Saturday, March 29, 2008

Christopher Hopper (Advice for Novelists, Part 34)

We're on a roll! Once again, here's the response of a talented author to the question:

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

Read, read, read.

I've learned more about writing after my first book was published than I ever did before. I think that's because I never went to college and I wanted to make sure my craft could be as good as it possibly could once I realized people liked my books. And my thinking was, if I'm critically reading books that I want to emulate, those will be my text books.

I don't just mean passively reading, but actively analyzing; making notes on what works and what doesn't; outlining a book as you read it; studying sentence structure, voice and tone. Read like the author is right there with you. Ask questions. Why did they develop that character like that? What was the thinking behind keeping that piece of the story a secret for so long? Why am I identifying so deeply with this person's emotions?

Receive criticism better than you receive praise. People telling me they like my books reminds me why I do what I do; but people telling me what needs to change helps me become better at what I do.

Get connected. Join online forums, messages boards and clubs. Join a writer's guild or book club in your area. Don't have one? Make one--I did! I found a few people who were wanna' be authors and started meeting monthly to read each other's works.

Just a technical thing that helps me when I'm writing: my voice is the only thing a reader is going on when they read a story. If I'm not saying it clearly or implying it effectively, they're not going to get it. They don't have an audio/visual presentation on their computer or a soundtrack with the narrative as they read my books. All they have is what I'm feeding them. So make sure it looks appetizing and tastes good. Making it healthy is good, too.

Lastly, keep writing. Everyday! Keep a blog. Hone your skills. Keep a journal. Something. Anything! I meet so many people who say they've always "dreamed of writing a book." And I always tell them that they are most likely a better writer than I am and have better ideas than me. But there is one fundamental difference between them and me--I wrote my book. God can't publish what you didn't create.

And always aim to do everything for the glory of Jesus. Your efforts will most likely fall short of is perfection, but your heart won't if your eyes are fixed on him.

--Christopher Hopper, Author of Rise of The Dibor and The Lion Vrie and recording artist of 9 albums. Visit him online at his website here.


Merrie Destefano said...

Chris and C.J.
That was so incredibly inspirational!

I love your answer. I really do believe that studying other books is the best way to learn how to write (well, that and actually writing, of course), but the method you use is awesome.

I have the same stigma hanging over my head. I didn't study writing in college, studied fine art instead, and so I always feel as though I have to "prove myself" somehow. I have to be better at the game because I didn't get the rulebook.

And, the admonition to write everyday. Have I heard that before? Yes. But the way you put it was so fresh. I forget that writing is a skill and that it gets better when I practice, but writing a journal is important for me because it tones my voice. Something I need when it's time to develop a new character or book.

Blessings on both of you and thanks for just the right amount inspiration that I needed to get some writing done!!

C.J. Darlington said...

Merrie ... I'm so glad you enjoyed this advice. It's great to know it's helping folks. Christopher had so much excellent stuff to say, too.

Christopher Hopper said...


Thanks so much for the kind words. That really means a lot. And I'm so glad my experience can be an "inspiration" to! I just spoke for a middle school assembly about my whole "slow reading" stigma in grade school and had a lot of really cool responses from them.

Keep reading and writing! I cherish your comment!

And thanks, CJ for having me on!