Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mick Silva (Advice for Writers, Part 8)

Our series continues again! This time Mick Silva shares his answer to the question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Just one thing, really?

I'm an editor at WaterBrook, but in my free time, I'm an unpublished

So I've developed these 3 steps to writing fiction that I call my "formula" and interestingly, all of them essentially come down to one thing. Masochistic devotion. I don't know how universal this is-and it's certainly not natural. But I'm a little weird, which doesn't hurt in this profession. And while it's taken me a while to hammer out the 3 steps, something like 8 years, maybe 9, I've never seen anything like this in all the top recommended writing and editing books, which are great. Until I translated all that advice into my own steps and practice, I never felt I was writing my best stuff. You know, not really. And I don't really know if I'm writing my best now, but it feels different, like I've passed the point of no return and it'd be harder to stop now than it would be to keep going.

Kind of like love.

I think the most important thing in writing novels is to deeply love what you're writing. I mentioned this recently on my blog (, but it got me thinking that novels are kind of unique in that they require the deepest, even spiritual, kind of love. A spouse or a child doesn't always need your all in every scene. But a novel? It can completely fail if you don't devote to it consistently and vigilantly. Novels are incredibly demanding, so much so that those with young families or big relational responsibilities need to seriously consider whether it's prudent. You need to be able to separate because this spiritual sort of love requires you to die to self, pick up your "cross," and follow that creation where it takes you. You are, in a sense, practicing the gospel in your daily writing practice. It's no longer you who lives, but that new work happening in you and coming through you. By extension, your novel can speak of God because you've "died" to give it life.

That's the basic idea. I want to stop well clear of any heresy. This can start to sound theologically dicey, especially considering how easily novels can become our gods if we aren't careful. The bottom line is, the way we approach both spiritual matters and our novels must be with reverence and acceptance of the ultimate cost. This is the only way I know of to write the novels that truly connect and speak with relevance to the deeper truths of life.

Mick Silva, Editor, Waterbrook Press (Visit Mick's blog here where he'll be posting those three steps shortly!)


Melanie said...

So, this could be an area where singleness is a benefit? Yeah for me.

But it so hard to tear myself away from my characters when it's time to go to work, and sometimes sleep is just out of the question.

But I'm getting separation anxiety as I approach the end. I love my novel so much I don't want to send it out into the big bad world.

michael snyder said...

Mick said: "I think the most important thing in writing novels is to deeply love what you're writing."

I think that's key. It is for me anyway. (Of course I'm in the editing stage of a book now, so we're doing 'tough love' right now...but that's part of it too.)