What sort of writer are you? A novelist? A copywriter? A screenwriter? And how did you decide which type of writer you would be?
Considering how long it takes to write a novel, a book’s worth of short stories or collection of poems, we writers don’t half make quick decisions about what sort of writer we are.
Some of us make these decisions based on what we want to write, and that seems pretty logical. But how can you be sure that you’re not ploughing the wrong furrow?
How do you know that you wouldn’t be better off writing something else instead?
Where to start?
If someone asks me what I write, I tell them I’ve written a novel and that I also work as a copywriter. But that’s not how I started my writing journey.
The truth is, I only started writing a novel because I got to take an extra module on my MA Writing course for free. It was quite the bargain, looking back.
Before then I was all geared up to write a collection of short stories. I had a few finished, but I was struggling to bring them together and had no concept for a full collection.
What’s more, I’m not sure the writing itself was quite there. It was okay, perhaps pretty good in places, but nowhere near the required standard if I was to find an agent or get published.
Switching to the novel was a revelation.
I’d written two or three pages before I realised that, rather than pursue these kind-of-all-right-but-not-particularly-satisfying short stories, I should write a novel. It was so incredibly obvious.
In tackling a longer form, the quality of my writing improved significantly. The patterns and rhythm of my sentences got better and I discovered a passion for ruthless editing.
But more than that, it just felt right. Like there was no going back.
I made the change because I got a great opportunity, that’s true. But I was also struggling with my writing. By trying something new, I became a different writer. I could feel it in my water and see it on the page.
Sometimes I wonder where my writing would be if I hadn’t switched format. Would my short stories have eventually come together?
I’ll never know and it doesn’t matter.
Don’t be afraid to change direction
Writers often talk about having to find their writing voice, but rarely do you hear of them experimenting with format.
My advice is to try everything, especially if you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall. At the very least, a change will give you a break from your current project. It will help you to recharge your batteries and give you the space to breathe and be playful.
You never know, you might even end up heading in a whole new direction. It might be the start of something great. The point is, you’ll never know until you try.