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There are different types of writers – and you can be more than one

Advanced tips for writers

 

Quick quiz question: what different types of writers exist in the world? Think beyond genre here. What occurs to you when you consider this question? Your answer may well be different to mine, but here’s what occurs to me.

Writers who write for the love of it

These writers are not writing primarily for publication. They’re writing because they love it and would do it anyway, whatever happened, whether their work got published or not. They write for fun, for enjoyment, because they love language.

Writers who write to express themselves or for therapeutic reasons

The most important thing for these writers is getting words out on paper, expressing themselves, and not redrafting or crafting those words into a finished, polished product – although they may well do that too. You could include journal writing here, attending a ‘writing for wellbeing’ workshop, or writing as therapy for a particular problem or experience.

Writers who write for their friends and family

You might write a recipe book or memoir or collection of poems for your grandchildren, for example. My mum has written in a journal specially for passing down precious memories to your grandchildren – a mini memoir with prompts if you like. Being published doesn’t come into the equation for her.

Professional writers who write for publication, but don’t want to make a living out of it

Many published poets and short story writers are in this category. They might make a living from something related to poetry or short stories (teaching or editing, for example) but don’t expect to make a living from publication. It’s an interesting question, though, whether those writers would want to make a living from publishing poetry and short stories if that option were available.

People who write out of love for something else they do might fall into this category. I’ve written many articles about teaching and learning, for example, and been paid for them, but not enough to live on! I couldn’t feasibly make a living solely from writing about teaching and learning, simply because I have to have experience of teaching and learning in order to do it!

Professional writers who make a living from their writing

The interesting thing here – something many budding writers don’t realise – is that you make a choice to make a living from your writing. I’m not talking about being paid in an ad hoc way, which is nice of course, I’m talking about a sustainable income, a career. Just like you can make a choice to become a plumber or a nurse or a member of a professional orchestra.

Of course there are obstacles along the way – there are with any career. Of course we fail before we succeed – again, same with any career. It would be odd to think that a trainee nurse would know how to administer injections on his or her first day at collage or a trainee plumber knows how to fit a bathroom on his or her first day as an apprentice. But those trainees have still chosen that career, at least for now. And it’s still a choice to follow a career in writing, even if you need to learn more about it.

Along with that choice comes a series of options. Do I want to be a copy writer or a journalist? Do I want to write commercial fiction or nonfiction? How do I do that? Where do I train, if that’s relevant? How can I learn more?

The Venn diagram

What you’ll have noticed from the types of writers I outline above is that they overlap with one another. You could draw a Venn diagram with each type in a circle. I might write for the love of it, and write commercial fiction, and make a living from it. I might write for my friends and family and write to express myself. You may also have noticed that if you write more than one thing, you fall into more than one category. Personally, I write poetry and short stories (but can’t live on the proceeds) and writing about teaching and learning (ditto) and I’m writing commercial fiction right now (fingers crossed!). So, here’s the thing: you can be more than one type!

Continuum

What’s the opposite of someone who writes whether they’ll get published or not? Someone who writes to make money and wouldn’t put pen to paper without a good chance of a ROI.

You can also think of these types being on a continuum. Let’s call the person who writes whether they’ll get published or not Amanda. The person who writes to make money and wouldn’t do it otherwise we’ll call Marvin.

Put Amanda at one end of a continuum and Marvin at the other. Where would you situate yourself? Are you closer to Marvin or Amanda? And what does this mean? That’s you’re willing to sacrifice any chance of publication in order to write whatever you like? That you’ll make sure any synopsis you submit fits the market? That you’ll learn as much as you can about author marketing? That don’t give a fig about author marketing?

Barking up the wrong tree

This is useful partly because it helps us to identify our ‘why?’ Why am I writing? There’s no right answer. But if you want to be Marvin and you’re acting like Amanda, or like Selina, who only writes to express herself, or Penelope, who writes and teaches poetry, then you’re going to have to change your behaviour. Are you barking up the wrong tree?

Self-awareness is power. You can change your mind of course. You’re not fixed in any one of the above ‘types’, but it’s interesting to know how your thinking about your writing affects the outcomes you achieve.

2 Comments

  1. Emebet Mesfin says:

    ‘Self awareness is power,’ like you said. Writing literally defines me. I belong to the first three types of writers. I can’t imagine a life without pen and paper. My poems and sonnets are gifts of gratitude for family. I guess it’s time to convert my personal into professional writing.

    1. Louise says:

      I feel the same – I don’t know what I’d do without it.

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