It’s really very simple. Good writing is about the reader, not the writer. If your goal is to indulge yourself, you’re probably going down the wrong track. A good writer thinks about the reader’s point of view when he or she is composing sentence to sentence. A good writer doesn’t think, “Is what I’m writing clear?” but rather, “Does this bring clarity to the reader?”
Good writing can and should explore multiple layers, whether it be the perspectives that come from different situations or different characters or overlays different dimensions to a storyline or a narrative, but it should do so for the benefit of the reader, not as a means of coming across as eccentric or egotistical.
Earnest Hemingway once said, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” Hemingway also advocated for keeping things simple without meandering toward the simplistic. Make sure you’re not indulging some great need to use fifty-cent-words when a good ten-cent-word will do.
Keeping it simple means relying on verbs – active verbs, that is – and nouns. The more you can minimize the use of adjectives and adverbs, the better. Good writers give their readers full credit for being able to think for themselves and fill in the blanks where necessary. Adjective and adverbs are often a way to try and disguise a weak noun or an ineffective verb, and a good writer takes the time to punch up the noun and the verb before using a full blush of adjective lipstick.
A good writer knows that every paragraph, chapter, or manuscript he or she composes will need and benefit from a solid rewrite. First drafts are hard work. Second drafts are a chance to make things dance. But a good writer also knows that you can’t have a second draft without the pains of carving out a first draft. This goes for novels, biographies, business books, plays, even poetry.
A good writer believes in himself (or herself) even when the doubts creep in. A good writer writes every day, even if it’s only a paragraph or a page. A good writer doesn’t wait for inspiration. If you do that, your reader may never be the recipient of your labors. Write one sentence at a time, and then the next and the next will come. That’s the least you can do for your reader. And for yourself.