Why I Won’t Say Whether Your Writing Is Any Good

Writing coach won't critique your workHave you wondered if your writing is good enough to earn a living from?

Many writers have emailed me asking this question. They’d like my evaluation of whether they’ve got what it takes.

They want to know what books they should read about the craft of writing, or what classes they should take. Sometimes I have a suggestion or two there.

But when writers ask me, “Could you read this article and tell me if my writing is any good?” I never give them feedback on their writing.

There are four reasons why:

1. Writing is so, so subjective

One reader’s masterpiece is another’s staggering bore. It’s lyrical poetry to one, puerile fishwrap to another. My opinion would be just that — one person’s opinion. I’m not the Oracle of Truth here. It wouldn’t really change anything.

2. Standards for writing success vary

There are a ton of mediocre writers earning a living (if you don’t believe me, go to your local Chamber of Commerce and read the brochures), so if you’re not brilliant it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t make a career from writing.

Depending on the type of writing work you want to do and how much you want to make, even pedestrian skills might cut it. I know writers who earn $10,000 a year who’re thrilled with that.

3. I don’t want to kill your dreams

If your writing truly is awful, I don’t see why I should have to be the one to tell you that. I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news.

And — see #1 — I could be wrong, and then I would really feel horrible about telling you not to pursue writing. Or I’d feel stupid, especially if you win a Pulitzer 10 years from now or have a blockbuster novel. It’s a lose-lose scenario, from my point of view.

4. The fact that you’re asking is a red flag

Here’s the biggest problem with going around asking random people to critique your writing. If you’re doing that, it means you don’t believe you’re a good writer.

To do this for a living, you have to know you’ve got talent. Not from any outside feedback, but from deep in your soul.

If you don’t feel that writing is the talent you were meant to share with the world, my telling you your writing is brilliant won’t help. You won’t believe me.

On the other hand, if you do know you’re good, you shouldn’t need to hear it from me.

If you’re worried you aren’t a good writer, you probably need to improve. You should dedicate yourself to writing a lot and building your skills, or find another line of work.

Who should critique your writing

I’m not saying you should never ask for feedback on your writing. Far from it.

But asking a random blogger you know isn’t the best way to get input that’s truly useful.

For that, you want editors. Professional editors. Ideally, editors you are working with on an assignment.

They thought you were good enough to write for them, so you have a common understanding there. And from that understanding, you can seek to get even better.

I learned everything I know about writing by doing two things: writing tons and constantly peppering my editors with questions. When I got my first regular freelance publication clients, I would haunt the editors’ offices and ask things like:

I notice you changed my lede from X to Y in this story. Why?

You cut out my paragraph three. I thought it had really important points. Why’d you do that?

I loved this word that I used but I saw you eliminated it. Why?

Can you help me cut this 5,000-word draft down to 3,000 words?

As you’ll recall, I was kind of an idiot newbie writer, so I just kept asking. A good editor will help you improve your writing.

Even a bad editor can help. I had one editor I thought was awful, but he pushed me super-hard and helped me understand the mechanics of how to write a compelling article like never before.

Editors see a lot of writers’ work and usually have been at their gigs a long time. They look at writing in an analytical way, all day long. Drink up their knowledge.

How to become a great writer

There is one more reason why I turn away writing-critique requests.

It’s that your writing is evolving, every day. Maybe you had a bad day when you wrote the piece you’re handing me. Maybe you’ll write like mad the next six months and you’ll improve tremendously.

A piece of writing is a snapshot in time. If you’re passionate about writing, you will constantly strive to get better. Who doesn’t wince when they look at things they wrote long ago?

There is no golden moment when you achieve writing excellence and then you magically maintain that level from there on out. Think of all the writers whose second novel flamed out.

There is only trying to improve.

Recently one writer wrote me:

“How long did it take you to perfect your writing skills? Six months? A year? Five years?

“Any feedback, information, or advice would be greatly appreciated!”-Yvette

My answer: “Still working on it.”

So here’s my feedback on your writing: If you know in your heart you have writing talent, and you’re committed to working to polish that skill, my bet is you’re going to do fine.

