Back to Blog
6 essential skills for writers

6 Essential Skills For Writers

We're often asked 'what are the essential skills I really need in order to call myself a writer?' It's the question asked by people who know they love writing but also sense that they have much to learn in order to be the best writer they can be.

As fully committed writing geeks we love lists, so we've boiled it down to six essential skills every writer should know. These hold true whether you're just starting out or are looking to develop your craft. You can never be too geeky.

Our list goes like this: 

  1. How to generate fresh ideas and get the pen moving. This is the messy fun part of any writing project when you can write whatever comes to you, based on whatever catches your attention. If you're stumped for ideas, we can show you lots of ways to kickstart the writing process (the paint colour cards are a great example).
  2. How to create compelling characters that come to life on the page. We love this one, it's the nosy stage when you can look at a life inside and out and get to know a character from every angle. Go on - look in their pockets, under the bed, inside their dreams... see what you find. You're the writer and nothing is off limits.
  3. How to write great descriptions that ‘show not tell’ (and what that expression actually means). This is the skill of knowing how to engage your reader through the senses and give less information, more sensation. Readers love working things out for themselves and this is how you keep them on their toes. 
  4. How to design a plot that will make your reader keep turning the pages. That's the essential mapping that makes your story take shape (and shows you where the gaps are).
  5. How to choose  which point of view to write in. This is the most important choice you'll make as a fiction writer. In fact it's two questions: 1. which of the characters' viewpoints should you convey the story through, and 2. which point of view should you write in; the first person (I) , second person (you), third person limited or omniscient point of view (both she, he or they but with a more or less limited focus)? This can be a real eye opener when finding the right point of view to serve a story. 
  6. How to write cracking dialogue that keeps the story moving. Good written dialogue isn't like normal speech. That would be too random. If you think about the way we tend to interrupt each other, break off midway through a sentence, and fumble around for the right word, it just doesn't work on the page. Effective dialogue does two things: it reveals character and it moves the story forward. Anything else is padding.

As part of our geekdom we regularly share tips and tricks about this type of thing on social media, plus our online courses guide you step by step through the detail of how it all works. Our aim is to help you unleash your own inner geek and transform your writing. 

We've got much more in the pipeline too, so sign up for news and be the first to learn about our new workshops and courses for writers.

See you soon.

Stay updated with news and events

As a thank you for subscribing to our news, we'll send you our short series of The Writing Retreat's Top 3 Tips For Writers. These are the things we think every writer could benefit from knowing. Will you? 

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your contact information, for any reason.