Just like the action implied, this topic feels like quicksand beneath my feet.
See, I know I’m good at what I do. I feel it in my bones. Writing is familiar to me. It’s my comfort zone. So it follows that my story must be brilliant, right?
I hope so.
Even though I think I’ve got a wonderful story going that will appeal to a wide range of readers and (I hope) agents. But the rub lies in two words. I think.
Because in those words a fact is implied that can both help and harm us. We are biased when it comes to our own stories.
As such, can we truly be reliable in judging the quality of what we wrote?
No and yes.
No, because we love our story. Our characters become our friends. We spend an incredible amount of time on both. So asking one of us if our story is bad is like asking a mother if her child is ugly. There’s just not a chance of getting an objective answer.
Does that mean we are left blind? Not really. We can find ways around it.
I also look at aspects in isolation. If I look at the plot, I can realize that there are some problems. Or one of the characters might not be quite up to scratch. Or the voice gets wonky in some places. Those things I can catch. Just don’t ask me to give a definitive answer on the overall picture.
To get a better view on the general impression, I have crit partners. They catch the errors I miss (and I have a few big ones) and give me an idea what impressions the reader gets. I find that those opinions are golden, because 1) when something’s wrong, I’ll be told and 2) when something’s right, I get the validation of knowing that I got the right thoughts onto the page.
Still, when I get my critted work back, I go over the crit with a fine toothed comb as much as I do the writing. Because at the base of it, I have to get my story written, and crit partners are only sharing their opinions. I have to decide if those opinions are right or not.
I find that bit easier, though, because crits are like cold water thrown onto my face. Not always fun, but it does clear the mind. And in that clarity, I can look at my story and trust my instincts.
How do you find objectivity when it comes to your work?