the seven core competencies of successful writing

The 7 Core Competencies Vital to Writing Success

How can you rate your chances of writing success? If you are weak in any area of your seven core writing competencies, you will not achieve the success you need in your writing life. Consider the seven core writing competencies, below, and give yourself an honest grade from one to ten.

Core Competency #1: Grammar

You can what be gooding at the wordling stuff… Um, I mean: in order to express yourself properly, you must master the English language, both in form and in function. This means you must learn the proper usage of words, sentences, paragraphs and even chapters. This is easily measurable since you can focus on what you might struggle with and make the steps to fix what you are weakest in for this area.

Core Competency #2: Structure

This is more about story structure, but you can also lump some of the grammar structure in here too. You can craft a story from start to finish in a cold and methodical manner. You can hammer out the right plot points at the right times, give readers the greatest feelings, and act as though it were all magic instead of hard work. This is only measurable by being able to sit down and identify your key twists and points.

Core Competency #3: Character (Creation and Development)

Ignore the constant dance between Character creates Plot or Plot creates Character. If your writing is going to sing to the masses, you must have a memorable character. You have to know what makes the characters tick  and how they relate to one another in your world. You can measure this by the depth and quality of your character profiles. You know what your characters do and what drives them to do what they do.

Core Competency #4: Outlining and Planning

This isn’t the kind of outlining or plotting that makes pantsers break out into a cold sweat, but rather your business planning after the writing is done. You know what customers you are targeting, you have an idea where to reach those people, and you can point to a business plan or statement that will drive you farther and deeper into the wilds of your customer base. You can measure this by having your quality plans ready in a file, notepad, or Word document.

Core Competency #5: Writing (Both Quality and Speed)

Writing takes time, and time is the only finite resource we have in life. Writing fast and writing well is the best way to write effectively. Yes, writing is rewriting, but you can do better by being as clear as you can in your first draft. This step is measurable by the time consumed while writing anything. You can adjust your time through training.

Core Competency #6: Marketing (Both Yourself and Your Product)

You can fight all you want, but if you can’t reach out to the audience you targeted in the previous core competency, you’ll never survive to see success. Hit the marketing circuit through your social media circles, your blog, your friends, and even the random guy on the corner. This is measurable by the amount of connections you have and the sales you make.

Core Competency #7: Confidence

Yep, this is a competency as well. On the writing seas, many emotional storms will batter you. You’ll be threatened with virtual and personal krakens that want to pull you into the abyss. You’ll be rejected, you’ll be refused, and you’ll feel like a failure more often than not. Resiliency allows you to bounce back and continue working, even when you might feel like you need to give up. This is measurable by the number of times you have failed and might have quit, only to come back for more.

What Do the Numbers Tell You About Your Writing Success?

Rate yourself from one to ten on each of these competencies. What was your lowest score? Make a note of this category.

This low point is the highest point you will ever achieve in your writing career. For example, if you score a ten in every category but marketing is a two or a three, you will never see success.

Shoot for a seven or eight in each of category in order to see real results. If you have a low score in one area, look for ways to study and improve what you need to work on. Read, take classes, or consult someone who knows more about the subject.

Tell me your opinion: Which core competency did you score highest on? Which had the lowest score?

the seven core competencies of successful writing

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About Matthew Eaton | @MattEEaton

Matthew Eaton labors pitifully along the beautiful Monterey Bay, toiling under gorgeous conditions and fantastic weather in the den of his own imagination and with tears crying blood. That’s right, he’s so writerly his tears weep blood, that’s how dedicated he is to the craft. He has a few pieces scattered along the interwebs, and pounds his head against the keys in spasm-like fashion to update his blog (he doesn’t promise it makes sense; he just promises to keep the kids off his lawn).


  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Matthew!

  2. A clear, concise summary of what it takes to be a successful writer in today’s market! Good job we love doing it!

    • Thank you Teagan,

      Granted, there are many people who don’t know and often fight against doing some of these things. Heck, I know I’ve felt that way from time to time.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, much appreciated!

  3. I say I rate the lowest in speed and confidence about 6/7 in each category. I honestly can’t rate myself in marketing yet though I have my plans and study all the time what to do when I get to that stage. But speed is my handicap and confidence another weakness.

    • Hello Traci!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really do appreciate it.

      It sounds like you have a plan regarding the marketing aspect, which is great. I am working on things like this as well.

      If you have a problem with the speed, you can always formulate a plan to increase it with typing programs and the like. This could be a good first step to sketch out a plan and see what goals to set out to make sure you improve what you might be lowest in.

      And, with the improvement in the speed, you can certainly feel the boost in confidence, right? Granted, the last one is more internal with acceptance and whatnot, but this would certainly assist.

  4. I found it interesting to be able to rate and scale my work. Thanks for the article… I actually learned a little more about myself.

  5. DaisFlaque says

    I think that this whole post was a waste of my writing career. Am a published author. This statement pissed me off. ‘For example, if you score a ten in every category but marketing is a two or a three, you will never see success.’ I have never had to market crap. If your material is good enough. You will succeed. This junk is why authors are too few and far between. They come across this and get discouraged. Rant over.


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