Did you know there are writer types? Me neither. Or at least, I didn’t realize it until I read an article about “Planners vs. Pantsers.”
On the one hand, Planners are all about planning their writing (and probably other aspects of their lives). This type loves to geek-out about what planner or calendar they’re going to buy each year. In college, they were most likely to create elaborate outlines and start their papers well ahead of the deadline.
Pantsers (is it just me or is this name like fingernails on a chalkboard?), on the other hand, were the folks I saw in the computer lab (Yep. I didn’t have my own computer until my senior year of college) writing their papers at 3am and running across campus to turn it in at 9am. Pantsers write everything by the seat of their pants.
I know. The binary is certainly an oversimplification. There are many more types of writers than simply Planners and Pantsers. I came up with four types myself: Planners, Marathoners, Sprinters, and Innovators.
And it’s not as if there are writing gods looking down from the heavens and dubbing us Planners or Pantsers, but I do think it’s useful to know the circumstances under which you write well. So I created a fun quiz to help you figure out your own type.
Let’s look closely at each type and some of the tips that you can put into action the next time you sit down to write.
Clearly, Planners gonna plan. Since scheduling to meet their goals comes almost naturally for Planners, they usually have no trouble hitting their writing goals. However, if the path changes or is unclear, Planners may struggle.
Writing can be a challenge for Planners, especially for those looking to write their first book. You may not have a clear idea of what a realistic goal looks like. Should you aim to write your book in six months? A year? Does it even make sense to set a deadline like this if you have no idea what your average word count looks like? Planning out a writing schedule for your first book will require a bit of trial and error.
Another challenge for Planners is that writing projects don’t always look like a straight line. For example, suppose you want to write a book based on expert interviews. This is a great idea! But now you’ve introduced another variable into your plan.
Action Steps for Planners:
- Make writing time a priority by scheduling it into your day at least 5 days per week.
- Plan time for planning. Allow some time for experimenting, so you can figure out your average word count and what time of day you write best. Then work your findings into your plan.
- Don’t over plan. You love the planning part, but if it stops you from getting to the writing part, it’s not helpful. So set good boundaries for yourself around planning.
Marathoners love a bite-size writing session. They find it easy to break down even book-length writing projects into smaller chunks and tackle each piece methodically. They also lean into the practicality of what they write. Marathoners are especially motivated when they feel their audience will really benefit from what they write.
Writing can be a challenge for Marathoners because they have an almost relentless appetite for information and justification. If they aren’t careful their writing can come across as too complex or dense or even academic. They need to remind themselves over and over to put themselves in the shoes of their audience.
Another pain point for Marathoners is that they can suffer from analysis-paralysis. It can be hard to step away from the research and write. Marathoners can also lose their own voice in the intensity of their research.
Action Steps for Marathoners:
- Focus on finding a mix of short and long form content that works with your own writing style.
- Your bite-size writing sessions are perfect for creating short posts for social media. Lean into that as a strength.
- Talk with others about your writing frequently. Don’t wait until you have written the perfect chapter to share it. Share the ideas in social media posts and test them out on your audience.
- When writing a book or longer form content, set careful deadlines both for research and for writing and work on the discipline of hitting those self-imposed deadlines.
Efficiency is the name of the game for Sprinters. This type absolutely delights in writing anything as quickly as humanly possible. Sprinters may benefit from finding other Sprinters and setting up writing sessions with them. I host a 90-minute writing session on Zoom most Tuesdays and Fridays, which is the perfect vibe for Sprinters.
Sprinters happen to be really good at separating the kind of deep thought work from the writing process. This is not to say that Sprinters don’t reflect deeply on their writing, it’s just that they are especially good at doing that when they’re not trying to hash out a section of writing.
The biggest obstacle to successful writing for Sprinters is that you can get easily frustrated and bored when a project takes longer than expected. This can result in the temptation to abandon a book project that’s 75% of the way finished for a bright, shiny new book project. Yes, while all writer types have trouble finishing projects from time to time, this can be an especially sticky wicket for Sprinters.
Action Steps for Sprinters:
- Focus on the gamification aspect of writing—it’s what drives you. You may benefit from a group writing project like NaNoWriMo where writers from around the world commit to writing their novels in November.
- Apps and tools where you can share your progress with others or even simply compete against yourself by keeping track of your progress daily can be a huge motivator for you.
- Sleep on your writing. Your “need for speed” often means your writing might not be as reflective as you’d like. It helps to build in time to take a breath before publishing.
Last, but certainly not least, are the Innovators. This is my writing type, but oddly enough, it’s probably the least likely type among those who have taken my quiz. Innovators have great ideas, but can really struggle to get them down on paper.
It’s important for Innovators to feel they have a lot of freedom and choice when it comes to writing. They’re likely to rebel against any kind of strict writing schedule or a writing coach who gives them a lot of rules to follow.
Innovators often accomplish their writing goals in unconventional ways. But if an idea strikes them, they’re going to get that writing done. For Innovators, it’s almost as if the writing process fits one extreme or the other—it’s either an obsession or they don’t want anything to do with it.
This is clearly a challenge for sticking to deadlines, finishing big writing projects, or estimating how much time a project will take.
Action Steps for Innovators:
- Focus a lot on what’s valuable and fun about writing as you plan your writing sessions.
- Don’t try to force writing to happen during a writing session. If you’re coming up blank, take a walk, take a nap, or bake a cake.
- Create a writing schedule with enough flexibility that you don’t feel tempted to blow the whole thing up. Also, know that it’s okay and totally expected for your writing rhythm to change over time. You can always change things up if you’re feeling too caged in.
Now it’s your turn. What type of writer are you? Take the quiz and let me know if your results match up with what you would have predicted.
Photo credit: Roman Samborskyi