QUIZ: Are You Right for Writing?

You’re pretty sure you can string together sentences in a coherent manner. You even have fun doing it. And God knows you’d love to see your name on the cover of a book — maybe a best-seller, even.

But do you have what it takes to be a writer, year in and year out? Could you write your way into a decent supplemental income? Could you write your way out of your day job?

I can’t promise you a definite answer, but I might be able to give you a pretty good idea. Take my Are You Right for Writing quiz and find out where you rank on the writing personality index.

This is not a scientific tool; it is simply the product of my years of observing myself and my colleagues and trying to figure out what makes the whole herd of us tick. I’m a good observer, though; I’d trust the results of my quiz over any you might find in Cosmo.

Okay. Just answer honestly. If you start this out by lying to yourself, skip writing and go straight into politics. The money is better and you’ll be a lot happier.

Question 1:

You’ve turned off the TV, the stereo, and every other possible entertainment device, you have removed all books, and you are sitting in a dimly-lit room doing absolutely nothing. So…how long can you sit without going crazy?

  •  A. 5 seconds. I get cold sweats just thinking about power outages.
  • B. 15 minutes — but only if I have a bag of potato chips.
  • C. 1 hour — I can always replay my last argument and come up with wittier things I could have said.
  • D. Man! I lost track of the time. I started watching people in my imagination doing interesting things, and the next thing I knew, it was nighttime and I’d missed supper.

Question 2:

You’re writing and the phone rings. You:

  • A. Answer it.
  • B. Finish your sentence, then answer it.
  • C. Let the answering machine get it.
  • D. Have no phone access in the room where you work.

Question 3:

The person calling is one of your dearest friends, who wants to get together for brunch and a good long chat about his/her ex. Unfortunately, this juicy brunch will take place during your peak writing time. You:

  • A. Decide to go. You haven’t heard the latest dirt on the evil ex in ages.
  • B. Reschedule for a later hour.
  • C. Reschedule for a non-writing day.
  • D. Pass.

Question 4:

You’re out at the restaurant with your friend when you have a fantastic idea for a novel. You:

  • A. Have to hope you’ll remember it — you have nothing to write with and nothing to write on.
  • B. Will manage. You always have a pen, and there are napkins in restaurants.
  • C. Carry a special notebook, an organizer, or even a laptop with you everywhere — you’re completely prepared.
  • D. Aren’t at the restaurant; that would cut unacceptably into your 14-hour writing workday.

Question 5:

When you see yourself as a successful writer, what is the image that is clearest in your mind:

  • A. The rounds of publishers’ parties, autographings, and talk shows where you are lionized for your work of immortal literary genius?
  • B. Your name on the spines of a shelf full of beautiful books?
  • C. A vision of sending off a completed manuscript to a waiting editor or agent?
  • D. Your butt in your chair, your fingers on your keyboard, and your eyes on your monitor (or whatever tools you use to produce your stories or novels.)

Question 6:

You anticipate being able to quit your day job to write full time:

  • A. immediately — you have a great idea for a book you know will be a bestseller;
  • B. as soon as the first book sells;
  • C. when you have three or four on the shelf;
  • D. when you’re making as much from writing as you make at your day job . . . and have done so for a couple of years.

Question 7:

Do you have…

  • A. an idea for the Great American Novel — a certain best-seller;
  • B. a few ideas for different stories;
  • C. background and development for a number of related books, a timeline, and a whole handful of novel ideas;
  • D. half a dozen fully developed worlds, including maps, costume worksheets, fully developed languages, cultures, flora, fauna, religions, sciences, and much more, plus enough story ideas to get you through this lifetime, and the next one.

Question 8:

You figure the biggest benefit of becoming a writer is:

  • A. Money & fame;
  • B. Flexible hours;
  • C. Creative control and being your own boss;
  • D. The writing.

Question 9:

You read:

  • A. The occasional newspaper, magazines, and remember having read books . . . but not recently;
  • B. You read in your free time if you don’t have something better to do;
  • You invented the term multi-tasking because reading IS your “something better to do”— you usually have a book in hand no matter what else you’re doing at the time;
  • D. Your house doesn’t need insulation; the triple-stacked shelves of all your books will serve quite nicely, thank you. (The electronic corollary to this is that you already own most of the ebooks on the internet, and have to write now just to have something new to read.)

Question 10:

Where is the weirdest place you have ever written?

  • A. Your desk…maybe, in a crunch, at the kitchen table;
  • B. In bed. (An extra 1O points for this one if you were on your honeymoon at the time);
  • C. On the toilet;
  • D. Don’t ask.

Scoring the Quiz

Give yourself 1 point for each A answer you gave, 3 points for each B answer, 6 points for each C answer, and 10 points for each D answer. Add up your answers, then check out the short key below before going on to the discussion.
10 – 29 points—You have some seriously romanticized ideas of what writing for a living is like. You’re going to be badly disappointed by the reality.

30 – 49 points—There’s hope; you suspect some of the darker truths about the profession, and have an idea of what some of the rewards are. If you really want to do this, you’ll face some disillusionment, but also stand a good chance of finding the real joys of the profession.

