What makes a writer good?

Welcome to a new feature on my blog called Dear Jane...letters to an aspiring writer. The concept came to me in a moment of inspiration while making toast. I hope you will find it insightful and encouraging as you develop your writing gifts. Dear Jane,

As you sit and type the first tentative lines of your earliest attempt at writing a book, if you’ve got one iota of sense in you, there’s one thing you’ve realized already—you suck at it.

Congratulations and welcome to your first breakthrough. Horrifying as this moment can be, it is one that all the best and worst writers have faced, the main differentiator being that the worst ignore the realization and proceed ‘as if’ their writing is great, the best fall into some combination of insanity and obsession that urges them to pursue literary excellence like a hungry wolf chases a rabbit, and the rest (who don't chicken out and quit) settle for a level in the middle--competence.

All I ask of you is that you seek that place of competence somewhere near the upper middle of the writer’s hierarchy. For I could no more coach you to be an obsessed literary genius than I could train you to be a wolf. Some writers are born with extraordinary gifts and possess the will to devote their lives developing them. But for most, mere competence will buy you a ticket to take your writing wherever you want it to take you.

What is competence? Competence is more than the ability to produce works free of grammatical errors, although, for an editor, such a manuscript is nice if you can get it.

A competent author:

• Picks a structure for the book and follows it.

• Chooses language that’s both easy-to-follow and surprising.

• Writes with the reader in mind and

• Wastes no words.

That, in my opinion, is all it takes. Simple, but not always easy.

Think about that for a bit, and I’ll explain more in my next letter.

All my best,


PS: Any Questions? Post them in comments.

Robin Colucci-Hoffman, the Get Published Coach helps coaches, speakers, and consultants write their books and get published by Random House, Doubleday, J. Wiley & Sons, Hay House, and others, many of which won awards and/or became bestsellers.

Robin has researched and/or written freelance articles for The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek to name a few. She has a BA in Journalism from The George Washington University and an MA in Spiritual Psychology from The University of Santa Monica.

Look for her book: From Expert to Author: How to Write a Book that Sells coming soon.