Can I just say that writing fiction is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done?! Many are gifted with the natural talent of telling a good story. I’ve learned there’s more to writing a novel than being able to tell a good story. Writing good fiction is an art – a craft that has to be learned. When I first started writing, I didn’t want to be bothered with craft books and “writing rules.” A few rejections later, I figured maybe I better pay attention to the rules because the publishers sure were. I discovered that following the writing rules made me a better writer. I wish I could say I’ve arrived, but I’m just getting started on this writing journey and have a lot more to learn.
I’m sure after my first novel hits the shelves, I’ll re-read it and realize how “bad” it is. Honestly, the manuscript almost never made it to the publisher because I kept editing it again and again to try to make it better. My writing partners got so tired of me whining about how it wasn’t perfect yet, they threatened to steal my disk and put it in the mail themselves.
After one of the most painful rejections I received face-to-face at a writer’s conference, I went to my hotel room and called one of my best friends. I said, “This writing thing is more challenging than anything I’ve ever done – and I’ve been through medical school!” I had to decide whether I was ready to read more craft books, edit more and try to be a better – or just walk away because it was just too hard. I made the commitment to do whatever it took to be the best writer I could be.
Here are some things I’ve learned and some books I’d recommend:
Join a critique group. Whether online or in person, this has been one of the most important things in developing me as a writer.
Join national writing organizations and go to writing conferences. Great choices include the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America,
Read Read Read!!!!! These are a few among many craft books on my shelves.
- The First Five Pages – Noah Lukeman (one of the first writing books you should read)
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Rennie Browne and Dave King (another “first” book)
- The Plot Thickens – Noah Lukeman
- Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maas (a must read)
- Stein on Writing – Sol Stein (my current favorite)
- Techniques of a Selling Writer – Dwight Swain
- Any and all of the Writer’s Digest series