Lately, I have been giving some thought to what makes a good writer. Knowing that writing is a skill, there was no need to look for any inborn abilities. What do you need to improve your writing skills?

Write often

Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the more you will be able to synthesize information and find your own unique voice. In time, your ability to develop ideas and communicate them succinctly will increase.

If you are working in Public Relations, you need to practise twice as hard. In PR, you are not only expected to find your own voice, you are also required to write in the voice of a brand you represent. The process of adaptation is often very long and difficult.

On the other hand, there is no chance of you improving only by writing. You must read a lot, study the techniques of great writers, and have access to feedback from a professional. Otherwise, you would be producing large amounts of text at the same level of quality.

Be passionate about it

Creating a great text without passion is like trying to breathe under water. It’s downright impossible. Sure, you can produce a mediocre text, but that is not what you are paid for. In case it is, change your employer now!

As Chris Anderson wrote, passion beats skills. On the other hand, you have to have a certain degree of skill to qualify for beating the bored professionals with your passionate writing.

As you are starting off, you are not in the same league with the others. There is an advantage on your side, though. Yes, you guessed it right, it’s your zest that shall help you to learn faster.

Have a mentor

wisdomMentoring is the element that differentiates average writing from great writing. Having access to constant feedback from a more experienced wordsmith is invaluable. She can help you improve in terms of style, form, content, flow of the narrative, and other intricacies of the writing craft.

The best part of the deal is that coaching is on-demand, so whenever you don’t feel strong in terms of your story, you are free to call for help.

There are some downsides of having a coach. It is costly, so if you are a beginner with no money, forget about it. The second downside is that there are only few coaches who will not exert influence over your work. Only the good coaches will allow you to develop a truly specific style. Those who are not advanced enough yet or broke can check out

Study the works of great writers

Reading and writing have a peculiar relationship that applies to no other dyad of skills I can think of, except of listening / talking. Reading helps you to become a better writer. The more you read, the more your vocabulary and feel for language increases, so read a lot and you will get considerably better.

“Yes, I want to read but I don’t know where to start!” Start with a genre that is closest to your heart. Fantasy freaks should start with fantasy, aspiring PROs in the finance sector should start with Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz and the techies already know where to look.

The concepts you will be reading about will soon become familiar and the reading easier. Then it’s time to move on and start digging into something more challenging. Apply this to books, news, magazines and broaden your horizons. Write in the meanwhile and you will see the progress.


Passion, practice, effort, supervision. Anything else?

Jiri Majstr recently encouraged me via Twitter to think of more characteristics that make up a good writer. I believe it’s imagination so I invite you to imagine the fifth characteristic for yourself and share it with us. What do you think makes a good writer?

Image credit: StarbuckGuy and wallyg.