What Makes a Good Writer?
Most people will assume that being creative and knowing how to tell a story makes a good writer. But being a good writer isn’t just about writing a good story with interesting narrative and believable characters, nor is it about having the technical skills or being able to connect with the readers. It’s much more than that.
Writing is an art form, so people are either exceptionally good at it, or they’re not. While lots of elements about writing can be learned, effective writing is down to raw talent and a deep understanding of language.
Less obvious things make a good writer.
Much of what we write is down to observation. An effective writer – i.e. a good writer – uses observation to construct descriptions and create imagery. What we’ve seen in life and often what we’ve experienced forms the rich layers for our stories. We see things in everyday life that bring a sense reality to our writing, no matter how insignificant or innocuous they might seem.
Observation of people is all about a deep desire to understand the human psyche. And that’s why we create stories, because at the heart of every story is a main character, and it’s his or her behaviour and the reasoning behind what they do that makes a story work. That’s why writers are nosey – they’re always observing people; reactions, interactions, body language and behaviour. It’s the building blocks for our characters.
Sometimes it isn’t the obvious things we observe, but rather the little things. Something like the way rain runs down a window pane. Or the way grass moves in a breeze. It might be the burnished colour of clouds, or the strange sounds of woodland. It might be the way the snow falls. The less obvious our observations, the better, because it makes our writing interesting.
Besides observation, good writers are keen to learn. Writing is a constant learning process; it’s never static. Writers want to learn all they can about their craft, but it’s not just gained through reading ‘How To’ books, attending writing workshops or literary festivals and talking to other writers. Sometimes it’s down to gaining valuable experience through writing - the more they write, the more they learn about themselves as writers.
No writer is a good writer unless they can accept criticism. No writer is perfect. Every writer has flaws and weaknesses, and it’s that understanding that sets a good writer apart from a bad one. If writers can accept the things they can’t do whilst bathing in the praise of the things they can do, then they will become better writers.
Criticism is part of writing. We have to embrace negative feedback and accept it if we want to improve. Without criticism we cannot evolve as writers.
One other thing that makes a good writer is that they’re avid readers. Often, what we read – no matter the genre – influences us and inspires us, and we learn from other writers, especially ones we admire. The more we read, the more we learn about writing and writing techniques.
Lastly, no writer can be an effective one without experiencing failure, because that’s when we realise that we’re not a brilliant as we think we are, we should never be arrogant enough to think it in the first place, and that perfection doesn’t exist. We are all flawed and imperfect. So when we do fail, we learn from it, we improve and we become better writers. Because from failure we attain success.