The Four Pillars of Becoming an Effective Writer

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Becoming the writer we want to be sometimes seems a daunting and overwhelming task. It’s a notoriously difficult craft, writing.

Odds are, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you want to progress with your work. If you’ve read many of these self-help articles, you’ll find these four tips familiar. That’s because they’re some of the most important tips on how to become a truly effective writer and should not be taken lightly if you’re serious about this line of work.

Without further ado, here are the four commandments every new writer should follow:

Show Up and Work

Being a writer is a job. It may start off as a hobby, as something you do when you get a chance—but if you want to be able to tell people “I am a writer” and mean it, you need to show up to work.

Write every single day.

If that’s the only thing you learn from any of these self-help writer’s articles, then you’re good to go. Write on good days and write on bad days. Write even when you don’t want to—especially when you don’t want to. Creating a writing habit means repetition. If you only write on days when you feel inspired, then enjoy your hobby. The serious writers will be putting ink to paper as soon as the coffee is ready. Speaking of which…

Pick Your Hours

Choose a time every day in which you’ll dedicated every minute to your craft. Even if you can only take 20 minutes out of your day to write, that’s better than nothing. Twenty minutes a day adds up over time.

In one hand, you have the times of the day where you feel most able to write good copy. In the other, you have the hours of the day where you’re not busy doing something else. Put them in a mental (or not) Venn diagram and see where they overlap.

That grey area in the middle? That’s your new writing time, buddy. Seize those minutes for yourself and your work. Don’t text, don’t email, don’t watch the television—just write. If you can’t think of anything to write—write anything. If you’re really unable to think of something, take a quick, non-electronic break. Do a lap around the house, stare out a window, pet the dog. Then get back to work.

Study Hard

Real writers read. I don’t think there’s any good way around it. In order to be the most effective writer you can be, you need to see what effective writers are creating.

This goes for any craft. Try becoming a master at pottery making without looking at pottery. You may make interesting work, but you won’t be as effective. The same goes for writing. Reading inspires your own work and gives you new ideas and roads to work on.

Be True to Yourself

As you read prose from other authors and find yourself inspired by them, it’s important to remember that you are not them. Many young writers try to write like their favorites or the greats. It will always fall short. If we wanted to read a novel in the style of some great author, we would just read that author—not you.

Write what you know and what is inside of you. Readers have an uncanny ability to sniff out when authors are not being genuine. So, be you. That’s why your readers will keep coming back—they want what you have to give them.

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About Author

John Paul Schmidt is a former news journalist. Now he's a freelancer by day and bartender by night while he works on his novel.


  1. User name Sarge on

    I’ve written fight scenes. I don’t know what you do, but I seem to have the ability to have a sort of slow motion camera in my head. You have to write the scene movement by movement the way it ought to be. For instance if your protagonists are fighting with swords. what happens if one of them slashes from the left. You will see the other protagonist move to defend that place. So the first person should attack from the opposite side immediately. That’s where the guard is weak. So where is the second person’s guard weak now? On the side that he was first attacked on. That’s the way it goes.

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