When I talk to writers, especially those who are just beginning to get their work out there in the world, one of the most common fears they have is “I’m not good enough.”
All too often, I find myself surprised that they can’t see the strength of their own words. But then I have to remind myself that we all go through these doubts – and sometimes, we have to conquer them again and again on our writing journey.
What about you – is your writing any good?
I’m going to give you seven big clues that tell whether or not your writing is good … even if you can say “Yes” to just one of these, then you’re definitely in the running.
And if you can get two or more – I’ve no doubt you’re well on your way to writing success.
Clue #1: You’ve Been Told You’re a Good Writer
Maybe your English teacher gave you an “A” on every essay. Perhaps you took a creative writing class in college, and impressed your tutor and peers. Or this could just be something as simple as friends saying how well you put words together.
If other people think you’re a good writer, there’s a very good chance that you are.
Try it: Show a piece of your writing to somebody – perhaps a fellow writer – and ask for their opinion. (I know this is scary, but it’s a great way to get some impartial feedback.)
Clue #2: You Can Look Back and See How Your Writing has Improved
When you go back to your folder of short stories / poems / blog posts, does it seem that what you’re writing today is better than what you were writing two years ago? (That could be in terms of big-picture issues like overall structure, or detailed issues like sentence construction.)
If so, you’re a good writer – or at least well on the way to becoming one.
Try it: If you’re a blogger, compare the first few posts on your blog to the more recent ones. Assuming you’ve been blogging for a while, you should be able to see the improvement.
Clue #3: You Have a Good Grasp of Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation
I firmly believe that grammar, spelling and punctuation are just part of what makes for a good piece of writing – but they are an important part. Don’t worry if you’ve not had much formal instruction in these areas: many great writers approach them in a more intuitive manner.
If you’re confident about these basics, there’s a strong chance you’re a good writer.
Try it: Look at a piece of your recent writing with an editorial eye – or ask a friend to edit it. See whether you spot many grammatical (or spelling, or punctuation) mistakes, or whether almost everything seems correct.
Clue #4: You Can Spot Sloppy Writing from Other People
Do you ever find yourself frowning at badly-written notices, or giving up on a novel after one too many clunky sentences or overblown metaphors? Having a good eye for bad writing usually means that your own writing skills are strong.
If you find it easy to spot mistakes or poor writing, you’re probably good at honing and polishing your own work.
Try it: Next time you come across a poorly-written article, web page, or short story, print it or photocopy it, and go through making editorial changes. You might surprise yourself with how much you can improve it!
Clue #5: You’ve Guest Posted on a Major Blog
Big, well-regarded blogs don’t just take guest posts from anyone. Landing a guest post on Write to Done, for instance, that’s a major achievement: Mary has high standards. The same goes for sites like Copyblogger and Men with Pens – and major websites outside the writing world, too.
If you’re a regular guest poster (on one blog or several) that’s another sign that your work is good: they wouldn’t welcome you back otherwise.
Try it: You don’t need to be a well-known blogger to guest post – in fact, you don’t even need to have a blog. Read these great tips from Mary and give guest posting a try.
Clue #6: You’ve Reached the Shortlist in a Competition
There are plenty of writing competitions out there, from major national ones to those run by writers’ circles. Many writing-related magazines have monthly competitions to enter. You might not win a prize on your first few attempts – but you may well reach the shortlist.
If you’ve been shortlisted in any competition, even a fairly small one, it’s a sign that your writing is good enough to impress the judges.
Try it: You can’t win – or get on the shortlist – if you don’t enter! Forget worries about how good the other entrants might be, and simply write the best piece you can.
Clue #7: You’ve Been Paid for Your Writing
This one’s the biggest clue of all. Editors, publishers and business owners don’t put their money on the line unless they’re confident about having a good result. While you might conceivably get a so-so guest post accepted out of luck, or make a small competition shortlist with a sub-par story, you’re not going to get paid for work that isn’t of a high standard.
If you’ve been paid for your writing – even if you’re not yet making a living from it – then you’re good enough to hold your own in the marketplace.
Try it: Consider pitching an article or submitting a short story to a magazine, or even setting up as a freelancer. Even if this just forms a side-income, it’s a powerful validation of you as a writer.
So … your turn! Have these clues helped you realize that, maybe, your writing really is good after all? Or do you have a different clue to recommend? Let us know in the comments!
Read this article next: How to Write Better – 7 Instant Fixes
From WTD contributor Ali Luke of Aliventures. Ali is a writer and writing/blogging coach. Her ebook The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing teaches you how to construct great blog posts, write for the web, edit your work, and develop your blogging voice. Click here to find out more.
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