Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Kinds of Writers by Valerie Comer

Valerie Comer
Hey, writers! Annette here. Last week, our guest discussed pantsters vs. plotters. This week, let's look at the writing process from another angle entirely, shall we? Welcome Valerie Comer with her insightful perspective on two types of writers and the effectiveness of critique groups for each type.

Two Kinds of Writers
by Valerie Comer

There are two kinds of writers in this world, and I'm not talking about plotters and pantsters! 

I mean those who are natural storytellers and those who instinctively know how to craft good prose (hereinafter known as writers—which, yes, I know is confusing…) 

I hear about people who rewrote their first novel twenty times and then sold it. This is a foreign thought to me. My first novel had lousy bones. Sure, there were some really good scenes and dialogue in it, but it wasn't worth saving. 

Any guesses on whether I'm a storyteller or a writer? Yup, writer, through and through.

I theorize that most of those who rewrite the same manuscript dozens of times to get it right are primarily storytellers. They may or may not know their entire plot before they start. Either way, they instinctively apply cause-and-effect as they write. Their stories may be camouflaged by stilted dialogue, stifling description, and lengthy soliloquies, but the core is solid. The craft of writing can be learned and applied. 

If all you have is pretty words and no story? The outlook is different. I'm a good writer. If all you read is a few paragraphs or a scene I've written, you'll probably agree. But if you sit down to critique a first draft of mine, you'll soon find that the story just doesn't hold together. Characters act against their personalities. Logic may fly clear out the window. 

Are you familiar with the art of M. C. Escher? Relativity is one of his most famous drawings of impossible reality. Go have a look at it. I'll wait. 

This drawing perfectly represents my first draft writing and, I suspect, that of others who are not storytellers. How so? Each segment of Escher's work, taken by itself, makes sense. It's only when you put them all together that you find it implausible. 

To take my theory one step further, let's talk about critique groups, which seem to be standard for aspiring writers. Each submits a chapter a week (or month), often during the first draft phase. If you're a storyteller, this may work for you. The bones are there. You simply need help polishing the prose. 

If you're primarily a writer, this exercise is futile. Each scene (or chapter) looks relatively good on its own. What you need help with is the over-all picture, which is difficult to gain when your reader gets small chunks over a long period of time. The best situation for you—and me—is a critique partner who will sit down and read your entire novel (second or third draft—fix what you can, first) in just a few days and comment on the whole project as well as inevitable line edits. 

Which are you, a storyteller or a writer? Does my theory resonate with you?  


Raspberries and Vinegar
Valerie Comer is an author with a dedicated writing site at To Write a Story. She teaches the basics of planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction through blog posts as well as a free course via email. She writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her novels. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her Farm Fresh Romance series, released in August, 2013. 

Learn more at: 

  (click for various formats)