Last week, I made a solemn vow not to talk about characters again today. And so, despite the fact that Tamara Paulin made a fantastic comment on Anthony Lee Collins’ blog about making sure every character is one that an actor would want to play, I’m not going to talk about characters at all.
Instead, I’m going to revisit the old Writer vs Author question.
This was originally prompted by a post from Emerald Barnes about what you expect from your writing. I said in my comment that I wanted publication, and I wanted to be able to call myself an author. That got me to thinking: What’s the difference between a writer and an author, anyway?
The most obvious definition of a writer is: someone who writes. So it stands to reason that an author is: someone who auths.
Hmmm. Time to consult a dictionary.*
Writer: 1. One who expresses ideas in writing. 2. One whose occupation is writing (such as a journalist of an author).
Author: 1. Someone who writes a novel, poem, essay etc; the composer of a literary work. 2. The originator, beginner or creator of anything.
Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that anyone can claim to be a writer, but an author has super-powers, writes at lightning speed, kills bad plot bunnies with nothing but a red pen, and rescues kittens before breakfast. But the dictionary definitions seem to actually reverse those roles: An author is someone who writes, whereas a writer is someone who does so for money.
That’s interesting. But then you have this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:
The best author will be the one who is ashamed to be a writer.
What does that even mean? No, seriously. If you can unravel the mysteries of that sentence, I’d be most grateful.
According to the dictionary, the fact that I’ve written about a zillion short stories, many bad poems, and the first draft of one novel and part of a second, qualifies me as an author. But somehow… well, it just feels wrong. So how about I examine my own ideas of what turns a writer into an author.
1. An author has written a completed, saleable novel.
Really? Does that mean that short story writers and poets aren’t authors? No, thought not.
2. An author has been published.
Great. I’ve had short stories published. Does that make me an author? No, I’d still feel weird writing ‘author’ as my occupation on an official document.
3. An author has had their novel published.
See number 1. Also, with vanity published being the industry that it is, I could take my first-draft novel and have it published for only a small fee. Does that make me an author?
4. An author has had their novel published through the mysterious process of traditional publishing.
Still go back to number 1. And what about those self-published writers with brilliant books, who created a fabulous product and decided to go the self-pub route for various good reasons? Surely they deserve to be given the title of author. Yes, I thought so.
5. You’re an author when you feel like you’re an author, and not one moment before.
Yep, that seems about right.
This hasn’t really cleared up my confusion at all, so I’m calling on the expertise of everyone reading this post. What are your thoughts? When do you qualify as an author? What are some of the super-powers an author has that a writer doesn’t? Which would you prefer to be? And what did Nietzsche mean, anyway?
* Definitions are from the Macquarie Concise Dictionary 3rd Edition