Three scribes in a tub
And who do you think they’d be?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker
Which type of writer are thee?
As writers, we love to categorize ourselves (don’t deny it). Personally, I’m a candlestick maker with butcher-like tendencies. What in the name of peanut butter fudge does that mean? Read on…
You write with reckless abandon. You’re not afraid of the delete key. You thrive on major overhauls and rewrites, rearranging scenes, cutting chapters, removing characters and subplots that seemed brilliant at first but now they “get in the way”, or perhaps you just start the whole novel over from scratch. In a first draft, you’re usually an all-out pantser. You write with little to no forethought or direction and hearing/seeing the word “outline” makes you dry heave. You simply let the characters guide you on their journey through your fingertips.
This method produces fast and furious first drafts, and usually requires extensive revising once you type END. But even though it seems to an outsider that you are chaotic, you are actually so well-skilled in your craft that you know exactly when and where to trim the fat, draw and quarter, gut it out, and then stuff it with something more tasty, without having to pre-arrange anything or think about it too much before making a decision. When you feel the right spark, you run with it.
If the butcher can be likened to a hare, the baker would be a tortoise. Both finish the race, but at very different speeds. As a baker you “follow a recipe” for success. You thrive on structure and sketch out some form of an outline before the story-writing begins. You’re a plotter. A first draft usually takes months–maybe years–to complete as you carefully measure out all your ingredients and mix them together just so, making sure you don’t miss a step or accidentally blend when you should have gently folded. You can’t remember where “delete” or “backspace” is on your keyboard (hint: they’re the only keys covered in perma-dust).
Once you’ve typed END, you let it bake. When your internal timer goes off you then “test” your manuscript, reading through the whole thing, and mark the spots that need fixing: gooey centers (underdeveloped characters), lumps (plot holes), burnt edges (pacing errors), etc. Your edits are methodical and calculated. Butchers kind of scare you with their whack ‘em hack ‘em ways, but, let’s face it, you annoy them with your analytical approach. It’s a good thing we have one more writerly type to keep the peace.
The Candlestick Maker
For you, the process of writing is just as enjoyable as the end product. You let the story dictate what twists and turns to take, but you also have guidelines in place to keep things from going astray. Candlesticks must have a certain form to hold a pillar of melting wax without tumbling or singing, but you also recognize their need for beauty as a centerpiece. You don’t force it. You ride the inspiration whenever and however it hits. Sometimes you’re surfing a tidal wave, and other times you’re paddling across a still pond. Either way, you’re always working.
When you type END, you take a moment to celebrate and then embrace the next step. You carve a new notch here, polish a knobby end there. You have no time limit, but you also don’t waste time. You are highly organized, yet extremely flexible. You understand why the butchers and bakers feel so strongly about their techniques because you’re a little of both, and you’re likely the person in any given writers’ forum with the most “do whatever works for you” comments. You’re an artist and a laborer, and you know how to provide a light for others in a dark place.
No matter how you categorize yourself, no matter what your personal approach, no matter whether you are published yet or not–you’re a writer, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Wishing you all a fabulous weekend ahead, and a very productive final two months of 2010!