Original question from Quora:

How did you become a good writer?

My Answer:

I understand you want to become a good writer and I have put in a lot of work to improve my own writing. Perhaps my experience will illuminate my process in a way that helps you.

I’ve been writing unseriously since my days in school. Periodically I’ve attempted to blog over the years, so I have some foundation in putting words together.

About a year ago, I decided to write a book and become a writer. Once I viewed myself as a writer and I gave myself a specific project, I was off and running.

Every day I would write something for my book. It was at least a few hundred words. I had a simple outline for the chapters, so I filled in the blanks until I had a full book.

Weeks later I had the rough draft of my book.

The next part was the crazy hard part. It’s the part that made me a much better writer.

I decided to edit my own book.

My reasons were twofold. One, I didn’t want to pay someone else to do it. Two, I would learn more by editing my work than by having someone else do it for me.

So, instead of writing new words every day, my new mission was to kill words every day. Every time I got rid of words, the book felt better.

I killed a lot of words.

To do this, I would read through the book, chapter by chapter, and see if I could spot things that were hard to read, were too long, or otherwise sucked.

If I spotted anything as I read through the book, I knew it wasn’t ready and needed more editing.

My editing process was to go chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, word by word to get rid of anything I could and to improve clarity. No matter how much I edited, every time I went through and fixed even one flaw, I would run through the entire book for other flaws.

I always found more than I thought I would.

I want to say there were at least seven or ten passes through the entire book before I felt like I was done editing.

It took me months to edit the book. It’s not a small task for even an 80 page book.

Eventually I got to the point where even after reading through the book over a dozen times I felt good reading it. It made me happy.

The combination of writing every day when I was creating something new, and editing every day when I was working on finishing it made me a great writer (compared to where I was when I started).

Every time I do this process, I get a whole lot better.

My first draft now looks like my fourth draft before. That is what great writing does. The first draft quality goes up and the editing quality goes up.

The master’s first draft is often better than the apprentice’s final edit.

So, write every day when you’re creating, and edit every day when you’re editing. They are a separate process and know that all writing needs editing.

With enough practice, you’ll be a great writer. I believe in you.


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