There Are A Million Kinds Of Writers: Which One Are You?

kinds of writers

Maybe there aren’t a million names for the different kinds of writers out there, but there are as many ways to write as there are people who write.

When comparing writers to other types of professionals – scientists, doctors, lawyers, and librarians, for example – the “writer” group appears cohesive. In the broadest sense, writers all use words to convey ideas for others to consume.

Yet, writers come in all colors and shapes.

The most common ways we divvy up writers is according to what they write and how they write it, or subject and format.

Some writers write nonfiction, describing facts; and others fiction, pulling from imagination. Fiction writers focus on different forms, from poetry to short stories to novels. Novelists write in genres: romance, thriller, historical fiction, etc.

Depending how thin you slice the cake, endless classifications seem possible.

Then there is the how of writing.

Zadie Smith puts an articulate spin on the perennial dichotomy between “plotters and pantsers,” those who plot versus those who write by the seat of their pants.

Smith is a Micro Planner (she delineates between Micro and Macro Planners), though she reserves judgement. These two approaches – writing from start to finish versus structuring – are just alternatives for reaching the same end goal: a great book.

Plotters and pantsers can be diced more finely. Crème and Lea describe four types based on how their stories come together: the Diver, the Patchwork Writer, the Grand Plan Writer, and the Architect Writer.

Plotters are diverse as well. Structuring of books can be done in endless ways and many methods exist.

Writers have also been binned in various ways according to personality type.

When it comes down to the finest details, there exists a wealth of ways to characterize writers based on both their skills and their foibles. For example, here are 10 types of writers with self-explanatory names:

  1. The Turtle
  2. The Shiny Idea Chaser
  3. The Intense Plotter
  4. The Need for Speeder
  5. The NaNoWriMoer
  6. The One-Hit-Wonder
  7. The Project Procrastinator
  8. The Literary Axe-Murderer
  9. The Multi-tasker
  10. The Secretist

The list goes on: Ambitious, Fanfiction Addict, Coffee-shopper, Bucket-lister, Self-proclaimed Genius, “Real” Characters, and My-way-or-the-highway writers.

OK, so maybe there aren’t a million names for the different kinds of writers, but there are as many ways to write as there are people who write: everyone has their own reason, subject, format, style, habits, and failings.

We get an explosion when we combine labels. They are so diverse, they aren’t “types” any more, but unique profiles. One hybrid moniker could be “novelist, historical fiction, plotter, methodical (Turtle), who needs a mocha to work (Coffee-shopper).”

With some on-the-mark detail, there’s a name for everyone. Thinking about this variety should inspire, evoke a chuckle, remind one of friends, and spark introspection. In fact, here are some more to ponder.

The Doodle Writer

Just like some people doodle whenever they have a moment, Doodle Writers like to make word images. They don’t even have to be images, but they are small, frequent, and intended to be ephemeral. It scratches an itch to be creative in a particular way, but makes no demands on time or builds any expectations about outcomes. It’s diversionary and admirable.

The Tap Writer

This is the kind of sociable person who has many talents, and can write well enough to fit right into a local writers group. While the writing is good, the true love of this person is sitting in an amicable evening of beer drinking, tapping into the emotional layers of what it means to be human in a deeper way than just sitting at the bar. They can be the absolute perfect, stalwart members of a long-term, mature writing group – you want these people. They always show up looking for fun and very often provide loads of it.

The Verbose Writer

These are special people and you can hear it when they talk. They can gush, often in funny and imaginative ways, cracking jokes and improvising effortlessly. They are equally overflowing in words when it comes to writing. It’s like their brains run non-stop, there is no “off” switch. Many can write, but never take it further. Those who do find their discipline and their outlets often succeed.

The Spill Your Guts Writer

Many authors use writing for therapy: it helps make sense of the world, and getting things out through fiction makes them easier to say. This often leads to compelling writing as it has a raw and authentic flavor. But it can also just be self-indulgent, whiny, or bombastic. Just spilling your guts on the page, even if you are also a Verbose Writer, is not enough. But with structure and discipline this could lead to great things.

