This book is subtitled “The complete guide to finding your story, honing your skills, and glorifying God in your novel,” and it lives up to what it promises.
The material is divided into three sections: The Spiritual Heart of Writing Christian Fiction; Strategizing Yourself, Strategizing Your Fiction; and Writing Your Novel. The third section fills half the book and provides a comprehensive overview of the craft.
The writing and strategizing material is mostly aimed at beginners. These two sections cover characters, show and tell, point of view, description and dialogue. As we learn, we’ll want other books on the craft to give advanced teaching, but this is a great place to start, filled with practical instruction.
But this is not just a book for beginners. The first 40 pages offer something I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else in writing-focused books.
Jeff Gerke asks some penetrating questions before getting into the “how” of writing. Whose approval are we writing for, at the deepest level? God’s or man’s? Will publication—or a best-seller—provide what we need for contentment? What’s our calling as Christian novelists?
This part of the book justified the purchase price, and it’s something I’ll come back to again and again. I think it applies to writers of all stages of experience.
For new writers, another key benefit in this opening section is Jeff’s up-front warning that not all writing teachers agree. Instead of trying to reinvent ourselves to match each one’s view, we need to listen, learn, and then discern what works best for our own stories. Knowing this can prevent severe confusion.
Jeff himself recommends taking up to the first half of a novel before moving into the second act of a three-act structure. Traditionally this mark is closer to the one-third mark, which fits better for me. But he likes prologues when many don’t, and I’m happy to agree there!
The book’s spiritual grounding, big-picture strategizing and techniques will benefit Christians no matter what their fiction genre. For those writing for the Christian market, there are genre-specific tips and advice, including options on conveying profanity without being banned from the Christian bookstore.
The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is an essential book for the Christian writer’s library. It’s clear, easy to understand and put into practice, and there’s enough humour to make it a fun read.