Quality Control?

My question for you all is how do you decide if your writing is at a decent level or quality by yourself?

I've been trying unsuccessfully to begin my first web serial, and have been unhappy with what I've produced. I popped out about five chapters, and decided it was all pretty bad in retrospect. And again I'm restarting. I've been writing in my head, and actively restarting on and off for about three years.

When you write do you just push it out regardless of how you feel about it sometimes? Or is it just a matter of practice?

I'm nothing and nobody, but I feel like the answer you're going to get is going to be a mixture of the two.

You need to push through. Everyone who ever did anything did it bad at some point. If they just quit and restarted at every bad sentence or whatever it was then Stephen King would have one novel published instead of the absurd number he currently does and George R.R. Martin would probably be about where he is now. ; )

However, I suspect you're also going to be told to refine after you've written as I've seen that quite a bit around the internet. Write, churn out crap, refine it, realize it's still crap, tuck it away, write something new and repeat ad infinitum until you're good. Obviously it's more complicated than that, but that's the basic gist of the advice I see pretty much everywhere.

Let me tell you a secret: everybody sucks for a little bit. Just keep practicing until you improve, and once you improve to the point that you can't make yourself any better, get other people in on the hate-fest of your writing. Eventually, you'll get better. And as for thinking your own writing sucks, you'd be surprised how many people think that about themselves. Stephen King thinks he's garbage, and yet, he's one of the best-selling authors of the past fifty years. Just edit it until you think it's better than it was, and then edit some more, and you'll get there.

Back when I started, I had no idea how bad my writing was because English isn't my first language. It all sounded pretty good to me, which was a blessing because I was able to go on and on without second guessing myself. 200K or so words later I re-read the earlier chapters and nearly fell off my chair. The writing was SO BAD. (Note: this was before many edits, only a few people ever saw the old version).

So, my advice is... don't read what you've written. At all. If you don't read it, you can't second guess yourself. Just keep going until you've completed a good chunk of your story. There's no better way to improve than practice.

At some point, you just have to post stuff. Get it out there. Otherwise, you'll stay stuck on the beginning forever. Or find ways to turn what you have into something more viable. The more writing you do, especially as you proceed forward, the more you'll start to get used to process and start figuring out what works better as you go. You can always go back and fix what was broken once your skills are better sharpened.

Well, I always start here, with this reminder: http://zenpencils.com/comic/90-ira-glass-advice-for-beginners/

Next... start throwing your writing to the wolves, hard. This takes time and work. Seek out critique. Seek out *tough* critique. Reciprocate it when asked. There are critique circles out there if you look, but you must look.

You must seek.

And you must love your words enough to throw them to those wolves and say "Kill those wolves. Slay them. Or come back with scars that make you stronger."

I've been writing professionally for a long time. First publishing contract in high school. I was terrible then. I was terrible a year ago. I was terrible yesterday.

But I fail better, every time. I don't worry about success, I worry about making sure that I learn from my current failure, my next failure, and my next.

I want to fail and keep on failing until I fail so well other people can never tell it from success. I want to (and have) fail so hard and well that *I* can't tell it from success. (At least until six months down the road, when I see how I could have failed better.)

Over and over again, I seek that. I am always learning, always seeking out tough critique, always looking not for the people who'll just pat me on the head and say "Good job!" but the people who frown thoughtfully and say: "Hm. What about this, over here?"


I tell fellow writers, that I try to keep a stable of feral and savage beta readers. People unafraid to tell you when you suck, but also willing to put in the time to tell you *how* you sucked. It's from them that I learn. It's from them that I get better.

In closing: Take the training wheels off, get your knees and ego scraped and bumped. And keep throwing your words to the wolves until they're badass motherfucking wolf-slayers.

(THEN throw them to the dragons.)

Repeat after me: the first draft is always crap. That's just life, and doesn't mean you're a bad writer.

In my writing process, I write things out on paper before typing them up, and the story undergoes major rewording and edits as I type it up, so I never publish anything less refined than a second draft. I've tried writing directly on the computer, and while the results are sometimes passable, it's never quite as good. There's something about completely rewriting every sentence that gives you the freedom to get things just right compared to staring at a word document and looking for things to change.

What you do when unsatisfied with your writing also depends a lot on why exactly you're unsatisfied with it. Can you identify a particular skill that you're lacking? It might be that the scenes you write don't exactly portray what you imagine in your mind, or that your characters don't feel real enough, or you wording is awkward. If you can identify areas you want to improve, you can go ahead and work on them by asking for advice, simply keeping the weaknesses in mind while writing, reading authors who are particularly strong in that area, etc. If you just have a vague sense of general dissatisfaction, it would be a good idea to post your writing somewhere and let fresh eyes point out what could be improved.

