Saturday, May 14, 2011

Greyhaus Guest Blogger - I'm a Storyteller, Not a Writer

Justine really has some good things to consider here. I think her perspective really slams into place why we do the things we do. Why do we punish ourselves time and time again? It is the passion of writing. I do want to add though, and this is something that Justine doesn't really say, but I think is hidden in there. She is talking about writing and not publishing. Rember the passion she speaks of!

* * *

That's right. I'll admit it.

There's a difference? Yes, according to many people (Nathan Bransford included) there is. And according to the same people, you must be good at both in order to become successful in this business.


That's a difficult statement to handle, isn't it?

I'm writing this post for two reasons: one, my crit partner helped me realize the difference, which in turn helped me understand my own writing. And two, an intern on twitter recently said this:

"If you don't have background in writing—don't write."

A lot of people don’t agree with that statement. I mean, how will you learn to write—and write well—if you DON’T do it?

First, let's talk about the difference between storytelling and writing. Obviously, storytelling is when you tell a great story. To people, to friends, in a funny notebook you carry around. It’s about getting the words out there, making people laugh, cry, smile, whatever.

Wikipedia defines storytelling as: the conveying of events in words, images and sounds often by improvisation or embellishment.

Writing is all that "other" stuff: grammar, tenses—all the jargon about the English language.

Wikipedia says writing is: the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols.

Then there’s the other "writer" stuff: plots, tension, character delineation, backstory, turning points, plot layers, subplots, personal stakes, reversing motives, character dimensions, and so on and so forth.

So, I wrote before I knew anything about "writing". And what a hot mess I had! But does that mean I shouldn't write? Heck no! Not every novelist has a background in English. Not every author has taken a creative writing class. Not every best seller has a "background" in writing.

I even did a little research. There a MANY novelists (famous and not) who didn't even go to college. There are some are who went to college, but not for writing/english. There are even a few high school dropouts. (Google is a wonderful thing)

So what about me? What did I do? I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And then I learned. I got a crit partner (several, actually). I read books. I studied grammar. I did research and practiced my craft. I learned the proper way to write. I have been able to mesh those fabu storytelling skills with some mad writing skills. And hey, it only took me five books to do it!
Do I regret how long it took to figure it out? How hard it was? All the sweat, and crits, and tears?
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Because why do I write? Well, why do you breathe?
I need to. I love to.
I don't care if you don't have a background in writing. That shouldn’t define WHO you are. You must DO in order to succeed. You must learn, write, and grow. Do it.
My name is Justine Dell, and I’m a storyteller.


  1. Oh my goodness... are you me?
    I am a born storyteller...

    My 3rd book (the first partial ever requested) received an agent rejection that said, "you are obviously a talented storyteller" what I read between the lines was 'but you need to learn more about writing'...

    Book 4 was a contest winner with several partial requests.

    Book 5 was a double contest winner with two 'full' requests and several partial requests... All were rejections with concrete writing advice attached.

    Book 6 is in the works and even I can see the effects that on-line classes, critique groups and blog reading has done to improve my writing. Book 6 will be the one... because the storyteller is becoming a writer.

    I still love the first stories... but the writing was pretty bad.

  2. Thanks, Justine. I love how you compared your writing to breathing.

    I'm a storyteller. I've been blogging for six years just so I can foist my stories on unsuspecting bloghoppers. I post every day with the hope of entertaining my handful of readers.

    While I feel confident in the mechanics of writing, I don't always follow the rules. Rules sometimes ruin a good story.

    This year I decided to take the plunge and enter two contests. I won one, and placed ninth in the other. Still, I'm reluctant to get my act together and submit.

    Your post has helped me see that I need to adjust, to make a triptik for my journey, and stop meandering down the back roads as the mood strikes.

  3. Lovely Justine!!! You are a storyteller and an awesome writer!! Look at this post - it's fab!! Yay! take care

  4. Excellent post, I love Justine, thanks so much for featuring her here, Scott.

    Personally, in the beginning (and probably still, to a certain degree), I was a far better writer than story teller. I've always had a passion for language, and the art of the sentence. It was easier for me to write great (at least to my mind) lines than it was to craft entire stories, with proper pacing, stakes, and character motivation.

    We all have our strengths, and weaknesses, but as long as we accept them, and never give up on always working to improve our craft, then there is nothing wrong with that.