Strong writing is a combination of a confident delivery, an interesting story told in an interesting way, clarity and purpose.
Confident delivery – Are you unsure of where the story is headed? Are you writing your way into a scene? Fine. Just be aware of that and buff out those scratches before you submit your manuscript somewhere. A reader will know if the author isn’t confident. Reader’s don’t keep reading through “pity”, or because they can tell the author is “trying”.
An interesting story told in an interesting way – An author’s job is to make life interesting. Even the mundane aspects of life should be filtered through a point of view and voice that rewards the reader with a different take on the obvious and routine lives we all live. If you can’t work out new ways to tell old stories, you’re going to struggle…
Clarity – All parts of your story should work toward a goal. It doesn’t have to be the same goal. The plot could be about isolation and the subplot could be concerning the environmental devastation of a post-terra-formed Mars, but you as the author need to make this work. Don’t mix metaphors, don’t sully powerful images with wishy-washy semantics, and get the hell out of your own way. Above all, on a sentence level, know what picture your words are painting. If the sentence is about the river, don’t use words that are associated with dry, or hot, or even ones that remind the reader of winter if the scene is set in summer, unless that is your intention. The wriiten word is an elaborate, ever-increasing, perfectly fallible code; a way of putting your thoughts in their head. Don’t screw it up.
Purpose – Who are you writing for? Who is the audience? What do they already know and what will they never have heard of? What can you get away with NOT saying? Go over ground that the audience is intimate with lightly or not at all. Write toward a goal that interests you and for an audience that will appreciate your hard work.
That’s it. Now get to work.