Monday, May 18, 2009
The Fire In Fiction
I've been reading Donald Maass' new book, The Fire In Fiction, subtitled Passion, Purpose, And Technique To Make Your Novel Great. My original intent was to do a book review, but I'm only a third of the way into it and already my copy has so much red highlighting that it looks like someone spilled strawberry jam on the pages. In future posts, I plan to share some lessons I've learned from it. But I won't tell you everything. For that, you'll have to buy the book. And that's okay. This is definitely a "must read" for any serious novelist.
Maass had my attention as soon as I dipped into the introduction. Like him, I've often seen a sixth novel in a series that disappoints, a highly touted novel by a well-known author that just doesn't live up to expectations. Like Maass, and undoubtedly many readers, I've wondered if the author was rushed to meet a deadline, or perhaps edited poorly, or--perish the thought--just not trying hard enough. He offers his own take on this phenomenon by differentiating between two types of writers: status seekers and storytellers.
Status seekers, according to Maass, want to be published. They want to improve their writing to that level, and often that's as much as they want. Storytellers, on the other hand, want to write the best possible work. They're willing to work at it until it's all it can be. In Maass' words, "Status seekers rush me fifty pages and an outline a few months after the workshop (where I taught). Storytellers won't show me their novels again for a year or more, probably after several new drafts."
Ouch! I've had to fight the urge to send off a manuscript as soon as I've finished it, maybe with one revision. If I'm to put my best work out there to be read, I need to polish and hone it until it shines. The introduction goes on for several pages, but Maass had me from page one. And by page 50 he continues to hold my attention.
If you're planning to attend the annual meeting of the American Christian Fiction Writers, be sure to register as soon as possible, so you can sign up for the all-day workshop Donald Maass is holding the day before the conference opens. At $99, it's a bargain. I've signed up, and I'm looking forward to it.
And if you do come to ACFW, consider signing up for the course I'll be teaching: Medical Details In Your Fiction: Get Them In, Get Them Right. I'll look for you.