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The Ten Attributes That Make A Great Writer
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What makes a great writer? Is a great writer prolific, or easy to read? Do they write one great magnum opus and then disappear because they peaked? There is not one thing you can point to that makes a great writer. Writing is simply a wondrous form of communication that speaks to you, great writing has a more universal appeal that speaks to many people, but there's not one way of going about such a task. There are many great writers, and many great attributes that make great writers. Stephen King is imaginative. Charles Bukowski was introspective. Shakespeare commanded the English language with a silk glove. Fitzgerald couldn't spell, but he lived hard and it translated into his work. Kerouac lived hard and wrote furiously. The point is, there are many things that make writers great, but they share certain traits we can learn from.
Let's take a look at some common attributes that great writers share:
1. Be creative: Anyone can write a grocery list, but certain writers could make a grocery list entertaining. Stephen King could make a grocery list into a horrific map that leads you through the depths of hell, and it would probably be a best seller. Kerouac would be drunk and spouting poetry by the time he got to aisle three. You have to be fresh, and to be fresh you have to be creative. The typical writing class will tell you that there are 7 basic plot lines: action, conflict, redemption, romance, comedy, discovery and tragedy. So, basically, everything has been written before. HST discovered a lot of things on his trip to Las Vegas, but mainly he discovered an unparalleled voice and sense of humor. You have to approach writing with a fresh, creative perspective.
2. Have a vivid imagination: John Grisham probably comes up with a new conspiracy theory each and every time he files taxes. The old saying is that you are either born with an imagination or you are not, but the imagination is like a muscle. The more we work it out, the stronger and more vivid it gets. There are exercises you can do to improve your imagination, watch movies and read, watch cartoons or play video games. Simply write, it's the best way to stimulate the imagination. Find a way to stimulate your mind, and let the shadows and dreams of your childhood come back to life.
3. Relate to your audience: You wouldn't go to a seminar for accountants on IRS governance and start talking about the great season that the Yankees are having. You would talk about tax codes and new IRS regulations, things that they have gathered to discuss. The same should be said for the people whom you are writing for. Before you start writing about anything, define your audience so that you know who you are speaking to.
4. Say what you really want to say: Don't beat around the bush. If you're writing, you have an opinion on the topic, even if you're writing an essay for school. You put in the time to research the topic, so you must have some thoughts about it. SAY THEM!!! Be bold and daring, even if you lose popularity with friends and family. It's worth it to say what you really feel, and it will be reflected in the quality of your work.
5. Be a story-teller: Jack Kerouac, writing On The Road, made a scroll out of paper so he wouldn't lose his flow and forget where he was in his story, which catapulted him to fame. In his previous novel, The Town and The City, he tried to follow the classical way of telling a tale and it flopped. After nearly a decade of traveling and learning to swap tales in bars with other storytellers, he realized the best way to tell a story is just to tell it. Narration helps, a little sense of fantasy helps, but don't get lost in it, just follow the story and develop your characters. Let them go where they go. If you get good at it, they'll take you somewhere magical.
6. Develop characters: Always develop characters and make sure that they have integrity, at least to themselves. To develop characters, you must understand them, so put in the time it takes to understand what makes your characters tick. This isn't just a tip for fiction writers. Non-fiction writers, perhaps even more, must understand the motives of the people they are writing about.
7. Draw from real life experiences: It's easier to write about what you know, so weave life experiences into your work. It makes for interesting and honest content. You will lose credibility with your audience if you speak as an expert about things you don't understand.
8. Be positive: Your worst enemy is self-doubt."Believe in yourself, and the rest will fall into place. Have faith in your own abilities, work hard, and there is nothing you cannot accomplish." (Brad Henry) That is a great quote, and it's true. If you don't have a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) you are doomed to fail, because you believe you will fail and you will convince yourself that there's no way you can succeed. Face each project with hope and determination, because there will be times that you need to push yourself through.
9. Be honest: Write about life as you see it, hear it, touch and taste it, it all can become story fabric. You have to be honest within your writing. It's easier to describe what you understand from your senses. They are tools, so use them.
10. Choose smart content: Most importantly (trumpet flourish) write something worth reading. Make sure you pick a topic that an audience will want to read about, and make sure you approach the subject with a fresh perspective. No one wants to read the same old thing over and over again, so be choosy when picking a topic.
There you go, any of these attributes and tips will help you improve your writing style. Now get a pen and paper or hop in front of the computer and write something great. I can't wait to read it!
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