how to be a writer

Greater Than the Sum of Your Skills

How to be more than a collection of writing abilities.

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Writing a book is incredibly challenging. If you’re here, reading, you know that. As much as people seem to think anyone can write a book, I’d argue against that. Anyone can put words on the page, yes. But to write a good book? That takes years of commitment.

I’ve titled this series of blog posts “Greater Than” after the famous Aristotle quote above. The genius of that statement is that it can apply to pretty much any realm. Societies. Ecosystems. Physics. In the case of writing a novel—something that’s practically its own ecosystem—I recognized that the statement hones in on one of the biggest hurdles to learning to write.

That is, that you can learn all the different parts and still struggle. I’ll discuss those individual parts later in this series. They include character, plot, dialogue, description… all those parts you’ve heard of already. Those by themselves are difficult to master, but it can be done.

Still, I see writers devote themselves to learning those pieces all the time, and there remains this elusive layer of prowess that is difficult to teach. It comes from creating sharp intuition on how to work with story. How to carry your prose as if it were a fireball you’ve been charged with keeping under control.

I’ve been studying writing, the writing industry, and the teachings of that industry for a long time. And there has always been this bit that nobody can seem to name, much less define. What exactly makes a writer great? Anyone can learn how to build a character. How do you take that character and make them into a hero?

writing skills

The Secrets

In this blog series, I’m going to discuss this elusive layer. It will be in a round-about way because if it could be packaged and sold, it would have been by now. Rather, I’m going to attempt to do it by getting you to understand what’s taking place in between the concepts of character and plot.

To start, I will tell you up front there is no easy button. What it takes to be a great writer is the same thing it has always taken. That is:

  1. Read ceaselessly
  2. Study every aspect
  3. Practice constantly
  4. Get feedback
  5. Repeat indefinitely

If you don’t do these things on a regular basis, you won’t make it. We’re always looking for the next course we can take in a month’s time that will transform our skills. Truth be told, a course will lay a good foundation, but it’s up to you to take that knowledge and turn it into intuition.

With this Greater Than series, I aim to help you become greater than the sum of your skills. Here are the posts included:

Six Critical Insights from a Book Coach – Common habits of new writers that are unhelpful to their growth.

The Part and Parceled Writer – The many teachable pieces of writing.

The Holistic Writer – How to put your whole self into your work.

What You’re Looking For – The true key is in understanding what a good novel looks like.

(Links will be added as the posts are released.)

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