Arthur is one hell of an author—he hopes. Here are his tips for being a better author.
The Difference Between a Writer and an Author
It's the ultimate question, isn't it? Many people don't see the difference between the two. In fact, the common assumption usually dilutes down to whether or not a writer has a track record. But what separates a writer from an author isn't an income.
What an author is defined by, is his or her capability of finishing a novel. Are you going to have a copy of your hardcover or a Word page with half a story? If your answer isn't the latter, then congratulations. You're an author.
Writers write, authors make deadlines—but getting to the end can be incredibly frustrating (putting it mildly). The reason isn't often a writer's lack of talent. In fact, quite the contrary, a good writer is always hesitant of her work.
The real reason? Well, I'm sure you know: the fear of failure. And what's the secret to fighting that fear? Clarity. For an author, this begins by knowing his or her writer-type, and more importantly, its associated weaknesses.
The Architect and the Gardener
Those are the two terms George R.R. Martin uses to describe the dual nature of authors. For the rare few that don't know, Martin is the writer of A Song of Fire and Ice series, commonly known today by its television adaption, Game of Thrones. Let's get right to them.
What happens when you try to construct a building without a blueprint? Lawsuits. Well, since we're not talking about that kind of architect, we can assume you're safe from court orders. Architects are simply described as authors that plan the entire story before even touching their novels.
Now, for the good stuff:
- More Sales: You read that right. The reason being that most publishers look for patterns in a story, and usually one that follows the classical Three-Act Plot Structure. It's familiar to them, therefore easier to understand. An architect often follows that perfect form to the dot, creating all the stories we love re-living. Familiarity equals nostalgia, nostalgia means a high likelihood of having a story-theme revisited.
- Less Deleting: If there's one thing worse than spending hours to write a chapter, it's the few seconds it takes deleting the whole thing. Architects already made their mistakes, but fortunately for them, it was either on a drawing board or an index card—not on the merchandise!
- High Chance of Completion: So, you just spent an entire week planning a novel. Are you really going to get cold feet the last minute? Having not only an end but a beginning and middle to boot saves an architect from the frustrations of writer's block. This is perhaps the greatest strength of an architect, and also the reason why they get better sales (because they actually finish the thing).
As for the weaknesses of the architect? Well conveniently for us, they happen to be the polar opposites of a gardener's strengths.
Raw, emotional (and usually intoxicated), a gardener is the free-spirited rock star of novel writing. This type of novelist uses what was brought in through raw inspiration to create compelling drama. In short, the gardener thinks of the story as he or she is writing it, and nourishes it along the way.
Here's a few things they have going for them:
- More Originality: Ever wonder why Game of Thrones became such a great success? Try something as crazy as killing off your main character (or characters, if you follow the show). The reason behind the show's success is its originality. Martin's ability to go beyond conventional expectations is exactly what keeps people coming back for more. A gardener's distance from structure often leaves more possibilities in a story. Who doesn't want that?
- A Personal Story: If you're devastated from an emotional break-up, chances are you aren't going to be sitting there thinking about it logically. In fact, you'll probably do something you'll regret. Wouldn't that make for an interesting story? Since the gardener is often fueled by emotion or chaos, their stories appear less rigid—something that helps plot patterns evolve and change.
- Higher Chance of Sudden Success: 'Fortune favors the bold,' as Alexander the Great would say. That mentality expanded a small Greek kingdom into an empire that crossed continents. Gardeners often take more risks than architects. Although this risk could lead to months of work going down the drain, it could also be what separates their work from the countless competition.
Those Two Beautiful Words
See that picture up there? Whether it's a short story or an epic, writing those two words should be your first, second and third goal as an author. Just remember, this article isn't about whether one style is better than the other. The point of this article is to help you finish a novel. Just remember the importance of clarity; you can't break what you don't know exists. To break your limitations, you need to not only know but appreciate what they are.
If you're an architect, your weakness might lie in originality. Maybe you feel as if your story doesn't feel compelling enough, or different. Maybe that's what stops you from continuing (even though you technically do have a higher chance of that). A good author knows the rules, but a great author knows how to break them.
If you're a gardener, chances are what's stopping you from finishing is not seeing the finish line. A gardener doesn't have to plan the whole story, but having at least an ending will work wonders with momentum. Writing to you is a road trip, sure. But it wouldn't hurt checking the tires before you set out. In fact, it could be what decides whether you finish the trip or not.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on November 22, 2016:
I'm starting my seventh book and it hasn't gotten any easier. But when I finished my first (which will never see the light of day!) my husband said the greatest thing he could have said. "You finished it. How many people have said they want to write a book, but never do. If you never write another word, you can said you've finished a book." It is a great feeling. The other five are out there in the marketplace! Right along with a Grisham or a Gabaldon!