Friday, April 29, 2011

Just Right or Just Write?

In my relatively short time on this Earth, I have been lucky enough to meet and know many talented authors. Regardless of the genre they primarily write for they all share some similarities by necessity, but they can also show some rather stark differences as well.

When it comes to writing style every author is subtly different from one another in almost every area except for one. What I have found is that nearly every author can fit into two very distinct areas in regards to the way they put pen to paper, I call these two categories “Just Right” and “Just Write.”

“Just Right” authors tend to edit their work as they go along. They try to minimize drafts by getting it perfect the very first time, every time. They will spend an abundance of time on each page making sure that every word, every sentence, and every nuance is spelled correctly and is absolutely critical to the message they are trying to get across.

The advantage of “Just Right” is that they will have, more or less, a fully completed and edited book when they finish. The disadvantage is that they will likely miss their deadline. Also, since each chapter takes far more time to create they are much more likely to lose trains of thought and will have to be voracious note takers to ensure that they do not forget to put something down. They will constantly be interrupting their stream of thought so will have to take extra care that they do not get burned out or develop “writer’s block.”

“Just Write” authors take the approach of Daniel Farragut in the Battle of Mobile Bay and say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” in their writing. A page they have just finished, in record time most likely, will be full of a jumble of ideas spelled completely wrong. They will, however and importantly, finish that page. The advantage of this style of writing is that these writers get down every thought that they mean to get down. They are not bogged down by editing so they just let the words flow. The disadvantages are that at the end of the book they will basically have to write another book with all of the editing that will be required. Of course it is possible to hire an editor these days for minimal expense, so this disadvantage can be mitigated by quite a bit.

Obviously there will be hybrid writers who tend to do a bit of both styles, but not get too bogged down by either. These writers are harder to classify but will tend to stick more plainly in one category or another with time.

I started writing with an old Apple //e hand-me-down, and as such did not have the luxury of a spell checker for quite some time. This initially forced me into the first “Just Right” category because I did not want to accidently miss a glaring error. However once I upgraded to a more modern device I naturally fell into the rhythm of “Just Write.”

Which category do you prefer, or feel more comfortable with?

Grant Virtue


  1. Hi Grant,
    I am busy writing two different novels at the moment. They are guided by spirit. I also have a script for a movie and a play that I would like to finish in my own time. I start off writing on paper in "just write" and then when I type out I go into "just right " mode. What I would like to know is at what part of the process do I start finding a publisher?

  2. Hi,

    You should start to shop around for a publisher straight away. I highly recommend the book "How to Write a Book Proposal" by Larson. Once you get your book proposal written you can secure a publisher and then worry about finishing the book once you have a contract.


  3. Hi, Grant! Perhaps I'm an odd bird: I write "full speed ahead," by inspiration (some call it channeling), but without all the typos and errors. Editing comes later to bring the content closer to the story I've been given (Visionary/metaphysical fiction), much like an artist sketches and then adds color and more details to reach the final work.

    Originally I was a "just right" writer, polishing every paragraph, etc. I later discovered that's inefficient and a waste of time--I might be polishing something that will come out. NaNoWriMo taught me to go with the flow of the writing, then edit later. Now it's the only way I write!

    (For more on NaNoWriMo, see -- the challenge is to write a 50K-word novel in 30 days.)

    Writing in the flow allows for so much more than if you stop to perfect along the way. Even nonfiction can be written this way, planning the outline of the materail first and then following the flow during the actual writing. With fiction it's absolute gold.

    If you'd like to see some of my work written this way, excerpts are available on my website Happy writing!