Towards An Understanding of The Writing Process ~ Paul Liam

Writers approach the writing process differently. What works for Writer A might not work for Writer B, therefore, it is important for the aspiring writer to understand that what defines a writer is style, what is often referred to as the writer’s voice. However, style in writing is influenced by certain factors such as genre or subgenre preferences and the kind of books a writer reads. Those who love crime fiction are certainly going to be better at writing crime fiction, those who read poetry are already setting themselves up to becoming poets and those who love to read essays about criticism are already defining their paths of becoming critics and book reviewers albeit subconsciously. What the beginning writer needs to do primarily is to know which of the genre he or she wants to be known for, this identification creates a sense of focus and direction in the writer who then sets about learning the rudiments of the selected genre. Of course, after attaining some level of proficiency in a genre the writer can switch or try other genres, but it is better to master the art of writing in a particular genre before moving to another one in order to avoid becoming the doer of everything and master of none.

The place of reading in the life of a writer cannot be quantified. Many young writers have difficulties in understanding the direction of their writing because they are limited, they are scared kind of, but there has never been a writer who didn’t read. Reading is the number one goal of a writer who wishes to become successful and there is no shortcut to achieving that. I know that some face the challenges of access to books, but you can always borrow from your teachers, school libraries or uncles or friends. Today, the internet is at the tip of our fingers, we can access millions of books via a simple Google search. Reading, for the aspiring writer should not be limited to materials in his or her area of interest alone because at the early stage the interest is to amass knowledge and any knowledge is important to the writer. In the future, this knowledge forms part of what becomes the writer’s experiences and often makes the writing process a lot easier.

If you ask two students a question, the one who reads is always the one who has a lot to say about everything whether right or wrong because such student is always in possession of knowledge which they can learn to appropriate as they grow older. But the one who does not read is often shy, unsure and unwilling to risk their reputation by even trying to guess an attempt. The point is that an aspiring writer’s first assignment is to conquer the fear of reading. Dear aspiring writer, please, read, read, read, read and read until you can read no more. It is the only sure way of acquiring the requisite skills that you need for the betterment of your art. I use to trek a long distance to the Niger State library just so I could read, for those of you familiar with Minna, I use to trek from Tunga to 1,2,3 quarters through railway. I knew my life depended on the books I could find in the library. That was how much I desired knowledge and wanted to better my skills.

The job of a writer is to write, after reading as many books as possible the aspiring writer begins to experiment with different styles of writing, it is from that experimentation that she or he then begins to develop a concrete sense of artistic direction. This takes time, it is a gradual process. I have observed that those who shortchanged themselves by trying to be smart by boycotting the process end up having difficulties in writing; they are mostly the people who abandon writing after a few attempts at publishing. But those who truly have sacrificed their time to learning the rudiments never leave writing no matter what the challenges are because to them it is more than just becoming known as an author, it is about building a formidable writing career that almost often pays in the end.

The aspiring writer must have the patience to acquire the basic knowledge and skills about writing and this include understanding the characteristics inherent in a particular genre. If one is interested in poetry for example, it is important to study the figures of speech and understand their significance to the beauty of a poem. Those interested in fiction must study the characteristics of a story or fiction as understanding the elements and how they work helps you to have basic background knowledge that you need to start experimenting as a writer. What you know about writing determines to a great extent what you are going to accomplish as a writer.

Writing is about patience and hard work. It takes time for anyone to become a really good writer; it often comes from active practice and years of learning. Any great writer you see around was or is still a great reader of books. Books are the fuel of writing, without it the brain will malfunction. In other words, to be a writer is to be a reader! Don’t say I know this already that is the spirit of a man who will not go far in life, sometimes we all need to be reminded of what we already know. It is life’s wisdom, learn it and keep it in your heart. A budding writer must be open to new and old knowledge accordingly.

Note: This short essay was originally written for the consumption of members of the Paul Liam Creative Writing Class, a WhatsApp group. 

Paul Liam is a Nigerian poet, writer and literary critic. He is an Associate Editor at The Arts-Muse Fair.    


  1. I can't agree less on this. Perfect! With reading, i believe one can do almost everything.

    I have a submission to make, how do i go about it please?

    1. Aminu Salihu, kindly send your submission with a short bio and photo to

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