Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Christmas is coming. It’s a great time to share a cherished recipe. This recipe won’t replace green bean casserole or orange cranberry relish, but it’s helped me become a better writer and it can help you, too. My goal for each novel is that it should be better than the one before. That’s why I hope you will read my latest novel, The Bachelor, book two in my Plain City Peace series.
Write the kind of book that makes you smack your lips and beg for seconds. I love to read stories based on real people, so that’s the kind of books I write. As a Christian, I believe the Lord inspires me to write the way I do and He will inspire you to write in a certain way, too. Look at the Bible; there are many writers, many styles, and many subjects, yet the Lord inspired every one. The Lord has planned your writing career since the beginning of time, and He’s been leading you by enriching you as a reader.
As you write, remember the most important person: your hungry reader. Do you like it when a mystery writer holds back on clues? Or how about when you find a mistake in a non-fiction book? When a novel is filled with boring characters, do you keep reading? How disappointing to sit down for a feast and then leave the table hungry. Good writing is not throwing together random ingredients like you’re trying to get food on the table by 6 o’ clock sharp. It is assembling all the best ingredients with love and improving your work by fixing mistakes, like timeline problems or character eye color. Trim away the fat! When you revise your writing, you show that you care about your reader. Your writing is not done until it’s well done.
Don’t invite company over when you try out a new dish. Before you serve up your writing, do a taste test. Trade your work with a trusted writer friend or two. Don’t be shy. Critique partners can make helpful suggestions on how to fix something you may have missed (and trust me—you missed something). If you trade with someone who seems harsh, pray for wisdom on how to proceed. I have two critique partners who read my manuscripts, and I do the same for them. For you writers who aren’t published yet, revising can take as long as you like, and it can even be fun. Once you have a contract, however, edits take on a time element. Revising according to an editor’s suggestions by deadline can be stressful, like unexpected company’s coming and you need dinner on the table ASAP. Ultimately, it’s your recipe, your story, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little help. Try to think of your editor as a sous chef who makes sure all the ingredients are prepped and ready to add at the critical moment.
Feel free to take my suggestions to your test kitchen and try them out. And don’t forget—all the best cooks add their own flourishes to tried and true recipes. One last tip: ask the blessing before you serve your readers. It won’t be long before readers will relish what you write.
Stephanie Reed lives on the outskirts of Plain City, Ohio, site of a once-thriving Amish community. She gleans ideas for her novels from signs glimpsed along the byways of Ohio, as she did for her previous books, Across the Wide River, The Light Across the River, and The Bargain. The Bachelor is the second book in the Plain City Peace series.