Are You a Drill Sergeant or Free Spirit?

Sometimes it seems like all writers are advised to spin detailed webs of plot, map out every sneeze in a character’s life, and crank out X number of pages per day in their well-equipped writing niches.  Feeling the pressure of the author stereotype?  Well, many successful writers create styles that may not conform to traditional, popular advice.  Take this quiz and find out which category best suits you, and get writing.



  1. My writing environment
    1. is carefully ordered for optimal writing.
    2. contains the essentials though I may not find them right away.
    3. is wherever I bring my notebook or laptop.


  1. Inspiration
    1. is the result of market analysis.
    2. is a combination of trends and personal interests.
    3. strikes in a dream or watching a couple argue in the rearview mirror.


  1. Research means
    1. a pile of index cards with details relevant to the story.
    2. having brochures and books handy.
    3. I Google the topic as the need arises.


  1. My plot lines come from
    1. careful planning and placement of pivotal events.
    2. a rough outline or preliminary synopsis.
    3. the thread started in the opening scene.


  1. My characters follow the plot
    1. because I told them to.
    2. most of the time, but sometimes act out.
    3. tell me where they’re going and I follow.


  1. When starting a manuscript, I create my characters by
    1. making elaborate character sketches.
    2. filling out a questionnaire on each one.
    3. developing them as I write.


  1. To motivate myself
    1. I listen to motivational speakers.
    2. I promise myself chocolate when I write “The End.”
    3. I write when the mood is right.


  1. To stay on schedule,
    1. I mark a daily page quota on the calendar.
    2. I have a general idea how many pages to write per week.
    3. I keep my eye on the deadline and pull all-nighters if necessary.


  1. Once I finish the first draft,
    1. I set a deadline for polishing the manuscript.
    2. I take a few days off and come back fresh.
    3. I never want to see it again.




  • The Drill Sergeant        

    If you circled mostly a’s, you like order in your writing world.  You do the research to feel prepared, outline the story well and fill in the blanks.  You like structure and seeing progress.  Organization drives the flow of the story while preparation gives you confidence.


  • The Bendy Straw

    If you answered mostly b’s, you have a combination style.  You tend to have your feet on the ground while stretching to have your head in the clouds.  You’re flexible and balanced, preparing for a story enough to visualize it in your head but not a slave to your initial ideas.  Self-motivation keeps you roughly on schedule though you may not always stick to it if something more appealing comes up.


  • The Free Spirit

    If you chose mostly c’s, you like to dive right into ideas that have fermented and are ready to set on paper.  You edit as you go along so when the last page comes, you’re done.  Your creativity shines as you follow your instincts.  You have confidence in your ability to deliver and know how to motivate yourself.


Okay, so I’m not sure any of us fit entirely into one of these categories, but I had fun thinking up the responses.  I do know that each writer strives to develop an approach that produces a publishable manuscript.  Many of the how to write articles emphasize extensive planning and sticking to a schedule, which may not work for you.  Sort through the words of wisdom for those compatible with your style.  Writing is a creative process injured by attempts to impose order on it when none may be necessary. 


My perspective is that if the muse is whispering in your ear, get it on paper and hope the rest follows.


Thanks to Michele Dunaway for providing the spark of inspiration for this article.  Michele's February 2005 release, Emergency Engagement, made the Waldenbooks series best-seller list.



Copyright 2005.  Originally appeared in Rumpled Sheets, April 2005, Publication of the Missouri Romance Writers of America.  Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for right to reprint.