The best advice is to write your piece, whatever it is, and then put it away for some time before you look at it again. That’s because, having written it, you’re far too close to it to be able to see it clearly. You know what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it, so when you read it back you read what you meant to write.
This applies to short pieces like blog posts or flash fiction, just as much as longer pieces, but especially when it comes to a book. Hopefully you wrote to some sort of plan, even if you worked it out in your head as you went along. Hopefully you have some sort of notes about the characters, so you don’t give the hero blond hair at the beginning and dark hair later, or change his name or place of birth. Even so, in the flush of creativity, these things can get confused.
So then you have to allow yourself to get some perspective, some distance, so that when you come back to it you can look at it honestly. As you develop as a writer you will find less rubbish, but there will always be rubbish. As a new writer, I’m convinced that my book, although I was glowing with excitement when I wrote it (and when I finished each revision), is still largely rubbish. But it has potential – if I don’t believe that, I might as well throw it away and not waste any more time on it.
The important thing is not to despair. Jasper Fforde says, “Spotting what’s wrong should be a celebration because you’re learning.” If you can’t see any problems, THEN you should worry. But if you can, then it means you’ve moved on since you wrote it.
My first draft of Flight of the Kestrel: Intruders was all plot, with cardboard characters. I developed the characters a bit, and then realised there were no subplots to add depth to the story. I worked out some subplots, and then realised there was very little conflict – I had eleven men on a space ship who all got on together. Then they became overcrowded and no one minded. I am learning the basics of crafting a novel.
But there are details to learn too: writing dialogue, handling suspense, description, show don’t tell, and so on. This novel may never be good enough to publish, but I am learning my craft on it. And through it all I take comfort from another quote, from Belinda Bauer: “You may never be a good writer but you can’t get worse.”