Which Type of Writer Are You?

There seem to be two types of writers:

  1. Those of us who can slap something down and keep moving toward a first draft no matter how bad our initial attempt is.  Sometimes something truly horrid will bring us to a halt, but for the most part we keep going until we have a draft that we will then have to revise.
  2. Then there are the tinkerers.  Before they start work on chapter 2, they rewrite chapter 1.  Multiple times.  They add a new first chapter and then tinker with that too.  Even if they’ve been working on it for months, they can’t seem to move beyond a certain page number because they are writing and cutting faster then they are writing new pages.

There are benefits to each approach:

  1. You know you are going to have to rewrite so getting a first draft down is do-able.
  2. When a tinkerer finishes a draft, things that needed to be set up in chapter 1 are most likely set up.  They don’t have a manuscript full of notes to themselves:  GO BACK AND PLANT CLUES IN CHAPTER 1 AND 2.  WORK THIS THEME INTO THE FIRST 5 CHAPTERS.

There are also drawbacks to each approach:

  1. Because you know you are going to rewrite, you don’t always plan as well as you might.  This means more rewriting than would take place with just a bit more planning.  Also, since you are so comfortable with your rough efforts, you sometimes forget that other writers may be more anxious about their early efforts.  This is something I have to keep in mind when I lead critiques.  Tell me whatever you want — I knew it wasn’t perfect and you aren’t going to freak me out.  But other writers are less comfortable receiving criticism because by the time they show a manuscript it is polished.
  2. If you’re a tinkerer, you have troubles finishing a manuscript because you are constantly fixing what you already have down instead of writing through to the end.  Even when you do get a final draft, you can’t leave it alone.  When you think it is ready and the best it can be, you are probably right.  But a lot of tinkerers never declare a ms finished.  They tinker it well past wonderful, right into overworked.

It probably comes as no surprise but I’m in the first category.  I’ve been known to take a first draft to critique group if I want to make sure the concept has any merit before I polish the piece.  I never outline a picture book before I write and most nonfiction comes together in the first draft.  Or the fifth, the point being that I don’t outline that either.

Which category do you fall into?


4 thoughts on “Which Type of Writer Are You?

    1. And that’s why you’re such a great contrast to my slap-dash approach! Hmm. I wonder how close the Ladies of the Gordian Knot (the critique group Lynnea and I are in) come to a 50/50 split?


  1. I find these kind of writing habits fascinating, too. It’s one of the chief focuses of my blog.

    I am most definitely a #2 TInkerer and working on being more #1 Drafter. I think both ways work, but for me, I wasn’t finishing projects because I kept going back to fix them. I’ve been practicing pounding through them without looking back, and it’s helped my writing process.

    1. I’m definitely a drafter. But that also means that my first draft is full of asides to myself FIX THIS . . . ADD THAT . . . LOOK SOMETHING UP AND ADD IT HERE. I’m not terribly inclined to do something about it since I actually like rewriting. That said, there are days I’d like to produce a polished first draft.

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