Friday, January 31, 2014

Writers Vs. Storytellers: The Great Debate

I've had some time the past few days to do some thinking. During that time I've been debating to myself, friends, and colleagues some of the major issues in publishing and indie writing that a lot of upcoming authors are facing.

One of these main discussions was the tough to crack debate over difference between Writers and Storytellers.

When authors first sit down to start their next project, a slew of possibilities opens up with the creation of that fresh blank Word document. Where the ideas come from is often irrelevant; it is within human nature that the concept of storytelling and prose comes from, and it doesn't take an award-winning writer to come up with a great story to tell around a campfire that captivates each of the campers no matter what age.

So, if everyone in the world has the potential to be a storyteller, what is the true definition of a writer?

I've had the time to think about and have come up with this:

Anyone can be a part-time story teller, but not everyone can be a full-time writer.

Coming up with fantastical worlds, great characters and dialogue-- these things do not make a writer.

These qualities make you human. 

What really defines an author or writer is the fact that once you have come up with an amazing concept and world, you actually take the needed time to get it down on paper. The point where your story has been told and the text has filled the page to the point of completion, THAT is when you are a writer.

Neil Gaiman described writing as being as easy as typing one word after another, and also that hard.

Since we all from our daily experiences and histories have enough to draw upon to create amazing stories, it takes a different kind of person to actually translate those ideas into something concrete that you can hold in your hand. Telling a story and writing a book are universally different things, though the two can often be mistaken.

"I wish I had your job. You just sit around and come up with ideas all day."

Wrong. If I got paid simply for pitching concepts so other authors could go off and write them, I'd probably be doing a hell of a lot better financially. The only place this kind of thing happens is in Hollywood, where writers are treated as replaceable hand-monkeys without the silly hats.

So ultimately, writing is not storytelling as much as the two are intertwined. You cannot be a great writer without being a great storyteller, BUT being a great storyteller does not make you a writer and vice versa.

What all aspiring writers face is the point where they figure out if they are a real writer, or just a great storyteller. The sooner that person figures that out, the sooner they'll either crack down and get writing that book, or shelve it forever and find a new hobby, because that's all it really was.

But I'm not saying there is no hope, nor am I saying that being a writer is an exclusive club open only to those that follow a specific guideline that I will post later. That's just silly.

What I'm saying is that you need to differentiate passion and work.

If you're a writer, that is your job. 

Don't like to work? Don't be a writer. 

If you simply have your head in the clouds, dreaming of dragons and rocket ships with big titted ladies riding dinosaurs with machine gun heads, and have no real drive to get that idea out to the world one word at time?

You're a storyteller, and a strange one at that.

The best way to turn this whole concept upside down is when you actually DO realize you have the balls to be an author and want to go about it in the correct manner. The best way to go about creating fiction or non-fiction is to write what you know and what you know people will love.

Think about your favorite television shows, music, and movies. Even if whatever project isn't a blockbuster smash, it still has that small and loyal cult following behind it.


Because people are storytellers, and what do storytellers love most?


So bear that in mind when deciding your next project. No matter what, someone is going to love your book. It might be lost amidst the swelling market, and there may be some who hate it, but in the end you will find exposure one reader at a time.

Building that fanbase is as easy as making friends. If you are not a friendly person or a good friend, best of luck trying to get people to like you, let alone buy from you.

In a world where everyone can be a storyteller, authors need to realize that all readers have the potential to be storytellers themselves. With that in mind, writers need to understand they can't get away with putting out a sub-par project.

Readers know shit storytelling as much as an author would. Authors are not the the authority over what is good, nor are the editors or publishers. The readers are. The worldwide circle of storytellers keep us in line.

So the next time you sit down to start writing, remember to keep your readers at the same level as you. As a writer, you are at the mercy of your readers and reviewers. Give them what you would want to receive yourself, tell the story you want to hear.

Or else, some other storyteller will call you on your bullshit, and you'll know your true failing.