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What three qualities make a good writer?

30 April 2016

From Medium:

What three qualities make a good writer? 

. . . .

 What’s terrible and lovely about being a writer is simply that you have to spend more time reading than writing. This seems unproductive to outsiders. If you are a journalist, this is doubly hard. You have to read so that you can write, and you have to read all the damn news so that you have context for what’s going on. So you have a double workload. The upside is that you get to read lots and not feel too bad about the time you are investing. So that’s one.

Two would be spending as much time as you can with interesting people. In person, if you can manage it. They will teach you new words, phrases, jokes, references, and so forth that are ammunition for your writing. No one is interesting in a vacuum. And thirdly, the normal response: You have to write every day. No exceptions.

— Alex Wilhelm, Editor in Chief @Mattermark (Previously TechCrunch)

. . . .

What is your writing practice? 

I write on planes. I use OmmWriter on my Mac, and when I really need to focus, I buy a plane ticket. Honestly. I wrote Zombie Loyalists on a round trip flight to Tokyo and back. I didn’t even go into Tokyo. I flew from EWR-NRT, wrote chapters 1–5. Landed. Got off the plane, went to the lounge, took a shower, ate some food, got back on the same plane, same seat, two hours later, flew from NRT to EWR, and wrote chapters 6–10. 🙂 It works for me.

Peter Shankman, Best-Selling Author and Founder of HARO

Link to the rest at Medium

Writing Advice

20 Comments to “What three qualities make a good writer?”

  1. Write on airplanes? Is the noise, the attitude, or the altitude?

    • I know some writers who require a world to shut out in order to lose themselves in their work. Seems crazy, but they can’t write in peace and quiet. They work in coffee shops, or in the middle of a room filled with screaming kids, or with radios or televisions blaring. I suppose being on an airplane is the same thing.

      • All people are strange/crazy/weird except me and thee, and I’m having me doubts about thee …

        (Stolen from somewhere/someone I’m too lazy to google …)

      • I have headphones to listen to my writing playlist when I need to write and it’s loud around me. I can’t write in a crazy atmosphere.

      • I have severe tinnitus. I can’t write when it’s quiet. The ringing is too distracting.

        So I don’t care where the noise comes from – radio, tv, or the public if I go to a coffee shop or whatever. There just has to be some sound.

  2. 1. He must be single and not have children (and money) to be able to just take off whenever he feels like writing.

    2. He writes nonfiction. Business stuff. So maybe the traveling is actually research?

    I checked out his zombie book. It’s ranking is #323,408 Paid in Kindle Store

    So writing in airplanes does not equate to GOOD WRITING.

    • Got curious and procrastinating so I checked .com and .ca.

      In his niche his ranks are:
      Zombie Loyalists .com#156 .ca#287
      Nice Companies Finish First .com#231 .ca#492
      Customer Service .com#53 or #189 .ca#749 (The categories are completely different for this book in the two stores.)
      Can We Do That? .com#467 .ca#713

      Respectable ranking for the most part. You can’t expect a management science book to compete with the new Harry Potter. It’s interesting that his rankings are much better in the very much larger .com store. That suggests to me either his work is US centric (though he boasts the Royal Bank of Canada as a client) or that there are Canadian centric books performing strongly in the .ca store.

      The Kindle prices are interesting.

      St. Martin’s Press books:
      Zombie Loyalists, Kindle vs Hardcover price (no PB available)
      .com 68% .ca 60%
      Nice Companies, Kindle vs Paperback price (HC available only on .ca)
      .com 60% .ca 58%

      Que Biz-Tech book:
      Customer Service, Kindle vs Paperback price
      .com 47% .ca 48%

      Wiley book:
      Can We Do That? Kindle vs Paperback price
      Publisher list: .com 76% .ca 80%
      Amazon actual price: .com 104% .ca 104%

      Nothing important, but it did provide some effective procrastination.

    • You’re talking about Peter Shankman’s quote, I assume? The zombies must be a night job or hobby or maybe fiction is a passion he now has the chance to return to. He is a well-known PR expert who started the (very useful and successful) HARO newsletter. And he does a lot of blogging, speaking, etc. (hence the travel). I would not discount his comments because his zombie book ranking seems unimpressive. As a non-fiction writer, I’d love to get the kind of momentum and multi-channel business he’s developed!