Who do you get feedback from on your writing? Leave a comment and let us know.

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52 comments on “Why I Won’t Say Whether Your Writing Is Any Good
  1. You strike me as a kind person, Carol. Many of the people that approach you for your opinion are doing so because they feel that you will be sympathetic with their “plight.” They want to succeed in a competitive field without risking rejection.

    That is why they approach you instead of an editor. They might have to listen to criticism. Heaven forbid!

    I received unconditional love from my mother. She would edit my papers for college with skill and style. She was an English major from the University of California, Los Angeles.

    My adolescent moods did not sway her from coaching me while she was editing my work. I picked up a copy of “The Elements of Style”with her encouragement, a book which still guides my thoughts decades later. I am grateful to my mother for her love and her ability to maintain writing standards.

    Thank you, Carol, for writing this post. You have triggered a lot of happy memories for me.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, what a great mom.

      If people are asking me because they think I’ll go easy on them, they don’t know me very well. 😉

      But I’d hate to think anyone would make a decision whether or not to be a writer based on my feelings about their skills. That feeling needs to come from inside, that writing is your gift.

  2. My biggest compliments come from readers of my blog who say that they have subscribed to my blog because they like the way I write. However, I write with honesty and openness and think that these are contributing factors!
    Lorraine Reguly recently posted…The “One Lovely Blog” Award (AKA One Smokin’ Hot Blog Award) Gets This Lovely Blogger To Identify Her Rapist: Lorne ChabotMy Profile

  3. Rob Britt says:

    Writing, like life, is an evolution. The more experience you have the better it gets, generally speaking.
    Rob Britt recently posted…Three Tips for Writing SuccessMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Exactly. No doubt if I saw some early writing from any big novelist you can name today I would have told them to become an accountant or something. If writers just focus on making each piece better, learning more, working harder…if you’re fluent in the language you’re writing in, you’re probably going to do great.

  4. I remember a personal instance of especially harsh critique of my fiction (creative non-fiction, actually) writing.

    The person was correct on several points (and totally wrong on others), and concluded by advising me to quit trying to write fiction and focus on pure non-fiction instead. I didn’t listen to the suggestion, of course.

    I’m still not quite good at fiction writing, but I’m studying, practicing, and improving. The important point here is, I was old enough to not let criticism discourage me; to just pay attention to my shortcomings, as pointed out in the critique, and laugh at the obvious nonsense in the rest of the letter.

    As for new writers, I’d say they need constructive feedback, not critiques. Like, “I see here this [problem] — it would be much better to [possible solution x, y, z]”. Which, as you said, is an editor’s job!
    Helene Poulakou recently posted…Inspiration ExistsMy Profile

  5. Chris says:

    My first reply here- and on a topic that has caused me a lot of confusion and some temporary doubt for about ten minutes until I remember that all judgement is subjective. I’m one of those “born to write and believe I’m good at it” types, but not so full of myself I can’t kill my babies (edit without mercy) when needed. I’ve earned some bucks, did a stint as a reporter, etc., so have some credits to back that belief up.

    That said, I recently submitted a short story that my writing coach just praised to high heaven to a contest – and the feedback I got from paying for that extra critique service in the contest was essentially- “Keep the first and last paragraphs and rework everything else and resubmit.” (and repay, of course). um, I don’t think so. But the comments caused me to look at it again and consider how it might be tweaked. And having two distinct reads on the same story clearly illustrates the dilemma for writers who need validation.

    And then there were the short-shorts I sent to a writer friend’s agent on recommendation who sent them back saying they were “exquisitely written but had no market.” hmmm….my mission is to prove her wrong.

    Anyway, from my take, when words live in your gut, they just have to come out. There is no way around it. But I’ve learned to be picky about who I share pre-pub work with. Luckily, I’m one of a trio of published freelance writers and we comment on each other’s drafts, ideas, offer encouragement, and skype together at least a couple times a month. It’s always productive, illuminating, and inspires new thought. That kind of peer support makes the difference.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Chris —

      Always great to see a new commenter here on the blog!

      I was told when I used to go to songwriting workshop to always bring an important tool with me — the mental trash can.

