Here are six things to consider that will help focus your thinking on your internal development as a writer. Take stock and contemplate yourself as a writer.

How much time have you taken – in between frantically cranking out stories – to consider what kind of writer you really are? We can considerably improve our writing, and our writing goals, by stopping to think about what makes us tick as writers, identifying when we are at our best, and defining our strengths and weaknesses. Once you identify your strengths, you can build on them. Once you acknowledge your weaknesses, you can fix them.

Here are six things to consider that will help focus your thinking on your internal development as a writer – regardless of the project you are working on at the moment. Whether you’ve yet to write a book or you’ve written a dozen, you will keep evolving as an author. You’ll always be learning if you keep your mind open. You’ll be absorbing new concepts about writing, making observations about the world that you can translate into your pages, and learning what you look like on the page. Digging ever deeper into yourself is necessary for great writing.

You’ll learn the most from any type of writing advice if you hold it up to the light of your own experiences. Ask yourself questions designed to plumb your depths and see how specific pieces of advice apply to you. Or discuss these ideas with others to get context and new views. Lively debates within the company of writing groups with varied members and strong opinions can prove especially useful and highly entertaining. In doing either self-study or group excavations of perspectives and solutions, always remember that there are as many ways to write as there are writers.

We all write differently

The first task of a writer is to understand that we all write differently. You need to find your own processes, your own joys and pains, and keep them in mind while you absorb the experiences and lessons of others. “We all write differently – what kind of writer are you?” explores this fact and reconfirms that you don’t have to follow the pack to do your best. Certainly, you can study the paths others have forged, just don’t expect that what drives others will necessarily apply to you.

Ask yourself these types of questions when you contemplate yourself as a writer.

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What makes you work best and what stops you from working?
  • Why do you enjoy writing?
  • Do you have a special routine you enjoy or do you need to develop one?
  • Do you write in spurts and then go silent until the words well up again?
  • Where do your ideas come from?

How to fail

Once you decide to take writing seriously, you need to learn enough of the rules so you can do your best. Your knowledge of convention will evolve over time and as the words flowing from your fingertips compound. You don’t need to learn all the rules at once: the more experience you gain as a writer, the more rules you will become aware of and actively use. You’ll know when and why to use them and when to ignore them or break them in clever ways that lend novelty to your efforts.

How to fail as a writer” offers a satirical vision of the perils that can follow wholesale dismissal of the notion that writing is an empire of rules. Do you know the true rules that underlie all these ways to fail? More important, do you believe the secret to great writing is magic or rules – or some kind of balance between the two?

Many great writers have internalized the entire rule book to the point that they draw on it effortlessly. How many rules have you internalized that you use them as easily as breathing? What risks are associated with dismissing any or all of these rules? Which are most important? Which rules do you stick by – if any? What is the role of exceptions to rules, and how important is this in great writing? Do you know when to use ’em and when to break ’em?

What makes a book?

If you are serious about writing, your next big task is to get stories down on paper. “Six things you need to write a book” discusses the key starting ingredients you’ll need to put you on the road to success:

  1. Concept
  2. Premise
  3. Attention to detail
  4. Time
  5. A catapult
  6. Self-confidence

Do you already have all six, or do you still need to work towards them? If any are missing, how do you go about getting them? Are you good at seeing the big picture or are you a details person when it comes to writing? Do you prefer thinking out the whole story or focusing on particular scenes? Which of these six items are the easiest and hardest for you and why?

Embrace your inner plotter and pantser

To go beyond your concept, you’ll need a plot. You’ll write it either as a plotter (someone who outlines and scripts), a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants), or a combination of the two. Finding the balance that works best for you is essential, although you may find it changes over time and from project to project.

Make peace with your inner plotter and pantser” describes the two and the balance most writers end up striking between them. Are you a plotter or a pantser or some clear combination of the two? What do you think works better and why? This is a perennial debate among writers, and the fact is there are different ways to get there in the end. You might even be a quilter – one who pieces together the parts of your story.

How do you work to get through a book project? Have your methods changed over time or between projects? If you are on your first book project, are you stuck somewhere along the road? Can you diagnose why?

Take yourself out

As you go deeper into writing, you come to the crucial task of self-editing. Here it pays to really know yourself and especially your weak points, so you can shore them up. Key to this is to figure out how to put the right type of “self” into your writing and remove any unnecessary aspects of self that will reduce the reading pleasure of your readers.

Take your ‘self’ out of your fiction” describes the art of getting the right balance of “self” into your writing. Why have you written what you’ve written? Is it all for you, all for your reader, or a combination? Have you left in parts of “self” that were just notes for you, or scaffolds upon which you built that you forgot to remove? How do you find such “only for yourself” traces in your fiction so you can erase them when the time to do so arrives?

Develop a voice

As you progress through these dimensions of writing, what will evolve over time is your voice. This is your biggest asset as a writer: It’s your mission to find yours. We all have a different voice – once it develops, that is. Once you find yours, your writing will be transformed. You will know who you are as a writer.

Developing a Distinctive Voice in Writing” aims to highlight the importance of finding a voice as writers and the power that comes with doing so. Have you already developed your voice? If not, how will you go about doing so? What makes a voice unique? What makes it powerful? If you already have a distinct style of writing, how has it evolved over time? Which are the most memorable author voices to you? Why do they resonate with you? What makes you admire a writer’s voice? How do you use these thoughts to help guide you where you want to go as a writer?


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Related Posts
We all write differently – what kind of writer are you?
How to fail as a writer
Six Things You Need To Write A Book
Make Peace With Your Inner Plotter and Pantser
Take Your “Self” Out of Your Fiction
Developing a Distinctive Voice in Writing


Dawn Field

About Dawn Field

Dawn Field has written 46 posts in this blog.

Dr. Dawn Field is a book lover interested in what makes great writing. After a 20 year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by Oxford University Press. Now a columnist of The Double Helix, Dr. Field is exploring new writing venues and writing a second book. Based in Virginia, Dr. Field is looking to collaborate with a range of fiction writers as a writing coach, editor, and consultant on the publishing process:

5 thoughts on “Six ways to contemplate yourself as a writer

  1. Trent Quapp says:

    Great information, I still don’t understand the outline of a book . or am I just not getting it.

  2. Christine Thompson says:

    The outline of a book is the direction the writer wants to travel. It doesn’t have to be chronological or in any specific order. It can start in the present and go back in time. Timing can change depending on how a writer wants it to go. Changes in time can be like a physical transfer or it can be a memory of something. I think of it as moments that drive the story forward without giving the whole thing away.

  3. Peggy Adams says:

    Trent, I work from the concept that my story-novel-book, needs to have a beginning (thesis), a middle (topic sentences) and an end (conclusion–that includes thesis statement answered) . I often do this in outline form, using the essay technique, and seem to have a very good ‘outline’ of my story. From here, I develop dialogue, characters—tell the story. Works for me. Suggest you try that technique. Good luck and above all have fun and keep writing—the old saying, “Practice makes perfect” is what I have experienced in my writing career.

  4. Good advice for beginning writers. There’s so much information available now (as to compared to the sound of crickets when I started). You offer a clear path without overwhelming the readers.

  5. Will Crowther says:

    I start with a concept. Characters materialize from thin air and whisper in my ear. They tell me what they stand for. They introduce others. Still more characters come from the ether. I feel like I’m channeling many people when I write. I listen to and document those people. They provide the story. It’s a mystery.

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