Despite asking everyone in the world the following question, you’ll not get the right answer…
“Am I a good writer?”
Ask your publisher and she’ll insist you’re a good writer, after all – she hooked you up with the book deal, right?
Ask your mother – she’ll say you’re the best writer on the planet “honey”.
Ask your enemy – and you’ll get a reaction to who they think you are, not whether you are a good writer in their opinion. In fact, ask anyone that harbors any malice toward you at all – consciously or subconsciously – and you’ll get a negative reaction.
Ask strangers on the street – and they’ll answer politely – yes, you’re a good writer.
Ask yourself – and you have to admit – sometimes you are a good writer, and sometimes you stink the place up. That’s why you’re asking the question – right?
Even if everyone answered your question honestly you will have very few people as a percentage say that you are a good writer. Diehard customers that buy all your books may or may not believe you are a good writer. I’ve bought books from the same author a number of times and not thought “good writer” fit well at all. I may have loved the story or the characters and suffered through sub-par writing just to get my jollies.
Ken Follett in my opinion is a horrible writer – I’ve read 3 of his books.
Tom Clancy, too maniacally detailed to be a good writer – but I’ve read more than 5 of his books.
Tim Ferris wrote “4-Hour Workweek” and is a horrible writer, but I couldn’t put his book down until I read the whole thing straight through.
Thomas Harris – is an excellent writer. His stories don’t match up with expectations sometimes, but his writing is stellar.
Ayn Rand makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. What the hell is she talking about? I’ve read 3 of her books and I never once felt comfortable reading her, but I can’t put her books down either.
Some of Hunter S. Thompson’s stuff was great – and some of it ridiculous.
You probably disagree with me on my assessments of the writers above. That’s the point – everyone likes different styles of writing. The only way you’ll know you’re a good writer is when you believe it.
The only way you’ll come to believe it is when you are “making the grade”. That is, when you are hitting the goals you thought you needed to hit in order to be a successful writer.
For myself, the only way I’ll believe I’m a good writer is when I start seeing decent numbers of sales (1,000 per month), and repeat sales from the same customers. When I can stop doing all my other projects and just write – making enough to survive, that’s a “good enough writer” and really all I really need to be.
Oscar Wilde, I’m not!