How Do I Know If I’m A Good Writer?

I got an email recently from someone
whose pen name is Angel Natari and they asked how do I know if I’m a good writer
or not? and my answer is well really in my opinion your own appraisal of your
skill level isn’t actually that important. I suppose if you do want to
answer the question am i a good writer or not then you need
to define your terms: what is a good writer? what does the phrase good writer
mean to you? is it someone who can write something that is clear and
understandable? is it someone who can give you terrible feels? is it someone
who uses correct spelling and grammar and punctuation? is it someone who can
plot an intricate arc? is it someone who creates believable characters? is it
someone who is a published author? is it all of these or none of them or
something else entirely? the thing is the way to know if you’re
good at writing or good at any of the things I just mentioned is to write some
stuff and then see what feedback people give you on it. and it’s always better if
they give you that feedback off their own bat rather than you pigeon holing
your friends and going: so is it good it’s good right? bear in mind that you’re
going for quality over quantity when we’re talking about good reviews three
people in a small fandom who specifically say that your character
work is on point is better than 50 people in a large fandom who tell you
that your work is awesome but don’t tell you why. the harsh truth of it is most
people me included are not particularly good at writing and most people are also
not particularly good at pinpointing what is wrong with bad writing though
I’ll be honest the second one is slightly easier than the first because
poking holes in something that already exists is much easier than staring at a
blank page and going well what now? of course whether or not you think you’re a
good writer it’s always good to strive to improve your writing so here are some
tips on how to do that. I’ve said before that if you want to be
a better writer you need to practice writing and you need to practice in a
way that expands your skills rather than just writing the same story over and
over again so you need a base of knowledge which is best picked up by
reading a lot and reading a lot of different things and asking yourself do
I like this why or why not what is good what is bad what are the features of
this style that I would emulate if I were trying to write in the style
can I try writing in this style to see if it works for me and then trying it if you ask someone to critique your work
then bad spelling punctuation and grammar tend to be the things that they
pick up on first so always reread your work to check for
typos and if possible read it out loud a proofreader can be really helpful
because if you want other people to evaluate your story typos are like
surface rust on a car it’s possible to look past surface rust and figure out if
the car is structurally sound but a lot of people are just going to pass on it
and go no I’m not going to bother to buy this car or read this fanfic and that
deprives you of potentially insightful feedback and insightful feedback is what
you really need in order to improve if you’re not quite ready to release
your story to the general public but you’d still like feedback along those
lines then what you need is a beta reader beta readers may well pick up on
spelling punctuation and grammar but they will also say things like your
characters are samey or your prose is so sparse that we can’t really picture
what’s going on or your prose is so flowery that it obscures all meaning or
this character is acting very strangely and against the established canon
if you’re writing fanfic a good beta reader is someone who knows the fandom
who is willing to be brutally honest with you and who is a good enough writer
to figure out what is good and what is bad about your story and then tell you
good beta readers you may imagine are worth their weight in gold I highly
recommend having a beta reader or at the very least having a group of friends who
you can show your work to before you release it to the general public to say
so what do you think I could improve here but that’s only going to work if
they’re willing to be brutally honest with you
as I said at the beginning your opinion of your writing is not the most
important one obviously you need to have a level of self confidence that is
sufficient to allow you to put your work out into the public sphere but beyond
that it’s really more important what your readers think of your writing or
potential publishers think if your writing or potential agents think of
your writing and unfortunately the only way to know whether or not you’re a good
enough writer to be published is to try and get something published but whether
your goal is writing fanfic or being published or just being better remember
honest feedback from people who know what they’re talking about is the key to
being better good luck

27 thoughts on “How Do I Know If I’m A Good Writer?

  1. As someone who has recently been transitioning from casual fanfiction writing to, actual professional work I hope to get published, I feel like adding in the maxim, all writing is re-writing. Especially for those who want to go professional, then it's probably best to give your draft a couple of days, and go back and edit it yourself, and by edit I don't just mean typos, I mean large scale things. Rarely is a first draft really that good. Your story may change substantially, but that's a good thing. And the time you spent on the first draft wasn't wasted. The more time you write, the better a writer you'll be, and even professional writers don't tend to make their best work until later into their careers writing.

  2. The point about "not everyone being able to look at bad writing and pinpoint what's wrong" is something I've learnt the hard way. Even the most creative and talented people you know don't always have the critical thinking to assess why something might be good or bad. I had embarrassing experiences where some of my more creative friends looked at my work and weren't always able to articulate how it could be improved, they might as well have just told me to stick to the daytime job. A lot of improvements I made came from really going over the draft to see what works and what doesn't.

