One of the disciplines that I try to keep up as a writer–and one that I recommend to writers at all stages of their writing journey–is to keep two types of reading a part of your regular routine: First, always be reading a novel or two. Read novels of all genres. Learn to appreciate the skill of another writer’s ability to tell a story. Second, always read, and reread, books on the craft of writing. And don’t limit your reading to only your particular type of writing–fiction writers can learn from those inclined to the non-fiction side of the table, and visa versa).
I’m glad to tell you about the craft book I’m reading now, because it has been a tremendous blessing to me. It’s published by Writer’s Digest Books (they have several great ones), and is called Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I highly recommend this book by Rebecca McClanahan. It’s impossible to quote every line or paragraph that has wowed me (I think there are laws discouraging such liberal borrowing), so let me share just one quote (emphasis mine):
“Unlike visual artists, we [writers] have no brushes, no clay, no glazes, no many-colored palette to aid us in describing our world. And unlike performing artists, we have no keyboard, no trombone, no toe shoes, no tutu, no midair leap with which to stun our audience and ourselves. What we have is the alphabet, that small but loyal band of vowels and consonants.
Since the word is our only tool, we cannot afford to be imprecise…”
Writers are artists. I’m awed and humbled by that concept. Moreover, we’re using what has been entrusted to us as writers–namely words–to paint new worlds, or at least new perspectives of the old world, for our readers. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But writers know that the right words–precise and evocative–can be worth a thousand pictures in our readers minds.
So paint away, my friend. Gather that “small but loyal band of vowels and consonants” into a work of art. The world will be a more beautiful place because you did.
The journey of being a novelist is often noted for its solitary confinement. We sit at our keyboards and attempt to give birth to a dream, a calling, a passion. We place words on a page like a painter carefully brushes colors across a canvas. It is hard work. And it is the kind of hard work that no one else can do for us. We have to write our stories.
There’s no graph in the front of any novel that charts the ups and downs the writer met during the writing of that book. And if we’ve done our job well, the reader will not think about the author when they’re nose is buried in the book and they are “in the story.” It is, after all, all about the story that God has given us to write.
One of the sources of encouragement that jolts us with bursts of energy is the opportunity to meet other writers who understand the journey. In other words, they’re as weird as we are. Some of these people are published authors, but many are still trying to get their foot in the door. I am blessed by them all in so many ways.
Friends like Joe Courtmanche, whose vibrant personality blesses me in countless ways. Joe has a blog www.commotioninthepews.com I encourage you to visit it and enjoy his wide-ranging posts. Joe is one of the most decent people I’ve ever met and I’m glad to count him as a friend. And I am confident that it won’t be long until you are reading one of his books. Another friend is Karl Bacon. Karl has written a book called An Eye For Glory. It’s an amazing book that captures a slice of time during the Civil War with characters that will grab your heart and open your eyes. Go get that book now….run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore, or download it in e-book form. You’ll be glad you did. I happen to know that he has a second book done, and hopefully it will soon be available for readers.
I mention these two good men because they represent the kinds of people who work hard to tell great stories. They, like the many great writers in Christian Fiction, are wonderful examples of giftedness expressed through humble spirits. There are others I could mention, like Deborah Raney and Nancy Mehl, who are great examples of humble stewards in the Lord’s service.
Writers, at least the ones I’ve met, are people who love their craft, love their readers, and–most importantly–love their Lord. I’m honored to know them.