The DIY Writer

This type of writer loves writing, just as DIY enthusiasts love building a new backyard shed or a homemade bird feeder. Instead of remodeling the bathroom yourself, why not try your hand at writing? It’s a great hobby, you can say at parties that you are writing a book, and the value of working out your brain like this is without parallel.

The Secret Writer

This is the kind of writer who works behind closed doors, or when everyone is asleep, and never speaks a word of it. The Secret Writer can be anyone, including the last person you’d ever suspect. You might have one in your house, or around the reunion table. Secret Writers can be protective of their time and efforts for many reasons. While some might lack confidence to air their writing, others might be so assured of the story they need to tell, they just want the privacy to get the job done. Sometimes a writer just needs time and space to incubate ideas far away from the small talk of the world at large.

The Memoirist

Many people who’ve lead interesting or challenging lives pick up the pen with one purpose in mind: to share their life stories. A large and special group of writers focus on writing memoirs. Sometimes their books are family legacies, sometimes they disperse more widely, and sometimes they are as good as novels. Writing a memoir is a very special reason to write a book and success depends on the content of that life and the skill with which the author carves up their experiences and puts them into words.

The Obligatory Memoirist

Many great writers, as well as some celebrities and other high achievers, are at some point pushed by a publisher or their fans to write a memoir. This can come about thanks to positive pressures to reveal the secrets of what led to a life so extraordinary, or as the result of introspection. Either way, some very famous memoirs are out there because the authors weren’t writers, per se, but great livers of life. Or perhaps they had extraordinary experiences thrust upon them.

The Reluctant Writer

This is a special category of writer. It exists for those who never thought themselves a writer but have a story burning a hole in their soul. It is often deeply personal. Whether out of fear, lack of time, or inexperience, many Reluctant Writers sit on a story for years – or even decades. When such stories do hatch, they are often wonderful. Sometimes the best kind of story a writer can have is one shaped by years of introspection, filled with passionate feelings and thoughtful understanding. A Reluctant Writer has a good chance to produce a compelling book.

The I Hear Voices Writer

Talk to writers and you can find many versions of the “I didn’t write it, someone else did” story. This is meant metaphorically, of course, as these writers do put their names on their works, but they are referring to “hearing voices.” It is common for these writers to say things like, “Characters talk to me. I didn’t decide, my character did. I just write what my characters say.” Such writers have very vivid imaginations and voices are often the source of wonderful works of art, as the subconscious and super-creative parts of the brain talk instead of the voice of our daily lives. Tapping into the world of the imagination is exactly what writers need to do, and if it comes in the form of voices that say interesting things, that’s more than fine.

The Natural Born Writer

Natural Born Writers are born great, with an ear for words. Like musicians, they play words like instruments, weaving great melodies and rhythms. They can distinguish subtleties and subtexts that most people can’t. The Natural Born Writer can’t stop writing, and usually starts at a very early age. Many of the greats of literature are in this group, and despite their prodigious talents, most still put huge effort into finding their measures of success.

The Olympian

The serial writer can be of any quality, but when a Natural Born Writer manages to also be prolific, it is an accomplishment of note. Prolific authors can either write tomes that break desks with the weight of their spines, or write shelves of smaller books. Recognized Olympians include Isaac Asimov, who wrote over 500 books and 400 essays, averaging a book every six weeks; Barbara Cartland, who wrote 700 romances; and Agatha Christie, the bestselling author of all time, who wrote 66 detective novels.

The Flag-staker

Think of the US flag on the moon. Flag-stakers are the rare greats who define how books are written. This includes epic contributions like the world’s first novel, considered to be Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji from 1010, followed almost 600 years later by the first European novel, widely thought to be Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes in 1605. Edgar Allen Poe founded the horror genre, and Stephen King redefined it for modern times. Early leaders, such as Jules Verne, helped create the genre of science fiction. J.K Rowling conquered the billionaires’ list for Harry Potter (and fell off it again, admirably, for the extent of her charitable donations). The very best of all types of writers, Flag-stakers break the rules so skillfully, they make the rules.

Could it be that there are yet more ways to carve up the writing world? Certainly. What is important to remember is that all writers start somewhere. The Doodler of today, might be the World-changer of tomorrow. Which one are you?


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