50 – 79 points—If you can write, you’re in there.

80 – 103 points—You’ll probably make a great writer. You should think very carefully before getting married, having children, or buying a pet, however. Walking into your living room and discovering the dust-covered skeleton that was your cat — or your spouse — can be really bad for morale.

And Now The Discussion

Quizzes have always seemed pretty worthless to me if they didn’t include a discussion of why any given answer was good or bad. So my quiz includes a question-by-question discussion.

Question 1 Answers—That empty room with nothing going on was not a hypothetical situation. That’s the writer’s work day. You, a quiet room, and nothing happening except for what’s going on between your ears. This is pretty much a make-or-break question: if you can’t entertain yourself for at least a few hours a day with no source of entertainment but your thoughts, you’re not going to have much fun writing for a living.

Question 2 Answers—As long as you have no one depending on you, D is the ideal answer — but most of us live in a world where someone we love might, at some point, need us. So we don’t have the option of seclusion. The self-control of screening out all but emergency calls with an answering machine (or looking for the name of the person calling on your cellphone before answering, and only answering calls from your priority people during work hours) becomes the real-world, practical answer.

Question 3 Answers—This one depends on how much you want to hang onto your friends, but also on how often such invitations come. The friend who routinely disrupts your writing time (if he knows it’s your writing time—making sure he knows when you write is up to you) isn’t much of a friend.

However, if you’re passing on spending time with someone who is usually respectful of your schedule but who could use some support now, you aren’t much of a friend. Writing needs to hold an important place in your life, but if you plan on having a life, it can’t hold the number one spot.

Question 4 Answers—I come in with a solid C on this one: because I always (yes, always) have my Visor with me, I could actually write the book on the spot, were I so inclined. (Okay, so now it’s my iPhone. Same concept, better software.) You need to keep some tools with you all the time. Visor, tape recorder, or even just a little notepad and a pen—you need to have something to record great lines, bits of dialogue, or character or story ideas while you’re out. And you can’t count on everyone to have napkins you can borrow.

Question 5 Answers—If you chose answer A for this question, sit down. I have bad news. No one is going to hold a ticker tape parade in your honor because you wrote a book, or even a bunch of books. Aside from your spouse, your agent, and your eventual fans, no one CARES that you’re a writer. You won’t be recognized in restaurants and hounded for your autograph. Hell, you won’t even be recognized in bookstores unless you introduce yourself. And maybe not even then.

If your answer was B, you’re getting warmer. The name-on-the-books thing is big. But you’re looking for happiness a long way from its source. In almost all cases, it takes a minimum of about two years from the time you start writing the book until the time it sees print. That’s best case, when you have a contract for the book. If you have to write the book and then sell it, you could be in for a very long haul.

If you chose answer C, mailing off a finished manuscript, you’re edging close to home, but not there yet. If you’re very prolific, you’ll complete two or three first-draft novels in a year. I usually do one or two. I have friends and colleagues who do a book every two years or less. That’s a long time to wait for the thrill.

If you picked D, you have the best chance of being happy enough with what you’re doing to do it long enough to succeed. To be a career writer, you really ought to like to write. You ought to have fun sitting in your little corner of the kitchen or your office, if you’re lucky enough to have one, coming up with neat stuff to do to your characters. If you can learn to get your joy from that, you can be happy nearly every day.

Question 6 Answers—I know the temptation to quit the day job. Boy, do I. As someone who once dumped a really good straight-days weekend-Baylor nursing job on the strength of just an idea—and then had to go get a job that was less good a year later when things didn’t pan out, I’m aware of just how strong that pull can be. And what a mistake it can be to give in to it.

If you’re desperate to get out of your day job, you’re probably not going to listen to me, but I’ll say this anyway; the longer you hold on to your day job after you start selling your work (and the smarter you are about hanging on to the writing money), the less likely you’ll be to give up on writing in desperation a year or several years down the road, when the grind of never knowing when—or if—you’re going to get paid drags you under.

Question 7 Answers—An idea for one book is a good start, but except in the rarest of cases, one book does not make a career. If you are already giving some thought to what you’re going to do for an encore, and for the encore after that, you’re thinking like a pro.

Question 8 Answers—If you think the main benefit of being a writer is money and fame, think again. When most first novels sell for around $5000 to $7500 dollars (and this is for something that may have taken years to write), and most novels disappear from shelves in weeks, never to be seen again, and most readers cannot tell you the names of the authors of most of the books they liked, much less recognize those authors by sight, your chance at finding great wealth or public adulation in this business is vanishingly small.

And the dark truth about most self-pubbed novels is that while you can put them together for damn near free if you’re not including the value of your own time in your math (and you should be), most self-pubbed novels sell as badly as or worse than most commercially published novels. Deservedly so. And this won’t change, simply because of Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

As for flexible hours . . . yes, they are flexible. When I was getting started as a pro, they flexed from the minute the kids left for school in the morning until they got home in the afternoon, and then from 9 p.m., after they went to bed, until I couldn’t force my eyes open any longer, every day off. Since I worked 12 hour weekend nursing shifts and had older children, I at least had long blocks of time to write. Before the kids started school, it was a lot harder to find time.

