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. This is a great reminder. Like many writers, I am guilty of trying to mimic writing schedules that work for other authors. I find that doing that gets exhausting and actually interrupts my creativity. It slows my whole process down, even though it should in theory be speeding it up. What I always end up doing instead is writing when it’s right for me and my schedule. I try to do it daily, but if I don’t, or if I don’t produce my goal word count, it’s ok. It’s much easier that way!

  2. Good point!

    Whenever I read how-to’s I see what’s applicable to me and use that information to perfect what I do. Changing things too much just feels like I’d lose me in the process.

    🙂

  3. I must admit that I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing myself to other writers. Ive never been able to pump out dozens of pages at a time. It’s ok to be an individual where writing is concerned – it’s better actually. A good reminder for me.

  4. I write for a living, so I’m always writing, but for my books, it depends on how excited I am… :o)

  5. @Kristin: They say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery – but in writing fiction we generally find an exception to the rule. It’s much better to borrow rather than mimic, and then strike out on our own.

    @Misha: Exactly. If we changed our process every time we read about another author’s, our writing life would be much too chaotic to get any work done.

    @Jan: Some authors write 30 pages a day; others manage just a paragraph. It’s easy for the latter to feel guilty, but if that’s the the process that works for him, he had no reason to change it, no matter how anyone else does it.

    @LTM: Here’s a perfect example of authors differing. I find I work much better if I discipline myself to write everyday without waiting for excitement. Different spokes for different folks!

  6. This is such great advice. It’s so easy to compare ourselves as writers and decide someone else does it better. I’m glad I found the routine that works for me, but I needed the reminder that it might evolve as life changes. Thanks!

  7. I try to make writing rules for myself but a merely follow them for a few weeks then break out of it. The only thing I keep consistent is writing at night but the days vary.

  8. @Shallee: I tend to be a very set=in-my-ways person, so the reminder that evolution is a good thing is one I need to hear from time to time too. Change is good – as long as we’re doing it from an informed mindset instead of jumping from process to process, just because it’s the latest fad.

    @Cameron: I’m a schedule person. No question that I work best when I have a set routine that I’m able to follow day in and day out. But that doesn’t work for everyone; someone people find it positively stifling!

  9. I write when I am inspired to, which usually means the creation of a new work. I do enjoy my own works when I am reading them but I have come to a new reality in recent weeks. I have gotten a TTS (Test to speech) program and have listened to my works, not so impressed with myself now. I tend to forget since I wrote them I know what they are supposed to say so I skipped words like “of,and,they’re,the” and have now formed a new habit of hearing each chapter, rewrite, hearing, rewrite and then reading. Always and constantly evolving and with each new work comes a revision of an older work. One day I shall be EPIC!

  10. TTS = Text to Speech, not test. Sorry I didn’t catch that when I wrote it.

  11. In the last few years, I’ve started using Adobe Reader’s Read Out Loud feature. It really is handy for catching those typos that we tend to read right over.

  12. Such a great reminder. It’s also good for me to remember that everyone has different goals and different reasons for writing.

    Great post! Thanks!

  13. It can be an unfortunate tendency for us to expect everyone else to fall in line with our own goals – and to belittle those that don’t. It’s important to allow everyone to pursue their dreams in their own way.

  14. Thank goodness we’re all different. Thanks for the perspective. 🙂

  15. Yep! Makes life much more interesting this way.

  16. I am the kind of writer who tries to write everyday. Don’t always succeed though. I like writing schedules, but they have to work around the rest of my life.

  17. Nice reminder, and I’d never thought about my OWN schedule and patterns changing, but they have! And you said it well, that the key is to see what works well for others and experiment to find the best for our own writing.

  18. @storytreasury: That’s what all of us are trying to accomplish – working our writing schedules into our lives. But, because all of our lives are different, all of our writing schedules have to look a little different too.

    @Carol: It’s inevitable that our writing processes change, since we’re constantly changing our life patterns and even, to some small extent, our personalities.

  19. Asking what a writer’s schedule is has to be the most popular question at writer’s conferences. I think its because we hope some of the magic will rub off on us! But you are correct–what works for me (getting up early) probably doesn’t work for the next writer. And thank goodness, or we’d be a very boring bunch.

  20. I believe in experimenting. We can’t always know something won’t work until we give it a try. I gave early morning writing-a go, came up woefully short, and won’t try it again! But at least doing so gave me the permission not to feel guilty when I need to slap the snooze button a second time.

  21. That’s some great advice! -Applies to so much of life…

  22. You really can’t separate writing from the rest of life. It’s all intertwined. If something’s amiss in your writing life, it will affect everything else – and vice versa.

  23. You’re totally right. I tried writing every day because I kept hearing people say that you HAD to do that, but it just didn’t work for me. I prefer to write a lot on my days off rather than write on the days when I come home from work exhausted.

    Great post!!

  24. Whenever I hear somebody say I “have” to do something, I start running in the opposite direction as fast as I can!

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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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