Checking Your Work

Hello, Katy Lee here. I had such a fun time reading through the “best of the worst” first liners Susannah Hardy posted here on Thursday that it got me thinking.

What if you don’t know your work is bad? What if you think, “This is good stuff!” when it’s not? How is a writer to know for sure if they got it right?

Mathematicians have it so easy when it comes to checking their work. It’s either right or it’s wrong. There’s no in between. But there is no way to check your work when it comes to writing.

Or is there? Hmmm…So this is when I put on my trusty thinking hat, (you can read my post about all my hats here) and I set out to formulate a check list of do’s and don’ts and if’s and but’s.

DO’S:  Do care about your writing, because if you don’t the reader won’t. Style and content are important, but so are spelling and grammar. Readers are extremely quick to judge a writer’s mistakes. Come on, admit it. You’ve held a poorly written book in your hands at one time or another and didn’t hesitate to say so.

DON’TS:  Don’t take criticism personally. It’s not about you; it’s about your business. You’ve entrusted your work to another pair of eyes to pick up on things you missed or poorly clarified. Thank them for their honesty and go about clearing it up. It they’re confused, others will be too.

IF’S:  If criticisms begin to contradict each other, you may have the wrong readers. Choose readers that are familiar with your genre. If they say “I don’t get it” when everyone else does, it could be time for a change of eyes. But once again, thank them.

BUT’S:  But what if you still think your work is good after all this? The fact is you are the creator. You know how your writing needs to flow, grow, and show. In the end if your gut is still saying it’s good, and you have no lingering doubts in your mind about it, then send it out. Let the editors be the judge now.

The Unlocked Secret In the end, that checklist is really all about the DO’S. Do you care enough to get it right? Do you put your best foot forward? Do you take your business seriously? 

Aristotle knew “we are what we repeatedly DO.” Even Nike knows the road to self-improvement begins with…Just DOing It.

So, DO you have a certain way to check your work? DO tell!

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5 thoughts on “Checking Your Work”

  1. Great post Katy. I struggle with the whole – is my work good enough – thing all the time. I don’t want to be like a deluded American Idol contestant (but my Mommy says I sing great!), refusing to listen to constructive feedback or recognize when something isn’t working. My rule of thumb on feedback is – how many people are telling me the same thing? If more than one of my critique partners or beta readers highlights a problem, then I review and make changes. If I think something isn’t right, I ‘ve learned to go with my gut and try the scene another way.

    I do have a method for checking my work. It boils down to reading it several different ways (such as out loud, on paper). And now with my Nook, I create an e-Pub version and read it that way too. I find a lot of missing words, wrongs words or bad grammar just by looking at the manuscript in a different format.

  2. Enjoyable blog and it is important to check one’s work. I do check my work as well and I do think that it’s important. I recall a recent piece that I wrote where someone else had to post something for me as I had no experience with the program that was being used and she had experience though limited. This kind of thing can be problematic. If the person who is posting doesn’t know your work and is having difficulty with a program as well, things can go awry quickly. So, in my case, words had been eradicated, there were double and triple words used in the same areas that didn’t make sense, sentences were missing and the like. To wit: the post, in my opinion, was a mess. In this situation, for example, I spent a great deal of time trying to learn the program AND correct the innocent mistakes the person who was trying to be helpful had made. Unfortunately some people read the article and had no idea what the “behind the scenes” story was. Nonetheless, though it was too late to repair what some had read before corrections and probably presumed to be amateurish on my part, I still went in and corrected the writing. It was my piece and I couldn’t let it stay as it was and not as I had intended. I can look at this and say: I may have lost readers who have judged this one effort as poor and will say that all others are poor or I can know that is not true and find courage to keep going on in spite of their rashness. So, Katy Lee, your points are well taken. I am glad I reviewed my piece and will continue to do so but my advice to readers is to give people more of a chance as you may not have all the backstory. Maybe a writer will lose a publication once and maybe not. There is always another time, another publisher, and it is about having a thick skin and keeping it moving, isn’t it? Thanks for your post. It is most enlightening.

    Debralee Mede

    1. Oh man! Don’t even get me started about having someone else do something for me. You’ll put me into a panic attack! If you’re going to try that, I would say triple check your work. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your insight. I’ve been forwarned.

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