As for taking days off—you can take off any day you want. You just don’t get paid. I’ve had one vacation since 1991, when I sold the first book. I don’t work 10-hour days anymore, which is nice. I do work seven days a week most weeks. And I never have enough time to do everything I want. Rule of thumb for the self-employed: It’s illegal for anyone to ask you to work as long or as hard as you’ll be working for yourself.

Creative control is great. No caveats there. Being your own boss is great, too—except that your boss is probably going to have to be a slave-driver if you’re going to make it professionally.
If your reward is the writing, though, even the long hours, the poor or nonexistent pay, and the anonymity will be no big deal.

Question 9 Answers—I’ve never known a successful writer who wasn’t also a compulsive reader. The only real difference between the third answer to this question and the fourth is that some of us are book packrats, and some of us aren’t. But if you aren’t a big reader, you’re going to have a terrible time figuring out what is a truly different approach to a story and what has been done to death.

Question 10 Answers—You may be asking, “What could it possibly matter where I’ve written, or under what circumstances?”
Writing at odd times and in unlikely places simply serves as a clear sign of how deeply the writing bug has bitten you.

Case in point—I’m writing this right now on the backlit screen of my Visor, sitting on the floor in the middle of a neighborhood blackout, hanging out with my family. And writing. This isn’t the weirdest place, or the weirdest situation, in which I have written. I definitely earn a D “you don’t want to know” response to this question.
The presence of that unstoppable—sometime unbearable—urge to put words on a page is a good sign that you have a chance of outlasting the early-career hard times. If you can stay writing long enough to learn your craft, and still be hungry for the next word after years of next words, you just might make it.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writers by a writer:

“I could claim any number of highflown reasons for writing, just as you can explain certain dog behavior as submission to the alpha, or even as a moral choice. But maybe it’s that they’re dogs, and that’s what dogs do.”
Amy Hempel


NOTE: I offer a comprehensive introductory class based on my fiction-writing and publishing experience. It’s called How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t SUCK, and it is no-strings-attached FREE, including a private classroom, downloadable lessons, and a friendly, well-moderated forum where you can work with other students. I hope you’ll try it out.

61 comments… add one
  • Katherina Mook Sep 6, 2020 @ 22:10


    I saw this quiz, saw that it was created by a real writer, and clicked so fast I don’t think my eyes even had time to make contact with anything else.
    I can easily get sucked into writing– over the summer I had a free week and was glued to my computer the whole time. My poor friend, who I was living with at the time, had to deal with my irritation every time she tried to talk to me during writing (does this happen to all writers? I cannot stand when people try to talk to me while I write). The one week I really let myself slip down the slope that is writing I spat our 40k words in 5 days.
    I’m a sophomore in college studying neuroscience and sociology, but I write online novels as a hobby and finished writing my first book my first semester as a freshman (I did absolutely nothing the entirety of Thanksgiving Break besides write. It was glorious.) I’ve never even considered publishing, mostly because I don’t know how high quality my work is and I don’t even know where to start.
    If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really know if I want to publish. I began posting on online platforms because they were where I first picked up my passion with reading, and the idea of making people pay for my books makes me want to hurl. However, I am also well antiquated with the fact that food and rent requires steady income. I just want to sit in the dark with my laptop and way too much food, write myself to sleep, and cry-laugh as I read all of the wonderful comments people write on my works. (Is it possible to pull a modern-day Henry David Thoreau? I did hear that his mother brought him pies occasionally, however.)

    TDLR; I love writing, but I don’t know where to go from there. How did you go from working a day-job to writing? My plan right now is to continue with the career I’ve outlined for myself, write for fun, and leave it at that, but I don’t know if that’s truly what I should do or what I’ve conditioned myself into believing.

    Very best,

    Kat Mook 🙂

    • Holly Sep 7, 2020 @ 12:50

      I love writing, but I don’t know where to go from there. How did you go from working a day-job to writing?

      In my case, I wrote on my days off, when the kids were asleep, when I was alone, when I had a couple free minutes during a break at work. I made it my second unpaid job, and I was as faithful to it (and as regular) as I was with my paid job. I showed up on time every day, I worked the time I had, I didn’t slack off, make excuses, or get distracted — because if you want to do this as a job, you treat it like the work you want to do for the rest of your life from the moment you know this is what you truly love — and love enough that you want to get paid to do it.

      And I pushed myself to get better. I read and dissected books I loved to figure out why the worked for me. I read and dissected books I hated to figure out why they didn’t.

      And I submitted my work, and dealt with the rejections, and learned from the ones that told me anything actually useful.

      And most of all, I didn’t quit. Because being a full-time novelist is a hard job to get, and a hard job to keep.

      But if you love the work, which is its own reward, with you telling yourself these stories first, and making yourself laugh, and cry, and scaring the crap out of yourself from time to time — then the work itself will be enough to keep you going until the money starts coming in.

