What Kind of Writer Are You?

I never realized it before, but I am suddenly becoming ultra aware of how I function as a writer. Because I wrote my trilogy over such a long time (3 years), it feels like an age since I’ve started a manuscript from scratch. I am learning a lot about myself this time around. It’s made me wonder what other people are like.

How do you function as a writer?

Me? I’m a planner. I plan my little tooshie off until I know the story inside out. It’s start in my head – a spark of an idea – and mulls around in there for a few months. I jot down notes as I go along and the story twists and turns until I keep coming back to the same scenes over and over… these are obviously the ones that work.

I then move into planning mode. I tend to start by revising a good “how to write well” kind of book to get my head in the game, then I get stuck in. I plan every scene, I write chunks of dialogue, I character profile, I research the area. I really take my time here. I find it works best for me.

Then I get to my favourite part… the first draft! Whoop! Bring it on. I jump into this new world and swim around in there for weeks. I love it. I love seeing a story go from bullet point life into paragraphs of emotion, tension, angst, action… I could go on forever here.

Now – this is the part that I have suddenly noticed about myself. I always just thought I wrote the first draft like everybody else, but I don’t. I edit as I go. I am a layer writer.

I write my first chapter or two, depending on how the writing juices are flowing and my time constraints. When I’m away from my computer I mull it over in my head… thinking about what I’ve written, how I’ve made my character’s behave, questioning if it’s true to who they are and how it will effect the rest of the story. I jot down notes, new ideas that will make the story better.

In my next writing session, I start by going back and adding a second layer to those first few chapters, then I move onto the next scene. Next time I write, I do the same thing, add another layer – tweak, refine, adjust – then move on.

I’m not sure if other people work this way. Maybe everyone does and I just don’t know it. I find I can’t actually work any other way and this strategy has some major advantages when I come to the editing process. Because I’ve layered and edited as I’ve gone, I find my next few read-throughs much easier. I don’t often need to make too many changes.

For me, thorough planning and layering work best.

What works best for you?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “What Kind of Writer Are You?”

  1. Interesting how we have so many different approaches to our writing – and still get good results. It seems there are as many 'right' ways as there are writers. Me – I have a story arc in my head with just a few main things i know i need to develop. From then on it's just 'sit down and get the fingers moving'. At a few spots, when i get bogged down I go back and do a minor edit just to collect my path again. When the first draft is all done I go back and do a more thorough edit, and another, and another.

    1. I remember chatting to an author who works this way. She says it's the only way she can write and ends up doing multiple drafts and edits, but she produces gold 🙂

  2. Interesting approach. I've not come up with an specific approach at the time. Could be because I don't have a specific gener yet. Auto-biographies to WWII/vampire fiction. I will say, each book to date has traveled its own path. Still searching for the perfect formula.

  3. I start with a murder! Then my characters (the detective and his team) find out about it and the characters take me from there. I've never attempted to outline–it would drive me nuts. Although, once the story begins to take shape, if I come up with ideas I'm afraid I'll forget, I add them in red at the end of the chapter I'm working on and keep moving them down, eliminating them one by one as I cover them or the characters change my mind.

    Oh, my! Strictly SOP-character-driven, but it has produced 20 books.

  4. I always have a beginning, ending, and sometimes a few plot point ideas in my head and just set out to write. I don't make outlines, I just go and see where the story wants to take me. I do plan my characters(in my head at least) way before time and map out their personalities in my mind. Good characters are too important to me to just go with the flow with them like I do the story.

    1. I agree. I think character profiling is really important. If you know who your characters are before the story begins then there's a better chance they'll behave consistently.

  5. Wow! I write so differently. I start with an idea and an ending. Then I begin typing chapter one and write straight through to the end. After I finish one scene, then next scene reveals itself to me. It's kind of like riding a rollercoaster while wearing a blindfold. Very scary at times, but I'm addicted to the rush.

    1. I used to write that way and changed my tactics after reading STORY by Robert McKee. Having read your stuff, however, I think you should totally stick with what you do. I love your books 🙂

  6. Melissa, I do what you do, to some degree. I draft a rough outline before I start writing. Sometimes, but not always, I'll have a conversation with a character to nail down something of who they are. And in the first draft, I too go back and read over what I wrote last time before I start writing new material, and tweak it a bit. But much of my "layering" occurs after I've finished the first draft and start musing about how to make the characters' motivation stronger in certain scenes. (Although in my most recent book, there were a couple of times I went back to add stuff, only to discover that it was already there in the first draft. Either I'm getting better at this writing thing or I'm growing senile, lol.)

  7. I'm a total pantser. First I'll write everything down until I get stuck. Then I'll moan and complain and wonder why I'm stuck. After the sob fest I'll go back and start rewriting until the story flows again.

    You can imagine how ridiculous the story gets after a while, yeah? Sure the *idea* is the same, but the getting there always ends up different and maybe not what I originally intended.

    I've only recently learned how to outline and learned to write on notecards (flash cards) that way when I have an idea for something new I can lay out the story notecard by notecard and insert the new idea in to see where it fits, or even if it does.

    Somehow my crazy mess of pantsing then notecards ends up working. I have everything between digital and physical. It's weird, but it works.

  8. I am definitely a planner, like you Melissa. I have character profile sheets (7 pages) for each main character and a one page for each secondary character. I write out the story line, the conflicts, what I want to accomplish by the end of the book, and do research. Then start writing. I also go over my chapters as I write them and if I get stuck, it is usually on some more research I need to do because, though we are writing fiction, I still like to be accurate as I can get in my places, settings, and historical and present day information I am writing about.

    1. I am just like that!! I really want my stories to be authentic and as realistic as possible. For some weird reason, I think it makes the book even more magical when maybe, just maybe, the story could happen 🙂

  9. I'm like a cross between Yvonne and Melissa. I don't plan but I do layer from chapter to chapter. Then, once the first draft is done I restructure as necessary because how the story comes to me in the heat of creation isn't necessarily how it should be presented to a reader. After that I add yet more layers in terms of culture, history, food etc.

    Vive la difference!

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