This morning I was thinking about the key qualities of a good writer. Research has shown that as many as 5-15% of people write! (interestingly, about 2/3 of those are women) Yet most of those will never finish even a single book. So if you’re a writer who has finished a novel, you’re already something special! Of course this says nothing about the quality of said novel. What qualities do you need to write a novel that is good enough that other people would want to read it? That is what I have been thinking about. I’ve identified several qualities that I believe need to be in the mix. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I possess those!
The first quality a writer needs is creativity and inspiration. A novel simply needs a good story and a good story required a healthy dose of creativity and inspiration! In today’s world with millions of novels it is probably more difficult than ever to come up with something unique and imaginative, so a writer’s job isn’t getting any easier. Sometimes a solid story is enough, though, as long as it feels fresh. It doesn’t necessarily have to be completely unique or incredibly imaginative. A good example is The Hunger Games, which clearly takes the myth of the Minotaur of Crete and the sacrifice of youngsters from Athens as its basic concept and further borrows from Roman culture and classic dystopian (or anti-utopian) concepts. Nonetheless, Suzanne Collins mixed it all together in such a way that it feels (kind of) fresh!
The second quality a good writer needs to possess is a talent for conveying the written word. In other words: a writer needs to write well! This may sound simple, but there are so many writers out there who just don’t quite manage – who write action scenes that are incredibly stiff and tell us about events rather than describe them. Although I believe this quality is at least partly innate, practice will do every writer a lot of good. It’s like portrait drawing. No one will be very good at it the first time they try. But after a hundred tries, some people will be getting pretty good while others get stuck at a very basic skill level. It’s a combination of talent and practice.
The third quality, and this one is just as pivotal as the other two, is the ability to persevere, to exercise self-discipline. Some writers might have fabulous ideas and a great talent for writing, but never get beyond a chapter or two before the lure of watching series 3 of Game of Thrones wins from the desire to write. 😉 I certainly suffer from the procrastination syndrome myself. It is even more difficult for writers who work full-time jobs and find themselves struggling to keep their eyes open while watching TV after a long day, let alone to take their laptop or a sheet of paper and start writing.
The fourth and last quality I came up with it not as crucial as the other three, but nonetheless contributes greatly to the quality of a novel in my opinion. It is empathy, the ability to crawl into someone else’s head and heart and understand them. A good writer doesn’t write about characters, (s)he writes characters. Once again, not an easy thing to do!
All in all, it seems that good writers are rare creatures indeed if they need to combine so many qualities. Fortunately there are a great many people that we share this planet with, and thus there are plenty of great writers whose books we can enjoy, although there is always room for more!
Do you agree with my list of qualities? Have I missed anything? Is one of them less crucial than I think? Do let me know in a comment!
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