Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Writing vs. Storytelling

Which is more important: writing well or telling a great story? They’re almost equally important, but one is slightly more important than the other. I tell writers all the time that there are only two things you need to get published (traditionally). One, to be able to write well. And two, to be able to tell a great story.

Why Do Readers Want to Read?

First off, ask yourself why readers want to read a book. Typically, it’s either to learn something or to be entertained. And since I teach fiction writing, we’ll go with being entertained. Readers don’t want to just be entertained; they want to be able to seamlessly read a book without the words or the story getting in the way. 

Ever heard the comment “this takes me out of your story”? Yeah, you don’t want that happening. Lots of revisions and a good editor ensure that most published books don’t have scenes and sentences that do that to a reader.

If your goal is to write a book that readers actually want to read, all you need to do is tell a great story and write well. Easy peasy, right?

The Purpose of Good Writing

The purpose of good writing is so a reader can understand what you wrote and either learn from it or be entertained. When you write well, you use good spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You also have good sentence syntax; things make sense and aren’t confusing. 

Writing well includes varying the length of your sentences, having a good flow with thoughtful cause and effect, and structuring what you want to say in such a way that the reader can easily digest it.

Even if you have a great story, but your writing sucks, it won’t get published. If your writing only needs a little help (as opposed to a lot), your story still has a chance… if the story holds up. Editors will work with you, of course, but if your writing sucks, it’s gonna be a big fat PASS.

The Heart of Great Storytelling

At the heart of every great story includes interesting and relatable characterization, conflict to challenge them to their very core, and a plot full of things that happen for a reason. What happens if you have POOR storytelling skills, but your writing is stellar? That’ll be a pass too.

But here’s some hope for you. If your story and writing are “good enough” and the premise is amazing, an editor may just take you on. I’ll be sharing my 4-quadrant matrix of how storytelling and writing go hand in hand in an upcoming webinar called Get Your Story Straight in May 2021.

I’ve been talking a lot about storytelling these last few weeks: are you good enough to be a writerstory ideas are like seeds, and how to bust through writer’s block, just to name a few. Because my goal is to help you not only learn how to become a better writer but to also help you tell a great story.

I’d love to hear about your story! What is your current WIP (work in progress) about? Click here to share a comment.

Keep on keepin' on...


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