Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How Writers Write

Oh, I know... y'all aren't representative annallat... but between responses HERE and responses over at ABNA where I posed the same questions (two blogs ago, if you want to look), I got more than 60 results, so not bad at all, as blog polling goes (at least in my experience).

Who ARE you?

Well, all of you are writers... a couple here hadn't finished a book yet (that's okay, we all start somewhere) but we'd written an average (mean) of 5.9 books in 12.1 years. Keep in mind there were some big numbers that skewed these—the MODE (most commonly mentioned response) was 3 books (8 people of 50 who answered that question)—2 and 2.5 also being fairly common.

I ALSO should let you know a number of you started writing ages ago, but if you gave a 'got serious' answer, that was what I used. Not tons of us have been serious for several decades (though there were a few)

About half of you answered here and half over at ABNA. The blog had more missing data, I think just because the format sort of lends to that.

HOW do you Write?

Almost half said fast (23/53), though slow was the #2 response (medium and in bursts also got a decent number). People who write fast or medium had written more books (shocking, I know; though the fact that I got a p value of .06 for a sample of only 60 is quite impressive *shifty*)--about 7 versus in the 3s. What CAN'T be told from this is whether people get faster as they write more books or whether people write more books because they can do it faster. The things sort of go hand in hand.

More than half claimed you write CLEAN (and so I'm just a bit envious). This was NOT different by number of books or years writing.

About half of you only work on one thing at a time. (followed by rotators). The people who worked on multiple books at once several times, mentioned of their own accord, that they have to be different genres.

About half set the book aside before editing, though about a third edit right away and another portion edits as you go (with the leftovers doing some mix)

About half either move on to the next, or at least wait on the current before submitting or publishing. Those who keep going until it is OUT THERE were split between self publishing and submitting.

We are almost evenly split between pantsers, outliners and people who do some level of planning that isn't quite outlining (notes, timelines)

And we are ALL over the board with genre, though YA was most common, followed by varied, though if I'd marked varied for anybody who had more than one, that would have risen to top—oodles put 2 genres.

Mixing it up

Pantsers write faster than outliners. I wonder if outliners count their time outlining as writing time and that explains some portion of this? Just as likely, it takes some effort to follow a plan. (people who judge their speed as medium are evenly split between pantsers and outliners). How we write seems to have NO effect on how clean we judge our books to be. Interesting. Totally would have thought outliners ended up with cleaner books, but about half of both pantsers and outliners are clean. Clean though, DOES absorb a greater portion of the other planning methods.

People who work on multiple works at once are 70% pantsers... One at a timers are planners (either outline or other systems); rotators are more of a mix.

Outliners edit right away, pantsers set it aside (broadly—there are exceptions—more exceptions in the outliners setting it aside category)

How a person writes doesn't seem to have much impact on what a person does once done in terms of publishing, waiting, etc.

I totally thought some pattern would emerge related to experience or genre, but that really doesn't seem to be the case. It was fun, though, to look at us collectively.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

What fascinates me about the results is that there are so many pantsters and so many fast and clean writers. Very interesting stuff!

Carol Kilgore said...

Wish I wrote fast and clean. By the time I'm ready for my hazmat suit to go in and clean it up, I've forgotten where I stashed it after the previous edit.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So I dive back in because I outline? And the average is one book every two years? That's good news to this slow writer.

Deb and Barbara said...

Fascinating, Hart! Love statistics. I missed all the numbers gathering, but I think I write a lot, slow and dirty, then clean it up, then get readers, then edit until it's out there. I can work on more than one project, but have started to focus on one at a time now. The hardest is waiting for readers... So proud of all your great work and kudos. Keep making us proud!! xo Barbara

Jenelle Leanne said...

Cool! What a neat poll idea. Loved hearing the results.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Really interesting. Especially that outliners aren't as fast.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Fast is only good for enduring work days! With writing, taking care means taking time. What a novel idea for a poll though.

Statistics do not reveal who we are within as authors: Mark Twain wrote at the same rate as Ernest Hemingway but both were drastically different authors.

Oh, I get a malware alert whenever I arrive at your site. I believe it is a Twitter button you have. It may be reducing the number of visitors you are receiving. I only braved your site again to tell you of it. Good luck with ABNA.

Sarah Ahiers said...

ooH!! Super fun data!

LTM said...

aww, dangit! I hate that I missed this poll! I'll fill in here as I read...

I'm a writer (you know). I've completed six books since "getting serious" about books in Fall 2009.

I write in bursts, I think. So that's fast. It all depends on the book, I find. Some go FAST! Some make me question why I'm doing this. :D

I think I write clean. I only focus on one thing at a time, although I have three partially finished books.

DEFINITELY set the book aside before editing. I'm a panster/synopsis writer, YA mostly. Some NA...

FUN stuff! Yaay!!! <3

Shaharizan Perez said...

Great data results. As to one of your questions above, I don't count my time outlining, time-lining, researching and note-taking as part of writing. I probably should, huh?

Tamara said...

What a cool poll. Love reading all the different statistics. I feel like I've used all these methods at one time or another. Writing fast, writing slow, outlining, pansting (is that a word?) haha. In the end, as long as I end up with a good book, I'm happy. :)

Megan Bostic said...

Very interesting information. I can relate to the answers. I write fast, I'm a pantser, and let's see, I've written 8 books in 6 years. OMG I can't believe it's been 6 years since I started writing...

Cherie Reich said...

Very cool poll! What surprised me the most was to see that outliners seem to delve right into edits, whereas pantsers wait. I'm a plotter, and I never delve right into edits. I need time to let my work sit. Of course, in the end, it doesn't matter how one writes a book, just that the book is written. :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Interesting poll, Hart.

Thanks for the info. It's cool to see where everyone is on their journey.

Haven't been over to threads at ABNA yet. Hopefully I will get there soon.

After all that is where I started when I wrote my first novel back in 2009.... My first ABNA was in 2010.

Julie Sondra Decker said...

Oh, that's great. I'm terrible with statistics so it's neat to see someone who is willing to put the evil things to good use. :)

There are so many different ways to write and they all work for our different personalities and quirks and whatnot. This poll reminded me of a comic I drew. Most writers would probably get a kick out of the whole webcomic, but this particular strip outlines the variety in the community pretty well:

Real Writers Do

Jill Haugh said...

What an interesting overview, Hart. I wish I had stuck more to your questions to help with the poll however I tend to wax like a cheap candle.
Fun to hear about eveybody--though I have total envy for the fast n'cleaners.
~Just Jill

Alison DeLuca said...

I love Carol Kilgore's comment!

Shaharizan Perez said...

Very interesting results. We seem to be all over the place as writers. :D

stephen swartz said...

Wow, you had me at "p value"!

Helena said...

I feel so guilty -- I only answered one or two questions so you really couldn't use my replies for your polling. Next time I'll go into detail.

I can tell you that one way I like to write is first person, and when that character really comes alive, he/she takes over telling the story and makes it easier for me. Kinda like literary schizophrenia.

Dana said...

Way to rock the data analysis, Hart!

Very interesting trends - It's kind of cool to see all of the different approaches and to know that they all work.

Thanks for doing this and for sharing. I'm an academic, so stats and p-values get me all hot and bothered, hee hee!

Best wishes,