  3. I know that my writing is very mechanical and factual. There isn't much depth to it. It's something that I have been working on, to add layers of emotion and nuance to my stories, but so far it hasn't worked very well, and my stories suffer for it. But I persist. Maybe some day they will get better and I will try to publish something more than a cheap smut story, but I am not there yet.

  4. To everyone regarding feedback, sometimes negative feedback can be a good thing, it gives you something to improve on. In a story I am still working on a friend of mine told pointed out that one aspect of a main character made no sense. The result was adding a minor character who was able to give the main character more of a back story and also set up future plot point relating to both characters and the rest of plot.

  5. As someone trying to start out as a writer, this is something I wonder about as well. I've been posting my work online for a while now and have gotten a good mix of feedback often decently in depth. I've also tried to give feedback on other people's work as a way to figure out my tastes in more detail. I'm not sure I totally agree that someone's opinion of their own work isn't so important. The reason I say this is that for any work (once you're past the stage where you're writing is legible and coherent) there's not such a thing as objective quality, so you'll get people who will argue in any direction for all aspects of your work. For example, a lot of what I write is fairly strange and personal as well as being based in a fair few niche sensibilities (I'm trying to use different scientific concepts as metaphore/ allegories for emotional issues) and I'm making choices that have proven polarising. I think it's important to acknowledge that you'll only have any confidence that someone else will like your work you have the potential to like (I'd struggle to tell a good and bad sports narrative apart). In those cases it helps to have a sense of self, because they'll be people who tell you your work isn't good, or suggest changes that don't fit what you want to do. I think writing is as much about refining your own tastes so you get your own work closer to how you want it as it is about meeting other people's standards. Much like how there aren't bad jokes, there isn't bad writing really, human tastes are too diverse for you not to have an audience somewhere. So it's about being a writer you'd like to read and finding people who agree. So get out there.

  6. Both writing for and working on my school's lit mag helped a lot. I got honest feedback and had the space to improve. So I recommend participating in a group like this if available to y'all

  7. Cool video Perhaps this goes against the profile of this channel (and it is), but I'm interested in the following question: what can you apply these very tips for drawing (not necessarily fanfix) and determine how much work – in this case, the illustration in the comic style has a chance for commercial use and where it is better to turn to determine your artistic level to get an adequate grade. Whether these same methods are appropriate or need to look for other ways to maximize the objective assessment of creativity. It would be nice to know where it can be done. But it's strange to write when the comments are almost never read. Thank you all the same. Good video. Good luck.

  8. You'll basically hate anything you write by the time you are done with it.
    All of the ideas will be played out to you, because you will have thought of them continuously.
    All of the jokes will be bland, because you'll have read them too many times.
    You will be tired from typing out the same names over and over, to say nothing of the word "said".

    Knuckle down.

  9. I'm trying to write. Advice I give myself is to not ask "so what happens next" about the story. This pulls from memory so you just write what you've read. Focus on the feeling you want to convey from the scene and write that. The feeling usually comes from the char's current emotional state.
    So, know your chars, know how they feel, express that feeling with the words they would use, and continue your story by working through that feeling to whatever comes next.

  10. One thing that helps me is using a good text-to-speech, a computer will point out every mistake indicate that you are not properly punctuating. Also, you have the story read to you helps very much.

  11. The whole TLJ flame war and Black panther's automatic 100% on RT makes me think people simply choose in advance what writing they are going to like and stick to it. Purely based on the politics of the writers. I'm sad that i will no longer be allowed to like Tarantino movies now…or be CAST OUT OF POLITE SOCIETY.

  12. Steven Pinker has a book called "The Sense of Style", which goes into tricks for clear writing and the cognitive background to why those tricks work. Although it's mostly aimed at technical writing, it contains tips for all authors.

  13. "Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
    – Mark Twain

  14. Why do some people base their opinions on movies on the opinions of critics/reviewers? What I mean is, why do some people read who read movie reviews decide that IF the review is bad they WON'T go see the movie and IF it's good they WILL?

  15. I personally find the question "Am I a good writer?" useless. A more useful question is "Is this particular piece of my writing good? Does it get across what I wanted to get across?"

