Eight Basic Skills Writers Should Obtain

“You may not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
– Jodi Picoult

Good writers are those that constantly write. Think of a writer as being a pro athlete. The athlete has skills they have to learn to perfect the sport. If you’re a pro football player, for instance, these skills may include tackling and playing defense or offense. Writers, too, have skills to learn. For the writer, these skills are usually learned through writing prompts or practice exercises. Whatever the case, follow the basic concepts below so you’ll be well on your way to being a terrific writer.

Watch your spelling. Spelling is tricky, even for the best of writers. Know all of the spelling rules and follow each of them, such as when a word is singular or plural. Keep in mind those words that have irregular plurals. These are words such as child/children, datum/data or hoof/hooves. There are also words that spell words forward and backward that are called palindromes. Examples of these are a nun, civic and kayak.

To keep on top of your spelling, always have your word processor’s spell check on, but it’s a good idea to read yourself as well. For instance, it’s not going to catch context. The words red and read are both similar sounding words.  However, if you meant “The boy read the book” and accidentally wrote “The boy red the book,” your spell check won’t catch it. You may also want to have someone else read your work if you’re unsure of the context of a word–or just to help you catch additional spelling errors.

Social skills are a must. Most writers are social butterflies. They want to get their creative side out into the world. In order to do this, a writer needs the ability to network with others. At some point in their career, a writer is going to have clients and agents to keep track of on their phone. They’re going to start going on book tours and meeting their readers. Readers want to meet an author that is relatable to their life in some way. Before you get that reader in front of you, have a humorous story to tell them that relates to how they came across your writing. This is going to have them buying your books each time they hit the shelves and you want this!

Journal writing is necessary. If you ask writers, most will say they keep a journal. Why? Think of a journal as a garden. A garden flourishes with flowers while a journal blossoms with ideas. You can write just about anything in a journal. Dreams, a day’s events, a character or a writing prompt are just a few ideas. A gratitude journal is where people write about a specific number of items they are grateful for each day, but why couldn’t you do this in a regular journal? You most certainly could. The idea of a journal is to get everything out into the open. It’s up to you if you write to yourself or others. It’s up to you if you share it with only yourself or others. But whatever you do–keep it consistent. If you decide to write daily, every other day or once a week–never fall away from that schedule.

Determination. How bad do you want to be a novelist? You have to want it so bad so you can taste it. This means you won’t quit when your main character is being stubborn or your plot is stuck. It means you’re motivated to keep plowing through the mud to get to the end goal of being published. You can do it if you’re persistent and confident. It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be all-nighters and that coffee cup is never going to be empty. But in the end, it’s so worth it! And this is going to ring true for each writing project that comes your way. Stomp on failure when it tempts you because it has no place in your vocabulary.

Good grammar. Similar to spelling, grammar is also vitally important. The fact that writers know how to structure a sentence is appealing. In certain writing projects, such as novels, sentence structure often varies. Also, parts of speech and punctuation are really important. In poetry, how you break words really matters. For instance, you don’t want to break “to have” on two separate lines because it would seem awkward. Grammar is something that you can practice in your journal if you choose to do so. It’s important to communicate well to others. If this a skill you struggle with, then make it a skill you practice every day. There are grammar exercises all over the Internet and check your local library.

Deadlines. When do you want your next writing project to be complete? This deadline should drive you to be motivated. But that big deadline shouldn’t be the only one you set. Along the way, set smaller deadlines. For instance, let’s say you’re writing a novel. In this case, you would have a deadline for Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. You should also have a deadline for when you want to have the revisions and editing completed. And, the final deadline (which you should have set before you began writing), should be approaching. If you have run past it, for your next novel allow yourself more time.

Have a writing schedule. Writing the same time each day will make you a consistent writer. While it’s important to have a specific to write, most writers vary where they do their writing. For instance, you may choose to write in the cafe on Monday, at home on Tuesday, in the park on Wednesday or in the bookstore on Thursday. It all depends on how you can concentrate in different environments while getting work done. You may also choose to do your writing in one specific location. For instance, you may choose to write at 5 a.m. in your home office. If your home office is the only place you can concentrate, then this is where you should do your writing.

Read. It’s been proven that writers learn their craft by reading. Mystery writers are avid fans of mystery authors. Poetry writers can often recite a verse from their favorite poems, or their own for that matter. Reading books in your genre has so many benefits. First, you can see what’s been covered and to what extent. You can also see how it’s been covered such as pictographs, bar graphs or simply texts. This gives you ideas on how you want to write your own book. If you’re writing a novel, you can see how other authors in the genre develop characters, plots, and conflicts. However, it’s very important you make it your own. Never, ever copy anything from another author.

What are some skills you think are important to writers? Leave them in the comments. I would love to hear about them.

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