“You don’t like Gordon Lightfoot?” I asked him.
“Not since he came out with the album ‘Get Ready, I Suck.’”
This was taken from an actual exchange from a few years ago, shared with you now to make the point that tastes can be highly subjective. However, as writers, I believe we have legitimate reason to question the quality of our own work. For the most part, ours is one of the few artforms that almost necessitates coming to fruition in isolation.
So, as we spend weeks, months or years birthing our masterpiece, it is a fair question to wonder if anyone outside the echo chamber of our own mind would see the merit in what we’ve created.
It’s a reasonable question, but not always an altogether fair one.
First, tastes are subjective. And trends are subject to changes in style and influence that can make or break a book’s success. Consider how popular A Handmaid’s Tale became after the trump election, or The Plot Against America, for that matter. Neither contemporary, but both found a resurgence of interest long after they were written. Your YA supernatural romance book about werewolves who ride motorcycles across country in an effort to raise money to cure a rare disease may get shuffled to the slush pile until said rare disease shows up in the headlines for some reason and becomes pertinent in the consciousness of the public.
Of course, a book that doesn’t take hold right away doesn’t suck, necessarily. But there could be some indicators that your writing needs some fine tuning. Here are a few steps you can take to help your first draft become the work of art you intend it to be.
1. Put it aside for a few weeks or months. After you complete your first draft, walk away. Come back to it later. You may discover things about your characters or plot that you didn’t see when you were too close to it for too long.
2. Enlist the help of Beta Readers. You can hire a service to distribute your book to Beta Readers, or test it among friends. A word of caution, some of your friends will always tell you your work is amazing. This is flattering but not helpful. Aim for specific feedback and empower your Beta Readers by asking them for specific forms of feedback.