Friday, May 30, 2008

Books on Craft

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when I attempted to get some things published, I invested in a number of writing books. Unfortunately, those are all but useless now. They’re not only for writing styles of earlier times, so not of much use to me, but no one else wants them either. When we looked into selling them online, we found every one of them already in attempts to be sold by others. So much for trying to salvage something from my investment.

Meanwhile, as soon as I joined the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) community, I started hearing about books that are “absolute gospel” for today’s fiction writing. I invested in four of them and started digging in. Then I laid out for a fifth one. I found all of them helpful. The four were Stein on Writing (Sol Stein), Writing the Breakout Novel (Donald Maas), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (Maas), and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King). All these are quoted and referenced over and over in the online discussions. The fifth one was also by Stein, How to Grow a Novel.

The problem—though maybe I shouldn’t call it a problem—is that I keep learning about more and more must-have books. Since those first ones, I’ve added Plot and Structure (James Scott Bell) and Getting into Character (Brandilynn Collins). At the Blue Ridge conference last year, I took a workshop from Ron Benrey and learned about the book he had coming out the end of the year—The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction. Now that’s a title for you.

Now the latest buzz is that James Scott Bell’s new book on Revision and Self-Editing outshines even his first wonderful one. Another “must-have,” according to those who have acquired it. And so it goes.

So have I read all these treasures and digested everything in them? Well, no. They aren’t the kind of book you read “kiver-to-kiver” like a story. You study them. You use them for reference when you aren’t sure and when you need to look up something. But I can promise you this: I’ve done a much better job of absorbing and applying what is in them than the gal writing on the ACFW online group today who told about buying lots of writing books but having them sit on her shelf “as virginal as they arrived.”

Not mine. Look inside any one of them, and you’ll find it well marked in multiple colors, proof that I have been working to get my money’s worth as well as to improve my craft.

In time, I know I’ll want to lay out for that new book by Bell, but first I’ve got to focus on Brandilynn’s book on character because that is still an area in which I need to grow. Or is it Bell’s first book that I need to spend more time in?

And I’ve only scratched the surface on the one for idiots. Hmmm.

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