How does a guy who writes speculative fiction on the afterlife end up reading Christmas romances? And what does said guy (that would be me) think about books targeted for
a reading audience that doesn’t include him? Can I learn anything from reading outside my genre?
The how answer can be summarized in two words: relationships and timing.
As I write this, I sit at a local restaurant across the table from my editor wife. On occasion we actually speak to one another. But for the most part, I write in silence (well, I do have my Christmas playlist going).
Writing is a solitary business. You grab your cup of coffee, plant yourself in a seat, plop your headphones on, and write. The place may change but the reality doesn’t—you write alone.
But as a writer, I’ve developed relationships with other writers. I glean writing wisdom from them. I bounce ideas off of them. I commiserate with them. I celebrate with them.
My strongest writing relationships come out of my on-line critique group, the Fearless Fiction Writers. Two crit partners released their first Christmas romances this year.
Obviously the best time to release a Christmas romance is … well … uh … Christmas time.
It’s also the best time to read one.
So what did a guy think of stories written for women?
I liked them.
They were fast and fun.
They were also well-written. And, as an author, I can appreciate a well-crafted story. Both Mary and Linda write well. And, as a crit partner, I’ve seen their writing progress and improve over years of observation.
I’ve also learned several important truths from them and their novels.
Now is a great time to read. An experienced writer reads. She reads romance, history, fantasy, craft books, magazine articles, the newspaper, and menus (okay, I just threw that last one in because I’m at a restaurant).
Unlike my editor wife and a lot of authors, I’ve been no great reader in the past. But I’ve become one in recent years. Christmas romances give me just one more reading window to look through.
Now is a great time to write. Stephen King in On Writing says he writes every day except Christmas. Later he admits he even writes on Christmas Day.
NaNoWriMo has come and gone but, during November, I learned the importance of writing every day (except Sunday). In the last two weeks of November, I wrote a chapter a day—a record for me.
Mary’s and Linda’s recent releases inspired me to get serious about my writing time. An adage I’ve heard several times addresses the best time to plant a tree—20 years ago. The next best time is now. The same holds true for writing. Now is a great time to write.
Now is a great time to release. Remember the timing thing. The holiday season is a time when folks are shopping for gifts—books included. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist (or even play one on television) to figure shopping season is also an excellent time to release a book.
Think of these three truths in Christmas terms. We’ll use the legend of Santa as if legend were fact.
Elves hammer away on wood in isolation—Santa’s workshop, North Pole, and all that kind of stuff. Writers hammer away on keys in isolation—McDonald’s, a back-room desk, a motel room in Maine, or wherever. This all happens behind the scenes. No one watches the toys/stories being crafted. But, if no hammering away in isolation, then no next big thing.
Which is …
Santa loads up his sleigh. Book stores, both real and virtual, load up their shelves. The season arrives and Santa flies (with the aid of reindeer of course). The release date comes and books fly (with the aid of reading consumers of course).
Children open boxes. Readers open books.
My two author friends, Mary Anslee Urban and Linda Rondeau, have introduced me to a whole new genre. They’ve also, from their own writing experiences, taught me to read, write, and release.
During this Christmas season, may you read more, write more, and be ready to release your own Christmas novel next year. That’s my Christmas wish for us all.
T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.
In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. He has written articles for the local newspaper and an international mission magazine. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.
He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, or from wherever his travels take him. He posts articles weekly at www.tnealtarver.com.
Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
In the heart of Packerland, home of the Frozen Tundra, he roots for the Cowboys and longs for a beach-side view of palm trees.