4 Ways to Know If Your Writing is Ready
Writers are notoriously picky, spending a whole lot of time critiquing their work and over-analyzing whether they need to change just one more thing. As a result, it can be hard to know when a piece is ready to publish or submit.
Here’s a truth we have to acknowledge as writers: the piece is never really finished. Regardless of how polished it is, there is always room for improvement. Writing is a creative endeavor, and creative pursuits don’t have a clear and finite ending point. They are an attempt to capture what it means to be human, and humans are ever-evolving and endlessly complex. It only makes sense that our creative pursuits will reflect who we are, and since we are changing and complex, our work will be, too.
There comes a point with every creative act where we decide it is finished because it accomplishes its goal, not because it’s perfect.
Here are some keys to knowing a piece is ready:
You’ve spent time away from it.
True, this has nothing to do with the piece itself, but every article, blog post, and especially every book needs to sit for a while. If you can take 24 hours to remove yourself from your writing and come back to it with fresh eyes, you will be amazed at the insights you’ll have. In some cases, you’ll decide it never needs to be published, and in others, you’ll know it’s ready for an audience.
You can summarize the purpose in one sentence.
For everything you write, there must be a goal. What do you want to accomplish with that writing? If you can’t say the goal concisely, in one sentence, then chances are high the piece itself is unclear. Know what you’re trying to accomplish and make sure every word contributes to that purpose.
The piece contains clear takeaways for the reader.
For every short piece of nonfiction writing, there should be at least one quotable the reader can remember, and for longer pieces, there should be more. (In this post, for example, the first bold sentence is a takeaway, and each of these four points is a takeaway.) Readers are using your writing to learn and be inspired, so you should make it clear what you are teaching and what you are inspiring them to do/think/be. As you write, think about what you would want a reader to underline or highlight in that piece.
You’ve spent time eliminating what’s unnecessary.
You will, in your writing, use words, phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs that don’t add much to the piece. We writers are wordy people, and we must practice discipline to delete anything that doesn’t contribute to the beauty and purpose of our piece. Stephen King calls this killing your darlings, and that’s exactly what it can feel like. But if our goal is clarity, our weapon is the delete key.
Perfectionism and overthinking paralyze writers, and paralyzed writers don’t share their writing. Unshared writing never impacts anyone, and the goal of our writing is impact. We can’t allow the fear of what could be to prevent us from sharing what we know we should write. An imperfect piece that’s actually published impacts people, whereas a perfect piece that remains private impacts no one.
Not sure if your writing is the best it can be? Contact us and we’ll hook you up with our editor extraordinaire, Jennie. She’ll help you tighten up your writing, clarify your message, and put your best work out in the world—all while cheering you on as you do the hard work of being a writer.