What Makes an Excellent Writer?

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There has been a long-running debate about whether one needs to be an avid reader in order to be a good writer. I personally think that the two go hand-in-hand. Reading builds our vocabulary to a much greater extent than does watching television, exposing us to twice as many rare or unusual words. And how can one possibly write effectively and hold a reader’s attention without possessing an amazing vocabulary?

But beyond words, what constitutes great writing? For me, the hallmark of an excellent writer is their ability to draw me into the lives of their characters and make me feel as if I’m an active part of the story and not a passive participant. I want to have access to the characters’ phone numbers so I can call them up to discuss their circumstance that I’m reading about. There have been several books that I’ve recently read upon whose ending I was extremely upset. I wanted them to go on and on forever. Two of these are The World According to Garp by John Irving and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. These are just two recent examples, but there have been many in my reading career.

Over the years, my reading choices have changed drastically, as has my writing style. During middle school and high school, I was enamored with authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harper Lee, and Emily Bronte. The classics were comforting at a time when my life was changing and in turmoil. Reading a timeless story that has survived generations of readers somehow made life easier. As my reading tastes changed, I almost exclusively read mysteries inspired by my early readings of Agatha Christie, and even earlier than that, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Curling up with a whodunit was the best life could bring. As I approach a new decade in my life (and I’m not telling which one), my tastes have changed yet again, leaning towards literary fiction and some non-fiction, with some of my favorite children’s books thrown in for nostalgia.


To answer the question I posed in the beginning — does reading affect one’s writing? — I think it’s a no-brainer. My writing has changed and evolved over the years because of what I read. My vocabulary has increased, my tone and style are more effective, and my descriptions have become more embellished. How can a writer begin to understand plot and character development without having been absorbed in a story? Reading opens us to experiences that we otherwise would never have been exposed to in our lifetime. It is these wisdoms imparted through others ‘ stories that have broadened my world, allowing me to write about things I’ve not experienced first-hand.


I’d love to hear your views on the subject. Which are your favorite authors and books? How have they affected your life and your writing voice?
 

Dena

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The Necessity of Writing

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

For me, writing is more than a passion. It is a basic necessity, a deep-seated need that, if removed from my life, would make it unbearable. It would be as if a chunk of me was missing. No matter in which direction my life has taken me, I have always had my writing to fall back on. It has been there for me like a best friend that never disappears, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Even though, academically, I pursued the sciences in high school and college, and then in my career, I have turned back to writing time and again. It is what I am most passionate about. In 2009, I made the decision to pursue writing on a full-time basis. This has been one of the best decisions I have made with my career. It has given me time to express myself in ways I never thought possible, and a deeper understanding of myself and the people around me.

Another long-term desire of mine has been to create some type of home-based business where I could take care of my family while earning a living. The thought of working from home appeals immensely to me, so, naturally, I have imagined for quite some time that working as a freelance writer would be the best of both worlds. Hence, the creation of Purple Pencil Editorial.

As our business grows, I would like to see my writing capabilities expand and transport me to places I haven’t yet imagined. From every task to every project completed, there are a multitude of lessons learned, and I’m looking forward to getting an education in the finer points of freelance writing. This is yet another of life’s journeys.

Dena