Six Writing Tips I Learned from Frank Peretti.by Carrie Stuart Parks
Between 2004 to 2015, I was blessed abundantly by having the New York Times bestselling author, Frank Peretti, as my mentor. He’d never mentored a writer before, and I’d never written fiction before, so it was a learning experience for both of us. Frank, in his forward to my first book, A Cry From the Dust, wrote this:
“From then on, every few weeks, she hollered at the back door, “Knock knock?” then brought in a case full of pens, highlighters, post-it notes, her computer, and pages of manuscript - her homework, a copy for her, a copy for me. She read aloud, I followed. I commented, she listened and scribbled notes all over her work. She dubbed me “Master” and herself “Grasshopper” after that old Kung Fu TV show, but we were both new at it: she’d never written fiction and I’d never taught it. The learning was mutual.
And I guess it worked out.
Her perseverance alone was deserving of success, but she became a writer because she knew - and I knew - she could do it. She had the flair, the imagination, the whimsical, inventive, sometimes zany ability to go to other places in her mind and come back with the unexpected. She was a creative explosion sure to go off somewhere; all I had to do was aim her.”
Wow, heady words of encouragement to a newby writer! So let me share some of the great writing tips from the mouth of the master himself: Frank Peretti.
- Slaying Dragons. Your protagonist must face the bad guy. I recently read a suspense/thriller where the protagonist was rescued from the villain. That’s a weak resolution, and I threw the book across the room. The protagonist must defeat his/her own dragons.
- Hero. Your protagonist must be a hero, not just someone that gets beat up. Add the first two ideas together and you’ll find the bones of a great story. The reverse: defeated protagonist who has to be rescued is an unsatisfying novel.
- Action. If something doesn’t move the story forward, delete it or rewrite it so it does. You can’t stop and smell the roses in a novel—you’ll lose your readers. Descriptions, backstory, setting and so on must always be propelling the novel forward.
- Proactive. You really want the protagonist to figure out who the villain is, not wait for the villain to reveal himself. Your protagonist needs to be proactive.
- Elastic mind. The first book I labored over for six plus years had originally had a murder in the third chapter. Frank said to have the murder in the first chapter. What? I had no idea how to do this. I worked and worked, finally moving the body to chapter two. Nope. Frank wanted it in chapter one, preferably on page one. Be elastic in your thinking about your story.
- Nothing in stone. Frank didn’t teach me this by telling, but by showing (a little writer’s humor…okay, so very little humor.) Print out your working novel on recycled paper. I remember he gave me something in writing that was printed out on the back of one of his stories. OOOoooooohhh! Aren’t his words written in stone and sacred? Nope. Anything you write can be re-written. There are other, and probably better ways to say something. This is an application of tip five-elastic thinking.
Carrie Stuart Parks is a multiple Christy finalist as well as a Carol and Inspy award-winning author. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic, award-winning watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.
Mentored by New York Times best-selling author, Frank Peretti, Carrie began writing fiction while battling stage II breast cancer. Now in remission, she continues to encourage other women struggling through the effects of cancer.
Animals have always been a large part of her life. Her parents started Skeel Kennel Great Pyrenees in 1960. Carrie inherited the kennel and continues with her beloved dogs both showing and as an AKC judge.
Gwen Marcey takes death in stride. Until she’s faced with her own mortality.
Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others.
Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity—a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?
In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.