Best Books of February


Initial Choice for Best Book of February

All through February, the book I had in mind for “Best Book of February” was The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips, a double mystery set in contemporary Oxford and 17th century London. However, on February 28, I finished reading Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

breakout-novelBest Book of February

Writing the Breakout Novel is a book I have heard recommended at more writing conferences than I can even remember to count. Finally, I have read it, and I understand the raves. This book is about the characteristics that move a novel beyond the mid-list into best seller territory. Maass describes each quality, gives examples, and provides practical advice for working it into your novel. The book is both inspiring and practical at the same time. I would recommend “Breakout Novel” to any novelist, and I know I’ll be reading more of Maass’ books.

Your Turn to Recommend a Book

So, I shared my favorite February read. Tell me, please, what was yours? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you or maybe your children really enjoy? What book made a major impact on you? Please use the comment space to share the title, author’s name, and just a snippet about your book to whet your fellow readers’ appetites.



End of the Month Confessional: NaNoRevMo and My Favorite Book of November

Confession time: November will end tomorrow and I have only reached page 122 of my 200 page revision. My revision process came to a screeching halt Thanksgiving week as I shifted into holiday prep and enjoying out-of-town relatives modes. However, although November has ended, I am determined to get that remaining 78 pages revised as quickly as possible so I can take a break to enjoy Christmas.

Although I did not complete my revision, I did complete my revision reading: The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction: The Complete Guide to Finding Your Story, Honing Your Skills, & Glorifying God in Your Novel by Jeff Gerke. Gerke is a fiction writer, editor, and the publisher of Marcher Lord Press. He has seen a lot of manuscripts come across his desk and is quiet familiar with the weaknesses that cause a novel not to work.

While The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is targeted at the Christian novelist, the lessons on craft are lessons from which any fiction writer could benefit. Gerke proposes fiction writers adopt a new metaphor for themselves as writers and through the book shows you how to use that metaphor to strengthen your writing. The book is broken into “Masteries”, and Masteries 9-52 all deal with topics to help you develop your craft. I highly recommend this book.

Gerke’s most recent book, Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction, published by Writer’s Digest Book is high on my “next read” list

What book (or books) did you enjoy this November?

P.S. Attention Teachers!!! Jeff Gerke has informed me there is a curriculum workbook for using The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction for teaching high school Creative Writing. Check out The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction Workbook, by Jeff Gerke and Mary Agius.

Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference Report

Last week I attended the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Coaching Conference. I, and three other members of my critique group carpooled to the event and shared a cabin at the beautiful Canby Grove Conference Center.

Classes started Monday afternoon, shortly after arrival and didn’t end until lunchtime Thursday (Well, with the exception of having the option to sleep from 9:00 P.M. until breakfast). What a whirlwind time it was! And how informative.

For my coaching class, I opted to take Marcher Lord Press Publisher, Jeff Gerke’s Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop. (I had also submitted a manuscript to him for critique. The very first session helped me to understand the weaknesses in my manuscript and how to fix them, but more about that another day).

Gerke discussed plot driven and character driven writing, and taught us how to develop strong characters and strong plots. We spent a full morning on character development. The next day we learned about plot and three act structure (something I’ve taught to middleschoolers when I was an educator—only nowhere near to the depth Gerke did!) AND, the character development arc that runs parallel to it, which no one had ever taught me before. As we worked through the idea of  applying the plot and character arcs, I was able to practice a step-by-step process of planning on an idea for a novel I’ve been thinking about for some time. Now I can’t wait to start writing it! I think I’ll participate in National Novel Writing Month this year and throw down that rough draft! I’m so excited.

There were afternoon workshops and classes for fiction and nonfiction writer’s, classes on editing, poetry, researching, marketing and many other topics related to writing. Bill Myers’, who created “McGee and Me” gave an awesome three-part keynote address. And I attended a workshop led by James Scott Bell, whose writing advice I’ve been reading for years in Writer’s Digest. My brain felt so stuffed with new information by the end of the four days that I felt like I needed to sleep for a week just to process it.

But believe me, I have no regrets. The conference was fun. It was educational. It was all about writing! What could be better than that?