Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to know if your writing really DOES stink...

In my last alley post, we chatted about the insecurity of thinking our writing stinks.

Comparison can be EVIL.


Let's face it.

We aren't perfect.

There are times when we write something would make Charles Dickens want to give up writing so he doesn't have to share the title of "writer" with someone who writes such drivel.

But how do we know? How do we know our precious gems, which we've worked so hard on, which we already have such anxiety and doubts about, really is crap and needs to be rewritten or completely deleted and never, ever, ever, ever, ever resurrected?

Here are a few tips from my personal experiences. Because I've written some doosies in my time, let me tell you.

1.) Crit partners are your friend. Get someone else's opinion. Still not sure? Find a few writer friends you trust to tell you the TRUTH and see if more than one picks up on it.

2.) DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER. Ever. Only see her when you're suffering from the "my writing stinks and I need to just quit right now" syndrome. This could apply to any family member who knows nothing about writing but is just in awe of the idea of you writing a book.

3.) Cut the part in question... paste it into a different document... write something different. Is it better? Then WOOT! Is it worse? Maybe the original wasn't as bad as you feared... It might not always work, but sometimes a different perspective on what it could be helps bring you full circle.

4.) Enter writing contests. Oh, I know. Contests are hard. I've had my own personal love/hate relationship with them. Half of the feedback is, "OHMAGOSH why aren't you published????" And the other half is, "Why in the world are you writing at all???" Somewhere in the middle is probably around the truth. But if you're getting 3 low scores... or 2 low scores and one medium score? Then you probably need to grab a few more craft books and keep trying. But if you're getting two good scores and one crap score? Well, someone might have a case of sour grapes or red-pen-itus.

5.) Do you break all the rules? You know those things that are really guidelines because they are breakable all the time? No adverbs.... no "feels" word... show don't tell... YES... they are guidelines. They are not hard fast rules, because we do need an -ly word every now and again. And somethings just need to be told and moved on. But are you breaking the rules A LOT? Are you constantly justifying your rule breakage as "okay" because it's a guideline? Then your writing probably is suffering.

*note* If you're looking at me, jaw dropped, and being all like, "WHAT?? We can't use adverbs?? There are.... RULES?" Then you probably need to do a pretty good sized edit as well after you've brushed up on those guidelines.

6.) Put it aside. Wait a week. A month. Or heck, even a year or more if you're still in the early stages of your writing journey. Then bring that puppy back out and see what you think. Time tends to let the dirt, if it's there, settle to top. Then it's much easier to vacuum up:-)

And my last note on how to tell that your writing stinks...

You know that rough draft? That draft you've slaved over for weeks/months/years depending on your writing speed?


You can pretty much assume that it stinks like rotten eggs and needs to be edited. I've found, at least for me, if I go into editing knowing that I'll have to use some Lysol and Bleach, that I'm better prepared and am more likely to find the stinky spots instead of being surrounded by a load of Air freshener that just masks the nastiness.

On that BRIGHT note...

How do YOU know when your writing is less than stellar---when it's time to keep editing instead of submitting?

Have you ever written something that you decided was too stinky to be deodorized? Where you able to move forward without too many tears or were you relieved to be able to finally take off the nose plugs?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance . She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner.


Mary Vee Writer said...

I am on edit number 5 billion in my story. This current edit is based on contest judge comments. I am so ready to listen to what the person said, it was filled with sound advice that is causing me to dump whole chapters, insert one that needs to be there. Yeah. This is so much fun because my story is really sounding good.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Haha! Oh I love this post! And I love your signature wit! Great tips here! I think having a solid and dependable crit partner is one if the best things you can do to improve your writing. Feedback is critical!

Pepper said...

One word (well actually two):

You guys are great at giving solid advice from a writer's POV. LOVE your input!

The 'mom' suggestion cracked me up. My mom would NOT be that way. She already thinks I'm WAY too PG-13 for any good Christian girl ;-)

I love the 'take a break' advice. That's helped me a lot in my stinky frustrations. Some times, there's a good solid reason for the stench. Other times, it's smells like 'smoke' meant to discourage us.

LOVE this, Krista!!

Krista Phillips said...

Mary, I'm on edit #5 billion too, probably!!

And i LOVE your good attitude about it!!! Deleting whole chapters is HARD WORK!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Amy, AGREED! I've gone through a lot different "crit" situations, and it's amazing that they've been perfect for me at each stage of my writing journey.

Now, I have a crit parnter (waving at previous alleycat Sarah) and it works super perfect for us!

And she definitely points out the smelly spots!

Krista Phillips said...


Absolutely! Love me some alleycats.

While I joke about the mom thing, Mine has been a bit, uh, honest, from time to time too.But she still thinks I'm the best writer ever so her opinion is still super jaded:-)

And yes... sometimes we may THINK there is a stench coming from our writing... when we realize we just forgot to brush our teeth that morning instead. WHOOPS:-) :-)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Krista, I love your humor. :) What a great post! The one about cutting out the part in question and experimenting/re-writing was a good thought.

And my mom? Yeah, she likes my writing, but she always has suggestions to make it better too.

Super post today!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Haha, I love your sense of humor.

Sometimes you have a family member that actually can edit your stuff well, but that can be hard too. My hubby is actually probably one of my hardest "critters" so I can't always go to him. He listens to the writing audios with me and oh man, there's that phrase from 2 years ago that he keeps bringing up as what a "bad line" it was. Good thing I love him. Its a mixed blessing, for those that have hubbies that don't get your writing, there's two sides to the coin :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

BTW, he is totally Ok with me saying what I just did. ;)

Angela said...

Thanks for the great post Krista. I'll have to try some of your tips.

Ashley Clark said...

Krista, this is a great post for learning how to cope with criticism and see our writing where it really stands. I really liked what you said about putting a scene aside and trying a new version!

Krista Phillips said...

Jeanne, LOL! I guess maybe we all have pretty tough moms, ha ha!

Krista Phillips said...


My hubby teeters. Most of the time he just nodds and says, "That's good."

Sometimes he offers feedback, and I listen, because I think he only does it when it is REALLY rank.

And occasionally he'll be like, "WOW. That's perfect, Krista." Usually at a favorite line or something, but I know that it's good when he says something super praise worthy, because he is a man of few words!

Krista Phillips said...

Angela, you're welcome! THANKS for stopping by!!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Ashley, that is actually where the idea for this comes.

SO many times I hear writers (including myself) giving each other advice after contest entries of "taking it with a grain of salt" or "What does that judge know, your writing is AWESOME."

And while encouragement is DEFINITELY needed, I'm sitting back lately and realizing how important it is to really take a hard look at criticism and see any truth in it. It's the only way to get better!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I love tip number 3! Cut the part and paste it somewhere else, then rewrite and compare the two. That is gold advice! So much easier to swallow than pressing "delete". And chances are, take two will probably be better anyway.