Writing vs. Storytelling

Guys, I’ve never taken a formal class on creative writing, so sometimes I make obvious observations. For most of my life, I’ve looked at writing a novel as a single skill/talent. But that’s not true. It’s several. Today I’m going to have thoughts about two of them. Lucky you, I’m going to share.

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First, it’s writing. We must be able to construct a coherent sentence.  Or a nice one, if you can manage it. From there, we must be able to construct a coherent paragraph. As my friend Kim says:

“You can have the best story idea in the whole history of forever, but if you don’t have the technical ability to back it up, it’ll crumple in on itself. It won’t ever live anywhere other than inside your own mind.”

People think they can be authors without basic grammar. It’s just not true. Agents and editors (in my experience) will not take you on unless you can write readable sentence. The worse your grammar is, the more hours they have to spend fixing it.

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Making this face the entire time.

Common sense: if it comes to a choice between two people with an equally cool concept, but one can write and one can’t, they’ll choose the person who can write. Agents and editors are already busy. They don’t have time to take on clients who don’t know the difference between you’re/your or to add/move/delete every single comma in your 120K manuscript (which is, btw, probably too long). Therefore, if you want to be traditionally published, you must be able to write.  If you know you have an amazing concept and you struggle with prose, practice. It can be done.

So, to accurately communicate, we must be writers. To move people, we must be storytellers.

Character, plot, pacing, description. What to show, what to tell. When to hide information and when to reveal. How to set up and smoothly execute a plot twist, when necessary. Choosing perfect details that reveal worlds of information in a single sentence.  This, to me, is storytelling. Things that oral storytellers mastered long before the written word. I swoon over good writing, but a well-told story makes me all like

. I’m all of these people, but mostly the chubby, weeping one.

IMO, It’s a skill much harder to come by than the ability to write. Writing is easy, because the rules are specific. Storytelling is art. For me, it’s the thing that puts great authors head and shoulders above the rest. It’s through storytelling, not prose, that we connect with characters and become immersed in other lives and alien words. Through storytelling, we grow as human beings.

So, what’s the point? I don’t know. Maybe just to say that we shouldn’t study one and neglect the other. Yes, I think that’s it. As for me, I think I’m an okay writer. I’d like to be better. But really, if I had to choose, I’d rather be a brilliant storyteller.

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Those are my magic storytelling flames which I will someday spew onto the world, setting it ablaze with my awesome.

Also, save the date for next Monday! Amazing author Charlie Holmberg is guest posting, and there will be a giveaway! FREE THINGS, GUYS!

About Caitlyn McFarland

Mom of three girls, writer of fantasy novels.
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4 Responses to Writing vs. Storytelling

  1. My lifelong ambition to be quoted has been fulfilled! 😉

    Fabulous post, dahling!

  2. Here here! And let me know when your flames of awesomeness are spewing because I want to watch. 😀

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