What Kind of Writer Are You

What Kind of Writer Are You?

What Kind of Writer are YouHere’s a truth that is both deceptively simple and all too often overlooked: Not all writers are created equal.

In fact, all writers are as unique as their fingerprints.

Just as our stories are (we hope) distinctive, so are our personalities and lifestyles—and, as a result, our working patterns. In pursuit of bettering our craft, we voraciously study the masters by reading every how-to book and author interview we can get our hands on.

But what we sometimes don’t realize is that even if a particular method or routine works for one author, that singular success doesn’t automatically make it a universal principle.

In general, human beings like the protective solidity of “rules.” We like to know that if we write one page every day, five days a week, we’ll finish a book in a year and be published in two.

But life doesn’t work that way.

It may be that writing a page a day is the perfect routine for you, and you will finish that book in a year. But it could also be that the rigidity of such a schedule will keep you from your ultimate productivity. It could be you will work much better if you allow ourselves more flexibility and less pressure.

In The Writer’s December 2010 article “Making time to write,” Cheryl Bolen points out:

Every author’s goals, writing schedule, and methods are different. Some of us can whip out 20 pages a day; others labor to produce five. You need to determine if you work best doing a set number of pages, or hours, or scenes per day or per week. Which kind of writer are you? You must determine how you produce best.

It’s vital all authors discover for themselves what kind of writer they are and which methods work best for them. Just because Margaret Atwood does X and Stephen King does Y is no reason for us to blindly follow suit. Read widely, learn all you can about what works for other authors, and experiment to discover which methods will offer you the best results.

My own writing routine is a continually evolving process. What worked for me five years ago isn’t necessarily what works for me now, and what works for me now isn’t necessarily going to still work for me in another five years.

With every new story I write, I learn a little bit more about myself and the routines that make me most productive. I’m constantly refining my work habits, always listening to my instincts, and paying attention when I feel I’m forcing myself to observe a stricture that just isn’t working.

Individual writers are the only experts into their own proficiency. Never feel as if you have to force your writing habits to mirror other people’s—no matter how successful they may be in their own right.

Find what works for you and stick with it.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What kind of writer are you? What are some tips and tricks you’ve tried from other writers that haven’t worked for you? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. I have never felt the need for a ‘writing schedule’ and after reading this post, I find myself wondering why. My output varies depending on what I am working on. For example, I wrote a script for a client that is now in preproduction in about ten weeks but I have been chipping away at the same novel sporadically for over eight years.

    That would be my fifth novel, although for a contest once I wrote a short novel in three days. I have had no great difficulty writing this present novel. (It is already over 230,000 words and needs to be trimmed back.) The reason why it is taking me so long to finish this book is only that what I am trying to convey is both difficult and fascinating to me, and it is taking as long as it takes. This is a labor of love, of course, so I feel no pressure. My guess, however, is that it will take me at least another two years to get this done, but, then again, I might finish it in a couple of months. I just don’t know.

    Also, I have never had to wrestle with writer’s block, although I sometimes have difficulty getting started. Once I am into it, however, five hours can pass and it will feel like five minutes to me.

    So am I a freak? Is this something that I developed growing up in a difficult family situation? My point is that I have had little difficulty sticking with something until it gets done, if that something is one of my creative interests. I’m not bragging. I’m wondering why.

    Could it be that I am just curious to find out what the characters will do in a given situation? Is that why I never tire of this Sisyphean profession, because I never quite succeed at what I set out to do either.

    That admitted, I never write from cards, except when it is demanded by clients or, occasionally, as an instrument for a collaboration. What I do realize is that I never begin writing until I discover what the story is about, what I am driving at; what unutterable truth needs to be articulated sideways, like the way a crab walks.

    I mean, I really do believe that quaint Victorian romantic notion, that every word a author writes is a traitor to the truth, but, perhaps perversely, the prospect entices me.

    The only rule I set out for myself is that I won’t accept an assignment until I figure out what the underlying universal themes are. (That is what I spend most of my initial time discussing with a client.) For me plot and character arcs reveal themselves as I move along as a synergistic dialectical process. The feeling is akin to ‘automatic writing’, or taking dictation. The animus for whatever I write, or direct however are the stories universal themes. That much I do know. If I begin to stray from the themes I know I will have to re-write. And sometimes I do, but that is, for me, part of the adventure.

    I’m not suggesting that the quality of what I write is more original or superior to other professional writers, just that the methodology for writing, for me, has never been problematic. I would be interested to discover if any other writers experience working this way.

    L Kurnarsky

  2. My own experience has been a pretty natural evolution of methodology. Consistency has always come naturally to me, so the sticking-with-a-project and finishing-a-first-draft parts have never been unreasonable challenges for me. Writer’s block has never been an issue either (I attribute it to the consistency). But my writing process has definitely changed over the years, refining itself, bit by bit, as I learn more about myself and the ideal conditions for both the logical and creative sides of my brain to work at optimum speed. I love consistency, but I also thrive on stretching myself to discover new and more effective ways to organize my writing methods.

  3. I love doing things on the spur of the moment although I do try to write every day. But I’ll mix it up a bit by either writing in the morning, afternoon or evening. I find strict routines suffocating and this affects my writing. If I write every day at a certain time it won’t be long before I go mad. I hate the film Groundhog Day and I try everything in my power to prevent my own life going the same way.

  4. This is why it’s so important for each author to find the methods and routines that work best for her. We can always glean from how others do it, but the schedules that galvanize me may stifle you. We have to have the confidence to claim our own best approach.

  5. And change when the routine that had been working for you suddenly stop getting the results.
    Inconsistent peoples like me are almost always changing. So, when I can’t seem to fit in on something that had been working, my simple solution in experiment again. 😀

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My problem is the opposite – I can end up sticking to something rigidly, even when it’s not working. Which is yet another example of why it’s so important to know our own tendencies.

  6. When I started writing fiction, I did what I was supposed to do. I went to conferences, acquired an agent, placed in contests, got positive feedback, etc. I went gangbusters toward being published. After many frustrating years of trying to fit into everyone else’s ideas about how I should write, what I should write, how I should schedule my writing, etc., I found myself too bogged down with what I should be doing, and writing became a chore. I took a one-year break, and tried to figure out what I wanted to accomplish with my writing.

    I decided to do it my way. I’ve always been pretty much of a free spirit, and I’m married to an uber free-spirit, so I guess his attitude has rubbed off on me over the years.

    My writing is my creative outlet, and I may (or may not) get around to self-publishing someday. My goal for my writing is to stay creative and enjoy the process, and sure, maybe finally finish a novel someday, lol.

    I’m not driven toward publishing or too interested in the business side of writing at this point in my life. I’m older, and the days of pursuing a career are behind me. I have interests in addition to writing, and sometimes those interests take precedence over writing.

    I outline my stories in my head, (yes, I’m a crazy pantser) and I write when I’m inspired. When inspiration hits, I write like a madwoman. Other times, I listen to music and daydream about my story, fiddle around with scenes, characters, and plot development, and get a few words done here and there.

    I don’t suggest that everyone take this approach, as my way isn’t the best way, it’s how I find contentment. There are writers who want to be career authors, so they have to be more disciplined than I, and that works well for them.

    My free-floating approach works for me, and I’ve learned not to chastise myself because I’m not like everyone else. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good for you. I believe it is incredibly important for each of us to nail down our *own* ideas of happiness and success. It’s so easy to let ourselves be dictated to by paradigms that don’t fit us at all.

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