How Key Personality Traits Affect The Writing Process

Posted at 11:39am on 8th July 2010

If you are a book author and you’re writing non-fiction, how do you decide what material to put in and what to leave out? How, in fact, do you organise the content of your book?


Chances are that if you’re an aspiring author and you haven’t yet approached a publisher, your ideas are simply floating around in your mind. But even for a published author this may be true – initially, at least, during the cogitative period. This is a natural part of the writing process and cannot be hurried.

The fact is, though, that if you’re thinking of writing and publishing a book, at some point you are going to have to present your material in a coherent manner. Like it, or not, you will have to find practical ways to organise your research and your progress, as well as a style of writing that is suited to your personality, and to the content of your book. The aim of this article is to help you to find the best methods for both.


Your personality may play a part in the way you approach the writing process. (A free personality test is available here if you don’t know your type). If, for instance, your key personality traits lean towards sensing and judging (SJ) you will naturally be gifted in gathering and arranging facts (i.e. research) and will be highly motivated in the realms of structure and organisation. In other words, the planning of your book.

If, however, you have a leaning towards the intuitive and perceptive (NP) you may dislike any systematic process of arranging your material, and feel that this inhibits the natural flow of your creative writing. You may, like me, prefer to fly by the seat of your pants during the writing process. Your intuition will urge you to explore possibilities rather than facts; your perception will predispose you towards flexibility and spontaneity rather than discipline, order and structure.


As the author of a book, you have to find a means of working which suits you. If you fall into the SJ category, your method of writing non fiction may be what is known as a linear structure. You may find yourself wanting to present a reasoned argument which follows a format: introduction, claim, counter claim (repeated as often as necessary), conclusion. I shall be writing more about this, and what follows, at a later date.

For those like me, who are NP’s, a woven narrative and reflective style of writing may be more appropriate. This is a less confrontational means of presenting your material and allows you to explore the possibilities of any argument, rather than seeking to proclaim it or disclaim it.


I am currently facing the dilemma of how to go about presenting the information, inspiration and encouragement of my next book in a coherent and persuasive manner. Although non-fiction, it will include a good deal of personal and anecdotal material to support the theory I am advancing. That is that any ordinary person may develop the means of having and enlarging a vision. A vision which will enhance their own life, and that of others.

It’s hard to plan for this sort of book, because much of the supporting material will occur to me only during the writing process. But it is just as important to create a structure on which to hang a woven narrative, as it is to do so for a linear approach.

  • You need to have a means of recording ideas that occur to you out of context for a future chapter;
  • To know that you are not repeating the same material;
  • That your arguments hang together in a persuasive manner;
  • And that you have the basis for a synopsis to be sent to a publisher.

Whichever category you fall into as an author, a spreadsheet is a simple practical solution. Arrange the titles for each column across the top, with your chapter numbers down one side. Columns, which may be adapted for your purpose, could include the following:

Chap No.

Chap Title

Chap Theme / Theory / Purpose

Arguments For / Against

Historical Research

Applications for Today

Personal / Anecdotal Material


  • Use your table to fill in as much information as possible before you begin to write.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t stick to the plan rigidly: this is meant to free your creativity, not to bind it.
  • When you finish a chapter, check whether you have omitted anything important.
  • Add any data from your chapter which was not included in the original plan.

Find out how your key personality traits affect you, as an aspiring author. Work within the limitations and liberations of these personality traits. Use them to approach the writing process in a way that suits you and the content of your book. Build a credible style – either a linear structure or a woven narrative – that will enhance your chances of writing and publishing a book. And enjoy the journey!

NEXT TIME: I’ll expand on the two styles of writing: a linear structure and a woven narrative.

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© Mel Menzies - All Rights Reserved

Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. Book her here for your event.

All Royalties from Mel’s novel, A Painful Post Mortem, are for charities benefiting children worldwide. Buy a copy here and help raise cash for children like Rachel, who, at 13 is mother to 6 kids orphaned by AIDS, or this project, drug-proofing teenagers in the UK

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