Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reading Is FUN-da-Mental Day

Tuesdays are the day I let you know what I'm reading. I just picked up this book that was published in 2002 called The Mentor Quest: Practical Ways to Find the Guidance You Need by Betty Southard (Vine Books/Servant Publications,ISBN 1-56955-309-2.) I found it through a private seller. It's out of print.

I think all of us would like a mentor, and we talk about it often in writing
circles--finding a writing mentor who would guide our career and help us to find our voice and type of writing best for us. (Especially if we haven't published a book or don't have an agent.) We hate stumbling around, trying to discover who we are. (Well, I hate that.) Who are your role models? Who do you look up to?

I admit I have struggled with this concept. I don't have any particular teachers I've tried to emulate. I do listen to many people and what they say about the business. I have selected a few in the industry whom I trust to point me to the best information--and have even emailed them, asking about this or that. All of them live far enough away that I don't have what my friend, Linda, used to call a daily friendship or relationship. I don't meet them for lunch or coffee because it would require a jet or a long journey and not being able to sleep in my own bed that night (which I prefer.)

It is difficult to not only find those people we wish to glean knowledge and wisdom from, but it's tough to develop the relationships required once we do know whom we'd like to get to know. Betty says that we can get these relationships from books, as well as from people. I know this is true. I know that I have revisited books many times that speak to my own soul and heart. Books can pull me along when I'm stuck and I can't call someone up at 2 a.m. I have definitely stayed up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning reading a book!

Some of you are writing fiction. You want someone to help you along in writing and to talk over your stories with that person, maybe get feedback or get information about writing. Here's a library that I have and refer to these books when I can't make it to a conference or find a writing mentor to talk to:

1. Read as much in the genre you wish to write in as possible--good, bad,mediocre. Know thy genre. If your writing is difficult to classify, then find who is writing something similar--where would you fit on the shelf? These should be recently published or as current as possible.

What is good, bad or mediocre about it? Keep these thoughts to yourself if you wish to publish in this genre. Editors you wish to woo to your own fiction may have worked on that fiction you just put down. No need to insult anyone with your opinion. Be humble in seeking this knowledge. Ok, even if the editor agrees with you that such-and-such book was a snore--if that editor spent time on that book, you better believe he is not going to take your evaluation of that book and how yours is better. He might even not agree with you. Ouch. Foot in mouth is no way to start off.

Do voice what you love about a book because editors DO like to know that you know the genre in which you are writing. You cannot be taken seriously if you don't even know what is being published right NOW. Read the good, just so you can recognize it. But don't turn your nose up at the "bad" or the "mediocre." Unless daddy owns the publishing company, that person got published somehow. You're not. (Well, I am assuming this if you haven't found a mentor, agent, editor, or are just starting out.)

2. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (buy this--do not merely borrow it) If you cannot get any other book, get this one.

3. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

4. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

5. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

6. 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham

7. The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman

8. GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon

9. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

10. Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins

11. The Making of a Bestseller by Brian Hill and Dee Power

My favorite:

12. On Writing by Stephen King Even if you are not a Stephen King fan, he has some good insight into writing fiction.

A little out of date, but still worth a look if you can find them:
Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes
How to Write (and Sell) a Christian Novel by Gilbert Morris
Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney

Another resource to check out is Terry Whalin's Right Writing web site with many articles on specific types of writing by experts and his blog, The Writing Life.

I never stop reading material that helps me with writing. Of course, applying that reading is what is important. You can read helpful books like this all you want--but if you ignore what you read, then you're just wasting your time.

Just remember to read where your passion lies. That is where I am reading today. The days of "have to" reading is over for me. I'm liking this new exploration in reading.


Camy Tang said...

Great list, Crystal. I've read most of them and they've helped my writing more than I could have imagined. I totally agree that we need to keep learning more and more. I'm reading a book on writing emotions right now (it's meant for screenwriters, but I'm finding it very applicable to novels).


Camy Tang said...

As per your request, here's my list of recommended writing books on my website.


Crystal Laine said...

Camy has a great list on her site, so if anyone needs a reading list...click on Camy!

Camy also has a site if you are interested where she does critique and manuscript helps at http://www.camytang.com/sensei.html
so check that out.