      If someone’s feedback resonates for you, use it. If not, toss it out.

  6. I LOVE this post– I get a lot people that ask me ‘Where can I find writing jobs?’ or ‘How do I get started as a writer?’
    regardless of the fact they are leaving the comment on my Write and Get Paid blog which is filled with articles and links to sources. I try to point them to blog posts that will help answer their questions.

    I think some people are looking for someone to hold their hands and lead them to the pot of literary gold…when they have not researched, worked, suffered rejections, etc. in this business enough to be shown the path…heck, after almost six years in this business, I still get “lost in the woods” at times.

    Thanks for all you do, Carol! Hoping to “see” you at your PR workshop in December.
    Denise Gabbard recently posted…5 Great Marketing Tips from My Favorite Internet GurusMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I always have to restrain myself from asking if their Google isn’t working as well as mine is when I get those kind of questions.

      Being a freelancer is about being proactive, going out and finding answers…not saying “where are the answers?” when you’re on a site with tons of them.

      I don’t think it’s a question of needing to pay dues until you pass some mythical test and then someone will show you the way. The hard truth is you have to take out your own machete and start hacking…because your path is different from anyone else’s.

      PS – if you’re looking to do the PR bootcamp, recommend signing up by end of tomorrow (Wednesday) so you can get the free ebooks I’m handing out for early registration bonusi. 😉 Details at: http://freelancewritersden.com/landing/pr-bootcamp

  7. I have a critique group whom I work with, and the members help me a lot both during the official sessions and outside of them. It’s particularly useful, because the writers range from people who write technical procedures, to writers of literary fiction, even poets. Each one brings a different tool set to the table.

    I also have one particular editor whose comments when he sends in directions for a revision are very, very useful. He’s taught me a lot, specifically about writing personal essays.
    Rebecca Klempner recently posted…When it rains, it pours!My Profile

  8. Try, someday, a Google search for “famous writers rejections”–you’ll be amazed at the number of editors who boldly stated that “no one would ever read” future bestsellers or that a now-taught-in-every-English-class author had no talent whatsoever; the number of rejections the current household names garnered early on; even the writers who gave up completely but whose works were published posthumously to worldwide acclaim. My favorite story to date comes from children’s author Eileen Spinelli: as an elementary school student she turned in an essay that was written fantasy-fiction-style, a departure from convention that so annoyed the teacher she read it to the whole class as an example of the worst paper turned in. A humiliation like that invariably crushes a child’s self-esteem and convinces her to never try writing anything again in her life, right? Wrong. Even as a youngster, Spinelli’s reaction was “This teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Now there’s someone who knows from the beginning what she was meant to be and is good at!

    My theory is that so many major publishers miss their chances to introduce new star authors because they think like that teacher: so caught up in the parameters of what’s currently selling that when they see something new and unique, they can’t judge it on its own merit; to them it’s just one more blind leap into terra incognita. Then of course, when someone finally does say yes to something new AND good, it flies off the shelves because by now everyone needs a change of pace from the old!
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Battling the Demons of UncertaintyMy Profile

    • Chris says:

      Wow Katherine, I thought I was the only one to have such a beastly teacher. In ninth grade, I was a pale northwestern redhead suddenly transported to southern California where everyone was tan and blond. Miss Brown, my young English teacher, found my essay on “Lord of the Flies” so “preposterously ridiculous” that she stood behind the lectern in all her peeling sunburn glory and ridiculed her way through it aloud to the class. And in front of my seat where I sat burning in humiliation, Laurie, a popular blond classmate, turned around and whispered, “That’s yours, isn’t it?” And she didn’t laugh.

      On that day 48 years ago, in the first of several public displays of mocking “educational” cruelty, I was acknowledged by a peer. That and the silence in the room as this ignorant teacher continued to make the class a love/hate affair with words for me, strengthened the knowledge that, among those who listened, my voice was being heard. It was enough. Miss Brown, wherever your shedding soul may be – I am published. Are you?

      • Carol Tice says:

        Just have to say I think I got an F on every essay where I was supposed to discuss what the theme of the book was. I never picked the one they wanted. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the question is insane, because most good books have multiple themes!

