‘What Makes A Good Writer?’

Recently I was asked to answer the question, ‘What makes a good writer?’, but in only 150 words. This is a lot like being asked to explain the entire Lord of the
Rings trilogy, or why women love shoes in only 150 words. This is essentially
the writer’s equivalent of being asked to lick your own elbow. This is almost
as appalling as starting three sentences in a row with ‘this’. The whole task
was ultimately fruitless, as in the end the freelance website in question sent
me a grammatically incorrect thank-you-but-no-thank-you response: proof that
wrongful pluralisation can sometimes (but only very rarely) be helpful. I like
my revenge served lukewarm and with spelling errors, thanks.

However, as my bruised ego has now recovered (almost entirely due to a week spent mocking a freelance writing site that cannot spell) I thought I would share my thoughts with an audience who presumably have the mental prowess required to spot the problem with the sentence, “We will keep your CV on file should another similar opportunity becomes available in the future”. So here is my answer to the ‘What makes a good writer?’ conundrum. Overly whimsical it may be, but I think that this brave little paragraph deserved more than a misspelled automated response. You have to understand that the poor thing was licking its own elbow.


“To my mind, the beauty of a truly excellent writer is intangible. Yes, they must
have a command of grammar and punctuation. They should be able to protect
innocent sentences from painful splicing and wield a semi-colon like a
beautiful weapon of truth. And yes, they must be artful in the creation of
paragraphs that float off the tongue rather than bouncing uncomfortably around
in the mouth. They should not labour over adjectives, or use them just for good
measure. Adjectives have feelings too. So yes, the technicalities are
necessary, but of course, not enough. After all, using an Oxford comma might be
walking on the wild side, but it will never catch a reader’s breath, or more
importantly, their imagination. A great writer will convey emotion so
seamlessly that the reader will be wrapped up in their words and forget there
is a writer behind them at all.”


3 responses to “‘What Makes A Good Writer?’

  1. I think that if I hired freelance writers I’d first want to know if I were a hirer, or perhaps a hiror and then, with such a conundrum satisfactorily settled I’d hire you in a blink. This may leave you wondering whether to search your wardrobe, it may leave you wondering if that would make you a hiree but in either case be quick about it. I’ll be reading and re-reading those hundred and fifty words and in the process, risk forgetting all about the writer who was behind them!

  2. Rupert Pickering

    Does Rhys know that this MoD guy is trying to nail his bird?

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