By Rebecca Forster
This morning (a few Sundays ago) 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 (The Santa Conspiracy) by Tim Greaton.
The Santa Shop is a short novel, 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 heady reader-delight of having just read a good book, I also realized that I had been given the gift of professional inspiration. I realized that if I was agonizing over my work, maybe there was something wrong. If I had a good story, it should unfold; if I couldn't figure out which direction to go, perhaps I was trying to fabricate a story where one didn't exist. 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 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 agonized about word count, it didn’t show. If he struggled to find just the right turn of phrase, it didn’t show. If he edited this baby for a year, it didn’t show. Therein lies the brilliance of what he accomplished. I never had to work for my literary pleasure. For a reader, there is no better experience; for a writer, there is no better lesson.
So, on this chilly Sunday morning, I want to thank Tim Greaton for reminding me of the very simple lessons to creating a good book:
1) Have a story, not an idea.
2) Know your character, not just his or her name.
3) Write as if you are pointing the way 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 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.