Essential writing skills: the top ten skills for novellists

Fiction writing embodies all sorts of skills – more, really, than we perhaps imagine.

Wright_WgtnWaterfront2011_Copyright (c) 2011It’s not just a matter of being able to write – something which, as we’ve seen, demands a whole set of different skills of itself. More on that soon.

Writers also need a raft of skills to go with it. These days the act of getting published is itself complex, whether you go the trad route or by self-pub. It’s fast-changing, and it demands swift adaptation that can come only from understanding what’s going on in the market and with the industry. That’s quite apart from selling into that swift-moving stream. That draws in a lot of other needed skills and abilities – well beyond anything writers traditionally needed. It’s a matter of thinking laterally, of thinking inclusively, and of getting good at these things…

1. Familiarity with computer systems and social networking.
2. Experienced at running a small business.
3. Experienced writer with full control of their writing style.
4. Ability to meet deadlines without compromising quality.
5. Knowledge of the human condition, of people.
6. Wide general knowledge of how the world works, realistically.
7. Good knowledge of what constitutes a novel – character arcs, narrative plot, etc.
8. Ability to effectively manage time.
9. An ability to plug on even when enthusiasm wanes.
10. Knowing when to stop writing and submit the work.

More on some of these to come…and, of course, more on writing soon.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Coming up: Art deco cars, more writing tips, fun science, opinion and humour. Check it out.

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16 comments on “Essential writing skills: the top ten skills for novellists

  1. Cymbria Wood says:

    These ten are bang on! There are so many people out there with entire novels (or attempts at entire novels) sitting in desk drawers because the author lacks the skill set (or balls) to take it out into the world. I’ve been part of so many writing groups where the goal of publication is locked at half mast and people are stuck at that seductive “oh just tell me I’m wonderful” point of ego satisfaction.

    I’ve always believed that the whole point of writing fiction (and non-fiction!) is to SHARE our stories for their own sakes and to entertain and inspire as many readers as possible. That’s why we use words, for goodness sakes! Because they are transferable, portable, and self-sufficient. It’s like raising a child – you want him/her to be able to go out into the world as an independent creation (ideally, to entertain and inspire!).

    • Exactly! I agree with everything you’ve said here. Writing is a solo activity, but it’s there to share. To me its sole purpose is to take the emotional content created by the author (which ALL writing is, including non fiction) and allow others to experience it – or to create an emotional response of their own by reading the material. Entertain? Absolutely? Inspire? Without question. And to do that, authors have to be more than just writers.

  2. susielindau says:

    Great advice! I just finished my first novel’s last edits. I’m looking forward to sending it out for pro editing and hope to start querying by the end of summer. What a process!

  3. symplysilent says:

    Next…you will want me to act responsibly.

  4. Tim Rettig says:

    Great piece, thanks a lot!

    What I miss, though, is marketing skill. Completing a book feels amazing, but when you don’t know how to market it, your enthusiasm will soon turn into disappointment ;)

    • Tips on that are next! (No guarantees, though) :-) Marketing is an art, one that has become all the harder with the advent of social networking and a world of ‘viral’ publicity, 10-second fame (never mind Warhol’s 15 minutes – luxury!) and transient trend. I have some thoughts on it, will share soon. What I will say,though, is that no matter what happens, or how dire things seem to be, there is always a way. We have to think laterally – and never lose hope. Never!

  5. Great list, Matt. Some of them definitely are forgotten or at least glossed over by some writers. Definitely worth reviewing to see what areas need work.

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