Types of writer
Researchers have looked at how different people write. In "Writing at University" Phyllis Crème and Mary Lea* describe four different writer types: the Diver, the Patchwork Writer, the Grand Plan Writer and the Architect Writer. This is just one way of categorising writers, but it offers a helpful place to start thinking about your own writing process.
What type of writer are you?
"What type of writer am I?"
"I think I have to be a different type of writer at different times. For example, when I was involved in writing a book with another person ..."
The Diver Writer finds it difficult to stick to a plan and tends to dive straight into a piece of writing, writing in order to work out what she wants to say. Sometimes she will write one section, which may end up in the middle of the finished piece and builds up the writing slowly in bits (Crème and Lea, 1997, p.73).
The Grand Plan Writer
The Grand Plan Writer spends a lot of time reading and making notes; she needs to do a lot of reading, probably more than is really necessary. Then she thinks about the material, even while doing other things. Then, when she writes out the essay in longhand, it seems just to go together automatically. Occasionally she needs to add an introduction when the writing is finished but she has not made an explicit plan. The work rarely needs re-drafting (Crème and Lea, 1997, p.74-5).
The Architect Writer
The Architect Writer begins by writing notes that are the ideas for headings. She may use a large sheet of blank paper to draw out the main ideas for the essay. She makes a separate list, perhaps in a column along one side, of ideas for later or tasks that need to be done before the writing proper begins. She has an outline of the whole piece before she begins to write; sometimes using a diagram to help with the planning (Crème and Lea, 1997, p.75-6).
The Patchwork Writer
The Patchwork Writer makes a list of headings that relate to the question and uses these to create some idea of the sections of the essay. She gets the ideas down using these headings but is often unclear about the shape of the argument at this stage. She moves sections around as she tries to write the links between the various sections. The shape of the argument becomes clearer in this process. Sometimes she finds it necessary to cut out large sections because although interesting they are not relevant (Crème and Lea, 1997, p.74).
Some things to think about:
For most people, it is helpful to have a range of strategies or ways of starting writing, which may help with different writing tasks and for different stages in producing a piece of writing
Trying new ideas can help you develop your approach to writing, adjust to the demands of new programmes or levels of study and work on aspects of writing you would like to change
*Creme, Phyllis and Lea, Mary (1997). Writing at University: A guide for students. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.
Hear from students
Learning how I learn/work best
"Throughout my PhD I think it's been a steep learning curve. But a gradual learning curve all the way through - finding out how I learn best ..."
What's difficult? -Getting started
"Is there anything you find difficult about writing"
"Getting started. I think that applies to everybody I'm sure. I get fidgety, go and make a few cups of tea ..."