The key to a good piece of work is revision.
I’m not talking about changing a few words here and there.
I’m talking about practically re-writing the whole thing.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Whoa! Hold your horses! Shouldn’t I be proud of my work? Wouldn’t re-writing it be the same as saying I’m no good?”
That’s not true at all.
The thing is that we are all human. We make mistakes. We overlook things. We gloss over details or include too many.
It helps if you have other people look at your work, but you can do it on your own. Ask yourself questions as you re-read. Are your intentions, characters, and story clear? They don’t have to be obvious–just apparent in some way.
If your character wants to have a painting of his or hers hung up in the Louvre because he or she wants to be recognized for his or her effort, then make sure we as readers know that.
Read it a considerable amount of time after writing it and see if you as a reader can answer questions like…
What does this character want?
Does this character even know why?
Who or what is keeping them from getting what they want?
How can they get around it?
What will they do to get it?
Does it feel like there’s a chance they may not get what they want? If so, then is there enough of a chance to actually get what they want? (What I’m asking here is if the stakes are high. Do we not know if the character will succeed? If it’s obvious whether they will or not, then change the playing field a bit. Make it more even.)
Don’t have a muddy story. It’s okay to obscure facts from the reader until you’re ready for them to have them. But you should know the answers. And the reader shouldn’t feel like they’re missing something.