        • Karen J says:

          Ohh! I guess that’s (another reason) why *those* papers were so hard for me to write, too! I’m going to look back at my emotional history around writing, and see what other excess baggage I’ve been toting for umpty-squat years!

          THANK YOU for that insight, Carol! <3
          Karen J recently posted…Collected Drafts – Just Do It!My Profile

  9. Asif says:

    I truly agree with you,
    I have been writing for over 6 years.
    6 years ago I used to think I am a better writer, but now when I read my old article they were terrible in comparison to what I have written 3 years ago and my new ones are even better.
    Perhaps, my current writings would look terrible 6 years down the line.
    Asif recently posted…Creating a Floating Sidebar in WordPressMy Profile

  10. Good post, Carol. Reminds me of the story about the writer who sent a famous author’s work to an editor who chewed it up and spit it out as horrible. You never know.

    I bought a guitar once and asked the staff how to play a certain song. They didn’t say a word, so I asked a different way. Finally one of them said, “When you make it your song, you play it your way.”

    Can’t go wrong with your advice to write a ton.
    David Gillaspie recently posted…One Boomer Sports Fan SolutionMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      LOVE that advice!

      You think about how someone like Charles Bukowski writes — in profane sentence fragments. Some people might hate your writing, but it might also make you a fortune from the people who love it. It’s all so subjective…and I am not getting into the business of being the forecaster for whether your writing is good enough to earn. I’d probably be wrong a lot.

  11. Lisa Baker says:

    Love love love this. Especially the part about KNOWING, deep in your soul, that YOU ARE GOOD. I used to book local bands to play at a coffeeshop where I was an assistant manager (and hey, I just realized that you and I both came to writing via music, Carol!), and I always joked that I could predict whether a band was going to make it just by meeting the lead singer. I didn’t even have to listen to their music. I could tell by their attitude. If the front(wo)man KNEW, deep in his soul, that he was GOOD, it was obvious from the minute he started talking about his music. And those were the bands that made it.

    And I think it’s the same thing with writers, especially freelancers — if you KNOW you’ve got it, you’ll keep going till you get it. End of story. You’re going to make it.

    One question though: do you have any advice for asking an editor’s advice/thoughts on edits they made without being annoying? Most of my editors don’t change much (because, ya know, I’m awesome 😉 ). I have one who always edits me and always makes my pieces MUCH better. I LOVE what she does. But I never thought to ask her about why…I do study what she does, but I felt like it would be super annoying if I asked. Thoughts?
    Lisa Baker recently posted…Clever Ways to Entertain Your Toddler That Don’t Actually WorkMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      See my comment above, Lisa!

      Seems like many writers are a-scared to ask editors anything. Fortunately, I was too stupid to know I wasn’t supposed to bug them, so I asked questions constantly.

      And you know, most of the editors I worked with I think LOVED that I asked, and that I wanted to know more and improve.

      Ultimately, learning an editor’s preferences saves the editor time — your next article comes in cleaner. So they’re usually happy to spend a few minutes explaining why things got changed. And often it’s something like “Oh, that had to be cut for space.”

      If you don’t ask, you might think “Oh no! They thought that part wasn’t any good!” Keep remembering that it’s not all about you, writers…

      • Tom Bentley says:

        Carol, I turned in a piece for a national magazine a bit back that went through a couple of iterations with the editor until I got an, “It’s great! It will run in November!” Which it did, but I could barely recognize the article, because its narrative was distilled into a few sentences, which were just a setup for some photos relevant to the piece.

        It’s a pub for which I’ve written before, but not for this editor, and I only sent a vague email back to him alluding to the deep article changes, rather than asking directly why it was so truncated. It was a good piece, and they paid me well for it, but it was disappointing to see it chopped to flinders. You’ve nudged me to ask him more clearly what went on (which will give me another opportunity to pitch him a new article). Thanks for another great post.
        Tom Bentley recently posted…Licking the Cat and Other Writing TipsMy Profile

    • Just tell her what you told us: that she does a fantastic job of making your work even better. and you’d love to learn more about how she does it. No remotely normal human being can be annoyed by any request wrapped in a compliment like that.
      Katherine Swarts recently posted…Battling the Demons of UncertaintyMy Profile

  12. Emelia says:

    You couldn’t be more right! Writing can be easily improved with practice. However, I didn’t know I could ask my editor why portions of my articles were changed. Another helpful info from you Carol. Many thanks!

