Recently, TCK Publishing posted a job opening for a new Blog Manager. Within a few weeks, we had hundreds of writers apply for the position. Most just didn’t make the cut.
So, what separates a great writer from an average one? Employers, publishers, and editors are all looking for good writers—and they’re harder to find than you might think. It takes serious dedication and commitment to go from an average writer to a good (or even great) one.
Whether you want to be an author, blogger, content creator, copywriter, or poet, becoming a successful writer takes hard work and a lot of practice.
That’s why the best writers all have a certain set of habits that ensure they are constantly writing, learning, and improving.
What Do Good Writers Do?
Here are the things good writers do that set them apart from the competition.
1. Write Every Day
Writing is a lot like exercising. It’s better to do it regularly than to try to cram it all in at once.
Good writers write consistently every day; great artists work the same way. One of the biggest challenges a writer faces is avoiding getting stuck in a rut. If you take one day off, that can easily turn into two days off…then a week, then a month, and so on.
Maintaining a consistent writing habit is one of the most important things you can do to separate yourself from the competition. Once you get in the habit of writing regularly, everything else will fall into place more easily.
2. Establish a Writing Routine
The most prolific and successful writers often have regular writing routines. Some writers have a special writing nook where they do all their best work. Others find writing in a public café does the trick. Some write in the morning, while others write late at night.
But it doesn’t really matter what your writing routine is—what matters is that you have one that works for you.
Successful writing boils down to having strong habits, so a routine is crucial for your long-term success because your routine burns good habits into your brain.
Good habits lead to spectacular results over time.
Imagine a day when you’re not in the mood to write. You’re feeling down, and you don’t want to put in the effort that day. If you have a routine already established, once you begin your routine your mood will likely change immediately, and you’ll probably still have a pretty good writing session.
Without an established routine, your productivity will change based on your mood. And that can lead to long periods of inactivity where you’re not writing (and not getting paid).
Figure out what time of day you tend to enjoy writing the most, as well as what environment you like to write in best, and use this self-knowledge to create a writing routine for yourself that will ensure you’re able to be productive even on the days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
3. Call Yourself a Writer
How do you introduce yourself when you meet someone new? How do you respond when people ask, “What do you do?”
A true professional writer identifies themself as a writer. They don’t hide it or cover it up. By gladly sharing the fact that you are a professional writer, you’ll start to act more like a professional writer because you’re now “bought in” psychologically to that identity. You’ll also get more introductions and leads for business if people in your network know that write for a living.
Writing is a noble profession—and you should be proud to call yourself a writer.
If you keep on hiding your writing from other people, you’ll probably end up hiding from your work too.
Be bold. Call yourself a writer no matter what other people may think or say about it.
4. Set Deadlines
You have to finish your work for it to make an impact in your career. That’s why great writers set deadlines.
Deadlines can be tough to bear emotionally because they put a lot of pressure on you to perform. Writing is challenging work, and it takes serious emotional fortitude to become a great writer. Successful writers learn to use that pressure from deadlines to ensure they don’t let their standards slip. If you want to become a better writer, you have to raise your standards—that means setting tight deadlines and hitting them consistently.
One of the most valuable assets you have in life is your reputation. Being known as a consistent, dependable writer who always meets your deadlines is one of the most valuable (and easiest) ways to improve your rep.
Like it or not, most publishers, newspapers, magazines, and blogs still work on tight schedules. If you want to “fit in” as a successful member of the industry, you have to be able to work within that business model. If you can’t do that, they probably won’t want to work with you.
Any writer can complete a project someday. It takes a professional to complete a project on a deadline—every time.
5. Revise Your Work
The best writing comes from rewriting. You can’t produce truly great work without serious revisions, edits, and effort after you write the first draft.
Even pros with forty years of experience under their belts still need to revise. So if you’re a new writer and want to improve your craft, you’ll need to focus a lot of time and energy on revisions before you even think about publication.
6. Work with a Great Editor
No matter how good you are at rewrites and revisions, there will still be issues with your writing that you just can’t see by yourself. Great writers know they always have room for improvement. That’s why they work with a great editor (or multiple editors).