    With that in mind, I disagree with the statement that the best thing you can have is a beta: The best thing you can have is multiple betas. I say this because I found that my usual betas for a fic I wrote recently think too similarly to the way I think. I have a usual partnership with Sophie, by which we beta each other's fics; the problem arose when I wrote a sequel to one of hers. Where she had slipped in a single line about an experience in a character's backstory that was rather blatant but easy to miss being a single line, I chose to write a conversation between two other characters about him, extending it into several paragraphs, but never explicitly saying what it was they were talking about. Sophie picked up on what I'd done right away, because we had similar thoughts on this character and his experiences in and outside of canon.

    Knowing this, I passed it on to someone else I often share my work with, Rose. I told her I was doing something subtle with the dialogue and wanted to see if I had gone too subtle or too straightforward, and wanted to know what she picked up from it. She told me she didn't pick up on anything. To her, what I was trying to do was so straightforward and obvious that I would write it, that she had gone in looking for it, and thought the subtlety that I had asked her to look for was something else entirely (it wasn't, the conversation only had 2 layers, not 3).

    So I had another friend, who has never previously read my fics, in particular not for this fandom, read it. She didn't pick up on what I was trying to do at all, and indicated a third layer that I hadn't considered. Eventually I decided I was fine leaving it up to the reader to find the layers themselves and posted it.

    So when you have someone beta, you want someone who has a similar enough thought process to understand where you're coming from, but different enough that they don't automatically go there themselves. Or, you want three betas.

  16. I love when people talk about beta readers because 1. you can usually tell when a fic hasn't had one and it's rough and 2. My mom has been beta reading since the days of Livejournal and she absolutely loves doing it.

  17. Beta readers are great, when you can get them. I would recommend that any writer starting out find a writer’s group that meets regularly where you take turns reading your stuff out loud and critiquing each other. I can recommend a very good writer’s organization that is inexpensive and sponsors an annual writer’s conference and contest where professional writers and editors give workshops. This is the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Incorporated, their contest allows published and unpublished authors a chance to have their work critiqued and useful and kind feedback. You don’t have to be from Oklahoma. We get writer’s from Denmark, Canada, and all over. Another word of advice is to persevere. If you are serious about writing then write! Every day. Take a chance and send your stuff out there. If you get feedback and you don’t like it, don’t take it personally think about it objectively and if the critic was right they will help you make your book or story or article better. And write. After all, you don’t have to be the best writer in the world. Just be a published writer. And to be published you write and you send it out. You get lots and lots of rejection letters. You most likely will not be as famous and rich as JK Rowling or Stephen King, but who knows? You may be. And if you love it, and enjoy writing. I always say, everyone has at least one fantastic story in them, if not more. Good luck.

  18. Grammar and punctuation, that’s a plus for me. Grammar is a wonderful weapon when used correctly.
    It was fabulous to meet you at VidCon.

  19. I actually just got into writing and I'm currently busy with a basic creative writing course. I've gotten the marks for the first module and luckily I did great, however it quickly became clear to me that some people are just better or worse at writing certain things, for example, one of my assignments was writing a short action scene involving a woman getting her purse stolen, I got 8 marks out of 12 for the thing, it was the only assignment I lost more than a point or two on. The next assignment was writing a short scene that's very descriptive, with a more relaxed feeling, I got full marks for it because it turns out I'm really good at writing descriptive and emotional scenes, but I suck at writing quick dynamic action scenes.
    Moral of the story, always try to improve what your bad at, but learn to accept that some things just wont come naturally to you.

  20. Hi Jill
    Jerry here.

    I'm currently working on my very first book, a non-fiction book about Disney movies and I've decided to Beta some of the chapters to close friends (mainly those of whom that I know are writers themselves). I noticed that if give them a chapter that has not been proofread than the bad grammar and spelling are all they focus on. If I have proofread it, they have very little to say. I'm not exactly sure what that says about my writing.

  21. I have become a better writer by learning from very good editors. Over the years I have learned that editing which once angered me because I felt it defaced my masterpieces actually was constructive criticism, and a gift to me.

  22. I'm a relative novice, in the middle of writing my first novel, but what you're saying is entirely in line with everything I've learned from more experienced writers or picked up on my own. My beta readers from local writers groups are, by the way, almost embarrassingly enthusiastic about my work (as were my teachers in school) and I feel rather confident that I will be published when my novel is done. Wish me luck, please!

  23. Beeta.

    Just teasing. For me, the feeling of being a good writer was when I got published the reviews were positive in the majority.

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