Like many other professions, there’s a variety of words you can use to describe what my job title is. Author, writer, novelist…they’re almost all interchangeable. Sometimes. For me, there’s some slight differences between the three.
A writer is, simply put, someone who puts words to paper (virtual or physical). Anyone who keeps a journal, writes a blog, finishes a term paper for class, is a writer. They have little interest in being edited, and don’t think they need to learn anything more. As such, their work will never reach the level of some of the masters of literature.
An author is someone who has taken the next step and tried hard to move from merely putting words to paper to editing their stories. Perhaps you’ve got a set of poems languishing within the depths of a file drawer that have great meaning to you, that you spent hours reworking until they glistened. Regardless on if you ever published them, or even submitted them, you took time to do more than just slap some words down on a page and call it done.
A novelist is an author who crafted a fictional novel, worked it over with a fine tooth comb, had other rake it over the coals, improved it some more, submitted it, and had a publisher take a chance on them. They embrace learning, and strive to improve their craft. The biggest difference between an author and a novelist is subject matter.
I tend to tell people I’m either a novelist or author. I look at editing as a chance to improve, expand, learn. I’m rarely satisfied with the first draft. When I get a manuscript back and see that I’ve got the same word used three times in a single paragraph, I’m open to looking for new words. I get more nervous when there’s sections without any commentary!
I’ve read a few novels that were so riddled with errors it made me want to throw my Kindle out the window, or they made my eyeballs hurt. I think we all have. These were poorly edited, for one. Another problem is you have a writer who thinks they’re an author. Word and/or subject repetition, poor spelling/sentence structure, little to no dialogue, plot holes big enough to drive a semi through…these are all things that will mark someone as a writer over an author or novelist.
If you want to be an author, get your manuscript looked at before you submit it! By someone who is willing to tell you, honestly, that there are problems with it. Who aren’t going to simply say ‘it’s terrific’ because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. In publishing, you need a seriously thick skin. People are going to send you rejection letters. And they’re not saying you’re bad…just your writing needs improvement.
So, which one are you? Writer, author, or novelist?