Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Post: Writing is for the Dogs (and Cats…) or What’s Your Writing Style? by Ben Starling

25 July 2014

Guest Post: Writing is for the Dogs (and Cats…) or What’s Your Writing Style? by Ben Starling

What’s your writing style? 

The way I see it…there are only two. Yup, that’s it. Only two writing styles in the whole wide blue and green world. Dog writers and cat writers. That’s it. So which kind of a writer are you?

Dog writing is a spontaneous, rolling and playing in the grass, stream of consciousness kind of writing. It’s for all those who toss planning and literary road maps in the air and then gallop forward in their storytelling, gambolling willy-nilly up a hill and down the other side to a climax. Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Anne Lamont, Isaac Asimov, James Joyce, Doris Lessing, Douglas Adams, Jennie Lawson are all great dog writers to my way of thinking.

Cat writing on the other hand (or paw), is meticulous, methodical, and insists on years of research and planning in the foundation of every book. And cats do exactly what they are going to do and that’s it. Their work stands as it is. And it stands very well indeed. Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Yann Martel, Jodi Picoult, Veronica Roth, Melanie Benjamin, John Grisham have all put years of research and planning into their art. They’re all famous cats.

And then there’s the marvellous Maeve Binchy who has incredible structure and method but makes it look like dog writing – free and flowing, running four feet off the ground with the wind in her ears.

Quick Quiz:
  1. Do you research or brainstorm?
  2. Do you make lists of themes and symbols … or let lightning strike?
  3. Do you make a map of where you’re going before you start writing?
  4. Do you know your ending before you begin?
  5. Do you make character bibles (backstory journals) for your heroes and heroines? Or do you channel your characters as you write?
  6. Do you know your characters or do you discover them?
  7. Do you know your settings or do they come as a surprise, appearing around unexpected corners?

So…what’s the answer? Are you a dog writer or a cat writer?

And what am I? In the end, I don’t actually like cat-egories at all. Or being dog-matic. My ultimate goal is to go with the flow and try to use the best of whatever style that works. In fact, I’m probably a dog that aspires to be a cat.

And hopefully, maybe in the fullness of time, one day when I’m not looking, I’ll start to write like a fish. Or a rabbit. Or a panther. Or a capybara. Or a budgerigar… And it will feel like I’ve finally come home to the comfy cushion by the hearth with my name on it and the dent that fits my tail just right. Then I’ll know that at last, I’ve found the real style in me.

What kind of writer are you?

Ben Starling

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About the Author

Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel, planned for release in 2015. He is currently Writer in Residence for Mirthquake Ltd., a production company that advocates for ocean health and welfare. His interest in marine life has taken him across four continents in four decades. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively until about five years ago. He is 6’2”and 195 lbs. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood. 

Find out more about Ben’s writing and sign up to be the first to know when his book hits the stores at You can find Ben also on Twitter @benstarlingauth, on Facebook and on GoodreadsHe looks forward to seeing you there!"


  1. I LOVE how you distinguish between dog writers and cat writers! I feel like I started out as a dog writer, but then am evolving into a cat writer. I recently got into the habit of outlining and I outlined the novels of my latest series (even though I ended up changing the course of the story once I was halfway through the first book).

  2. What a strange analogy! Well, I'm a researcher at heart and it works for me because the more information you have on your plot and characters, the more your story will take on a three-dimensional quality - in theory! I enjoy creating a storyboard so I can keep track of my characters and helps me to see the errors in my storyline. With your theory in mind, I guess I'm a cat, but to be honest, I'd like to be a dog and just get on with the writing!


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