What kind of writer are you?

It’s an important question. One that makes you step back, maybe take a look at yourself in a mirror (yes, I know it’s cliche to have a character do that to introduce their appearance…but we’re not talking about that, are we?).

Can you define yourself as a writer? Absolutely–and realize that I’m not talking about pigeonholing yourself as a writer. Totally different thing. There are many ways to do it. You can define yourself by the market you write for, for instance. Freelance writer. Novelist. Journalist. Screenwriter. Technical writer. And so on.

As an alternative, you can define your writing by genre. In my case, fantasy. Yours might be thriller, or romance. Do you know what section of the bookstore your book would be stocked in? Author Kay Kenyon actually just posted a great entry about Knowing Your Genre. Take a few to read it. She’s always got strong advice on her site. In fact, one of her recommendations led me to Story Structure Demystified, a great resource from StoryFix.com, both of which I’ll cover in more detail here in the future. (If you’re impatient for my coverage of it, check out Kay’s review of SSD here.)

You can define yourself as a writer by your writing methods. Are you an outliner when it comes to novels? A pantser (those who write by the seat of their pants, for any who aren’t familiar with the term)? I’ve heard people refer to themselves as sprinters, who write in fast, furious sessions, versus marathon writers who a slower and steady, doing a little each day.

You might even categorize yourself according to where you feel you are in your writing skills. I consider my earlier years as my “apprentice writing” years. Right now, I’d consider myself a journeyman writer, pursuing the ever-elusive mastery of the craft that can take a lifetime to achieve.

And, of course, there’s the simple contrast of the published vs. the unpublished writer.

Why is it important to know what kind of writer you are, in whatever frame of reference you choose? Because then you have the foundation to ask this next question:

What kind of writer do you want to be?

Where the first question had you looking at yourself, this one has you looking to the future and the paths you might tread through it.

When you identify the kind of writer you are now as well as the kind you want to be, you can hold those two up to each other and see where the contrast is. This contrast then gives you a better idea of what it’ll take to get you from A to B.

You are helping yourself focus on what changes need to be made. What skills need to be acquired. What markets need to be pursued. Without that focus, you’ll tend to meander through your writing career, wasting time that could be put towards a specific

For instance, while my main love is fiction, at one point I decided to pursue freelance copywriting as well to supplement my income. I identified the bigger qualifications clients might expect from a freelance writer, and began working on those, building a portfolio, pursuing gigs, and so on. I’ve also had to learn how to balance my time allotment so that neither my freelance nor my fiction goes ignored for too long. If I just blundered forward with a vague idea of somehow writing full time, I know it would take me far longer to reach that point–if I ever did. Same with getting my fiction published. It takes conscious effort beyond the act of writing itself.

So where are you now as a writer? And where do you want to be, whether a year, five, or ten down the road? Do you know? If not, it might be time to take a closer look.

Continue to write strong, all.

6 Comments to "What kind of writer are you?"

  1. writtenwyrdd says:

    As a professor in college once told me, you are only a writer when you are writing. and I really have to agree. As a corollary, what kind of writer you are depends on what you are writing, and sometimes why.

    But I primarily identify myself as a part-time writer, because my time is split in many directions and I cannot maintain a writing focus for long. But really, I always think of myself as a fantasy writer, even though I also write science fiction and horror. The fantasy feels like home. 🙂

    • admin says:

      A fun way of looking at it! Your identity as a writer could be very fluid from that perspective.

      I know what you mean with fantasy feeling like home. I’ve dabbled in sci-fi/horror, but somehow, fantasy keeps drawing me back to it.

  2. Beth Vogt says:

    I’m a journalist who has wandered to the “Dark Side.” I’m an editor still living within the confines of the 5 Ws and an H and all things grammatical. But I’ve also unleashed my inner-novelist and enjoyed exploring storyworld and black moments and epiphanies. As time goes on, I’m more and more comfortable with my writing split personality.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The MBT Ponderers, Josh Vogt. Josh Vogt said: New Write Strong post: What kind of #writer are you? – http://write-strong.com/?p=78 #writestrong […]

  4. Kay Kenyon says:

    Valuable idea! Lots of beginning writers have a definition of their future selves as “published novelists,” but going beyond that to genre is also important, as you point out. Also: What kind of success are you looking for? Such as awards, literary merit vs. very wide readership. It might be argued you can have both, but I’m not so sure! Thanks for this post.

  5. JRVogt says:

    Beth: It is fun to see how those different aspects of your writing continue to develop on their own. Do you find any particular parts of fiction/non-fiction crossover to complement the other types of writing?

    Kay: Thanks for dropping by! Yes, defining the type of success you want is incredibly important. As you said, it would seem to make sense that having a wide readership and the like would carry over into awards and merit…personally, I’d rather the first, and hope the second would be a natural outgrowth, but there’s never any guarantee, is there?

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