Do You Know if your Writing Stinks?

Does Your Writing Stink?
By Diane Sears

Writers, notorious for being voracious readers, are naturally the best judges of writing. We know good writing when we see it, we know what keeps us reading, sometimes eagerly devouring the piece to the very end, and we know what makes our eyes glaze over. But when it comes to our own writing, why is it so hard for some of us to realize our own writing stinks?

If reputable places have published your work, you’re probably a good writer, but if you get more rejections than acceptances or if the sales of your self-published book are depressing, maybe your writing isn’t as good as you think.

How do you know if your writing stinks?

Here are a few warning signs that will let you know:

When you show your work to someone else and ask what they think, is there an uncomfortable moment of silence before they answer?

Do people read the online excerpt of your novel and leave without buying your book?

Is a rejection the only response you get from editors?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, that’s a BIG hint that your writing stinks.

Put a clothespin on your nose — we’re going in

It’s time to hunt for the sources of the stench in your lackluster piece so you can uncover the masterpiece hidden within.

Choose one of your manuscripts, put yourself in your reader’s shoes and look at it as if you were reading it for the first time.

If you’ve written a non-fiction article,

Does it have a strong, attention-getting title?
Does it open with a good hook that compels you to continue reading?
Does it use active words?
Does it flow sequentially from one point to the next?
Is it clear? Does it make sense?
Does it stay on topic?
Is the tone appropriate for the intended audience?
Does it have proper spelling and grammar?
Did it explain words and terms the reader might not be familiar with?
Does it end with a strong conclusion?
Did it deliver what the title and opening promised?
Did it answer any questions the reader might have on the topic? If not, rewrite it and go through this list again until it does.

If you’ve written a fiction piece,

Does the title fit the piece? Is it intriguing?
Does the opening paragraph pull you in?
Does it transition smoothly?
Are you compelled to continue reading it? Is it a page-turner?
Are there just enough details to let you “see” the story in your mind?
Did you care about any of the characters or what happened to them?
Did it have any abbreviations or terms the reader might not be familiar with?
Did it leave any loose ends that should have been tied up?
Did you lose yourself in the story or did you have to force yourself to keep reading?

If not, go over it and this list again. When you’re through, let someone else have a look before you send it out for the world to see. Resist the urge to show it to a friend or family member since the people closest to you are going to hold back their honest input to protect your feelings and avoid your wrath.

Since writers make good judges, the best feedback you can get is from other writers.

Send it to your writing buddy or join a critique group and let them pick it apart. Yes, it will wound your ego, but your manuscript will improve.

Just remember – they are not “attacking” you so don’t take their comments personally. They are pointing out the weak points in your piece and ways you can make it better. And don’t forget – you asked for their help.

How can you become a better writer?

Consider other people’s comments and suggestions. Take a class online or at a local college and get feedback from the instructor. Read books on the topics you have the most trouble with. After you’ve written a piece, let it rest, then go back through it again and be sure to read it out loud too. Rewrite your pieces again and again.

Above all, follow the golden rules for writers:

Read works in your genre every chance you get.

Write every day.

Turn even the stinkiest writing into sweet-smelling prose with some work and a little help from other writers.


Diane Sears is a freelance/business writer and owner of – the site with Ask The Editor,
Ask The Book Doctor, and more!

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