12 Things Great Writers Never Do

writers never do broken pencils

Writers are similar to any other professional in that they want to do their absolute best in their craft and have best practices (e.g., ALWAYS back up files, get feedback on drafts). Most successful writers never do the following:

1. Copy others

Truly great writers are less concerned with trends and marketability than they are with being true to their own voice and their story. Although they read a ton, analyze what others do to learn, and can have high respect for others in the industry, the process is more about self-discovery. They don’t strive to be “like” any other writer.

2. Forget the technicals

Writers who do well work hard to get the technical aspects of writing like grammar and punctuation right, whether that’s on their own or with the help of an editor. They understand that these points are more than aesthetic. Good technical command of language influences the flow of the writing and how well readers connect to and understand it.

3. Write based on quotas

Successful writers set aside time to write seriously and have targets to aim for. But they are less concerned with quantity than quality. If their brain is mush one day and not much comes out, they don’t sweat it. They know that there will be other more productive days that make up for the “loss”. They give themselves time in their scheduling to account for days that aren’t as creative so that they don’t stress out.

4. Put up with crappy tools

Even if it’s just a mechanical pencil that has lead that keeps breaking, great writers ditch crappy tools fast. They look for efficient, reliable options that improve output. They don’t tolerate tools that are frustrating or that make collaboration, editing, or publishing challenging. They’re willing to invest if it means that they get something that actually works within their personalized setup.

5. Self-censure

This is a tough one these days because of “cancel culture”. But writers worth their salt speak their minds, even if their opinions aren’t popular. They just do it in respectful ways, cite sources, and are clear about their rationales, rather than just making blanket statements or assertions. They are willing to put the reality of the world onto the page, even when others don’t like how it looks.

6. Lean too much on tech

Technology allows writers to create and share drafts more easily than ever. It also can make self-editing easier. But writers who stand out don’t let technology dictate. They are willing to throw out suggestions from editing software or to go back to old-school techniques like reading drafts aloud to get a sense of flow and cadence. They worry about the message first and the platform second.

7. Put all their eggs in one basket

The best writers have projects. Plural. They understand that, even if tons of their material will sell, there often will be a waiting game as editors, agents, or publishers review their work. Successful writers also grasp that different types of projects will fill different personal needs. They put multiple irons in the fire so they don’t get bored and have better odds of steady income. They are willing to drop pieces that just aren’t working to focus on ones that do, as well.

8. Wait to get organized

Great writers don’t put off creating systems that ensure they can find and work on the right document when they need to. They use tools like Excel or QueryManager to see at a glance what they have and what the status of their content is. This infrastructure makes it simpler to do more in less time. When needed, good writers also make regular time to “clean house” and get rid of what’s no longer useful, either by archiving or opting for a permanent delete.

9. Ignore other writers

Those who excel in writing know it’s a tough gig. They are willing to encourage others, even if it’s just through simple Twitter tweets. They will share information about upcoming launches or opportunities because they care more about the craft than they do about beating out “competitors.” If they have the resources, they also might offer critiques, referrals, or other tools. They also don’t put others down because they understand that it’s not worth making enemies in an industry where people talk to each other freely. They work hard to find other writers who can be great mentors and make introductions.

10. Confuse trolling and valid critique

Some people will leave bad reviews or comments just because they think it’s fun. Great writers are able to distinguish this behavior from negative feedback that has grains of truth in it. They don’t assume that all bad comments are malicious. Instead, they step back and objectively listen to what others are saying so they can grow and get better. They know when to defend themselves and when to just move on.

11. Do nothing but write

Those who score big in the writing industry usually get there because they draw on unique insights and experiences. They get out into the world, not just to learn, but to refresh their minds for more creativity. The combination of doing and recuperating usually translates into fantastic drafts that are both relatable and profound.

12. Let others dictate what to do

You MUST send x queries. You MUST revise X times.

Says who?

Generally, writers who find success march to their own drum. They don’t give up just because someone tells them to, and they don’t take too much stock in the odds. They just trust their writing and keep trying.