To Write Well

To write well, one must write

and write often.

To write well, one must read well:

reading often and reading closely.

Storytelling is contagious –

reading will spark the fuel of your imagination.

But storytelling has also been going on for as long as mankind has existed.

You should know what’s been said and how it has been said to do it well yourself.

To write well, one must treat writing both seriously and playfully, balancing the discipline of hard work with the pleasures of creativity.

Readers only respect writers who care enough to do both with vigor.

And they can spot lazy writing from a mile away.

To write well, one must first be willing to make a lot of mistakes in the name of experimentation and practice.

Otherwise, one goes stale or repeats the same errors indefinitely.

Or worse: one might become fatally boring…to readers and to oneself.

To write well, one must be willing to share writing with others, to get a sense of how readers respond to one’s efforts.

Never forget that writing is foremost an act of communication.

And if writing is an experiment, then workshopping is a way of testing the results of it.

Again: To write well, one must really care what readers think.

Often a reader’s needs are more important than the writer’s goals in telling a story. Sometimes you have to be willing to “kill your darlings.”

Yet to write well, one must not think of writing as a slavish act of catering to one’s audience — or as mandatory homework assigned by a teacher.

Writing is something magical that originates from within:

storytelling is one of the many ways we all have of expressing ourselves and discovering ourselves.

Even in fantasy, we” write what we know”

and yet, when we are doing it right, we surprise ourselves with our own imagination.

To write well is to tell stories consciously. We’re all already fictioneers,

we’re always telling stories in our everyday lives,

whether we know it or not.

But what separates a fiction writer from an everyday storyteller, however, is a particular attention paid to crafting the language and a purposeful massaging of the core elements of narrative to produce the desired audience response…

Something emotionally resonant or truthful…


Something approaching art.

“To Write Well”

Excerpted from a syllabus for a course in

The Writing of Fiction

by Michael Arnzen, Ph.D. | Seton Hill University(


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