When do you know you've written something good?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

When are you satisfied you’ve written something good? I have two criteria: (1) enjoyability, and (2) STTA—something to think about.

1— Enjoyability is pretty obvious. Some humor somewhere is important; that’s why even my most serious piece has a couple of jokes or sardonic remarks—I just can’t resist trying to make the reader smile.

2—STTA is harder. Sometimes it’s just a fleeting commentary that gets lost in the laughability of a tall tale, sometimes it’s the point of the whole story. Usually, it's somewhere in between.

Once I asked a friend to rank the short stories of mine she’d read on a scale of 1 to 10 on these two criteria, and her ratings meant something important to me.

Obviously, not everybody agrees with me about this. Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” for example, are not enjoyable but are two of the most-read stories on the planet. As a matter of fact, I’d say they rate about 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 for enjoyability, and I’d give them both an STTA of 3-5. The only thing they gave me to think about was that they were both written by someone with a tormented soul. Give me Huckleberry Finn or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or a Dave Barry novel. Maybe Barry’s STTA is not exactly transcendental, but his enjoyability is a helluva lot higher than Kafka’s!

What about you? How do you know when you’ve written something good?

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