One of my favourite things to do in my spare time is help other writers establish themselves. By pushing them in the right direction, they can build for themselves a fantastic freelance writing career which will sustain them for as long as they want. And I am often asked the same set of questions by new writers:

How can I get the highest paying gigs?

How can I market myself better?

Do you know who might be hiring health writers right now?

When will I be able to quit my day job?

And these are good questions. Questions I am HAPPY to answer. But very rarely do I get asked the most important question of all…

How can I ensure I’m a GOOD writer?

Because this is the most important thing to be, isn’t it? If you’re good at what you do, clients will not only be more likely to hire you based on your portfolio examples, but will retain you for the long haul. This will guarantee you a repeat income and much-needed stability. Being GOOD at writing is vital to long-term success.

So let’s think about it for a moment. What actually makes a good writer? Let’s check out some expert advice:

English poet and novelist Samuel Johnson said that the key to writing well was reading a lot. He said, ‘”The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.'”

And we totally agree. Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blogs, ad and brochure copy, website pages or Facebook content, reading OTHER work in a related field will help inspire you and help you to expand on your skill-set. Look at what others are doing well and practise their methods. See if you can adapt your habits to be even better than you are based on the examples set by more successful people.

Here’s another:

American science fiction writer Leigh Brackett said that plot is key to writing success.  “Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”

The way we tell a story, whether it be in an novel or an advert, is what keeps readers engaged and responsive. From a copywriting perspective, think about the adverts you see on TV each night selling perfumes and ipads and cars. They tell a story – they have characters and narrative and a conclusion. Your writing should follow the same sort of process.

Style and language choice is critical too, of course. American novelist Elmore Leonard explains that the trick to writing well is to make your writing fluid and conversational. She said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

And famous author J. K Rowling has decided to focus much of her advice on the time that’s spent writing. “Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there… You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. It’s all these deadly things that your school teacher told you you needed… You need it.”

Of course, there are thousands of writing tips available online and an abundance of authors dead and alive who have offered invaluable (and often contradictory) advice on what it means to be a good writer.

What’s your perspective? What do you think makes a good or bad writer? Feel free to comment below with your views!