      I recommend any non-fiction writers here who are looking for press opportunities check out HARO. It’s free. I’ve gotten a couple of nice interviews from it.

      • The zombie book is a PR book — how to render your customers mindless.

        Step 1: Don’t let them hear you call them zombies. 🙂

        • Hahaha, really? I didn’t look. All the more reason not to worry about the ranking. Non-fiction books don’t often rank that well (as you point out). (And his 5 stars on Amazon and 4.2 on Goodreads suggest people like it.)

          Thanks for your reply.

          Oh, and I have the impression his business is very much US focused.

      • Yep ranking means little for a book like that. He’s selling copies to clients.

    • So ranking equals quality?

  3. ‘…What’s terrible and lovely about being a writer is simply that you have to spend more time reading than writing…’

    I think the advice is pretty narrowly focused on his own way. But there are othr ways. Many.

    John Muir. Aldo Leopold. Those and others come to mind as also people who didnt particularly go ‘meet with interesting people’… but with Nature in all her violent and massive forms.

    Then too, without reading, some approach writing as another form of ink Sumi-e which comes from solitude rather than extroversion.

    Many ways for many people.

    • I read a lot in between books. It helps me keep my mind fresh. Usually I write Urban Fantasy, so in between I will read three or four Sci-fi, or Mystery books. I don’t think i would ever describe reading as ‘terrible’. It’s the whole reason I write.

  4. I do know his company of ads for freelancers to gain comments from ‘experts.’ He’s a very wealthy man; hence his buying a round trip ticket to tokyo just to write in the airplane, without seeing tokyo, just getting off at airport and getting back on plane later… roundtrip, prob more than 10k first class, and about 24+ hours round trip in the sky, if nonstop. Not a luxury most can do spur of moment in order to ‘write.’

    ‘…What’s terrible and lovely about being a writer is simply that you have to spend more time reading than writing…’

    I think the advice is pretty narrowly focused on his own way. But there are othr ways. Many.

    John Muir. Aldo Leopold. Those and others come to mind as also people who didnt particularly go ‘meet with interesting people’… but with Nature in all her violent and massive forms.

    Then too, without reading, some approach writing as another form of ink Sumi-e which comes from solitude rather than extroversion.

    Many ways for many people.

  5. I lived in the Pacific Northwest and worked for a New York company for 20 years, commuting across the country once or twice a month.

    Write on an airplane? I’d rather have serial colonoscopies.

    Write in a little shelter in the center of our woods with the squirrels and blue jays screaming at me to get the hell out of there? Yes.

    Everyone to his own taste.

  6. I was up against a contest deadline with a short story, so I bought an all-day train ticket and rode back and forth until I finished it.

  7. I write in the middle of the living room, with the TV going — usually Discovery ID, or if I’m lucky, Ancient Aliens will be on — phone apt to ring, my boys wandering in and out. Dogs, cats and chickens requiring attention.

    I’m so used to being in the center of everything that I’m not sure I could write in silence. There are rare days I’m alone, but only for a couple of hours, usually.

    I might be able to write in first class, or a private rail car, but I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable around strangers. My brain wants to vet everyone that goes by, so that would break my concentration.

    That said, to each his own.

  8. I have an office, and a deck. I’d prefer relative quiet while writing, but seldom receive it.

    If I’m on the deck:
    The dogs, in their ongoing efforts to protect us, bark at every noise no matter how often I tell them our neighbors are allowed to do stuff in their own backyards.

    Every guy in town with a souped-up vehicle feels the need to step on the gas right in front of our house (we live on a high traffic street).

    If I’m in my office:
    There’s still the barking (my office is at the back of the house). If the dogs are inside, then they’ll grump at my office door or are in my office, swirling around the room like furry piranhas.Also, both the kid and HH tend to come to see if I’m working every 15-30 minutes.

    But write outside home territory, with strangers around, and possibly more noise? Nope, ain’t happening.

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