“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” So said Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, statesmen and scientist.
Writing comes in many shapes and forms; from books to newspapers, blogs and poetry. Different writers will specialise in different writing disciplines, but there are some common qualities which writers need to possess in order to succeed across all of them.
If you’ve been asking yourself ‘what do I need to be a writer’, then you’re in luck. In this blog post, we throw the spotlight on some of the essential items in a writer’s toolkit. So whether you are an aspiring journalist or an up and coming novelist, read on to learn more!
Writers are sometimes known as ‘wordsmiths’, and this says a lot about the basic role of a professional writer. It is essential to have enough vocabulary in your armoury, and know when and how to use it. If we just used the same words over and over again, material wouldn’t be much fun to read.
The English language is spoken and celebrated all over the world, and so it is essential to make full use of it, regardless of which type of writing is being produced. Choosing the right words can do wonderful things – evoke feelings, spark the imagination and take the reader to a different place. So it is vital that writers are adept at using a range of vocabulary. If you feel your vocabulary could be bigger, there is one useful way of expanding it – read more!
Particularly for creative forms of writing such as novels or features, the ability to use the imagination can be a useful skill which can be critical to a writer’s success. Words come directly from the thoughts of the writer, so the knack of being able to conjure up engaging imagery and scenes in our own mind’s eye means that we can then convert those thoughts into the written word.
Even for writers who are more focused on reporting fact rather than producing creative material, a powerful imagination can still be a potent weapon, allowing pieces which could otherwise be considered dull to sparkle thanks to the creative input of the writer.
Accuracy across all forms of writing is non-negotiable. It is perhaps the first hurdle an aspiring writer will find themselves having to overcome when entering the professional world.
When writing for a living, accuracy can trump all else when it comes to whether a piece is deemed acceptable for publication. A writer can have all the imagination and enthusiasm in the world, but unfortunately, if their work is inaccurate – from poor spelling and grammar to factual misrepresentations – it is likely to fall short of what is required.
But accuracy is a habit which can be developed, through the diligent checking and double checking of all work, both by the writer themselves and a proofreading partner when available. Something should not be sent to an editor or published until it has passed all checks.
Writers might excel across multiple disciplines, and this can certainly increase their chances of finding professional work. Take professional journalists, for example. Some of them come to pen novels or biographies in addition to their journalistic work, and this can capitalise on their recognisable status as a contributor to a newspaper or magazine.
But even when writing for one type of media or content form, writers need to know how to adapt their writing to a particular audience, and in many cases, the specific tone needed for a particular piece. Journalists, in particular, can benefit from the ability to write a straight news story, a fun and quirky article, or a hard-hitting comment piece, as well as how to structure an in-depth feature or interview. In fact, Greg Satell of Digital Tonto believes that adaptability can be more important than talent.
Thirst for knowledge
A writer who lacks a thirst for knowledge might find that their pieces lack both authority and adequate facts – quite simply because they don’t know enough. Whether you are a journalist who is hunting for information to bolster your piece or are a novelist who is looking for the background which can help paint a particular place or person, soaking up knowledge can be vitally important.
Essentially, as a writer, you can never know enough, and unless you have the ambition to know more than you did yesterday or the day before, you might find it a struggle to fill your pieces with the information which matters. It seems quite likely that as a writer you possess this characteristic anyway, as writers are typically big readers who always want to know more. If you aren’t a natural ‘know it all’, it is still important that you keep up with current affairs and the specialist areas which you wish to write about.
A great deal of patience can come in handy on a number of levels when it comes to being a writer. For a start, you should have enough patience to ensure that a piece doesn’t go out until it is completely ready and has been checked for accuracy multiple times. Deadlines can be a fact of life as a writer, but you should still not be satisfied to finish a piece until it has fulfilled the brief and is up to a certain standard when it comes to quality.
For investigative writers, patience can be required to ascertain the necessary facts before even putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. There are also assignments which require a writer to hold back on releasing a piece until potential legal ramifications have been made clear.
Patience can be required in abundance in the professional sphere of writing. That’s because many areas of writing are highly competitive fields in which it can take many years to ‘get to the top’. You might think it would be a cool job to write about something which you enjoy, but there could be many other writers who have had exactly the same thought! For this reason, patience and persistence can be important ingredients in the ‘writer’s recipe’. Romance and sci-fi author Stacy Hoff hit the nail on the head with her thoughts about patience in writing.
Do you have what it takes to become a writer?
So that’s our take on what a writer needs to succeed. Remember, as with any other profession, working hard on your craft can pay off in the end!
If you want to see whether you have what it takes to be a writer, sign up to Copify today.