He suggested--and I agree with him--that readers enjoy a story more when they perceive that the writer of the story wrote confidently.
But, how exactly does confidence come through on a written page?
That's something I've never been able to answer. In my group, it was suggested that confidence comes from clear decision-making.
This sentence might not feel confident: "The dress was an odd shade of pink, something between grapefruit and bubblegum." The writer gets close to the idea he or she is trying to express, but doesn't quite land on it.
This sentence might feel more confident: "The dress was the color of smoked salmon." Here, the decision was made. Whether or not it matches the color the writer had in mind, the reader is left with a detail that is more precise. It feels confident. (And notice that the perception of confidence by a reader doesn't have anything to do with actual confidence in a writer.)
This example is simplified, but I think there's some truth behind it. Consistently making clear decisions like this requires a lot of expertise. When we're writing as many words as we do, it's hard to keep our mind from straying off the page at least a few times. Or, even if we are focused, there might simply be certain sections of a story that we never work on long enough to see clearly. It's good to learn to recognize those sections, to see when the writing starts to get hazy. Those are the moments that might feel insecure.
In college, I once sat in on an art critique that taught me a lot about making a work feel confident. An artist had built a beautiful sculpture out of wood but had propped it up in a flimsy way using fishing line because she didn't want the support to be too distracting. What happened was that the support was more distracting because everyone was wondering if it would actually hold. The professor suggested that the artist should have instead made the support obvious and strong because that would tell the viewer that she had thought about the problem and solved it in a way that didn't need hiding. It was a subjective decision; I can imagine that some people might have preferred a more "invisible" solution. But, the idea of not needing to hide anything was something that has stuck with me for over ten years.
What do you think? Do reader perceive confidence in writing? And, if so, what is it in the words that feels confident?