Writing vs. Crafting

A couple days ago, Ann Lynn asked for my opinion on the difference between writing a story and crafting a story. It’s like this: just because I know how to use wood glue and C-clamps to repair a dresser drawer, doesn’t mean I can design and build a solid cherry armoire. In the same way, almost anyone can write a story, but to write a good story, you have to learn the elements of successful storytelling and how to mold your idea around them.

woodtools Like most of you, I started writing stories when I was a child, and as I grew older I wrote better stories, but now, I want to learn how to write good stories. Maybe I don’t have the talent to write publishable short stories. Learning how to use carpentry tools doesn’t guarantee me the mastery to turn out a beautiful piece of furniture. Maybe a footstool is the best I can do. So be it, but I have to find out.

I read many novels, but few short stories, so one step toward my goal will be to read more stories. Also, I read a lot about novel writing, but not so much specifically about story writing, so concurrent with the previous step, I’ll be studying the structuring of a short story, the craft work. Then I will write. Then I will submit what I’ve written. Will my stories be published? Stay tuned to find out.

Would you like to add your own thoughts about writing vs. crafting?

Photo credit: Scott Adams
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23 thoughts on “Writing vs. Crafting

  1. I’ve come to love the crafting aspect of both short stories and novels. I think the aspect I enjoy most is the ability to add layers as I re-write passages.

    Many years ago I read an article in The Writer that suggested when writing a column or short essay, it was helpful to have an idea and a half. The half idea ideally adds texture and depth to what you want to communicate.

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  2. I love short stories. They provide much more of what I love in writing to me as a writer. While I want to be a published novelist, and I do enjoy the work and craft of writing a longer work, I also will never, ever ever give up writing short stories.

    Maybe I should learn how to do it right and well, huh? Heh.

    I used to build furniture in … another time, another life. Long ago. I believe anyone patient enough, careful enough, dedicated enough to learn the craft, can learn it.

    So it is with your stories. You will learn. 🙂

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    1. Yes, I will learn but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be a true storyteller … in shorts or novels. I’m one who believes in that spark of genius that sets the master on a higher level. It’s yet to be seen if I have that spark. It could be there, just needing a little more oxygen. Then again …

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  3. There have been several posts popping up on Twitter today about “voice,” and one stands out for me: http://writerunboxed.com/2010/01/06/voice%E2%80%A6or-volume/

    I don’t know if I have a gift for crafting a good story. I can write well enough, but I don’t know if I have that gift for crafting a good story either. Nor do I know if I’ll ever get a novel published.

    But, I have to trust that once I settle into MY voice, my writing style (whatever you want to call it), then the stories I write will stand out. And, I believe in that old adage, that there’s an audience for everyone. The trick it to find that audience.

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    1. Good link, Christi. But now I have questions for you. You’ve had stories published, right? And still you’re not sure you have the gift? When will you know? And why do you not feel you’ve settle into your voice?

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      1. Ah. Good questions. I’ve had two small publication successes. And, maybe I should hold more stock in those experiences. I guess when I met one goal, I raised the bar and the same questions surfaced: am I good enough for this publication or magazine?

        And, I do feel like I’m beginning to settle into my voice (the blog helps a lot). What I like about all advice on voice lately is the reminders to stay with the path I’m on: don’t divert because of market trends or write a story just because I think people will read it. Write MY story.

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        1. You know, writing to trends is one thing I don’t worry about. Looking back at things I wrote ten years ago, I see I had the same voice then, so I doubt it’s going to change. Not that I can’t refine that voice, but in general I write like I write. Like you said, the trick is to find the audience that likes my voice.

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  4. You are reading my mind today!

    Why is it one writing discipline seems to come with ease, yet another causes vast amounts of frustration?

    Novel writing fits me like a pair of sweatpants, but writing a short story is a totally different feel. It’s like trying to put on the jeans I wore in the 8th grade.

    I do hope you keep us posted as you learn to write short stories. Maybe there is still hope for me some day.

    Good luck and good writing!

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    1. Oh! It is like that, isn’t it? Learning to economize on words is like squeezing into too tight jeans. 🙂

      I’m not altogether sure one has to write both stories and novels, and I think most writers are better at one than the other, but it’s a challenge and I think we should always be exploring new territory in our writing. I’m sure I’ll share my experiences.

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  5. Linda, Great topic! Not surprised by that comment, eh? Please consider sharing where you find especially good thoughts about how to craft a good short story. I, too, will be looking forward to hearing your insights, reflections and revelations.

    And the idea and a half…that has me thinking. A topic worth discussing further.

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    1. To be honest, it always surprises me when someone thinks I’ve written a good post. 🙂

      I will certainly share what I’m learning. I have three stories up for critique later this month, so we’ll see how far I have to go.

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  6. For me learning how to write a short story was critical. It was where I found out who I was as a writer. I’ve had over forty short stories published and my work has appeared in several anthologies— then came the novel. (The one that got published, anyway.) It’s strange because at the time that I was writing “Bitter, Sweet” I’m not even sure I was aware of the fact that I was writing a Y/A novel. My short stories had eventually settled into a place where many of my MC were kids. It was where I was comfortable , where I liked to be, a place just for me and, I was being published. (In literary magazines, no less.) I’m sure that was part of my confusion because I was writing about kids and for an adult market.

    I think a short story allows you to find out where you belong as a writer, at least it did for me. This is not to say that I won’t feel differently down the road because that is the beauty of life, the fact that what serves as our truth today may become something totally different tomorrow.

    I hope you have great fun with your short stories, Linda. I hope you come to enjoy writing them as much as I do.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Laura. And thank you for wishing me well in my quest to write a marketable story.

      Until recently, all my short stories were horror, or at least dark. I really don’t think I want to write like that … of course, yesterday I took the challenge of writing from a prompt and immediately went dark. Not that any of my dark stories are good, but I really hope that’s not who I find out I am as a writer. I’m not mean to write light and fluffy either, but I hope it’s somewhere in between.

      Oh shoot! Saying that just reminded me of a thought I had in a dream last night: that I try too hard to stay in the middle. Hmmmph. 😦

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      1. Linda, I’m now curious what kind of dark you like to write. Dark can be good. I once considered writing a post on the benefits of dark fiction; however, the kind of post I wanted to write would have required purchases of psychology journals for research.

        Anyway, I agree with your dream. I’m unsettled by the recurring issues in my fiction but know an attempt to omit them completely would kill my ability to write.

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        1. Ann, the kind of dark I meant was horror stuff. More supernatural than psychological. But I don’t shy away from emotional darkness. There’s plenty of that in my current novel. Actually, I do understand that even when you write about the monster in the closet, it’s really an exploration of the darkness within us all. I just think I’d rather write about that directly now.

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  7. Thank you for this post! My interpretation is that crafting is a step beyond writing; “writing” is material for a piece of art, crafted by careful thought of how the overall piece holds together and functions.

    Crafting is harder, because one needs the skills for writing plus some.

    I’m certain I don’t yet know how to build a solid cherry armoire that’s usable and recognizable as such. The drawers may hold together and look fine, but they don’t work well with the frame.

    Good luck in your studies. I hope you’re quicker to master crafting techniques than I am.

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    1. Yes, crafting is harder and made more so because not everyone agrees on how to do it. I guess we just have to learn what we can and then follow our instincts. Good luck to you too, Ann.

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  8. At least for the next six months I’m going to be concentrating on reading and crafting stories. It will be fun to be working on the same thing. I’ve already started with this new Alice Munro collection I’m reading, and it’s amazing what I’ve learned in the last few days just from taking one of her stories apart.

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