It’s true, everyone’s a writer. Everyone with a computer is a writer. Everyone is a writer because it is so easy to be a writer — all you need is a word processor. You have that, right? So even you are a writer. And once your building watchman has finished watching all videos on the Internet thanks to his carrier’s unlimited data plans, he’ll become a writer too.
But that’s not a bad thing. I love that everyone’s a writer because it shows them how difficult it is to be a good writer. Let’s not even talk about being a great writer; you’ll get there once you start being at least a good writer. So, what makes a good writer? Let’s see.
Ideate and then ideate some more
Ideas are more significant than words. Words are easy to find, but ideas are challenging to come by. It is even more difficult to separate the good ideas from the bad ones. So train your brain to ideate non-stop. Everything around you can be a source of ideas. The people you talk to, the things you see, the stuff you read, even the dreams you have. Learn to actively look for ideas in everything and jot them down before you forget.
I’ve written about this earlier. A writer has to be selfish. You should feel proud of every piece of work you produce. It should be something you’d want to show off to the entire world. Show off your creativity, show off your thoughts and ideas and how well you can put them together. When you write to satisfy your own ego, you’ll not allow yourself to be copacetic, and you’ll work harder to improve your writing.
No grammatical errors, please
This one’s a no-brainer, and yet! There are so many writers I have worked with who commit basic grammatical mistakes. There is so much that I read, especially online, that lacks proper grammar. And the weird thing is that grammar isn’t even difficult to learn. You have to make a little effort to gain so much by learning how to use grammar. It’s the very basic of writing, and no writer is ever going to be a decent writer, let alone a good one, without focusing on grammar.
Read, write, repeat
Another no-brainer. This point doesn’t even need to be elaborated. Turn the TV off, shut down the laptop, leave your phone in another room and pick up a book or a Kindle. If you want to be a good writer, you have to read, read, and read. And then you have to write, write, and write. There’s literally no way around this.
Focus on the context
Context is as important as anything else, especially when you are writing non-fiction. Any particular topic can be approached from many different angles. But the wrong angle is of no use to your readers. So make sure you have the right context, and you understand who and what you are writing a particular piece for. This is why briefs are so essential. Ask for a brief and get context before you begin writing.
Write about what you know
These days, it is relatively easy for writers to get freelance work. Literally, every company depends on content to capture users, and they hire freelancers to write for them. If you take up such assignments, they should be about things that you have first-hand knowledge of. A good writer understands the subject he or she is writing about. On the other hand, a mediocre writer Googles the topic and produces an article that is a mishmash of what he or she read on 5 different websites. Don’t be a poor writer and if you’re a hirer, don’t employ a poor writer.
Don’t sell your craft for cheap
I don’t hate anyone, but I do have a strong dislike for writers who charge on a per-word basis. Some people write for ₹1 a word, and I won’t even call them writers. In my personal experience, such writers can never be good writers. I say this simply because writing is not merely about words. Writing is also about creativity, coherent thoughts, and adequate research. If you are focusing only on the words, you will not spend the required amount of time on these other things. Factor in the time and effort spent on the non-writing aspects of writing and charge a fixed amount, irrespective of the number of words you write. I have also experienced that per-word-writers write unnecessary words to hike up the word count and compromise an integral quality of good writing — brevity.
Use the words that you actually know
Here’s another thing that poor writers do — they use the thesaurus a lot. Poor writers will try to impress the reader by using big, fancy words. But they are fooling no one. In fact, you will turn a reader off by using big words that they don’t understand. Your reader is not going to bother about looking words up in a thesaurus. So, be a good writer and use the words that first come to your mind. A few fancy words here and there are fine, but your piece shouldn’t be ornamented heavily with them.
Support arguments with data
Nothing adds credibility to your arguments like data. There’s no arguing data. Sure, data can be manipulated (which is not something you should do), but even then, numbers are numbers. When you use data to support a point that you are making in an article, it makes the point more believable. Of course, data won’t be available for all types of pieces, but it should be used wherever you can and as much as you can.
Forget about the world
Writing is private work. Distractions are a good writer’s worst enemies. But, of course, not all of us can afford a cabin in the woods. Most of us are given a desk in an open office where we have to sit with our colleagues and write. This makes it even more critical for us to eliminate distractions when we are writing. What I do is put on a pair of earphones and listen to jazz music. Often, I turn the WiFi off on my laptop so that I am not disturbed by notifications. Whatever works!
And that, my fellow writers, is all. Let’s be good writers. For our own selves and for the rest of us.