• Wester Wagenaar

Writing: What is good writing?

Most of our lives revolves around the written word. Our work is littered with documents, emails, and web searches. Our leisure comprises of music, video games, podcasts, novels. These have been written in some form or another. Writing is the most reliable form of one-way communication and remains the bedrock of an SEO strategy. Why writing matters is clear. But what makes great writing?

What is great writing?

We often know great writing when we see it.

Great writing reveals a distinct voice. It allows personality, feelings and experience to shine through. And it’s always appropriate. A marvelous villain’s scheme in a role-playing game touches the mind; a great eulogy touches the heart.

Great writing empowers. It does the heavy lifting. Through recognizable examples and imaginative comparisons, great writing makes its readers feel smart without dumbing ideas down. By telling a rich story with a beginning, a middle and an end, it jumps from thought to thought in a natural, structured way.

Great writing is perfected design. Like Anthoine de Saint-Exupery’s view on designers, a writer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Great writing is punchy and to the point.

Great writing makes you beg for more.

The golden rule

An article cannot be a how-to guide to write like the greats. There is no shortcut to great writing. There is, however, a rule to recognise.

Whether they write non-fiction or fiction, the best writers never lose sight of one rule: following a text’s main purpose. Most of all, a writer needs to consider why they create a text. Does it exist to amuse? Convince? Make you ponder? A newsletter tries to activate a reader to click on hotlinks. Tutorials instruct. Sections and ideas which don’t fit a text’s main goal annoy, divert focus, and distract. Oftentimes these are the darlings writers should kill. So, remove witty puns from a newspaper article; in a story on marital intimacy, reconsider developing the protagonist’s cousins.

No matter the nature of a text, a writer’s ultimate aim is to get readers to keep reading. To retain readers’ attention, a writer should be aware of the target audience’s expectations. A reader shouldn't think, why am I reading this, but, this is exactly what I need right now. The only way to do that, is to stick to the principal goal of a text.

The result is a text constructed for its audience, every line and word tailored to their eyes. To suit a text’s main purpose, a writer changes their voice accordingly. Video game tutorials are clear and succinct; a hobbyist’s web texts are informal and fun. An average writer needs to practice hard to change their voice; a great writer’s experience allows intuition to take over.

Becoming a great writer?

Having difficulties writing video game dialogue, narration, or plot? Unable to write SEO friendly content for your website? Trouble distilling the main point of research into a coherent and attractive report? Knowing what makes a great writer is the first step, becoming one is a different story.

You do not need to become a great writer if you already know someone. Perhaps I'm the writer you're looking for. A decade of editorial experience and a University of Edinburgh Creative Writing Masters in my pocket, I have published non-fiction and fiction for a variety of purposes and organisations. 1000+ online news articles and 60+ business case studies carry my name. My fiction gets published frequently.

Interested? Let me know what needs to be written and request a non-binding offer.

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