Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Are You a Writer or an Author?

At the conference I attended a few weeks ago (my, I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this experience, aren't I?), my friend and I sat at a table to get organized and work out a game plan for the day. One of the best things about writers' conferences is the sheer variety of people you see there--writers of all walks of life, writing in every genre I'd heard of (and some, I'm sure, that I haven't!) Tihs year did not disappoint.

A woman sitting at our table was talking to a fellow writer, and I saw them exchange business cards. I noticed that her card included her name, and below it where the job title normally goes, it said "Novelist." I have business cards, too, and mine have my name with "Freelance Writer" underneath.


So, is there a difference?

My first instinct is to say yes. I didn't interrupt the conversation to add my own $.02, but just listening to them, I could tell that we come from totally different worlds. My focus has mostly been on nonfiction as of late, so my main challenges are coming up with story ideas, finding markets to query, identifying sources, and doing research. I've also branched out a bit into corporate writing, which for me has meant writing case studies and interviewing a company's clients and basically shaping them into glowing reviews of the company's product. When I think "novelist" I think "fiction", and fiction is basically a blank slate--although article ideas can literally come from anywhere, you do have some foundation to work with, where fiction is completely wide open. As a person who generally doesn't do well with too many choices, I find fiction a bit overwhelming (although many novelists tell me that their books and characters literally take on lives of their own, so making "choices" isn't always the case for everyone.) I did NaNo as a challenge in 2008 and got further than I'd ever dreamed, but I still find nonfiction to be much easier.

I'm slowly working my way back into fiction, and I'm using some of the methods that work for me with nonfiction--namely, an outline--so that I can have some idea of where the story might go and I can feel less overwhelmed. It's been nice to get back into fiction and flex those muscles again. But do I consider myself a novelist? No, not yet. Had I gotten involved in the conversation with the card-carrying "novelist", I would've absolutely felt like an intruder.

What's your take? Are you a writer or an author, and what would you consider to be differences between the two?

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