Some people believe that it takes talent to write well.

Yes, it might take talent to become an exceptional writer, or to be a good storyteller, but anyone can learn to write well. Writing skills can be learned.

What does it take to write well? It takes skill, knowledge, commitment and practice.

Skill – being able to use language correctly and appropriately in a given situation

Knowledge – knowing correct formats for a range of writing situations; knowing enough words and how to use them to convey precise meanings; identifying your writing goal and the requirements of those you write for; knowing what you are writing about

Commitment – being focused on your writing goal; spending time and energy learning to write well; determining to produce quality writing; using criticism constructively to improve your writing

Practice – writing often to develop your skills; applying learned writing skills thoughtfully and consciously; reviewing your writing to note areas needing improvement and areas where you are doing well.

Some Ideas on the path to becoming a Good Writer...


The process of getting words on to paper is made easier by working to a regular routine. Aim to write a set number of words each day (or a set number of pages), and stick to it no matter what. If the writing is going particularly well, continue to write even if you have completed your goal for the day. Your routine should allow for you to write at such times, though this may require the cooperation of others to take over your other tasks when you are on a writing streak.

If starting to write presents a problem, try the following suggestions:

1. Plan each chapter in advance.

2. Start with an easy chapter or section, or one that particularly interests you at that moment. You do not need to write in sequence. In fact, it is best to write what you can cope with at the moment and postpone more challenging parts till you have more time or are thinking more clearly. The preface and introductory chapter are often best written last.

3. When you stop writing each day, leave a note for yourself about how and where you intend to restart. Jot down the first few words or sentence of the proposed section, or outline the ideas you want to put down.

4. If really stuck, read a bit from a similar or related book. It may help you start your own line of thought to see how someone else dealt with the subject.


Every piece of writing, no matter whether it is a novel or a business letter, should have a dominant theme or underlying idea. In a business letter and in technical writing, the theme should be immediately obvious and clear and should be stated. In a piece of creating writing it might be gradually revealed through the development of the work and may only be fully apprehended by the reader at the very end. Nevertheless, the theme should be present from the beginning, and should exist as a unifying thread through every chapter or paragraph. Every piece of the writing should, in some way, relate to that theme. It is what unifies a piece of writing and lets it stand alone as a meaningful expression.

The theme of a creative piece may never be directly stated. For instance, the underlying theme of Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago is personal integrity, being true to one’s self in thought and action. This is never stated, but is exhibited in the behavior of the main characters, each of whom draws upon hard-won inner truth for the strength and courage to maintain integrity in a vicious, chaotic, and seemingly unprincipled world.

In a novel, we often find that a theme branches out into several sub-themes. Because of its length, the novel allows for this kind of interweaving of themes and ideas. So, in Dr. Zhivago, there is plenty of room for developing a critique of the rise of Communism, of war and aggression in general, of different kinds of power, and of love. But these must and do return in some way to the dominant theme, to enrich our understanding and experience of that dominant idea.

In comparison, the short story or poem might focus entirely on one theme, though even then, there are usually subtle or even overt references to other ideas and themes, for no one idea or experience is self-sufficient, but inevitably relates to and rests on other ideas and experiences.


Learn from others, we can all re-invent the wheel, but it takes a long time.  Learning from those who have gone before you will save you time and money.  Here are some suggested short courses to consider: