Monday, January 30, 2012

Recognizing your own Writing Strengths

It’s easy to tell when something is written poorly. When revising our own work, a preposition out of place, a misspelled word, or a string of repetitive sentences can stand out to us like a glowing red stop sign, making it easy to slip into that “What was I thinking—my writing is HORRIBLE!” mindset. The stronger writing is often overlooked, left unacknowledged.

Sometimes it's easy to feel like this guy.
Writing, like film editing, is at it’s best when it doesn’t call attention to itself. The best movies are the ones that move from scene to scene without ever pulling you out of the action, without ever making you stop to question if that character was wearing that same hat a moment ago, or what happened to the cat that was lying in the sink a minute ago, or even what the significance of the cat lying in the sink was. Writing should do the same for readers.

But as writers, we should be able to identify this fluidity in our own works. Are our transitions smooth? Are we giving the reader enough to look at through imagery? Are we giving them enough to process through action, thoughts, or dialogue?

Good writing should be clear, communicative, and easy to read. But you probably already know that's harder to do than it sounds! If you’ve read over a few pages of your manuscript and found nothing but a few typos and an overuse of passive voice, you’ve done a surprisingly good job.

Because it's easy for even the best writers to have days of doubt, here’s a few signs of good writing that are often taken for granted:
  • A strong consistent voice/narration
  • Sentence variety
  • A sense of unity, a common theme or focus that the story doesn’t stray from
  • Subtle imagery
  • Literary devices that don’t call attention to themselves 
  • Emotionally charged scenes without the assistance of emotional adverbs (sadly, excitedly, etc)
  • Realistic dialogue
  • Realistic character development
  • Humor 
Any other advice on how to recognize the strengths of your own writing?


  1. I love that you talked about this. As a writer, it's easy to look at your own work and only see the glaring imperfections. It's important to see the good parts about your writing too! Thanks for the post!
    ~Sarah F.

    P.S. I love your blog title. :)

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you appreciated it :)

  2. That's a great list! And you're right, the strong bits do get overlooked.

    1. Thank you :) Yes, it's a shame, but often true.