So You Wanna Write? Part 2: The Big Difference


I stated in my last post that I love storytelling but I hate writing. Think of it this way: I love my loft – it’s cathedral ceilings with floor-to-celing windows, its open living room and dining room – and I love living in it with my wife, daughter, and dachshunds.

But ask me to build one, and that would not appeal to me in the least. The only things that can make me turn my head and run faster are shopping malls, HGTV, and snakes.

However, if I did build a house, I’m sure the rewards of a finished project would be gratifying (just don’t enter through the front door because the roof might collapse on you).

Such as it is with writing. It may seem like a chore to tap endlessly on that keyboard, but the satisfaction of a completed book or chapter (or sentence, in some cases) is very fulfilling. But without a lot of money and a film crew (which most of us don’t have), really writing is the only way to tell stories.

There is a difference between writing and telling stories.

People write notes all the time, and school papers, and cooking instructions. Now, you can be annoying and insist that there’s a story to be found in each one of those elements, but don’t. We don’t live in a Dick and Jane world anymore. A story nowadays has to include characters, depth, emotion, layers, plots, ethos, and much, much more.

This blog post is not a story.

Writing can be tedious (i.e. papers, memos, accident reports), or it can be fun (love letters, to-do lists, list of potential baby names).

And storytelling can be the same way. Some stories are difficult to tell, like post-9/11 articles, or the dangers of kids playing too close to the pool. But more often than not, storytelling is a wonderful adventure.

You’ve read many books by storytellers, but likely very few from writers.

Everyone who writes a book is an author, but very few are writers.

Take John Grisham for example. Back in his glory days, he told great stories, gripping and fast-paced. But if you get down to it, he’s not much of a writer. Not compared to the likes of Dickens or McEwan.

There’s not much symbolism in his novels (nothing wrong with that), nor flourishing sentences that could be elegantly quoted at your next dead poets meeting (nothing wrong with that, either).

Few people can blend the two, most of us are good at one or the other. I’m a storyteller, because I’d rather my readers walk away with an experience rather than a newly-worded thought.

So, decide for yourself what you are. Are you a storyteller or are you a writer?

Figuring this out will ease the road paved before you toward becoming an author.


About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

45 Responses to So You Wanna Write? Part 2: The Big Difference

  1. ItMatterstoGrey says:

    I just had this conversation with my son last night. I am a storyteller.

  2. Vy Chazen says:

    I agree, to-do lists are fun.

    This is an interesting post as it hits on a subject that frequently comes up among my writing circle. Are you in it to tell a story or write literary pieces. I do find it hard to combine the two. Even as a reader, I often have to decide if I want to read because I love language and the written word or if I just want to enjoy a story. I read Grisham for a gripping story and Dickens because I enjoy the writing.

  3. Claire Saag says:

    This is an interesting idea. I agree with you that not many people are both, however the best books are surely written by those who can combine the two, so I personally aspire to develop both sides of my abilities as much as possible. It might be that only a few people can blend the two but why not aim at being one of them?

  4. pamelaanne68 says:

    Reblogged this on pamelaanne68 and commented:
    Part 2!

  5. afsheenanjum says:

    I am a story teller i think a better story teller and a OK writer 😛

  6. I enjoy writing; the process of writing. I also want to write a work of fiction. As of now, I am having a tremendous amount of difficulty coming up with a gripping tale. Does that make me a poor storyteller?

  7. I am definately a storyteller through and through, preferably verbal LOL

  8. GDR says:

    I’m a writer who wants to become a better storyteller

  9. hey thanks for the follow….your post gave me an idea for my next post….would love to have your feedback on my posts….:)

  10. verbal storytelling has never been my forte…but i do to change that with my writing…being a storyteller is more satisfying than being a write…

  11. ccsweeny says:

    Im so a storyteller. Although lately, it seems that im trying to be a writer which is affecting my storytelling. Im trying to write sentences that seems thought provoking but because it is taking me so long to write a thought provoking sentence, I never get to finishing the idea, hence the many unfinished stories I have. I always thought a good story had to have that deep “writer” effect for it to be a good story but thanks to you I don’t necessarily have to be a good writer to be a good story teller…thank you! It really does take the pressure off

    • Remember, you can be just as thought-provoking through the story you tell. The gift with writers is that they’re able to condense it into a sentence or paragraph. Us storytellers usually take a whole book to get our thoughts across 🙂

  12. Techno Guru says:

    I think I’m a bit of both. I am good at wording and really good at storytelling.
    Thank you for this post! It has really helped me as I want to try and be an author when I grow up.

  13. Hardethaewoh says:

    I wanna Write!

    I’ve heard friends tell me over the years that I narrate/tell stories better by nature, but I appreciate write-ups… I guess it’s still possible to learn to be a writer and still keep my story telling nature?

  14. Addie says:

    Writing is a chore! Gosh, you took the words out of my mouth. After reading this post, I realized I’m more of a storyteller and a so-so writer.

  15. Great post. While I try to develop both my writing and storytelling, I do clearly agree with you that one typically dominates. I struggle it because I love language, words and well-written sentences that read more like poetry. I suppose I might be called a “recovering writer” :). While I will likely “relapse” into long-winded, overly metaphorical sentences (like this one?), I am beginning to focus much more on storytelling — as I see this as the crux of publishing novels that entertain and have the potential to make a difference.

  16. Pingback: So You Wanna Write Part 3: Why Write? | adoptingjames

  17. H.Fields says:

    This really made me put my writing into perspective. When I set to write a story, to really write it, I tend to gather symbolism. I want to reflect what I see in the form of language. I tend to do this more with my poetry than anything, but I have all of these ideas for stories to reflect what I observe around me. You are really pushing me to put more effort into what I create with my pencil upon a page rather than keeping it all locked away within my mind and wishing it could come to be.

  18. Wardy says:

    Looks like I am a bit of both! Love making a tale into a good story. Some days are more serious that others though hence the switch. Keep up the great work! 🙂

  19. I like the distinction you make between the two. I’ve never really thought to approach writing in that way…but I really think in anyone that professes to love writing, there has to exist at least a hint of a storyteller (and vice versa). I guess it’s tougher to develop and/or manufacture the story telling part, but I’d personally love to improve on both simultaneously. Looking forward to your next post in this series.

  20. B* says:

    Great words of counsel, these!
    I guess I am more of a storyteller than a writer – well, at least for now 🙂

    Thank you for dropping by my site with your warmth and for following, too.
    Do take care and best wishes for all that you do, too.

  21. Pingback: So You Wanna Write Part 5: What to Write | adoptingjames

  22. Jennifer Marshburn says:

    I love the distinction you make here. I’ve never considered the difference before.

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