Thursday, October 18, 2018

The ABCs of Writing - 26 Things Every Writer Needs to Know

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Lately I've had a lot of folks ask me what it takes to become a writer. 

The real answer takes hours, but today I decided to just boil it down to the basics. 

I’ve done several of these ABC posts here on The Write Conversation and today I’m adding one more. I just can’t seem to help it, they’re so much fun to do.

The ABCs of Writing

A is for Adventure. The Writer’s life is definitely full of surprising twists and turns—we never know when we’ll be ambushed by an idea or spend half a day looking for just the right word.

B is for Balance. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the writing life. We all need to practice a healthy balance.

C is for Cathartic. The experiences I’ve had in life always seem to creep into my writing, even if they’re unrecognizable to anyone else. Processing what I’ve been through with words has been a good thing.

D is for Discipline. To be a writer, you must…well…write. It’s not often easy, but it is fulfilling.

E is for Encourage. Yes, we need to encourage others with our words. But even more importantly, we need to use our words to encourage ourselves. Don’t be your own worst enemy by constantly talking down to yourself.

F is for Failure. Failure is an option, and anyone who’s told you differently is lying. I often learn more through failure than through success. It’s painful, but knowing something good comes out of my mistakes often makes them less painful.

G is for Gratitude. Having the freedom of being a writer is a gift I will never take for granted.

H is for Hard. Choosing to be a writer means a lifetime of hard work. It’s rewarding and satisfying, but not easy.

I is for Illustrate. Yes, that’s an artsy sort of word, but I chose it on purpose. Never forget that you are an artist and you illustrate life with words.

J is for Jealousy. It’s far too easy to compare our own journey with that of other writers. It’s easy, but not productive. Each of us has a different path and we need to be striving for excellence, not keeping score with one another.

K is for Knowledge. As writers, the education never ends. We never arrive at the place of knowing it all, so we’re always continuing our education.

L is Long. There are no shortcuts in the writing life. When we choose this path we need to remember to take the long view.

M is for Manna. For me, the words often appear only as I need them. They are gifts from God.

N is for Networking. I know, we’re all introverts and can’t stand the thought of interacting. But the truth is, we need each other. Not just to earn a living and get paid. We need one another for encouragement and to be reminded that we really aren’t crazy.

O is for Odd. That’s what writers are—odd. We look at things just a little differently from the rest of the world. That’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s a gift.

P is for Peace. We must learn to be content with our gift and the way it plays out. This business isn’t always fair, but things do tend to even out over time. To experience the heights of joy, we must be willing to walk through the valley’s of despair.

Q is for Quality over Quantity.  It's easy to get caught up in the numbers game. We look for the number of words, the number of published pieces, the number of followers, reviews, etc. But it's the quality we need to focus on, no matter what the numbers say.

R is for Rhythm. Good writers know that words must have rhythm. There’s a certain cadence necessary for everything we write.

S is for Send. We were giving this gift of writing for a purpose. We’re being sent into the world to share what we’ve observed. This means we need to hit send and be willing to risk having others read what we’ve written.

T is for Trust. I need to trust that God has called me as a writer and that my words have value.

U is for Unique. So often writers struggle with the fact that they don’t have anything new to share. The truth is that each of us is one-of-a-kind. Even if we all write about the exact same thing, it will be from a different and unique perspective.

V is for Vanquish. There are lots of battles that come with the writing life and the most powerful is fear. We must face the fear we face and vanquish it.

W is for Want. We must each decide how much we want to write. Finding time to write is a lie. The truth is that we must carve out time to write. To do that, we must want it badly enough to give up some things to make it a priority.

X is for Xerophilous. This word means flourishing in a dry environment. As writers, we must write whether we’re in the mood or not. We write when we’re full and when we’re empty. Some of my best work has come by learning to flourish in a dry time.

Y is for Yes. It’s easy to say yes to doing something we know we can accomplish. The true test is saying yes, when we’re uncertain. Being a writer means saying yes—yes to new things, yes to impossible deadlines, and yes to always stretching and growing.

Z is for Zoo. And that’s about as good a description of the writing life as I've found!

These are the things I’ve come up with. I’d love to know what you’d add or change to my Writing Life Alphabet.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


“Never forget that writers are artists who illustrate life with words.” - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)    


  1. Ms. Edie; you know I'm printing this out to keep as a handy reference on those days when I just want to throw up my hands and go feed the cattle instead. Thank you for always finding new ways to encourage us to keep moving forward on this journey in faith we call "becoming a writer." What a blessing you are ma'am. God's blessings to you and your family.

    1. Jim, I'm so glad I'm able to provide encouragement! Blessings, E

  2. Edie, You have described the writer's life so very well. Thanks for the timely reminder.

    Roberta Sarver

    1. Roberta, thank you! Blessings, E

    2. Edie: You have nailed the writing life. Thank you for the refreshing reminders.

  3. Love this! Thank you so much for your Authentic Beautiful Courageous words of encouragement.

  4. Wonderful list! I don't think you missed anything.