What makes a great writer?

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”  Mark Twain

Writing what comes into your mind is simple. You simply put down on paper what appears in your head. Good writing is going back and rewriting what came out of your head so that it makes sense to others. Great writing is agonizing over every single word seven or eight times, until you’re finally satisfied that you’ve put down on paper the best possible words, in the best possible order.

A writer may look at a new manuscript a third time and think all the right words words have been used. It isn’t until the writer reads the manuscript a fourth or fifth time that he’ll notice the wrong word here and there.

A reader will not notice the wrong words. The reader will think all of the words written were meant to be written. The reader will see a story which makes little sense here and there.  The difference is that a writer sees the right words in his mind while reading a story. His mind knows it should say ‘lightning’ so his eyes see ‘lightning’ instead of ‘lightning bug’, which is what may be on the paper. Readers must rely on what’s on the paper in front of them, so they see exactly what’s written.

Great writing is the difference between using the right word and the almost right word. There’s nothing more difficult to a new writer than finding the right words. For an experienced writer, finding the right words is simple. What’s difficult is finding the right story to use those words in.

When a writer does find the right words, and the right story, magic happens. The story promotes itself. The story goes viral.

What makes a great writer is not the story that he tells, it’s the words that he choses to tell that story. Every writer thinks they have a great and unique story to tell. It isn’t until public opinion expresses that sentiment, until every reader feels compelled to tell everyone they know to read that story, that the writer knows he’s found the right words.



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