|C. Kevin Thompson|
This isn’t an article to suggest which writer’s handbook you should have on your shelf. Nor is it about who’s come out with the next best book on writing.
This is an article to ask you this question: Are you paying attention to what you are reading? To put it another way, when you read, do you analyze the writing? Do you notice the good, the bad and the…not-so-good?
I’m presently reading a novel which promised “suspense” and a “dabbling into the supernatural.” Unfortunately, thus far, what I have witnessed is unrealistic dialogue, and situations that leave me questioning if that would really happen in real life or a supernatural occurrence. I’m 30 pages in and wondering if I should continue.
Before I started reading the aforementioned book, I read another one written many, many years ago. The language was British, and the setting was the 1800s, which would have made this novel “contemporary” fiction at the time, so, I just overlooked the literary strategies that would never work with today’s reader (How sad!) and moved on. However, what I did glean from this book was the attention to detail and the careful use of words. I also noticed how the book jumped from first person in one chapter to third person in another and back again. And we thought that was something new… (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
I’m reading two more books right now. Both are non-fiction works on how to write screenplays. (“Hi. My name is Kevin, and I’m ADHD when it comes to reading.” I try to have at last one fiction and one non-fiction going at the same time.) What I appreciate from these books is the step-by-step progression. One of them builds off from a previous title in a collection of three, and illustrates the first book’s points in a “real-world” style so the reader can witness what was talked about (in the first book) and see it come to life on the big screen.
The other screenwriter’s book I’m reading is more of “Screenwriter’s 101” kind of book. Much of what I’ve read so far is material I already knew from attending screenwriting workshops at writers’ conferences. But what I love about this book is the methodical method used by the author without being laborious or making the reader feel like a dolt.
The point is, whatever you’re reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, there is something on the pages from which you can glean expertise. That proficiency may come in the form of reading a book that’s not very well written, so you learn from the mistakes. It may arise from a great novel, where before you realize it, you were swept away by the writing. Go back and digest how that writer did it. Ask the tough questions, like “What is this author doing that I’m not?” and “How can I take that style, that turn of a phrase, that imagery, those word choices, and apply it to my writing while, at the same time, make it my own and not just duplicate what would amount to being literary theft?” How can I learn from non-fiction, although being a fiction author, and vice-versa? What makes this such a great non-fiction book? Is it the stories told by the author to illuminate a point? Is it the insider information you never knew before? It is the turn of a phrase? The word choices?
You’ve heard it said, “We learn by doing.” But if you’re not teachable, then not much will be learned. We become great by listening. We become even better by being observant with both our ears and eyes. We become the best when we are pliable enough to be molded by those great things we see in others’ writings. If you don’t believe me, read Proverbs 1 and notice how many times you are urged to listen and make wise choices. It applies to the literary world, too.
None of us have arrived yet. No one writer knows it all. So, don’t try to start that club. You’ll be its only, lonely, sad, little member.
A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.
Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.
But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, having served churches in New York, Mississippi, Texas, and Iowa. He is married (for 33+ years), has three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. He speaks in churches on occasion, presently works as an assistant principal in a Central Florida school district, and plays the drums in his church’s praise team. He is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too.
Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), ACFW, and Word Weavers International, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012; winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1 (OakTara 2013), as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
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