Thursday, May 19, 2011

When it Comes to First Drafts, What Kind of Writer Are You?

If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend you check out Jennifer Wolf's recent blog post on Pantsers vs Outliners (i.e. the difference between people who write by the seat of their pants, and those who prefer to outline). It reminded me of a conversation I had this past weekend with the lovely Kristen Kittscher, who recently sold her middle-grade mystery. We were discussing the different ways one can write a first draft.

I also polled some of my Writing Night pals (thanks, Amy, Hope and Jen!) and they were split. One prefers to jump in and enjoy the discovery of seeing where the story goes; another prefers to outline, and the third does a combination of the two, depending on the project. Here are the different categories I believe people fall into when it comes to first drafts:

The Perpetual Starter - You have twenty stories you want to write, and none that you want to finish (this was me last year)

The Polisher - You rewrite the beginning 17,000 times before you feel "right" continuing (this is me now)

Quick Like a Bunny - You churn out 5,000 words a day for several weeks and have yourself a first draft within a month (sadly, I have never been this person and probably never will be)

The Jumper - You jump from scene to scene, writing your favorite or most important moments first, and then fill in the blanks later (I don't often do this, but I know it works for some)

I've come to accept the fact that I'm not a fast first-drafter. Sure, I have moments of "Must sit down and write this scene now! GO GO GO!" inspirational frenzies, but for the most part, I'm a Polisher, sometimes to my benefit and sometimes to my detriment.

When you write your first draft, do you fit into any of the categories above? Are there types that I'm missing?


  1. I'm actually a weird hybrid of all of them except "the perpetual starter".

    I can easily churn out an entire novel in a month, "quick like a bunny" style (have done so before), but when I write I'm pretty much a blatant "jumper". Then, I'll spend way too much time fiddling with bits of them (or "polishing" them if you will) until I'm happy.

    Which is problematic because I'm never happy with anything I write. I'm like an ultra-perfectionist.

  2. Yeah, this is why we're friends. I'm also have a dozen stories starts (and some of them are really good!), but only one finished manuscript. And I have to get the beginning right before I can go on. I wish I could be quick like a bunny!

  3. ...count me in as a hybrid,perpetual/polisher. Hoping that's allowed!


  4. Cpoffers, thanks so much for commenting! Weird hybrids are my favorite. Sounds like you have a process that includes a bit of everything.

    Natalie, I think we are definitely birds of a feather in our first draftiness :)

    Elliot, absolutely allowed. You're in good company!

  5. I'm mostly a polisher, though I am trying to be less of one. I'm not really any of the others. Most definitely not the Bunny. (Oh how I wish, sometimes!)

    (as for Jennifer Wolf's post - I'm a plotter. No pantser here lol)

  6. Thanks, Alyssa. I wish I could, just once, be the Bunny, too! But we Polishers will just have to love and accept ourselves :)

  7. I'm a jumper until I'm about halfway through my word count. Then I sit and plan for a bit, but really, I NEVER write the beginning first and have never written the end last.

  8. Hi, Jolene! Thanks for stopping by. So you write the ending early, eh? Does it help you build up to it when you go back and fill in the blanks?