Is it art? These are two drawings by my two-year-old grandson Kathan. I see balance, organization, symmetry--in short, I see beauty. I'm a doting grandfather. I'm blind to the truth, whatever it is.
I'm not asking you to tell me whether Kathan's drawings are art. I'm merely using them as an example of the difficulty we have in knowing whether the fiction we write is excellent, good, poor, lousy. We need the help of others. We really don't want to go it alone. We need validation.
Finding true objectivity comes from those who don't know us. Those who know us are not usually objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. Yet, that is exactly where most of us begin seeking validation. We begin with ourselves, using the most objectivity we can. Then we usually turn to friends and relatives, who usually 'love' what we've written. Then we turn to non-family members and strangers. This last step is crucial. We can skip it and self-publish, and we might be okay. But it's probably a poor decision. Finding true objectivity is difficult. In the final analysis, it's the reading public who gives the final answer.
Writing groups can be helpful in the writing process, but even they are not objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. One of the best things to do is to find a Beta reader to read the finished product before seeking publication. The best Beta reader is a sort of double-blind situation. The writer doesn't know who the Beta reader is, and the Beta reader doesn't know who the writer is. This requires an intermediary. I've yet to find a Beta reader who meets that final requirement. The closest I've come is entering portions of my writing in contests, and that is very educational. That's about as "real as it gets."
What would Kathan say about all of this? Just look below.