Status vs. Story: What kind of writer are you?

I stole the title from an article by Donald Maass (of Writing the Break Out Novel fame) in Writer’s Digest special edition (titled Novel Writing).  In the article he identifies two types of writers:

  • Status Seekers are the type of writers that write for the fame, obsessed with the minutia of publishing and success.
  • Storytellers are the writers that concentrate on writing the best possible manuscripts and do it for the love of words and not fame and fortune.

I have a confession to make:

Am a status seeker.

Sure I love crafting new stories, creating new worlds and sharing them with others. I love talking about the rules and inner workings of characters, plots, tropes, settings, and genres. I dive into magazines, podcasts and blogs searching for the next tool that will take my penmanship to the next level.


My name is Rafael and I am a status seeker.

I want my name splashed across the hard cover. I can’t wait to stand in line behind two people, each holding a copy of my latest magnum opus, trembling with anticipation about what they will discover within. I want to sit at the big table in conference and tell others how I write.

Hand me that needle, yeah the one over there. Thank you.


That was supposed to be the sound of my ego exploding. Bad status seeking whore!

But then every other page in the damn magazine talks about promoting your work, getting the query right, and so on.

Can’t I be both?

Can’t I love what I do like nothing I ever done before?

And bask in the glow as others share the same love of my words?

Wrap myself between the blue lines of my legal notepads?

And then have readers discover the subtle nuances between said lines?

Enjoy the moment I discover an interesting twist?

And smirk as the eyes of girl sitting in the corner of the coffee shop grow wide with surprise and joy?

According to Mr. Maas, NO. One must be a writer first and foremost. You can’t sell an unfinished product, not everybody can be Micro$oft! Quality over quantity.

Or as Cristina would say to Antony, “You’re cleverer than most but not as clever as you think you are.”

Writing comes first.

Write the good book and then make it better.

Want to shoot for the moon, you’re going to need a solid launchpad.

Thank you Mr. Maas.

And now for some music:

10 comments on “Status vs. Story: What kind of writer are you?

  1. Hmm — i think i’m a storyteller who understands that he needs to know how the publishing industry works. But i’m not worried about having my name up in lights.

    The problem i have with Mr Maasses statement is that the books he typically represents are one that he thinks are commercially viable. Yes, i know all agents do that, but he’s even been known to recommend to writers he represents that they write along the lines of whatever fiction trend is going. So, in a sense, that kinda invalidates his advice, even though it is correct 😀


    • Isaac I agree that it seems a bit hypocritical coming from Maass. I read his book and while good it did have a tone of “a formula that will GUARANTEE success”.


  2. It is so easy to divide writers into column A’s or column B’s, but even the fairly broad spectrum both camps would cover don’t include everyone. Where would the hacks fit into this theory? You know who they are, the guys who churn out a dozen shitty paperbacks a year for the money…

    It would be nice to think that the majority of writers fall into the ‘Storytellers’ category, though I have a sneaking suspicion the odds are stacked the other way.

    Very brave of you to admit to your shallowness :D, though I have to say I don’t care if I never make millions from my work. The telling of a good tale is what drives me back to my desk, and it is the excitement of a new idea which keeps me there.


  3. At least you are honest.

    I am also a status seeker. Who doesn’t want fame, fortune and room service at a swanky hotel?

    I do.

    But I also like the feeling of being “god” and writing a story where characters come alive and I can pull a rabbit out of my hat at the end when people are least expecting it.


  4. I don’t see why we can’t have it all — be great writers, great storytellers, great promoters, and then stand in a check-out line behind two people, each with a book clutched in a hand. Besides, what does Maass know? He turned my novel down. Well, so did 200 other agents. Supposedly, it’s not commercial, nor is it literary. It has too many science fiction elements, it doesn’t have enough science fiction elements. The writing is too matter-of-fact, the writing is . . .


  5. I’d like to claim both. The reality is that I know there really isn’t money in writing. It’s like winning the lottery to an extent. I keep writing, knowing I won’t be able to guit my day job, no matter how much I would like to.

    Does that make me a storyteller or a status seeker?


    • @Pat:

      As an ex-girlfriend of mine use to say: I want it all, I want it now, and I want it in cash. Sure you can have it all. But you got to have a story first, you got to go through the process. I think that Maass is saying, “don’t jump the gun. Focus on writing first.”


      Oh, I don’t know. I like to think of writing as a career, perhaps a very successful career, who knows. I’m just getting started after all.


  6. Me- storyteller. My passion is the writing.

    As for status seeker- not so much. I’d hate to be famous. I’m way too private of a person for that. But I do want some recognition for my work. Otherwise, why would I be trying to get published?


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