Turning Your Good Writing into Great Writing

What separates the good from the great? Hard work.

Marathon runner

Undoubtedly, some people in your critique group are able to write a better first draft sentence than you. Don’t be discouraged. Writing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Marathons are races of endurance requiring discipline, persistence, and stamina. Talent rarely succeeds on talent alone. Champions are made in the gym. Great writers are made at the editing table.

Becoming a better writer requires putting forth effort. Are you committed to putting in the hard work becoming a better writer demands? It’s not enough to put a story on paper with a beginning, middle and end. The real nitty gritty of writing occurs at the editing table where you sweat over every word. Are you going to hold your prose accountable? Can you trim the fat like a skillful butcher? Are you able to kill off your darlings?

William Faulkner

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”― William Faulkner

Great writers don’t waste words. They make each word count, slaving over each sentence and testing each word. Is it the best word to use? Have I written a solid sentence?  Is there a better word that would make more impact? Are the sentences I’ve written moving the story forward? Have I set the table well? Are adverbs and adjectives weighing down my story?  Am I creating tension, conveying risk, developing characters and pacing my story effectively? Will what I have written keep readers turning the page or cause them to put my book down?

Great writing makes readers want to keep on reading. They don’t want to allow life to interrupt the story you’re weaving. They are all in, fully glued to your story, and hanging on for the ride in spite of the world going on around them. They lose themselves in your tale, tuning out life as they know it.

I don’t know how many drafts it will take you to create a story that gets readers invested in your story.  Two? Three? Four? Five? Your story has to keep readers peeled with anticipation. Are the characters people your readers can identify with?  Is the protagonist likable? A story with an unlikable hero won’t garner much traction. In the same vein, is your antagonist someone they can genuinely root against?

Your readers have to care how the story turns out. Flower are pretty. A narrative about the life of a flower, unless really exceptionally done, doesn’t draw much interest. Nobody will read your story if it’s more fun watching paint dry.

Bottom line: Your writing will be equal to the effort you put into it.

Someone may be more naturally gifted or talented than you. Of course, having talent helps. However, talent alone doesn’t translate into positive results. Our human nature betrays us. It makes us lazy and leads us to invent creative new ways to procrastinate. Hard work separates the wheat from the chaff and those who write from those who sit around talking about writing.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing. You have work to do.

Happy writing!


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