A good story can transport you into a different environment, a different body, a different mind, and a different life. You get caught up in the characters and their world and the events that are shaping them both. You become, for a while, something more than and different from yourself.
Now, think about a story you’re writing. Does it transport you the way someone else’s good story does? If not, then how can you expect it to transport your readers?
The moments I look for, when re-reading my own work, are the moments when I get so caught up in what I wrote that I forget, for the moment, that I wrote it. That’s when I know a passage works. I’ve hit the right note. I’ve written something transporting.
This often happens in fiction, but it’s equally possible with nonfiction. It’s even possible with homework. In the latter case, it’s not so much about a story, but about the presentation of facts and opinion.
Let me make one point clear, however: This doesn’t mean that additional editing and polishing aren’t necessary. Just because a passage is transporting doesn’t mean it can’t be better. But, the other side of that is this: If a passage isn’t transporting, then you know you’re not done with it.
See, it’s a simple IF/THEN equation. IF a passage is transporting, even to you, THEN you know it’s ready to be tidied up. IF a passage is NOT transporting, THEN you know the passage doesn’t work yet.
Some might say that every passage you write cannot end up being transporting. Perhaps that’s true with regards to homework, but when it comes to professional-quality writing every passage can be transporting and should be transporting. If you can do that, then you know you’re writing good writing. If you tidy it up well, too, then you can make your good writing great. Don’t sell yourself short by settling for less.