  • Rebel Jul 17, 2020 @ 3:31

    Hi, Holly! Thank you so much for the amazing test. It would be really nice of you if you could land me some advice. I got a score of 86, and i truly want to become a writer but due to lack of financial stability in the writing carreer and lack of good english colleges in my country, i have no choice but to pursue medicine as a carreer (btw i am very good in sciences just as much as i am good at writing). Do u think it would be possible for me to get into medicine without butchering my dream of becoming a writer (because i have an ever-expanding list of all the books i want to write one day, but i don’t think medicine as a carreer would allow me enough time to work upon my writing and books)?
    Thank you for your time!

    • Holly Lisle Jul 28, 2020 @ 9:57

      Medicine is more reliable, pays better, gets your a lot more respect, and comes with benefits.

      Writing… isn’t, doesn’t — and there are no guarantees, no quick way to get where you want to be, no direct path to success. Writing is hard always, and even if there were good colleges in your country, that’s no guarantee that you would be a writer when you were up to your eyeballs in debt with an English degree.

      I have an Associate Degree in Nursing. That’s it. I taught myself to write, and I was only able to do that because I worked my ass off for years learning the craft (WHILE I was working as a Registered Nurse and raising two kids).

      Writing is a “you really have to want it, you have to be able to take a lot of rejection, you have to work for free until you’re good enough to get paid, and you may never make it anyway” kind of job.

      • Rebel Jul 28, 2020 @ 13:00

        Thank you so much for your precious advice! It’s very helpful!

  • Laura E Millard Jul 13, 2020 @ 10:59

    I am only 13 years old but I got 56 points. I think that I can do this but it will take lots of time. Thanks for this quiz.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 28, 2020 @ 9:52

      You’re very welcome.

  • Abby May 4, 2020 @ 21:09

    Ayyo 54! But I still don’t know if I want to be a writer yet, but I write on my free time! Still in High school. sigh.

  • Shani Apr 26, 2020 @ 22:39

    I got 57. I’m not totally sure what this means for me. LOL But its interesting to do this test.

  • Mark C Hanson Nov 4, 2019 @ 2:21

    I scored an even 60. For most of my life, I’ve been a dabbler as far as writing goes. I’ve always enjoyed it, in fact when I was a kid, the only class I did well in was English. I grew up watching SNL and Johny Carson on tv and reading national lampoon, hoping to one day be able to write jokes and funny stories for a living. but I fell off on writing ( and reading) in my middle years. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I was a very unhappy person for a long stretch. Only in the last year or so have I really started wanting to explore this old love of mine again. I lost my leg a few years back ( I tell everyone who asks that I made a bad bet in a card game. the guy wanted an arm AND a leg but I talked him down to just the leg. I’m no dummy!), and I’ve had other health issues. So my mortality is something on my mind a lot now, and I don’t want to be some poor sad sack who’s full of regret when the lights come down. I just want to be poor! So…Writer or one-legged twister champion is it for me.
    In my adult life, I took to writing things down as a way of working out problems. It helps me to clear my head and also helps keep me from talking to myself like a nutter ( still do it though).
    My biggest problems I think are discipline and managing time. I’m always on time for my J.O.B., but when it comes to myself, I’ve been hit and miss. I have resolved to work on this, however. I read that if you can do something repeatedly for several weeks, it will become a habit. So I’m really trying to commit to writing every day. So far so good. And, yikes I have gone on for way too long. Sorry!

    • Holly D Lisle Apr 27, 2020 @ 8:07

      It’s tough to want it enough. My motivation was not being able to save two kids dying in an emergency room when I was twenty-four, and seeing in those two kids and a stupid, pointless accident a possible future for my own two kids if I was at work as a nurse all the time.

      I saw writing as my path to being home with my kids — and it became that. And there came a time when the fact that I was at home when they needed me genuinely saved them both.

      So what is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t write? If it’s just that you never will have checked off that one item on your “I wish I’d…” list, you won’t ever do this.

      If this is the thing that can save you or someone you love, you will find a way.

  • Ashlie Oct 27, 2019 @ 14:07

    I scored a 91. Now if I’ll just sit down and write instead of just collect shelf help on writing, all these characters in my head might quiet down a bit. I think it’s time to re-read/do the exercises for How to Motivate Yourself.

    • Holly Lisle Oct 31, 2019 @ 11:06

      That’s the trick, Ashlie. It’s easy to read about the work. But forming a writing habit of even ten minutes a day, five days a week, is what will actually get you past “reading about writing” to WRITING.

      You can do this.

  • Gary Townsend Oct 26, 2019 @ 1:24

    I scored a 66, which is good.

    I’ve written several novels, but never had the confidence to mail them out. Okay, be honest, Gary. Fact is, I never edited them, so that’s why I lacked the confidence to mail them out.


    Several years ago I learned about Algis Budrys’s little book, WRITING TO THE POINT. I read it, wrote a couple of short stories that followed his advice, then mailed them out. Neither got published, but they both received handwritten rejections from George Scithers, when he was still around and editor of WEIRD TALES. I’ve sent those stories to several other magazines, but ain’t no one bitin’ on them. His comment on the first story was, “Good. Just not irresistible.” A friend who is a pro writer/editor told me that Scithers never used the word “good” lightly in reference to a story, so if he said it was good, then it was certainly publishable. I just needed to figure out who would be willing to publish it. So far, no one. Ugh.

