Writing vs. Storytelling

My tenth grade English teacher used to praise my work. “Great writing!” She would write in green ink at the top of my latest short story. This would make me glow with pride as I took the paper home to show my parents. 

It wasn’t until much later when I realized “great writing” wasn’t all my mind had made it up to be.

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I am a good writer. At least, I hope I am. But if I ever have any hopes of hitting it big as a novelist and blogger, I can’t be a good writer. Readers don’t fall in love with good writing. 

So what do readers love? Simple.

Readers love good storytelling.

To anyone other than the avid reader and writer, the difference between writing and storytelling is hard to discern. Allow me to clarify this. 

*gets on metaphorical soapbox*

Once upon a time, there were two friends. One of them was a great writer and the other was a great storyteller. Both wrote a book. 

The great writer’s publisher hardly edited a thing in the book and was able to release the book immediately. The book made a fair profit. 

The great storyteller’s publisher had to edit it heavily and took awhile to fix all the grammar and continuity mistakes. However, once the book was finally released it made the bestseller list. 

The end.

Writing consists of words strung together, phrases, sentences, etc. Don’t get me wrong, reading the perfect paragraph will send me to the moon. I love it when authors know how to write properly. 

This, however, is null if the writer is not also a storyteller. 

Storytellers do not trade in words. Their craft is the imagination. A good storyteller can convey feeling through their art. They can make their reader/listener/viewer feel how they want them to feel, to see what they want them to see, and spark their imagination. 

Writing can become too rule driven. Too fit in the box, do it this way or else. Meanwhile, the whole point of storytelling is running as fast as you can away from the box. 

J.K. Rowling, for instance, is a great storyteller…but she can’t write worth a lick. During the first four Harry Potter books, she uses too many simple adverbs and adjectives. She overuses the word “very” which ticks me off. Which I am willing to forgive because I love her anyway.

However this is negated by the fact that she knows how to weave a tale. She can bring the Golden Trio to life. 

On the other hand, Erin Morgenstern had a good idea when she wrote The Night Circus. And she wrote exceptionally well. But she couldn’t take her idea and make it a story. The book became dry despite the magic it contained, all because Erin couldn’t tell her story. 

Many blogs contain too much writing. Too many bland facts. And, hey, if that works for some, it works for some. But notice how I started this post. I told a story about tenth grade me and my English teacher. Now here you are, still reading. 

I, myself, am on a writing journey, having just started my blog. I have opened up to sharing my work with others, family, friends, and complete strangers. That’s hard for me. Any writer knows that sharing your writing is like opening up your soul and letting someone else look inside. But it is necessary.

My advice to writers is this. Stop learning how to write and start learning how to tell your story.


What advice would you give to writers? Whether or not you are a reader or writer, what would you have to say to upcoming and already famous writers? Feel free to rant 😉