  13. Linzi says:

    Great post. As a new writer, I was very heartened to read the comments regarding persistence leading to improvement and eventually increased earning opportunities. When you are starting out, you do tend to doubt yourself a lot and it’s great to hear of other writers succeeding through hard work and persistence.
    Linzi recently posted…How to transform your annual leave in 2014My Profile

  14. Rhonda says:

    I get my son to read anything I’m a little unsure of. He has no problem telling it like it is! If he says I need to flesh something out, or if my argument is sound, or the tone sucks, or if it is good to go, I believe him because he hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

    I’m a freelance editor, and never tell my clients if their work is good or bad. But, I don’t lie to them either. If I see weaknesses, I let them know. Likewise, I point out their strengths. I just finished a substantial edit on a novel that needs many more months of work. And my client is willing to do the work. I absolutely love using my editing skills to help people get to the point where they can submit a piece of work and be proud of it.

    I think everybody has strengths and weaknesses in their writing. I would much rather ask people about those. Yes, it is still fairly subjective, but I find the feedback is much more useful.
    Rhonda recently posted…10 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Editor From Wanting to Strangle YouMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great point Rhonda — the thing is, no one can draw a general conclusion about your writing skill from one or two pieces of writing. But people do keep asking me to do that…no thanks!

  15. Amen to asking an editor!

    When I need feedback on my writing, I often ask my fiance to read things — he’s an impatient reader (so much so that he was misdiagnosed as dyslexic for a while!) and I know if he can read it through without getting confused or distracted, I’ve written it clearly enough for most people.

    When people come to me for a writing critique, I put my Editor hat on and tell them what I’d ask them to improve about *that* piece of writing if *I* were publishing it. It’s impossible for me to tell them whether they’re “a good writer” from one or two samples, and I can’t tell them exactly what their future clients will want from them either.

    The most important thing, as you said, is that we can always improve our writing, so a critique today is irrelevant in a couple of months’ time.
    Sophie Lizard recently posted…How to Find Time to Write a Book Even If You’re Busy BloggingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hopefully so! Here’s hoping writers are striving to improve. I know every year I wrote as a staffer I felt like I was light years beyond where I was a year prior. I think as long as you’re on that improvement train, you should feel confident your writing is going to work for some client somewhere.

      People don’t realize how unsophisticated a lot of clients are, especially small business clients. If you can make English sentences that are correct and grammatical it may be an improvement over what the owner would do!

      • Karen J says:

        Oh, Carol! LOL –
        I work for *that guy* (“If you can make English sentences that are correct and grammatical it may be an improvement over what the owner would do!”)!
        And I’ve talked to him about re-doing his copy. He keeps coming back to “We’ve already got (thousands of dollars worth of these) 4-c flyers and brochures (boring, redundant, boiler-plate, product fluff cut-n-paste) printed. I can’t (won’t) just throw ’em out…”
        Clearly, I have to be a better salesman, even before I become a better writer!

        Happy Turkey Day to you and yours! 🙂
        Karen J recently posted…Collected Drafts – Just Do It!My Profile

  16. Julie Davis says:

    A young violinist, visiting New york for the first time, jumped into a cab and asked the driver, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

    The driver replied “Practice, practice, practice.”

    But seriously. I spent four years writing a verry long novel. I knew it had to be edited because I felt like it was going all over the place, so I hired a professional editor. She gave me wonderful feed back and we continue to email each other. After many rejections, my novel was recently picked up by a small publishing house in Canada. I credit my editor with helping me shape my original manuscript.

    I also belong to a writers group. It took me a while to find one I felt comfortable with. The caveat to working with writers groups is that some member may have a migraine, or have had a bad day at work, or just doesn’t care for the type of fiction you write. So if one person doesn’t like what you’ve written and the others do, don’t take it personally. If *everybody* has a problem with something, then you might want to consider changing it.