    I used to work in telecom, and I had a lot of free time in that field. I always used that time to either read or write, after I made sure that all my work for the night was done, of course.

    I’ve currently got a Civil War fantasy idea that’s been banging around inside my head for a couple of years, and in the process have ideas for a trilogy for it. I’m just not sure I’m ready — or even that the story is ready — to be put down on paper yet. :/

    • Gary Townsend Oct 26, 2019 @ 1:32

      One thing I’ve thought of doing, but haven’t yet, is taking those stories that garnered handwritten rejections, along with a few others, and put them together into a collection of my own short stories, then shove them up on Amazon and see what happens with them.

      I don’t expect them to make a big splash. Other self-pubbed writers who are pros in the field have told me that anthologies don’t sell well, and I’m inclined to believe it. What I don’t believe, however, is the nonsense that says that to be a successful self-pubbed writer you need to write a series.

      Aside from the obvious differences between being traditionally published vs self-published, I don’t see a lot of difference between what makes one writer successful over another. There are plenty of traditionally published writers who have been wildly successful with their series (Jim Butcher comes immediately to mind) just as there are plenty of the same who have been wildly successful writing almost exclusively stand-alone books (Stephen King, with a few exceptions, comes to mind). To me, the idea that a series is required for self-pubbing success is a complete and utter non sequitur.

  • Kylia Toreel Oct 25, 2019 @ 21:37

    I am not sure what My 86 score says about me (other than I’m probably not fit for company outside other writers).

    • Holly Lisle Oct 31, 2019 @ 11:19

      Welcome to the club.

  • Nancy Doyle Oct 25, 2019 @ 21:05

    In spite of my seventy-three score, I have a situation here I don’t know how to solve. I completed your How to Revise Your Novel course, and it helped tremendously. I was able to move on and complete a three novel series several years ago. Then, BANG, I was hit with a dire medical problem. I was lucky I didn’t die, and now I’m moving on into better health. But, survival took a toll. Recovery changes many things including the push it takes to write. I still have ideas, some not too bad. But, I get a few chapters in and then poof…everything falls apart. My enthusiasm evaporates, energy ebbs, and imagination flounders until nothing much is left. What the heck is happening to me? Will I ever be able to write again? Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my life, but this writing problem is breaking my heart!

  • Mary Alice Kropp Oct 24, 2019 @ 16:12

    I got a 58, but only because some of the questions don’t really relate to me. As in, I don’t have a day job now, and haven’t in years. And the kids are all grown and gone. So I have the luxury of being home all the time and able to write when I want- up to a point. There are other things I have to do, of course. But I had to pick a best of what was there answer in those cases. I generally finish what I start. I also usually have no problem letting others read what I write, even (at times) first drafts. I write mostly for me, because I have stories to tell and I love doing it. If others like it, too- well, that’s icing on the cake, right?

  • Karen Flieger Oct 16, 2019 @ 18:55

    I got a 58. I can come up with all kinds of ideas, but it’s sticking with one to completion that is difficult for me.

    I just found the podcast (Alone in a Room With Invisible People) and I absolutely love it.

    I’m a little bit scattered. I’m interested in a lot of different things and I’ve always read widely, so any advice on how I can hone in and focus on an idea would be great.

    • Holly Oct 23, 2019 @ 10:36

      That’s a really good question. Could you ask it on the Podcast Forum so Becca and I can add it to our questions list and turn it into an episode?

      Go to https://hollyswritingclasses.com and create a free account to get the free forum.

  • Amari Bloodmoon Jul 24, 2019 @ 6:24

    this quiz was really good. I really enjoyed all the questions and adding up the answers at the end!
    I got in the 50-79 (70 to be exact) point section which I think is the second best so I am happy with that! I am currently in the process of writing a fantasy YA (young adult) book.
    Also, I am only twelve which kinda sucks cos I know that not many publishers will want to publish a book written by someone so young even if its good but hopefully they will!

  • Fernando Bonita Mar 23, 2019 @ 16:56

    Hello! I’ve been lurking on the site for years. And now, my interest in writing has reignited, and I plan to make writing a habit. I currently have a premise or idea for a story, how would I going to make it big to create a novel? Thanks.


    • Holly Lisle Mar 25, 2019 @ 11:05

      This is something I just finished covering in Lesson 29 of my How to Write a Novel class — It’s a big lesson, big worksheet, and not something I can answer with any degree of usefulness in just a few words. (The class is not available to new students right now. Probably early in April, and then maybe again in September.)

      Getting the story idea both right and writeable — and then keeping it that way, is a huge part of creating anything really good.

  • Benita Mar 18, 2019 @ 21:56

    Well, I tried to answer each question honestly and sometimes the truest answer was a combination of answers. But scoring conservatively I hit 69 and am happy with that. This first challenge is interesting since I’m one of those people who never wants to show people what I’ve written. I’ve had some dismal experiences with sharing on websites, but I will trust that Holly will keep this civilized. I’ve been lurking on Holly’s site for years so I’m finally stepping up and doing the work.

