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Writer vs Author

October 1, 2013

There is a difference between being a writer and an author. This may not seem noteworthy to some, but to me it makes a necessary distinction. Writing is a literary pursuit; authoring is genre grounded. Now, what does that mean?

As a writer, I’ve had the joy of being published in both poetry and literary, short fiction, and my works appear in several literary journals. I’m proud to be able to cite those publications in my biography and on my Curriculum Vitae, but they are more of an academic pursuit than anything else. Literary work is grounded in style and rules, and it functions in spite of the story. You can complain about that point all you like, but I’ve found that in writing classes, workshops, critiques clubs, and everywhere else that the literati gather, the story is last to be considered behind the list of approved topics such as pacing, voice, characterization, etc. The literary world is one of rules, and that is the home of the writer.

A writer is more concerned with the writing than the story, and spends as much time reading about writing as putting words on paper. Everything must go through a workshop critique setting, and rewrites ensue at the smallest hint of a snafu.

Now, enter the world of the author. This is a genre world with all of its own set of problems, but it has one overarching difference from the literary world. Here, the story’s the thing. It’s all about the characters and their incredible journey. It’s annoying to drop a comma, but that annoyance is overcome by the thrill of the story. A modifier may get dangled here and there, but it goes mostly unnoticed because the character’s life is hanging by a thread, and we didn’t choke on the grammar minutiae.

That’s my world. Authoring is the joy that keeps the wordsmith fires burning; the reason I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Genre lets me follow the rules subconsciously, and most of the grammar takes care of itself. Voice and style are individual and are developed with practice, so the rules I look for come from other genre writers, and they keep me pushing forward with a clear sense of the readers’ desires. I set aside the MLA text and follow the lead of those who’ve broken ground before me.

Simple rules are best; easy to remember and easy to check. The repeated mantra of Neil Gaiman goes, “Write. Finish. Write more.” I adore the plot-help that says to put your characters in a tree, set the tree on fire, and then get them out of the tree. It worked in The Hobbit quite literally. And then there’s the brilliant admonition, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” Editing takes care of the rest, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

This is the mindset of the author. Get the story on paper. Everything else is revision and editing. Only after the story is written can it be tweaked and polished. You have to let the words flow; let the story unfold; resist the urge to slow down for edits. This high-speed method brings fresh stories that readers enjoy, and they’ll come back for more.

For me, writing is complicated, but authoring is simple. Writing is hard work, but authoring is fun. I still labor over the literary, short story and tear out bits of my mind to find the correct word for a poem, but mostly I vote for the simple and fun labor of authoring fresh, entertaining genre fiction.

One Comment
  1. Very interesting post. I’ve never considered separating the terms in this way. Thought provoking.

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