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This morning (Sunday) I was supposed to work on my new book – the one I intend to complete for a December release. Instead, I snuggled down in my warm bed and finished an e-book called The Santa Shop (A Conspiracy) by Tim Greaton.
The Santa Shop was more of a novella or a long short story than a novel in length, but it was epic in its affect on me. This wonderfully crafted work held my attention, played on my emotions (yes, I wiped away a few tears at the end), made me think, and made me want to be an author just like Tim.
After I got over the delight of having just read a good book, I realized that I had also been given the gift of professional inspiration. If I was agonizing over the book I was working on, something was wrong. It was either a good story waiting to be told or one that I was trying to fabricate because it was a good ‘idea’. The Santa Shop was a story waiting to be told. It really was as simple as that and here’s why it worked.
I was instantly invested in the main character, Skip. I knew his circumstances, the joy and tragedy of his backstory, the pain of his current situation, and the torture in his heart and soul within the first chapter. I went with Skip on a journey that was equally spare and eloquent in the telling. I saw through Skip’s eyes. I felt with his heart. I worried about that he would not survive. I wanted a happy ending. I longed for a happy ending and, as anyone who reads my books knows, I am not a happy ending, ribbons-and-bows kind of gal.
However, it wasn’t until I reached the last page and read the very last word that I realized it was not Skip who was leading me on, it was Tim. If this author worried about how many words a book should have, it didn’t show. If he struggled to find just the right words and craft just the right sentence, it didn’t show. If he edited this baby for a year, it didn’t show. Therein lies the brilliance of what he accomplished. As a reader, I was not made to work for my pleasure. For a reader there is no better experience; for a writer there is no better lesson.
Thank you Tim Greaton for reminding me that the steps to writing a good book are simple:
1) Have a story, not an idea
2) Know your character, not just the name of him or her.
3) Write as if your walking with the reader not giving directions
4) Stop when the story is told.
Finally, no matter how complex the plot, no matter how many characters are in a book, no matter how intricate the relationships we create for our fictional friends, we, as authors, should not be present in the books we write. Simplicity – whether natural or hard won - is the key to writing a wonderful book.