Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
A Novel Idea by Chilibris
"...a timely and much-needed handbook."
I’ve read scores of books on the craft of writing, and I’ve learned from them all. But even though Christian fiction is one of the fastest growing segments in the market today, there have been few exhaustive manuals on writing in this genre. A Novel Idea, written by dozens of best-selling authors, is a timely and much-needed handbook.
The techniques of writing dialogue, creating suspense, and plotting stories are the same across genres, but some don’t realize Christian fiction is not just fiction minus swear words and sex scenes. In her essay “Writing to Change Lives” Karen Kingsbury says, “For me, Christ is the story. He is not a patch to add into my plot, or a marketing ploy. The world can write about the physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of people. So can we. Ah, but we also can tell about the spiritual—and the story is nothing without that piece. We are the most blessed of all writers because we are called to tell the whole story.”
Subjects like how writing can be a ministry and a profession as well as what makes Christian fiction Christian aren’t found in A Novel Idea’s secular counterparts. And sometimes when reading general market writing books, it can feel like searching for a diamond in a dung hill as you wade through dirty examples and four letter words. It’s refreshing to read articles that unashamedly share Scripture alongside the poignant advice, as well as tried and true techniques.
From the fundamentals of description, characters, setting, and point of view to more in depth subjects like writing proposals and synopses, A Novel Idea guides us through the winding streets of the writing journey. Noteworthy stops include Angela Hunt’s “Plot Skeleton” which shares in detail her technique for building a book from the bones up (read this piece in its entirety here). In “Doing a Fast First Draft” Linda Ford casts aside the myth that writing a novel has to take months or even years. James Scott Bell effectively teaches on “Dialogue in Action” with examples from films like On the Waterfront and Casablanca.
But some of the best nuggets can be found in the impressive sidebars. These pearls of wisdom from the likes of Randy Alcorn, Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury (her poem “To Write” is worthy of framing), Terri Blackstock, and many others grab your attention and are easily digested. Worthy of its own mention is the interview with Francine Rivers printed in several parts throughout. She answers questions about calling, the gritty subjects she’s covered in her books (a number of publishers actually turned down her book A Voice in the Wind because they didn’t believe she was a Christian), and how reading affects what she writes. In talking about “voice” she says, “That’s been a struggle for me, to remember that I have my own voice and not to try to be another voice. Each of us has a unique way of expressing ourselves. I think it damages us when we do too much comparing, too much admiring of others’ work.”
A Novel Idea is an inspiring
book to be picked up over and over again at each stage of your writing
development. Whether you’re just
setting pen to paper or writing your tenth novel, you’ll find encouragement
and a deeper knowledge in these 300 pages.