We could be­gin here: writ­ing is a se­ries of de­ci­sions. (I first heard this from Mary Robinette Kowal.)

I talk here about fic­tion writ­ing but it could ap­ply to non-fic­tion as well.

There are macro de­ci­sions—about for­mat, about plot, about char­ac­ter, about theme—and mi­cro de­ci­sions—about syn­tax and sen­tence length, word choice and punc­tu­a­tion.

This is why the ini­tial blank page is so scary: all the de­ci­sions, both macro and mi­cro, are still there ahead of you wait­ing to be made.

And this is why, when you near the end of a first draft, the pace of your writ­ing seems to rocket ahead: the large ma­jor­ity of your macro de­ci­sions have been made, and you’re able to round out the con­se­quences of your de­ci­sions.

Becoming a bet­ter writer then is about learn­ing to make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

Like any skill, learn­ing to write is frac­tal. That is, as you learn to write, it will ini­tially be learn­ing what are the wrong macro de­ci­sions (hackneyed char­ac­ters, sto­ries that have been done be­fore) and wrong mi­cro de­ci­sions (incorrect gram­mar, cliched word choice).

Once you do this, it be­comes eas­ier but also harder. Because as wrong choices are elim­i­nated, more choices be­come avail­able to you: new de­ci­sions that you weren’t aware of be­fore, sub­tleties be­tween de­ci­sions that you did­n’t re­alise were all that dif­fer­ent.