Thursday, 24 February 2011

Judging my own work

A couple of weeks ago, I put a story on AW's Share Your Work forum. The story (Bear) was just over 700 words long - probably the shortest story I've ever written. The feedback was all more or less positive. The issue that came up as needing improving/editing was shared by most of the people who read it, but overall, it was received very well.

I liked the story. It was creepy and the sort of short, sharp shock I wanted to write. And it was nice to get the job done in such a short piece. Last week, I added another short story (Snow In America) which was around 1800 words and a different style. Again, I liked it. I wouldn't have posted it if I didn't. This time, though, the feedback wasn't so great. If people had given it a rating, I'd probably be looking at a three out of ten. Four, if people were feeling kind. Nobody said it was utter crap and I should poke out my own eyes so I can't see to write anything as wretched again; the feeling was it just wasn't that great.

Here's the thing. I thought both were good enough to let others see. There's little point in a writer letting their work be read if it's not the best they can make it. So where did the problem come from? In what I wanted to show with this story (note, I didn't say what I wanted to say. I rarely want to say anything. Any themes and messages come out by themselves) and what the readers took from it? In the the basic tale? In the style I used? Was something lost between me having the idea, writing it and others reading it?

Stephen King wrote a particular story which was published in his collection Everything's Eventual. In the afterword, he mentions he wasn't too happy with it. This story then went on to win an award or two which King believes proves writers are often the worst judges of their own work. Given what happened with my story - sadly, the reverse of King's - I think he might be right.

Anyway, I'll give the story a tidy and sub to a publisher or two. If they don't like it, well, I'll put this one down to something getting lost in translation. And then I'll write another story.


  1. Absolutely I believe that few writers can properly judge their own work. I think we can have an idea of how decent we are as writers, but we can't tell exactly when we are 'on' or 'off'. I know I can't with my work, though I can judge other peoples' work with no problem.

  2. I usually have an idea when a story doesn't work as well as it could although sometimes working out exactly what the problem is...well, that's another matter.

  3. Yep. That's my problem...figuring out what the problem is. Excellent post.