Friday, February 18, 2011

the craft and business of writing: essential tools for writing success

The Craft and Business of Writing: Essential Tools for Writing Success, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest books

I recently discovered a real “page-turner” I couldn’t put down—and unfortunately, couldn’t afford. Happily, my school library recently acquired it, and it’s sitting beside me now, as I type this. (And no, it’s not a novel.)

If you’re interested in writing as a career, or even in just publishing a few stories every now and then, this is a book you may definitely want to check out at your library or the nearest bookstore. I haven’t read it front to back, but the portions I have perused are chock-full of sound advice and practical, “here’s how to do it and here’s how not to do it” instruction. I especially appreciate how the editors work to spark your interest through questions, suggestions, and anecdotes, in addition to both positive and negative examples of whatever topic they are addressing. Overall, it gives a good understanding of both business aspects of writing and the building blocks of writing itself.  

Here’s just a bit of what this book offers (quoted from the back):

For more than eighty years, the Writer’s Market series has provided the timeless advice and detailed instruction writers have come to depend on to achieve their goals. The Craft & Business of Writing offers the best of that instruction from award-winning writers such as M.J. Rose, Lee K. Abbott, Alyce Miller, Fred Marchant, Jennifer Cruisie, Megan McCafferty, Gary Provost, Monica Wood, and Deborah Hopkinson.
            In this book, writers, agents, and editors offer their insights into every genre and facet of the publishing industry, so whether you write fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, or poetry—or a little of everything—this essential all-in-one reference includes everything you need to start and maintain your writing career.

To hone your craft and increase your skill as a writer, you’ll find solid advice on how to:
  • Craft intricate plots and nuanced characters
  • Improve the pace and veracity of your dialogue
  • Write in rhyme, or with appropriate meter

To successfully market yourself and sell your work, you’ll learn how to:
  • Find and work with an agent
  • Negotiate contracts and collaborate with editors
  • Test and submit article ideas

No matter what your skill level or area of creative interest, The Craft & Business of Writing is an invaluable addition to your reference library.

Interested? Check it out on Amazon and peruse a few chapters for free!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

a writer's resources - part 2

Today our guest blogger is Peter Forbes, an ’09 graduate of Patrick Henry College who is currently writing a novel based upon the movie Come What May. You can check out his blog here to read about his on-going experiences in film and novel-writing--which I would definitely recommend.   :-)

Name: Peter Forbes
Class: '09 Graduate
Hometown: Dinosaur, CO
Major/Degree: Literature
Favorite book: Hard to pick a favorite, but Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis would be worthy of this position.

What encouraged you to start writing fiction in the first place? Fiction got me out of writing "serious" stuff in school. Jot off a story for fun or sweat through an essay? It was an easy choice.

What technical books or resources (essays, articles, lectures, journals, etc.) have most enabled you to improve your writing skills?

Two excellent resources off the top of my head:

An essay called "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" from Of Other Worlds by C. S. Lewis. Lewis describes three (surprise!) kinds of children's literature. Lewis describes how a good children's story should be just as enjoyable to adults as to children. He also gives an interesting side note to the place of morals in a story, any story, and whether or not it is wise to start out with a moral in mind. Because I'm interested in writing children's fiction, this is an invaluable reference, and Lewis is a master.

The book Story Craft by John Erickson. Many homeschoolers know Erickson through his character Hank, from the Hank the Cowdog series. Erickson is also a Christian and a philosopher, and he offers some valuable advice on what an author should do for readers through fiction. Erickson is a contemporary author who writes for the general market. He has loads of insight, and this book distills much of it winsomely.

Which works of literature have most encouraged you, inspired you, and/or taught you how to write? (Please briefly describe 3-6 such books, individually, demonstrating how/why/what you learned from them and why you would recommend reading it.)

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay--
A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay is a sci-fi/fantasy written in 1920, though it's really a story about a man's journey through many different philosophies. It's not a "Christian" book, but C. S. Lewis appreciated it so much that it was an influence on his own work. The main character, Maskull, must journey to find what is true. It's a bit of a dense read and must be evaluated critically, but definitely worthwhile. It showed me how to intertwine philosophy effectively into a fantasy.

Phantastes by George MacDonald--
George MacDonald's Phantastes is similar to Arcturus in many ways: it's a fantasy about a man who goes on a journey through strange lands, and C. S. Lewis cites it as a major factor in his own life (especially in his conversion to Christianity). Phantastes is filled to the brim with near dreams and images of other worlds, accompanied by themes that are universally true. George MacDonald is a prime example of an author who can take the things that seem "normal" and defamiliarize them so that they are fresh and new.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevesky--
Fyodor Dostoevesky left a profound impression on me with his Crime and Punishment. The story is riveting, and the psychology he explores in his main character is dead-on insightful. It's a powerful work of guilt, repentance, and redemption. Perhaps what I left the novel with most is the idea of a story structure that may be capable of reflecting more truth than almost any other kind of story structure. Mankind is guilty and must repent and be forgiven to be redeemed. I think there is a huge potential for stories written in the vein of Crime and Punishment.

Earthboy Jacobus by Doug TenNapel
Graphic novels (basically big comic books) are gaining traction and readership today, and because they marry the visual, visceral element of a film with the intimacy of a book, the kind of emotional impact they can have is hard to underestimate. Doug TenNapel is one of my favorite writers/artists in the genre, and his book Earthboy Jacobus is a great example of a graphic novel. It's a fantastical story about the life of a man with mysterious powers that parallels much of the Book of Jonah. TenNapel's Christian faith is evident in much of his work, and his creativity has inspired me to write graphic novels myself.

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis--
"All joy . . . emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings." - C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces has marks of a man who longed for heaven intensely, and through his book, readers were given a taste of that longing for themselves. If I can do to that in my own work, I'll have achieved more than I could have hoped for.