How Do I Know If My Writing Is Good?

When somebody asks for advice, their first question is never the one they REALLY want to ask.

This theory proved true in a conversation I had with someone who likes to write and is trying to figure out if a writing career would be a good fit for him.

His first question:

How “risky” is it to pursue a screenwriting career and will doing so lead him down a dangerous path?

I answered with two simple points.

  1. Writing doesn’t have to be risky. You can always pursue it while maintaining another job to pay the bills.
  2. It’s dangerous to ignore your passions.

Then, he got to the question that revealed his true concern.

“But…how do I know if I’m good?”

Here’s how I answered him…

You’re asking the wrong question.

Whether or not our writing is good is impossible to answer.

Because our writing will never be “good” or “not good.” It’s not a binary craft and there’s no singular moment when we magically become a “good” writer.

Our writing is forever a work-in-progress through which we improve and hone our voice.

It’s subjective. Many people think Stephen King is good, but others disagree. Writing isn’t math — there’s no definitive answer.

Since we can’t ever know if we’re good or not, it’s an unproductive question.

But I’ll answer the question anyway…

Unless you’ve worked at something for a long time (10,000 hours maybe?), you’re not “good” at it yet.

A literary agent once told me when writers approach him looking for representation, the first thing he asks is how many screenplays they’ve written.

If they say less than 10, he refuses to read their script.

Because he knows if they haven’t written a lot of scripts, they can’t possibly be as good as if they had.

Writing is a craft where improvement is guaranteed. No matter where you start, your 10th creation will be better than your first.

Natural ability is great, but the true foundation of a writing career is a willingness to put in the necessary work to improve.

So rather than worry about if your writing is good, focus on whether your writing is getting better.

That’s the quickest way to get where you want to go.