Jeff Gerke is well known in Christian speculative-fiction circles. He’s been a leading author, editor, and publisher of Christian speculative fiction for years. This book is a compilation of a series of informative blog posts and is intended to serve as “the complete guide to finding your story, honing your skills, and glorifying God in your novel.” It is rich with Gerke’s experience and advice.
So I was more than excited to receive it as a Christmas gift. I love reading books about the writing craft and getting multiple perspectives on how it can be done right. Because writing is an art form, the rules can often be bent or broken to render a desired effect on readers. There are as many different ways to approach the same end as there are people—yet another testament to God’s love of diversity.
Gerke’s writing style is conversational, honest, and humble. By the time you’ve read his book, you feel like you’ve made a new friend. Where this book largely distinguishes itself from others is in the first part on the spiritual heart of writing Christian fiction. It addresses your motivations for writing and your relationship with God. It’s a necessary foundation for any Christian author.
Part two is all about strategizing yourself. Gerke helps you figure out how to choose what to write and how to find your story. The last part of the book covers the actual writing of your novel and touches on the timeless issues of showing vs. telling, point of view, description, and dialogue.
While I’m not a big fan of books that originally started as blog posts, Gerke has done a good job connecting the short chapters and forming them into a whole. It’s an enjoyable read, and I found that when I put it down, I was always looking forward to getting back to it.
The one thing I really didn’t like about it is that many of the examples are taken from movies, not books. I’ve found this to be a common practice in modern craft books. I suppose it is because it takes fewer movies to reach a wider audience than it takes books. With so many books being published each year, it is likely that fewer people have read the same book than have watched the same movie.
But writing for movies and writing for books is vastly different. In my career as an editor, I’ve encountered too many authors trying to write their book as if the reader is experiencing a movie. This doesn’t work for so many reasons. So I find it frustrating when a book on how to write well uses examples from movies to make its points. The points he made were all good and certainly many people will be able to understand the ideas he is presenting because they have seen the movies. But I was still disappointed that the examples used to back up his points weren’t taken from books.
Overall, this book is definitely worth adding to your library of craft books. While it’s not what I would call a definitive book on the craft, it certainly adds necessary pieces to the puzzle.
Rachel E. Newman, CP
Freelance Editor and Indexer
Rachel E. Newman holds a BS degree from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. She is a member of the Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, is certified with the Christian Editor Connection, serves as a judge for the Excellence in Editing Award, and serves as a faculty member for PENCON, the only conference for editors in the Christian market.