There are a lot of people who want to write, whether it’s a novel, fiction or non-fiction, poems, scripts, or short stories. But what separates a good writer from someone who wants to be a writer?
First off, being a good writer has nothing to do with writing literary fiction over genre fiction (despite what many writing programs and the academic world tend to believe). It has to do with the impact your writing has on its intended audience.
Did your writing connect with your audience? Did it engage them?
Three ways to get better at the technical side of writing:
- Education. Learn the principles of writing. Study proper grammar and know when it’s ok to break the rules. Educate yourself about pace, tone, theme, and structure. Accept that no matter how much you learn there’s always more to know.
- Practice. Write. Rewrite. Write often, every day. Some days you’ll produce crap. Other days you’ll hit a goldmine. Sometimes you’ll have to let your friends go out and have fun without so you can stay home and write (making writing a priority).
- Comments and Criticism. Feedback is very important. It gives you views you wouldn’t think of. Your friends, critique group, teachers, family, etc. will point out what you need to work on, which, though might temporarily hurt your self-esteem, will help you improve.
However, there are some aspects of a good writer that can’t be taught.
- Imagination. This allows you to create fictional but believable worlds. It allows you to see problems from different and fresh perspectives. Imagination gives you the ability to be sitting at your desk and create things that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, but are tangible in your make-believe one.
- Empathy. This is a big one. The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and going beyond that, the ability to put yourself in the mind of your characters. Without this fictional characters wouldn’t be believable.
Imagination and empathy can’t be taught, but they can be gained. By living fully in the real world, your life experiences will fuel your writing. Find things you’re passionate about. Seek out new and invigorating situations, no matter how strange or uncool they seem.
Not too long ago I was in Canada and one of the people I was with started singing and dancing in the middle of town. A few of the guys acted all embarrassed and said they’d pay her to stop, but I thought it was amazing and joined in. Did we get a lot of looks? Yes. Were people making fun of us? Some, but others told us they thoroughly enjoyed watching us have a great time.
It was silly and has become one of my favorite memories. I have a character in mind based on that experience, and I would never have visualized that character if I didn’t do something ridiculous.
So, indulge in your passions and your imagination. Feel empathy. What you experience in life will spill over into your writing. Writing isn’t all about skill. A lot of it is about emotion and creating a world people want be in. Make a world people care about.
What habits do you have that help you be a better writer?