    • Holly Mar 19, 2019 @ 10:33

      Members over at HollysWritingClasses.com are warm, wonderful, helpful people. If you want to get a lot of writing done with other folks who love doing what you do, you’ll fit right in.

  • Susan Castillo Mar 2, 2019 @ 14:58

    My 72 gives me hope… not that I didn’t already have that, it just boosts what I had. I feel as if I’ve opened a door into a cool new place, and looking around has me very intrigued. At 50, I’ve wanted in my soul to “be a writer” since at least the fifth grade. The problem has always been a matter of practicality; you see, my mother, who comes from a long line of practical women, was a shining example of the wisdom of Being Smart (i.e., don’t do risky things with your life and your career when sticking with the safe path will get you into a good place). So, I’ve been smart. I went to nursing school (high-five Holly) and now work in healthcare IT and make good money and have good benefits and a great schedule and I’m so unfulfilled I could pop. I’ve dived into various pools of creativity such as painting and jewelry-making nd gardening, but always have the writing bug tickling the inside of me. My writing starts and stops haven’t gone far, but it’s TIME. I’m so happy to have found your place, and to see where I can go!

    • Holly Mar 5, 2019 @ 12:30

      Astounding how many folks get talked out of their dreams by the well-meaning. Write! It’s hard work, but it’s wonderful work. You can do it.

  • michael mueller Feb 25, 2019 @ 22:20

    hi holly, . took the test and didn’t score very high but my question to you is, do you think someone who just turned 50 is a little too old to start writing books? I make my living as a mechanic and have a great work schedule that affords me plenty of time off but realistically what could someone’s chance be of writing and getting published? I’m not looking to write the next best seller or get a movie deal. secondly, how do I go about creating the story I want to tell? do I character build first? and create the fictional world after, just not sure where to start. I have started reading your articles and I think the great, not to mention honest and straight forward. just looking for a bit of insight on how get my project off the ground and get to writting

  • Alysza Eddy Jan 28, 2019 @ 10:34

    So… I’m 11 and I’m currently working on writing a novel and I got a score of 73, if I did the math correctly. I have a couple questions as to writing. Everyone that I’ve shown my writing to, including my teachers, said it was great. In class, for any creative writing, I have an average length of the story being 7 pages long at a font size of 14. Ok, back on track, so first of all, if actually write a semi-decent novel, is it realistic for me to get at least $100 in total, considering the fact that I’m only 11? Also, my novel is basically about “The Chosen 15” and blah blah blah, but what do you think is the maximum amount of characters to have in a novel? Thank you so much!


    • Holly Lisle Jan 31, 2019 @ 14:50

      First thing you need to keep in mind is that unless your school teacher is a published author, your teacher does not know what makes fiction publishable. It isn’t what teachers in grade schools teach.

      The first things I had to unlearn before I could start selling my fiction were all the rules my school teachers taught me about writing.

      Once you’re past that hurdle, however, novels run around 50,000 words in length and up. At seven pages and at about a hundred eighty words a page (assuming you’re double-spacing and have one-inch margins on your pages), your current story length is about 1260 words.

      Assume that with your current set-up, to write a novel you’re going to need a story that runs about 277 pages.

      It’s doable. It requires thinking of bigger stories — and when you’re getting started, it’s a lot easier and more productive to focus on writing a lot of shorter stories, learning how to fit good characters and good conflict into that length, and working to find markets where you can sell those.

      There used to be magazines that specialized in fiction by kids. I’m not sure if there still are — a lot of magazines died when the Internet really took off.

      But look around, find places where you like the fiction they publish, and contact these magazines to inquire about how to submit your work.

      And good luck. There are folks your age (and a bit older) who have successfully published. And time is on your side — focus on learning the craft, on telling good stories about characters you love, and on being persistent — on NEVER quitting. You can do this.

  • Laura Wilson-Anderson Jan 26, 2019 @ 4:03

    I got 96, which I’m pretty sure means I have no life (which is very true), but hey! I’m well prepared to be a writer. 🙂 I just need that cabin in the woods now…
    I worked at Baylor for a year, in Dallas, in the ER Lab. It was… interesting. 🙂

    • Holly Jan 26, 2019 @ 10:26

      “Interesting.” Background requirement for folks wanting to have an easier go at writing for a living. Good luck with that cabin in the woods. I want one of those, too.

  • Bill Joyce Nov 29, 2018 @ 13:23

    I really enjoyed this examination of consciousness… Passed (but by the skin of my teeth)

    I would love the opportunity to reprint this my in newsletter. Monthly Conversation. This year we are following the journey of becoming an author and this quiz will fit well as we begin in January.

    I hope this posting is appropriate and reached you for review and consideration. I could not find an email address for direct communication.

    • Holly Nov 29, 2018 @ 16:00

      Sure. You’re welcome to reprint. Please include in the credits, Copyright Holly Lisle – HollyLisle.com, All Rights Reserved. Used with written permission of the author.

