The skills a writer needs can make for a long list. It includes mastering grammar, syntax, tone, and style, to name a few.
New writers find the process challenging but rewarding as they discover how to use these elements to craft their own unique voices.
No writer is ever truly finished, as writing is a lifelong learning and improvement journey. But there’s more to being a writer than only learning to write well.
Today, writers also need to be able to market and promote their work, build relationships with readers, and navigate the constantly changing landscape of publishing.
The skills a writer needs apart from writing
Writers fall into so many different categories.
You could be an author, poet, or content writer.
Then again, you might be a copywriter, blogger, short story writer, technical writer, ghostwriter, or biographer.
For some, writing is a full-time occupation.
But for most writers, it’s a part-time job or simply for pleasure for others.
But for every category of a writer, your ultimate aim is to find readers.
That’s a challenge all writers face.
To achieve this goal, you need more skills than knowing how to write well.
So yes, you need to adapt and work at earning more readers.
Here are ten non-writing skills a writer needs today.
For most writers, there is no one standing over their shoulder telling them what to do.
Developing self-discipline helps you meet your objectives, writing plans, or deadlines.
For a new blogger, it might mean publishing three new posts every week without fail.
An author may set a goal of 2,000 words per day, every day.
Another form of discipline is to ensure you refrain from unnecessary distractions.
When you write, turn off the wifi to stop email and social media notifications.
Create your writing routine, and when you write, have the discipline to make it your only focus.
2. Organization and planning
Every writer has ideas, notes, references, drafts, to-do lists, appointments, and perhaps deadlines.
Keeping all of these in your head or on scrappy post-it notes is an ad-hoc approach.
Make use of a calendar program and set reminders.
There are many organizers and productivity apps that can help you record your ideas and notes.
You also need to be a good file manager and avoid littering your computer’s desktop with drafts and document files.
Planning your days, weeks, or months and organizing your files, notes, and ideas will save you a lot of time in the long run.
3. Research skills
Doing research for your writing is more than collecting information or helping to develop your ideas.
It is about the accuracy of your data, facts, and references.
Technology makes researching easy. But you need to keep an accurate record so you can use references or credits in your writing.
Even in fiction, there are often mentions of historical facts or dates which need to be accurate.
It can be a trap to think you know when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Was it July 20th or 21st, 1969?
According to Wikipedia, both dates are correct.
Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC. Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface six hours and 39 minutes later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later.
If you were writing on this topic, accurate research would tell you that there is a difference between when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.
Methodical and accurate research is a skill (and a good habit) that every writer needs.
4. Editing and rewriting
Long gone are the days when every writer had an editor.
But for even the very lucky ones that do, they can rarely toss an editor a rough first draft.
All writers need to develop the skills to check, edit, rewrite, and proofread.
Luckily, there are some great grammar and writing checking tools available now.
Most of them will help you find errors in your writing and suggest improvements.
But no tool will help when it comes to editing and rewriting to improve the clarity, style, tone, or register of a text.
Rewriting a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter is a talent that all writers need to develop.
Whether you have an editor or not, editing and accurate proofreading are essential for any text.
5. Marketing, promoting, and selling
It’s not only authors that need to promote and sell their writing.
All forms of writing require some form of marketing or promotion to find readers.
Promoting articles is a skill, especially for content writers trying to make money from affiliate marketing or advertising.
Social media plays a big part now for writers, but it’s not the only way to promote your books or writing.
Writing is now an online profession, so marketing is a vital skill to develop.
6. Publishing skills
The publishing skills a writer needs will vary.
For a self-publishing author, it will be learning how to use Amazon KDP and other book publishing platforms.
They should also know how to convert word processor files into epub, mobi, and pdf formats.
Content writers and bloggers learn to use CMS (Content Management Systems) platforms, acquire some HTML knowledge, and perhaps learn about image optimization.
In any form of publishing, there’s always a short learning curve.
7. Technical skills
We use technology every day, but writers sometimes fail to learn to use it effectively.
It can be as simple as not understanding how to copy and paste a URL link correctly.
Others include knowing how to do a site search or Boolean search on search engines or using import and export functions in a word processor.
It’s easy to improve your technical skills if you are curious and willing to take the time to learn new skills.
Everything you need or want to know is online, so all it takes is a quick search.
8. Analytical skills
David McCullough said writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.
There is no topic or subject that hasn’t been written about before.
For a writer, it’s about bringing originality and a new perspective to a story, article, or poem.
It is especially vital for content writers to analyze why certain articles perform well, and others fail.
You could classify this as critical thinking, but it can be as simple as learning to understand what readers want.
Setting aside your writing for a week or a month is always a good tip.
Then, when you come back to it, you are removed from the writing process and can be much more analytical.
9. SEO skills
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best and perhaps the only way to attract a regular stream of new readers to your writing.
Learning how to use keywords in articles and blog posts is an obvious place to start.
But SEO also applies to authors. Amazon uses similar keyword data to power its search function.
That’s why, for new authors, it’s vital to learn how to choose effective and hopefully profitable KDP keywords for ebooks and books.
SEO is a vast topic, and a writer certainly doesn’t need to know it all.
But you should work towards understanding the basics and then developing your SEO skills.
10. Communication skills
You are a writer, but are you a good communicator?
There are always times you need to contact people by phone, email, or on social media.
Perhaps you want to approach a publisher or seek representation for your new manuscript.
Communicating clearly and persuasively is one of the soft skills a writer needs in order to garner attention or agreement.
Writing is a challenging yet enjoyable job.
There are so many aspects, however, that it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.
But every writer has been through or is on a journey because all writers start from the same point.
All you need to do is stay curious and have a passion for learning new writing and technical skills.
Related reading: Keep Everything You Write And Never Delete Your Drafts