How to Know When Your Writing Is Good Enough

At a writing workshop I taught, a participant asked, "How will I know when my writing is good enough?"

The answer is simple: You'll know your writing is good enough when you pass the test.

But that begs the question: What's the test?

How to Test Your Writing Skills

  1. Identify publications that exercise editorial discretion. That means that they say "yes" to writing they like and "no" to writing they don't. It means that they know what their readers want and that they find writers who can deliver it.
  2. Submit your short stories or topic-related nonfiction pieces to those publications. You should know who your ideal reader is and only submit or pitch to publications that your ideal reader might read. I've raised two children, but my focus isn't parenting; therefore, I don't submit parenting pieces to magazines even though I'm perfectly qualified to.
  3. If your work is consistently selected and published, it's good enough. If you're getting form rejections, it's not good enough.

The test is whether people who know good writing when they see it and understand the market (what readers want) select your work.

Automatic Fails

This is so easy, yet few writers will actually do it. They spend hundreds of hours bleeding over a book-length manuscript without ever testing their storytelling or persuasion chops.

Sure, some books don't become popular until after their author's death, so it's not quite fair to say that if a writer can't sell their writing that means their writing isn't good enough. But it's the best test there is, and if you test yourself early and often, you'll be a much happier and more confident writer.

If you don't test yourself and your work, you automatically fail.*

Pass The Big Test

If you've passed the test above, you're far more likely to pass The Big Test--submitting to literary agents and publishers or positioning your self-published book in front of book buyers.

You'll have developed the thick skin needed to succeed in business and the self-awareness to mature in your craft.

Submitting to publications that exercise editorial discretion is the single best thing you can do to build your writing resume, expand your platform, and reach your goals.


*Truthfully, if it was up to me, I'd eliminate much of the bottleneck in the traditional publishing industry by insisting that every aspiring author be able to show proof of having passed the test above. Furthermore, I believe that anyone marketing themselves as a professional editor should also have passed the test above.

Related: Who Is Your Ideal Reader, and Why Does Your Book Matter to Them?


Cristen Iris

CI Communication Strategies


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