work is your number one priority, it will get a lot easier to keep writing and keep repeating this process until you reach your writing goals–whatever they may be. Negativity and criticism won’t be able to stop you.
Now it’s your turn: What does good writing mean to you? Tell me about it in the comments!
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