What makes a good writer?

Why does good writing matter? It allows you to communicate your own thoughts and understand the thoughts of others. What you say and how you say it are your most cherished (and under-valued) assets – and you need to own your skill.

Let me put it another way. If someone were to read a piece of your writing, shorn of all branding, would they recognise it as yours? Does your writing project a voice that belongs to you?

  1. Good writing  anticipates reader questions. It serves the reader, not the writer, and isn’t indulgent.
  2. Good writing is grounded in data. Ground your content in facts, not just your own opinions; your writing becomes more credible as a result.
  3. Good writing happens with the rewrite. Writing is hard work, and producing a less-than-perfect first draft is often depressing. But the important thing is to craft it into a coherent narrative.
  4. Good writers aren’t smug. Most of the really good writers I know still feel awkward calling themselves a “writer,” because that’s a term loaded with expectations.  But like many achievements in life, the label seems more meaningful when it’s bestowed upon you by others.
  5. Good writing has a good editor. Writers get the byline and any glory. But behind the scenes, a good editor adds a lot to process. The best writing is collaborative.
  6. Remarkable writers absorb other writing styles through the books they read for pleasure.
  7. Good writers have patience. There will be days when you have absolutely nothing to add to your manuscript, and other days when you realise the end is far away and the only thing preventing you from finishing is white space. When that happens, just keep writing. Take it one sentence at a time; your persistence will pay off, and you will up with a finished book.
  8. Good writers are good listeners and observers. Both are excellent forms of research. What about a person’s personality intrigues you or makes you dislike them? Expound on those character traits and bring them to life. What about a person’s style of dress makes them unique?

There are so many opportunities to write and be heard today; with self-publishing and smaller, independent presses much more prevalent, this is a genuinely exciting time to be in the sector. But of course there’s also the concern that, without any creative control – without any quality checking – there are just as many opportunities to produce awful work as well.

So we need to be careful; encouraging writers to improve and learn their craft, and enabling each other to feel that their work can improve. We must make sure we’re open-minded, thoughtful, and accepting of language – and always improving our own style.

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