    I’ve found that critiquing other people’s writing has also made me a better writer. I learn to give positive criticism, to look at the flow of the work. Plus my group is just plain fun to be with, rejoicing with those who rejoice and comforting those who’ve gotten their 60th rejection.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re lucky to have found a good feedback group, Julie!

      I was fortunate to start my writing life as a songwriter, where going to critique workshops is just part of the normal routine. Get used to getting feedback and improving. That’s all there is to it.

  17. Cinthia says:

    Well, I received more than enough feedback in graduate school and am still recovering from some of it years later, lol.
    When I first started writing features for a daily newspaper an editor took me under her wing (under her pen?) and taught me to eliminate unnecessary paragraphs and, more importantly, how and when to put my voice in a piece and when to leave it the heck alone and allow others to tell the story. An valuable lesson I still adhere to today.
    I presently belong to a professional writing group and we critique each other’s work plus turn to one another for editing advice.
    I think the most important lesson is learning to let go. Words are words and stories and stories and, trust me, the world will not end if an editor eliminates a paragraph or changes your oh-so-clever led.
    Cinthia recently posted…Monday motivation (or how I stay motivated during dark times)My Profile

    • Julie Davis says:

      Amen to that! I think one characteristic that makes a succesful (i.e. published) writer is persistence. You have to develop a bit of a thick skin and just keep submitting things.

      BTW, the first writers group I joined had three peeps who had just received their MFA degrees from a creative writing program. They didn’t know how to give positive feedback and ripped my stuff apart.

      Keep writinng!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good advice. You don’t want to be one of those prima donna writers who freaks out if they see a couple grafs got cut off the end of a story.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Very good post.

    I honestly think that you don’t have to be a GREAT writer when you get started. I think that you have to have a base level of talent, must love to write, must want to get better and must market your pants off. And you have to be willing to do what you said about getting feedback and incorporating it from editors. Honestly, I don’t think that writing ability is the reason that someone is successful or not.

    Five years ago, I had several writing friends. In all honesty, all of them were better writers than me. But five years later, I am by far the one earning the highest income (probably by 40K) and I have had many more impressive clips. And interestingly enough, I am probably now a better writer than they are because I have worked my tail off to improve.

    So, I would add that to your list of reasons why not to say if someone has what it takes in terms of writing… As long as you are a decent writer, writing ability is only a small part of what makes you successful.
    Jennifer recently posted…More than 40 Billion Reasons I am Thankful to Be a Content Marketing WriterMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I am SO glad you brought this up. The woods are full of mediocre writers making a full-time freelance living!

      If you don’t believe me, go down to your local Chamber of Commerce and get all the brochures. Take them home and read them. Awful, eh? Lots of substandard work, and plenty of room for a new writer with drive to make a place for themselves.

      And as you say, that often is the difference — willingness to market, not sheer writing talent. Plenty of super-talented writers out there earning nothing because they refuse to do anything to market their business.

  19. Willi Morris says:

    For some reason, my editors don’t give me a lot of specific feedback. But I have asked them pointed questions about why certain things were deleted and added.

    Recently an editor got additional quotes and changed half the story without telling me until after it was published. I was flabbergasted and have chosen not to work with that editor any more.

    But I’m going to assume that whenever I ask an editor if there’s anything they’d like additional clarification on or anything they need to change and I’ve almost always gotten, “No, it’s good,” it’s because I’m a super awesome writer, LOL.

    I get critiques from whoever my target audience is. I’m working on two ebooks that are quickie freebies, so I want feedback from the folks who will actually download it. When I finish my book on exes, I’ll try and invest in a pro editor, because I know that’s realiy important.

    Thanks, Carol!
    Willi Morris recently posted…Reader Q’s: “How Did You Find Your First Client?”My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I just got back a feature draft from a longtime client publication, and about half the piece was stuff I hadn’t written…a bunch of boring “be sure to ask about X” type blather that I thought turned it into a real dull read. Seemed to have gone through the legal department twice over or something.

      I just let it go. As you say, the decision is whether to write for them again.

      I have a post coming up about what writers are not given by clients…stay tuned for some tips on that.

