The Best Judge of Your Work


by Raymond M. Coulombe

You are probably not the best judge of your own work. Having a good group of early readers is a treasure. You need people who are willing to wade though the early versions. They also have to be willing to give more feedback than, “I liked it.”

They also have to say what they don’t like about something and why. Most of us eventually find people who’ll do this service for us. If you can get good help to read your stuff, that’s a wonder. If they’ll do it for free, you probably married them.

There is a way to get knowledgeable people to read and critique your work. (without having to marry an English Major) It has a cost though. You have to read their stuff too. What I’m talking about is having a good writers’ group. Writing, by its very nature, is a solitary pursuit. Being part of a group that regularly meets makes it somewhat less so.

We know what we meant. We know the our story. Sometimes -often really -it doesn’t make it to the written page. What is obvious to the writer can be opaque to the reader. That’s what good early readers can pick up on.

They also can pick up some amazing things that writers are blind to. Sure, we all skip over missing words, wrong word usage, and misspellings. Writers can also do things like change the name of a major character halfway though the story. The reader is left wondering where this Joe guy came from, and what happened to Jim?

So join a writers’ group, but before you do, grow a thick skin. No one is going to be willing to give you honest criticism is you keep punching them in the nose. Remember, they are doing you a favor. When you critique their writing, be honest, but kind. It will also keep you from getting punched in the nose.

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