Are you a crafter or a drafter?

colorful desk with laptop and journalsEvery author has their own personal style of writing and approach to the writing process. Whether that be a style guide preference, choice of genre, or organization of information, we are all individuals in the craft. I recently listened to an interview with Charlie Wetzel who, since 1994, has served as a writing partner for John C. Maxwell on more than 80 books.

According to Wetzel, authors can be categorized into one of two categories: crafters or drafters. Which are you? Let’s explore each to determine.

Crafters are writers who:

  • Conduct large amounts of research in advance of actual writing to “collect” useful content;
  • Pre-write ideas and connections with detailed outlines or mind maps;
  • Enter the writing phase with a very clear vision of the final draft in mind; and, therefore
  • Often make limited revisions or edits to polish their first “draft” of the manuscript before publishing.

Drafters, in contrast:

  • Formulate ideas into prose as a “first draft” writing in a way to get the ideas down and edit later;
  • Research and collect additional information as needed in the process or during later revisions;
  • Use a multiple draft approach to reorder ideas and build connections; and, therefore
  • Often have several drafts of a manuscript before producing a final, edited version.

Although not a textbook or academic author, Wetzel’s work with John C. Maxwell incorporates an underlying goal of teaching readers – often through the use of practical example or storytelling. Wetzel said, “When you’re telling a story, don’t put anything in there that’s not needed.” While this advice is directly related to the storytelling approach of writing, it is certainly applicable to our academic authoring efforts.

Whether for page count, clarity, or pedagogical value, everything included in our work should be purposeful and necessary. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t overdeliver on the promise we make to our readers. A final note of wisdom from the Wetzel interview is that “writing a book is an exercise in both meeting people’s expectations and surprising them.”

Whether a crafter or a drafter, take the time to identify the expectations of your readers, meet those expectations, overdeliver with surprise elements that exceed expectations, but be careful to limit your content to only that which adds value to the reader experience.


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.