Two tests of writing quality

Personally, I have no problems with being objective about the quality of my fiction writing – it’s plain to see, even to its creator, that it’s bloody dreadful.

However, it’s a little more difficult for people further down the path of storywriting craftspersonship to assess their own work. A. R. Yngve suggests that you:

“1. Open one of your unpublished manuscripts on your computer.

2. Using the Search function, search and count the number of times the following phrases and words appear in your writing prose:

– “that will/would change your/his/her/their life/lives forever”
– “He/She loves me. He/She really loves me.”
– “heart will never heal”
– “as you know” (followed by exposition)
– “was all he/she had to live for”
– “love him/her forever”

If ANY of the above clichés appear in your prose, it ain’t good enough to be published.”

Brutal, but pretty fair.

Meanwhile, Jim van Pelt is working toward a more positive assessment method:

“My thoughts on this aren’t fully formulated, but I think there must be something right going on in a story that establishes a context for a line that would make no sense in any other context. What I mean is that a fully functioning story creates an environment for sentences that could only make sense within that story.”

He uses examples from movies, but that strikes me as a great way of drawing a line between works of science fiction that have truly absorbed the novums into the narrative and those that have merely used them as window-dressing.

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