Hello Peeps! Long time, no post . . . I know, I know. Here are my excuses: Moving out of my home of 21 years, gutting of the new house and a 6 month remodel, unpacking boxes and setting up a new place, insomnia, a hangnail, it’s cold outside…you get the idea. While I work hard to get back on the writing track, I have Nikolas Baron of Grammarly here today to spiffy up my tired blog with a wonderfully informative Guest Post. All you writers reading this, are you an “eker” or a “flyer?” Read on and find out! Without further ado, I give you Nikolas…
Like Rain Into a Paper Cup: Writing By The Seat of Your Pants
Ask any one who has studied composition, and they’ll tell you that in the world of writing, regardless of genre, there are two primary types of writers. You have those who plan every single word and sentence, carefully laying out exactly what each paragraph will say, how it will say it, and how it will fit into the larger context of the entire piece. Let’s call them ekers, because they eke through their manuscripts. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who write by the seat of their pants, caring little about what they write, but caring more about actually writing it. We’ll call them flyers, because they fly through the writing process.
Some writers try to find a way to fit into the middle of the spectrum, carefully planning a little, but still giving themselves the freedom to fly. However, all writers will favor one side or the other. And there’s nothing wrong with that; there’s nothing wrong with either extreme. They both have their benefits and their drawbacks. For example, ekers will take a long time to plan before they even lay down the first word. They will, however, end up with stronger first drafts that don’t require as major of edits as other writers. In fact, many writers adopt this philosophy early on because they hate to deep edit subsequent drafts.
That said, I’m not so sure you should so quickly discount flying through your manuscript. In my work for Grammarly.com, I study the different online tools people use to become better writers, and I think in the modern world of computing, writing by the seat of your pants is a more than viable option, and it’s certainly an option you should consider.
The benefits of flying through your manuscript are numerous:
- The biggest benefit is that you’ll actually write. A good portion of people on the Internet consider themselves writers, and they’ll be all too quick to tell you all about the book they’re writing if you ask them. If you ask them how many words they’ve written, however, many of them will tell you a small amount, especially compared to the amount of time they say they’ve been working. Writing by the seat of your pants allows you to stop worrying about what you’re writing and actually start writing. Don’t worry about what you’re putting down; you can read it over later.
- Another benefit of writing by the seat of your pants is that it’s a wonderful cure for writer’s block. If you’re struggling to get a piece down on paper, often by just writing, you’ll start to see the piece shape itself with each paragraph, and by the end of the manuscript, you’ll have at least something that looks like what you want the final product to look like.
- Lastly, writing by the seat of your pants allows you to consistently practice your writing skills. Just like athletic ability, writing is something that needs to be practiced on a consistent basis to keep your skills sharp. If you’re spending all of your time planning and plotting, you aren’t working those skills. Don’t get me wrong. Planning and plotting can be a part of writing, but it’s not the only part. The actual process of laying words down on page, practicing word choice and crafting sentences, needs consistent, strong practice to remain sharp.
While there are definite benefits to writing by the seat of your pants, keep in mind that there are also a few drawbacks. The biggest one, of course, is that writing by the seat of your pants leaves you with more editing work to be done on the backend. I would argue, however, that editing is also a skill that needs practice, so writing by the seat of your pants can give you the opportunity to do that as well.
Of course, in this modern age of computing, there are services online that can help with proofreading as well. For example, at Grammarly.com we offer one of the most sophisticated grammar checks on the Internet which will scan your text for over 200 common grammar mistakes. Keep in mind that even the most sophisticated grammar check is not a substitute for actual editing. You still need to ensure that your story makes sense. It can, however, be an invaluable resource for finding all of those silly little typos and grammatical errors that arise from flying through your manuscript.
As I said before, there’s no right or wrong way to write. Whether you choose to be an eker or a flyer, as long as you eventually lay words on the page, you will be fulfilling your role as a writer. Don’t be too quick to discount flying, though. While there are definitely some drawbacks, the benefits of writing by the seat of your pants are certainly worth noticing.
By ~ Nikolas Baron
Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.