You’ve written a story. It may have flowed easily from your pen, or it may have come in fits and starts. You have got it in front of you: on a laptop, a notebook or a piece of paper. Now what?
Leave it for 24 hours. Or 48, or for a reasonable amount of time. You want to lose the immediacy of having written the story and to have forgotten some of the details. Then read it through again, trying to read it as a reader rather than the author of the piece. You will pick up on annoying phrases, repeated words, spelling mistakes. Ignore them for the moment and read through the story as a whole. Jot down impressions, ideas. Did it all work or was the thinking behind it a little woolly?
Go through the story again and pick out the weak points. Mark them out. Check out discrepancies, spellings, grammar. On a computer this can be easy as most desk top publishing packages will help you pick out any glaring errors. Make sure that you are working in the correct language so that the spellings are correct as English and American spellings can vary.
Your story is as good as you can make it? Now what?
Some people are happy to leave it there and just keep their stories in a file on the computer or in a drawer. Others want to know: is it any good?
The easiest way to know is to ask someone else to read it through. Did I say ‘easy’? Actually that is one of the hardest things to do! We all own our writing and can be very sensitive about it. Choose someone you trust and who knows you well. You may find that they have something that they would like you to read as well. The main thing when critiquing someone else’s work is to be kind and gentle, but fair. It is a difficult thing to learn.
Another way to find out if your writing is any good is to join a local writing class or group. Many local colleges offer creative writing courses these days and it can be a good way to get to know people with similar interests and a way to have your stories read. It can be a real confidence booster when you come up with a story that everyone enjoys.
There are also online groups which allow you to post stories to be critiqued and to give you the opportunity to critique someone else’s story. Be warned, however that the anonymity offered by some of these sites can be seen as an opportunity to be blunt.
It is good to take risks. Sometimes the result is a pleasant surprise. If you want to get serious with your writing, then seeking others’ advice is a good way to take. It can be difficult to get your confidence at first, but can also become addictive.
Try showing someone else your writing today and add in the comments if you were brave enough to do so.