  • Francine Seal Aug 26, 2018 @ 12:37

    I got a 50, which is all right for me. I’m retired so the “so I can quit my job” doesn’t really apply. The empty room for an hour – well, I’d probably fall asleep. Then again, my mind is so full of left turns as 60 mph, maybe I could come up with some more interesting ideas. I have finished one fantasy book of a projected 5 book series. A friend read it as I wrote it, almost – she got the latest chapter every Monday after I wrote on Sunday. But – I never got it edited. I have started thinking about giving editing another go. In the mean time I have the second book undergoing an outline process and I’m doing some editing at the same time. I’m a long time fan of you, Holly and I believe I have all or almost all of your classes. BTW – I’m 69 and going strong.

  • Chris Lumber Jun 27, 2018 @ 11:23

    I got a 56. What a fun thing to go through. I’m still trying to finish my first book, and have to go back and replan the middle section, as I found the sections I spent more time planning were earier to write.

  • Joe Mar 26, 2018 @ 6:43

    Holly, thank you for creating your Working Tour, and this quiz. I scored a 77, affirming I’m on the write track! My second novel in its first draft is fiction. Its been an incredible eye-opening journey, transforming an idea into a spine-tingling story readers can’t put down. Searching online for fiction scene break-out and structure, led me to your website, and book, How to Write Page Turning Scenes. Such hidden gems, everything clear, concise, and easy to follow. I’m excited and enthusiastic about this working tour.

  • Isabella Leigh Feb 20, 2018 @ 18:59

    I got a 59. Though, the first question was kind of unfair. If you hadn’t taken away my radio, I would have answered D. Without music, I gave myself a B. I’d go crazy in that room in the question, not from boredom, but from my overactive imagination. When it’s quiet is when my brain gives me serial killers coming to torture me to death.

  • Anne Feb 20, 2018 @ 12:29

    A 92. I want this more than even I can imagine. This was really encouraging. Thanks!

  • Varina Suellen Plonski Feb 20, 2018 @ 11:24

    Scored an 81. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I started writing when I was 4 – first story posted on the bulletin board at kindergarten. Then life happens. Wrote poetry, music and songs (minor fame for a song I wrote for my historical recreation group). Got started in serious mode for NaNoWriMo 2912 and won, despite 2 car accidents and a week-long, unrelated hospital stay. (Did I mention I’m also a Taurus?) Still working on that, because it grew legs and projects to be a 6 book series… plus 4 other books that have presented themselves.
    I’m about to be 65 years old. Other people started late, so why not me?
    I write Sci-fi empowerment. I’m not writing for money. If even ine person reads my story and feels encouraged, i am well-paid.

  • Mike Feb 20, 2018 @ 6:40

    I got 60, but I’m not really sure how to answer #6. I answered B, but that really isn’t true because I haven’t worked full-time since I was diagnosed with MS three years ago. Fortunately, I can still work part-time doing something I love to do (teach guitar). So I feel like I didn’t really fit into any category. I have more time to write, so I write. Not because I want to quit my full-time job (that doesn’t exist), but because I finally have enough time to do what I’ve wanted to do for decades. Now I just need to prioritize all the other activities that seem to constantly clutter my days, and then get rid of the ones that aren’t really adding value to my life. Oh my goodness, that’s hard to do! There are so many things that I really CAN’T do now, so it’s really hard to say “no” to something that I CAN do but maybe shouldn’t.

  • Dave Feb 5, 2018 @ 16:12

    I got a 46. My urge to write comes from sharing my life experience. I am constantly thinking about life, existence and purpose. Then i’ll jump to a movie idea or jump again to the crazy guy I saw on the bus.

    I have this urge to write it all down and share it. I cannot be the only one to benefit form all of these thoughts and experiences.

  • Olakunbi Dec 16, 2017 @ 0:32

    I got 60, I know I have the perfect ideas for short stories and novels but the challenges I usually face are with my concentration and grammar. Performing an activity and sitting at a place for long is a huge challenge for me. I also feel my style of writing, structure and grammar need improvement. Is anyone aware of an online class that will help with my writing.

    • Holly Dec 20, 2017 @ 6:57

      Writing is a learn-by-doing process that generally benefits from intelligent feedback from other folks doing the same thing.

      I offer a free short fiction class with live forum for feedback here:

      In it, I teach story structure, plotting, how to come up with good endings, and a few other basics. It’s self-paced.

  • Kay Dec 2, 2017 @ 17:42

    I got an 80, and I’m actually a little surprised in myself. I’ve always been kind of a daydreamer, I guess. I’ve been told I’m good, but friends and family kind of have to say that. Wouldn’t want to discourage me, now would they? I guess I’m afraid that they aren’t honest, and that’s why I’m here. As of recently, I’ve joined a writing group. Unfortunately for me, this being my first year as a part of it, they can no longer do real competitions due to the unfortunate death of someone who was very important to it, sometimes going to help as many as six competitions in one day. Even so, some schools nearby are coming together soon for a small competition.

