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Posted on September 5, 2011

Everyone thinks that what they write is good, maybe even brilliant – everyone is an undiscovered Cervantes, or Camus, or Tolstoy – and possibly you are. I would wager though that even these literary giants wrote stuff that was a little below par, every now and then; I would even go so far as to suggest that on the odd occasion, they wrote complete and utter garbage. How, then, to tell what is good and what is not? How to be objective about something that is a matter of opinion?

The way I do it is to finish a passage, then re-read it, correcting any obvious blunders. Then put it to one side for at least a week, preferably two; perhaps even more. Forget about it. Carry on writing, but don’t look at that particular passage.

Then, when you have forgotten what you were trying to say and how you were trying to say it, pick up the manuscript and read it through.

This is the Cringe Test. If you can read it through and not cringe internally, if you read it and it resembles the stuff you’ve read all your life, if you don’t think that whoever wrote it should have both their hands crushed under a steam roller, than it’s passed the Cringe Test. That doesn’t mean it’s good, though; it just means it’s not total rubbish.

Tags: Cringe Test, how good a writer are you?