I'm a perfectionist, so I personally don't post things online while they're at the 'I know this sucks; please rip it to bits so I can learn' stage, and I'm not afraid to delete entire chapters and rework them if the story is going the wrong way. From my experience talking with other writers, most people appreciate having a lot more feedback than I work with. It really depends on your personal style and ability to analyze your own writing, and I would suggest you try different things until you figure out what works best for you.

If you're doing this seriously then you're at a level where your writing is at the very least serviceable. I think a lot of people forget that often the worst written work are the ones with the least heart and effort put into them. If your heart's in the work than at it will at least connect with people on some degree, even if it isn't 10/10 amazing.

As someone who is also trying to start a web serial, and has gone through 3 different stories in the past few months, I feel for ya, but sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet.

Always finish what you start.

You need to learn how to do that before most of everything. Restarting over and over again is just a vicious cycle. You don't learn anything from it. You'll never finish anything. And it's hard to decide the quality of your work when you don't finish it. You can decide if a story is worth editing and pursuing further when you have it complete in front of you.

Writing just a couple of chapters of a rough draft and calling it crap isn't what you shouldn't be doing. All 1st drafts are bad. I don't even post on a first draft. I have pre-write everything first, edit in who knows how many rounds before I get to the point I'm willing to post it. Guess what, it's still not perfect, and that's something you need to accept.

I recommend you do a few practice stories before you jump into a project like a web serial just because you're having issues with completing what you start. I mean once you finish a few, you start to realize this isn't so bad. Your start to form a writing process. You start learning. You learn how to write by writing and reading. A lot of reading actually.

Your first million words will be awful. After that, just focus on finishing something. Then, after giving yourself some space from it, go back, read it through, and rewrite it. Repeat... until a point, because you'll never be 100% happy with it.

How you adapt this to writing a webserial is up to you. Some people post their first drafts, and you might feel pressure to put out a certain amount to keep up with others. Don't. Do what you find most comfortable. If that means ten chapters a year, find a way to make that work. And remember that it gets easier with experience.

So I kind of both agree and disagree with some of what is being said.

I wrote for a long time and never shared anything I wrote. My first serious attempt at writing something marketable resulted in failure and it was really disappointing.

"Good," and, "could I sell this" are often two very different metrics.

I scrapped that first project at about 35k words and I'm glad I did. As a writing exercise, I started just discovery writing my current series and, well, it was super fun!

I immediately knew I had a winner on my hands.

I think writing commercially is kind of like relationships. If it's difficult, you can make it work... but I don't think it has to be that way.

Keep in mind that writing is actually 2 skills. Storytelling and Craft. e.g. what you write and how you write it. Storytelling you can pick up from lots of places. Reading alot, playing RPG or natural talent. The craft is what's going to take time to master and to find your own voice.

I would suggest against going the hard critique route until after you have a strong grounding. If you go into that realm too early it can be counterproductive. There are people out there, especially on the internet, who can really beat you up and demoralize you, because most of the time they are still learning themselves and have no real training on how to give feedback constructively, or coaching and can give you all kinds of conflicting and bad advice. Iron sharpens iron, yes. But make sure you're iron first and make sure they are too.

To start off with, I'd suggest investing in a writing clinic where you can learn from professionals on the do's and don't s of commercial fiction. Then you can go hit the gym with the critique groups and fine tune your craftwork. Also try writing in a environment where you can garner feedback quickly, like Royal Road or a fanfic site as you probably wont get much feedback from a standalone site for a while.

That's my $0.02!

Just to mention something that I don't think has been yet - where you start writing and the actual start of your story might be different. Maybe part of the reason you're "unhappy with what you produced" is that nothing interesting enough was happening for you. Or the reverse, too much was happening without context. Thing is, until you write more of the story, it's hard to decide "Yeah, the real start is entry 10, that other stuff is pointless (or better in a flashback)"... or "I should have explained what happened a week ago at the start". The world probably isn't developed enough in five entries (depending on length) to have that sense of things. I agree with LadyAnder in that sense, complete something, even if you're not happy with it, so you can analyze better.

Stories are different too... I've been messing with my time travel story for 15 years, and it was almost a whim that had me start posting it. My "Epsilon" works are written on audience votes, so there's no way to AVOID pushing it out as I write. (Though I write in text files, then re-read as I post; I can catch a majority of major errors.) Now, I would *SO* have done Story1 differently (in part because it's classified as fanfic due to world borrowing, oops) but I didn't. Still, once something is out for me, I keep it there. Or have to this point anyway.

Quality is also in the eye of the beholder, and the more you do anything, the more perspective you have on it. Get it out of your head and onto the screen! All the best!