    I’m still going though. For my English class, we wrote a paper about World War I to be submitted to a contest. I chose to do a fiction story, which I was actually really worried about. Soon enough my teacher came up to me at the start of one class and praised my writing. She told me that she really enjoyed it, which was enough to make my day. She actually encouraged me to join the writing group and asked me about it a couple of times. More recently, I wrote a very small writing about a painting provided in art class, as the assignment for the first five minutes of class was to write a fiction about the painting. My art teacher later read my writing to the class and told me that had had already talked to the advanced teacher, and they planned to submit it into a contest, which was also really huge for me.

    I guess a part of me is still telling me that it isn’t possible I be talented at something. This was definitely reassuring, and I’ll try to get rid of any doubts. It’s a lot harder to write anything when you’re always second guessing yourself.

  • Luis Petrizzo Oct 9, 2017 @ 11:53

    64…yeah, I’m getting varied reviews of my first story, but I’m still clear in the right path for my career.

  • Seth Sep 14, 2017 @ 19:29

    I got a 50, which I suppose is a borderline grade. As a seventeen-year-old, I’ve not had a tremendous amount of teaching, but the craft as a hobby and as a career intrigues me. My only question is how far will sheer discipline get you on this path? If a rookie who has only ever written brief articles and short-stories dives into courses to improve his knowledge of the art and sharpens his skills through more focused writing sessions, will he go anywhere as a writer? What part does pure, natural creativity and talent play? Not having received a college degree or fully committed to a career, I’m sort of at a crossroads where writing seems like the ideal yet unrealistic journey.
    Thanks for the wonderful quiz — I agree that this is infinitely more helpful than any garbage Cosmo can come up with! I, too, live in Florida so I’ll be praying for recovery in your area. Thanks again!

    • Holly Sep 15, 2017 @ 9:56

      First, realize that grades are meaningless garbage. They were garbage in school — they have no application to real life in school or after it.

      Second, there’s no grade on this quiz. Your results just where you’re starting, where you have strengths and weaknesses. It’ll give you some hints on areas where you can focus your attention if you want to do this.

      Third, college is absolutely unnecessary if you want a career as a professional writer, and people who go to college to become writers almost always learn destructive processes that they have to unlearn if they want to succeed. I cover this in a different article, which you might find helpful.

      • Seth Sep 15, 2017 @ 20:10

        This is really helpful and encouraging, so thank you Mrs Lisle! Your other article answered a lot of my questions. If you don’t mind me asking (and I swear I mean no offense), but you mentioned you never attended college. Clearly, you’re an accomplished professional writer, but do you know any friends who went to college to further their writing career and regretted it?
        Thanks for the immediate response, by the way!

        • Holly Dec 20, 2017 @ 7:01

          Yeah. I have a long list of colleagues who went to college to learn to write, didn’t, had their goals derailed into other paths, and came back to writing through my classes.

          It’s a long, LONG read (for a webpage) but you can read some of their experiences here:


          Look for the blue boxes.

  • Muniya Pyne Sep 14, 2017 @ 4:06

    Yes, I just got a lovely 68 and I am happy. Thank you for your amazingly structured test. I love writing and currently wroting on Wattpad… 🙂 I hope I will definitely do better in future though.

    • jenna fashe Mar 7, 2018 @ 9:51

      what is your name on wattpad? im also on there.

  • Kelvin Sep 7, 2017 @ 7:14

    I got a 52, did some writing in high school but didn’t really complete the books. I dealt with fantasy and fiction, not really pursuing a career in writing but would love to write some books that I might not even publish. Do you think it’s possible to get good at writing even if it’s not my career choice?

  • TheUFCVet Aug 30, 2017 @ 22:21

    Hey, I did better than I thought! I got 48. I’m 17, I enjoy writing a little bit of fanfiction on the side (writing will most likely always be a hobby for me but I wanted to try your test anyway), as well as reading quite a bit of it. Currently working on a couple of stories. Graphic design and video editing is where I can really get my ideas down in a fully satisfactory way, if you will. Still not there on the writing, (and probably won’t be for a few years), however progress will be made 🙂

    Although I still push myself to constantly be better. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, if I’m doing something I like, I always want to be the best I can possibly be at it. Constantly trying to improve. That goes for all my hobbies really. Video games, writing (definitely my least active hobby, still enjoy it a lot though), graphic design, video editing, that kind of stuff.

    Oh yes, did I mention that I can ramble on for a while? Haha. Well thanks for making this test Holly, it was fun! (and good!)

  • Carolyn Kim Aug 29, 2017 @ 14:31

    Got a 78! I don’t particularly enjoy writing in general, but when I’m writing for fun(writing a short story or continuously working on a “book”)it really lets me use my imagination and creativity in a different way!

  • Joel gilmore Aug 14, 2017 @ 0:23

    I got a 51! I’m working on my very first book, and I’m reading and watching every tip and trick to write a good book, thanks for this quiz, it really opened my eyes to some things

    • Holly Aug 14, 2017 @ 8:25

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad I could help.

  • Kylie Apr 30, 2017 @ 12:34

    I’m only 11 great imagination.. Or so I’m told. And I got 49! I’m writing fantasy Adventure books, and apparently.. I think I can do it! Thanks for the inspiration! Can’t wait to get started!!

    • Holly Lisle Aug 13, 2017 @ 6:23

      Go get ’em, Kylie! You can do this.

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