Published authors, journalists, and freelance writers all create their best work when they work with an editor. If you’re not in a position to work with or hire a great editor right now, then find a local writer’s group or online writer’s group to help critique your work.
Your writing will improve much faster if you can get valuable feedback and input from other people who understand the craft of writing.
7. Cope with Rejection
Good writers know how to cope with rejection, because rejection is a part of every writer’s life. If you’re going to pitch your work to a publisher, literary agent, or media company, chances are you’re going to get rejected—or even ignored.
That’s just how life works.
But it doesn’t matter if how many times you get rejected. What matters is what you do after you get rejected. Will you give up—or will you keep writing?
There are writers who have been rejected and there are great writers, but there are no great writers who have never been rejected.
8. Study and Read
If you want to improve your writing skills, you have to study. There are many ways to study the art of writing, including reading great books and studying the teachings or advice of other successful writers.
Because writing is more art than science, there’s a lot of room for interpretation and improvisation. Work to find your own voice and create a writing style that works for you. But you can’t create a writing style that works well without studying first.
Don’t just read your favorite books: study them. Find writers you admire and check out their blogs, interviews, or books about writing. Listen to the advice of those who have come before you if you want to make it to the top a little faster.
9. Pitch Your Writing
Great writers know that writing is most valuable when someone is actually interested in it. You can write the best story ever written—but if no one reads it, who cares? Who are you serving by writing something without telling anyone about it? Who benefits from all your hard work if no one knows about it?
These questions aren’t meant to discourage you. They’re meant to encourage you to finish your writing project—and then get to work selling it so that your work can make a difference to your readers.
When they aren’t actively writing or revising their work, the best writers constantly pitch their work to publishers, literary agents, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other media outlets.
If you want your writing to make an impact, you need to learn some basic sales and marketing skills. If you don’t have any marketing skills right now, that’s okay. You can study some of our blog posts on marketing and start pitching your work.
Just because you don’t have certain skills today doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t let a lack of marketing experience hold you back from achieving your writing dreams.
10. Build Your Base
One of the best things you can do as a writer to improve your career is to build a fan base. There are all kinds of brilliant marketing strategies you can implement to attract more fans, but the first step is always to write something worth talking about.
Once you’ve written a book or blog post or magazine article that’s truly valuable and worth talking about, it’ll be a whole lot easier to start building a fan base. Lots of writers think they have to have fans before they ever publish a book or article, but that’s backwards!
Until you create and publish a remarkable piece of writing, all the marketing strategies in the world won’t do you much good.
So, focus on writing and publishing something great first—and work on building up your fan base once that’s been accomplished. You might want to start by building an email list so you can stay in touch with your fans.
11. Learn From Your Mistakes
One thing all successful writers have in common is that they never give up.
No matter how many rejection letters you get or how many mistakes you make, you have to keep going if you want to win. But you can’t just keep going without taking breaks to stop, reflect, and learn from your errors. Making the same writing mistakes over and over again won’t get you where you want to go.
When you get a rejection letter, ask yourself, “What could I have done better here?” You have to be willing to learn and change when what you’re doing isn’t working.
Whenever you get feedback on your writing, pay attention. Don’t get defensive or dismiss the feedback without really considering it. It may be painful, but if someone tells you—or, better yet, shows you—where you’ve messed up, that’s actually good news because once you know you’ve made a mistake, you can go back and fix it and avoid making that mistake in the future.
It takes consistent growth and learning to become a great writer, and that means you’ll make lots of mistakes along the way. The key is to learn as you go so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Keep on Writing
If you want to become a better writer, I encourage you to keep at it. Don’t give up on your dreams. Writing is tough. It’s challenging. It can be lonely. It can be filled with rejection.
But it can also be incredibly rewarding.
If you have the courage to keep going when things get tough…
If you have the wisdom to learn from your mistakes and keep improving…
If you have the discipline to create good writing habits…
Then you have all you need to become a great writer.
It’s just a matter of putting in the work and effort.
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.