I've been fortunate to study with Steve Berry, author of such amazing books as the Venetian Betrayal, the Alexandria Link and the Amber Room. There's a reason he frequents the New York Times Bestseller list.
It's all about craft.
Though he'd humbly deny it, Steve is a craft master. I keep a copy of his eight craft rules in my purse at all times, and stick them on post-it notes beside my computer whenever I sit down to write. (That and the wonderful advice from NY Times Bestselling author James Rollins: I give myself permission to write crap today. I suspect neither Steve nor Jim has ever written true crap.)
I used to try and "avoid" Steve's rules, foolishly believing I could make it in this industry without adhering to the eight principles that have not only helped Steve top the NY Times Bestseller wall, but also become one of the best teachers on writing I have ever met.
As my critique partners can attest, I don't buck Steve's system anymore.
I've taken flack for it - just today, one of my partners deemed me mean and vicious. And yesterday, another of our tight little group said the craft rules echo in her head as she sits down to write. I know what she means - for a few weeks after studying with Steve in Hawaii, his voice was ALL I heard.
The most basic of his rules is simply to "write tight." I've embodied that so much in my recent projects that now, as I work to flush out the characters, deepen the atmosphere, I find myself fighting for every word. I'm pretty sure Steve would be happy to hear that.
The eight craft rules have made me a better writer, and for that I'll always be grateful. Perhaps even more important, though, was his strong encouragement to find a writing critique group.
I'd been looking for awhile, but only just recently have I found a group of women I gel with. Our writing styles are quite different, our processes unique. But we all have the same goal - to tell the best story.
My stories are getting better because of these special friends. My writing continues to improve. And, to my surprise, hanging out with my three writing peers has some wonderful side benefits.
- I like them. As writers. As people. I think I'm verging on love :-)
- I remain immersed in the world where I am most happy.
- I can lean on them - for advice, for brainstorming, for encouragement, and for a kick in the pants when needed.
- I am learning - even armed with Steve's craft rules, they have so much to teach me.
- I am falling in love with my story a little more every day.
I'll never forget the advice my mentor has bestowed upon me with such generosity. I hope someday I will be able to pass on his wisdom to aspiring authors.
P.S. - Steve's latest historical adventure, the Paris Vendetta, hits shelves December 1. Buy it.