  20. Jordan Clary says:

    I have a pool of people I go to depending on what I need. If I’m feeling crappy and want to hear how wonderful I am, my sister (my mother did too when she was alive) will soothe my ego and tell me I’m brilliant. I always set a time limit as to how long I’ll allow myself to believe it before I come back to reality and get to work. For the real stuff, though, I have a couple writer friends who I can always trust to be brutally honest. When they like something I consider it a real coup since they’ll also tell me when something needs to be ripped up and start over. The biggest thing though is I’ve had to learn to trust myself. When working on deadlines, you clearly can’t get feedback on every single thing you write, so you have to have some kind of internal editor that will help you do your best work even if you can’t get feedback on it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great points to add to my list — another reason to not get into the habit of ‘needing’ your work pre-reviewed before you turn it in is often, there won’t be time for that.

      But your “come back to reality” comment points up the other problem…ultimately, we often don’t believe these pieces of outside positive feedback from friends and relatives, anyway. Better to work on writing, find editors who will really give it to you straight, and keep listening to that inner voice that says, “I’m good at this. I love this. I should do more writing. I should make it my life’s work.”

  21. Carol

    I come across stacks of requests on LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities from people asking other members to critique their writing.

    Not only does this get on everyone’s nerves, it also shows no respect for other people’s valuable time.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…The common-sense way to edit your writing – without going overboardMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      The majority of the requests seem to be from ESL writers wondering if their English is good enough. And in about 90%+ of the cases, the answer is no.

      At this point I have a stock response that refers them to a few grammar books and suggests trying to write in their native language first while building their English skills. There are writing gigs everywhere, and newspapers and magazines and businesses in every language.

      • There’s a golden rule that all professional translators follow. That is you can translate from any number of source languages, but you should only ever translate the one way – into your mother tongue.

        I think that pretty well says it all about most non-English speaking writers.

        Mind you, Carol, I know of a couple of pretty hot blogs by writers from non-English speaking countries – but they are a very rare find.
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        • Carol Tice says:

          Exactly, Kevin. It’s sort of a moonshot, the people who can write for a living in a second language…but there a few. I bet you’re thinking of Bamidele Onibalusi…but Ed Gandia is another one, BTW…came to US at age 9 or so.

          But I’d say 99% of people do not have the drive to perfect their ESL to the point where it could be their living. It’s HARD.

  22. Kay says:

    My go-to and first request is always my mother. She gives it to me like it is and is great for bouncing ideas off of.

    I learned from experience that a lot (most?) of the people I know either don’t care enough to give feedback or will just tell me I’m fabulous either way.

    Since I published my first ebook I’ve (finally) started building my social media presence. So this time around I have a pool of fans/followers/like minds I can ask to beta read for me.

    As much as I enjoy your blog I find it strange that people randomly ask you to critique their writings for free 0_o

    I don’t know if it’s the money thing or the fact that they just shoot you manuscripts in an email like you’re buddies or something.

    I agree with what you said: “Good” writing is indeed subjective. I think as long as you cover the basics (grammar, storytelling, character development, etc.) someone somewhere will like it.
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    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh, that is just the beginning of what people email me wondering if I’ll drop everything and do for them without charge, Kay — read and blurb my book, total stranger! Please mentor me as I need help today…you name it.

      I think there’s something about blogging that makes you feel approachable.

      With the writing reviews, I think a lot of insecure writers are desperate for some sort of ‘official’ validation that they are good at this. They think if someone like me looks at an article they wrote and says, “Oh yeah, this is great!” then they will suddenly get a big confidence boost that will enable them to go for it.

      But it won’t happen, because that gnawing doubt is deep, deep within you. Soon the voices will start: “Maybe she was just saying that to be nice…”

      You have to believe you have something. That writing is your gift. No one else can help you feel it.

    • You’re unusually blessed to have a mother with the sense to give you honest feedback over unmitigated doting admiration. Just remember to keep her a secret from your editors: all the UDA mothers out there have made “my mother loved this” anathema to the publishing world’s ears. 🙂
      Katherine Swarts recently posted…Battling the Demons of UncertaintyMy Profile