Writing is a subjective art that blurs the line between bliss and torture. One moment, every word is a golden gift handed from the muses on high. The next moment, you’re being laughed at for practically writing in crayons. Art is the practice of constant doubt and frustration. So what are some qualities that can be cultivated to make a person a better writer?
1.) Routine over inspiration
In this quality, a daily habit is more important than waiting for inspiration to hit. The truth about writing is that inspiration hits the most when you’ve already started. That means your best inspiration usually happens when you’ve already been working for a bit.
2.) Determine if “this” works and why.
A good feature to cultivate in your writing practice is constant observation. This can be observing the details of others around you or in looking at other stories. Does a scene in a movie or TV show work well for you? Why does it work well for you? Start breaking down what works for you and start looking for unique perspectives you can put into your writing.
3.) Clarity and simplicity
I’ve heard that (paraphrasing) any idiot can make something larger / more complex. It takes genius to go other way. Not everyone has access to a large vocabulary or knows deeply about history. Making things easier to grasp can help increase accessibility to your writing.
4.) Just enough tools
There are so many tools that writers can use to build word count. However, there is also the temptation to use everything. After all, isn’t more better? The answer is no. The goal is to build words, not processes. I am not doubting the ability to use writing tools to make progress, but you don’t want to try to do everything. If you do that, you’ll start ending up chasing rabbits down weird rabbit holes. For example, digging into what formatting may work best or what tool can export into a weird file format. The truth is you need to focus on the most important part of writing: the writing.
5.) Love of reading
The second most important part of writing is reading. Knowing what works in other stories is important. Beyond giving you a sense of what the competition is doing, you can see some unique methods that may work in your own writing. You also want to anticipate how it feels to be the reader on the other end of your writing.
6.) Anticipate questions
Speaking of anticipating readers, you want to know what questions they may have in the story. Each question they have becomes a promise that will be solved later. If you don’t know you’ve made those promises, you can’t fulfill them with answers. If you write a story without answers, it’s a very unfulfilling endeavor for the reader (and they won’t read anything else you write).
After you’ve turned out a few books you might be rightfully proud. Push that urge down. Remember that there is always more to learn and that there will always be someone better. No one likes a boastful writer that preaches about how cool they are.
8.) Graceful writing
One quality to foster is the art of graceful writing. Grace is simply hard work disguised as simplicity. By planning ahead, or strong editing, or both, you can make stories feel more graceful. They simply feel like they fit, instead of being shoehorned into a message.
9.) The right kind of wondering You know you are a good writer when the reader finishes the story and starts thinking of other possibilities. You don’t want them thinking about how their questions didn’t get resolved, but rather: what would they have done in the character’s shoes? That’s an indication that they are invested in the story. An invested reader will move onto the next chunk of the story.
10.) Thick skin and a forgetful mind
Some readers won’t move on and will instead bring out the flame throwers. The best defense against flame throwers is a thick skin and a forgetful mind. If a lot of people are making the same comment, sure change it, but if it’s just one angry person… do your best to ignore it and forget the feedback. Writing is subjective and not everyone will appreciate your particular voice.