The top ten writing skills that writers really need

The other day I decided to list all the skills that I think writers need – especially if they’re to thrive in the modern world. Needless to say there are a lot of them.

One of my bookshelves...
One of my bookshelves…

To me they break down into broad families, each of which has a lot of sub-skills, which I haven’t listed. But the broad headings are:

  1. Having a technical mastery of words – words have to be a servant: writers should not spend time wrestling with basic grammar or fundamental issues such as sentence structure.
  2. Understanding how written structure works – the ‘inverted pyramid’ form, when and how to use it or other written structures.
  3. Understanding how conceptual content translates into practical structure and word.
  4. Hands-on experience in what constitutes ‘editing’, ‘revising’ and other facets of finalising a manuscript.
  5. Understanding the editorial/publishing process, including its terms and the skill-sets needed to successfully accomplish it.
  6. Understanding the target market and how it works.
  7. A social media presence, and understanding of how that works – and keeps changing.
  8. Realising that writing is a constant learning curve.
  9. Having a strong sense of professionalism – meaning humility, abstraction and an understanding that writers do not define their personal self-worth by what they write.
  10. Understanding and expertise in the topic being written about.

This last is perhaps the least important. Writing is often seen as the automatic final part of an enthusiasm for a subject. Academics who identify their self-worth with their status and expertise in their pet topic – are also prone to defining that same self-worth by the existence of their publications. But few are properly trained writers.

The fact is that writing is an independent skill of its own: and professional writers who master all the other skills will find they can write about anything.

For more details about writing, along with other things (such as stuff from this blog), don’t forget to click ‘like’ on my Facebook writers’ page: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewWrightNZ/

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


8 thoughts on “The top ten writing skills that writers really need

  1. All great advice!! It’s such a great list, you can apply it both to fiction and non-fiction (for example with 10, if you’re making the story up and you’re writing a fantasy, you should know your own world inside out)

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