Friday, December 17, 2010

Storyteller or Wordsmith?

Blacksmith removing rust with sand (or fairy dust, if you have any imagination)

Here's a thinker for you this Friday (Happy Friday, by the way, everyone!! Woot!):

Are you a storyteller or a wordsmith? 

I've noticed lately in my reading that some people truly excel at story, like Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, or Rick Riordan of the Percy Jackson series; and others weave words like master artisans in the households of kings, like Libba Bray of Going Bovine and A Great and Terrible Beauty, or Gayle Forman of If I Stay, or my critique partners. ;) (Seriously, you guys are in for a real treat when any one of them breaks through the publishing bottleneck.)

Of course, it would be nice to have it all, but nobody starts out that way. That's why we call writing our craft.

So which part of our craft is your strong suit? Storytelling, with its plot structure, twists, and revelations? Or wordsmithing (how can that not be a real word?), with its heart-piercing phraseology and dew-from-heaven gloriousness?

It's an important question because the answer can tell you where you need to focus your practice. Me, for instance. I've got wordplay down to a hyphenated art. Okay not really, but I became a writer because people told me I write well, not because people said I come up with the most air-tight plots ever. So I fall in with the wordsmith lot. For me, this means my current focus has to be plot. And not just plot. Storytelling includes characterization and setting, so you can see I have my work cut out for me.

Knowing where my strengths lie as a writer gives me focus, but it also reminds me to allow myself a little failure in my weak areas. It's okay if my first draft is filled with plot holes. For me, revision is less about crafting perfect sentences and more about re-imagining the story... over and over again, until it all fits. And, of course, since this is my cross to bear I think storytelling is much harder than spinning beautiful phrases. Which is more difficult for you?

Now you know what to work on this weekend.

On that note, hop on over to my linky for the New Year's Revisions Blog Party. (You can totally cheat and write your revision goals before the 1st. I won't tell, if you don't.)

Psst! The OA blog circle is abuzz with excitement over Leah Clifford's new book, A TOUCH MORTAL. Michelle, Lindsay, and Amparo are all pimping it. The exciting news is that Leah will be HERE on the OA blog doing a Q&A about her upcoming book, her writing, whatever you think to ask, this SUNDAY!

Coming February 22, 2011

See you there!


  1. I have to work on both. Lazy sentences and half baked story ideas show up in my first drafts more often than I care to admit -- But I've gotten really good at revision ;)

  2. I think I'm more of a storyteller than a wordsmith; I'm better the plot than using words. I need to work on both factors, though!

  3. Bluestocking, if you're good at revision, then you're just plain good. :)

    Good post, Katrina. I don't know if I'm better at storytelling or spinning phrases -- probably phrase spinning, so I wish it was storytelling ;)

  4. Storyteller, definitely. Angela Townsend's the one who helps me with the Wordmithing part!

    Great post--I never thought about it this way before. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  5. Great post! I'm definitely not at my best with "wordsmithing" (even though I'd l-o-v-e to be!). That's why I'm forever in awe of a couple books I've read recently--great stories and all, but the authors' word choices left me breathless.

    And I'm talking, Jensen-Ackles-walks-into-the-room-and-smiles breathless ;) Hope to be like that someday...

  6. Fab post. I'm so not the best judge of this for my own writing, but I do love wordsmithing. And revision. ;)

  7. Dear Lord - storyteller! I am not a master of intricate phrases and words.

  8. I think I'd have to say storyteller for me also.

    By the way, I really enjoy the Operation Awesome blog. There's always lots of good stuff here. :)

  9. Thanks for the love, Kimberly!

    And great to see lots of storytellers around *fist pump* Maybe we should start a club or something. :D

  10. Thanks for all the comments!

    It's so cool seeing both aspects represented in the comments. With writing, our weaknesses really must become our strengths if we want to succeed. And you guys have done and are doing just that. Power to you! Here's some fairy dust for good measure ****** Use it well.


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