Writers: How to Tell Good from Bad

How do you know whether or not you’re a good writer?

Surprisingly, this is not difficult to figure out. If you think commas are something you can ignore, not use, or use improperly, you’re most likely a bad writer. If you can’t properly punctuate a sentence like “Let’s eat Grandma,” oh yeah, you’re bad.

If your sentences make no sense, you consistently leave out words and letters, and the reader is left scratching their head, wondering why the hell they spent good money for your book, you’re a bad writer. If you change PoV on a whim (known as head-hopping), you’re a bad writer. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re trying to tell the reader, chances are good… you’re a bad writer.

There are different kinds of writers: fiction, non-fiction, columnists, those who craft little ditties for greeting cards, those who specialize in proposals or grants or technical treatises… there are writers everywhere. Some of the them are good, some are bad, and some are excellent.

If you don’t write well, you won’t be in your chosen field long. 

I postulate good writing goes back to the craft itself, the very act of writing: the ability to string words together into coherent sentences and then putting those sentences together to form paragraphs. It’s being able to put what you see in your mind down on paper (though these days, it’s almost always typed into a word processor).

Eventually, you have told a story or finished that thesis or completed your guide to whittling wood. The one thing all good writers have in common? The ability to pass images/ideas/thoughts to someone else through words. When you think about it, that’s pretty amazing.

If you can’t construct an easily understood sentence, if you spew stream of consciousness into a computer and type ‘the end’ without re-reading or editing of any kind, you are not a good writer, no matter what your friends tell you. They are your friends; are they really going to tell you the story sucks and you should stick to composing grocery lists?

But there’s more. A good writer is always learning, always trying to improve. A good writer takes pride in what they write, in making it the best it can be before submitting it. A good writer doesn’t expect an editor to fix all the things that should have been fixed before sending it off (nor is it an editor’s job to teach someone how to write; they don’t get paid nearly enough), and for sure they shouldn’t be self-publishing that story before it’s been gone over several times.

A good writer is many things–researcher, student of grammar and punctuation, purveyor of ideas, keeper of culture, receptacle of imagination and vision–but most of all, a good writer is professional.

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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4 Responses to Writers: How to Tell Good from Bad

  1. Isa says:

    You really need to start submitting some articles to some magazines or even look at starting a new blog for writers. You had posted about one of your trips and I thought you should have submitted it to a magazine. Now I read today’s post and I thought it was very informative. There have been some other posts like this in the past. It seems like there is a lot of information for writers to learn with writing or publishing and you explain things really well.

  2. Lindsaysf says:

    Thought provoking! I guess I’d have to classify myself as a “good writer” – but in the very narrow field of writing instructions – getting down, step by step, directions that almost anyone can follow and get to the desired result. Most “real” writers would find it tedious – heck, I find it tedious at times – but it’s something a lot of people can not do at all. I find a lot of people think they can – but they change subjects without notice, skip steps, gloss over details – and then they blame the receiver for not understanding. But writing fiction, telling a story? I am absolutely no good at that at all. I take my hat off to writers like you who grab my attention and my heart from the first few lines and keep me captive to the end.

    • 🙂 I feel compelled to tell you my latest book has been released. It’s the sequel to Three of Swords. I hope you find it as captivating as you’ve found my others. You must definitely let me know what you think of it!

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