Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Advice for Writers— and for Life

Today's guest is historical mystery author Donna Crowe. She has some excellent advice for writers. Check it out!

When doing an interview I’m almost always asked, often as a parting shot, to give one piece of advice to beginning writers.
One piece?  Look, I’ve been in this business thirty-some years and written as many books, which is often more years than my interviewer has had birthdays.  How can I limit it to one?  So I give two: Read, read, read. And follow your passion.
Well, okay, that does often work out to be one piece of advice because, hopefully, in choosing our reading we’re following our passions and our writing should flow from that.  But the important thing in choosing books, is to be sure to read the very best in any field.  I always tell beginning writers, “You may never write as well as you read, but you’ll never write better.”  Writers put an automatic limit on the quality of their writing by the quality of their reading. 
And you can let your writing flow from that reading.  Not in any imitative way, but in the choices you will make.  Bottom line here is that if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.  That was certainly true for me.  I started out writing category romance— a great way to learn the business.  Then one day I closed the book I was reading and never picked it up again.  And never wrote another category romance.  Although my murder mysteries, which was what I really loved reading, all have elements of romance in them.
So let your passion direct what you choose to read.  You’ll notice I said “choose to read” I didn’t say “choose your passion” because I do believe our passions choose us.  “Why England?” Is another question interviewers almost always ask me.  And rightly so.  I live in Boise, Idaho, 7000 miles away from England’s green and pleasant land.  Which may be part of the appeal, of course. Distance can add allure.  Difference can attract, too, and I live in a desert. But at the end of the day it isn’t anything that analytical. Love is love.
And so my reading and my passions intertwine to produce a lifetime of novels— both read and written:  Jane Austen, Dorothy L Sayers, P. D. James, Phil Rickman, Kate Charles. . .
Glastonbury, my Arthurian grail search epic; my clerical mysteries The Monastery Murders:  A Very Private Grave and A Darkly Hidden Truth (out this fall);  The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries: The Shadow of Reality and A Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare my romantic suspense series.. . Well, you can read about them on my website www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com.
And none of that touches on my love of history— British history, of course— and the corresponding research trips that requires— but research is a topic for another day.
So, as a parting shot, what is my one piece of advice?  Well, when you follow your passion you are bound to have a wonderful time doing what you’re doing, so that’s it, isn’t it?  Enjoy!

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren.  She is an enthusiastic gardener.  To see the book video for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE and pictures from Donna’s garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/. 

You can follow her on Facebook at:  http://ning.it/eLjgYp
And buy her books at Amazon.
She has some beautiful photos on her website. Take a look!


E. B. Davis said...

Good advice Donna. Not only is following your passion enjoyable, but it also results in the best writing. The writer's passion, I've found, infuses magic into what would otherwise result in mediocrity.

Polly Iyer said...

Interesting advice. Yes, it always helps to read good books to improve your writing, but in the end, it's about making readers love your characters enough to spend time with them or to have a story that draws readers in and doesn't let them go. I think that's why some books that are criticized for the writing become such favorites. Ideally, it's all three: the writing, the characters, and the story. That's the winning trifecta.

Sandy Cody said...

Good advice, something we all need to be reminded of every now and then. I've just finished two books for the book clubs in which I participate; both were good books, but not my passion. You've inspired me to take the summer off and read only books that I love. Good luck with your books. The covers shown here are wonderful.

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

Oh, Sandy, have a wonderful summer following your passion! I hope it works out for you.
You are so right, Polly, it does take all three, but for me the characters and plot need to be set someplace where I want to be.
Ah, Magic, E. B. what we all hope to find in our reading, isn't it?
thank you all for writing.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Enjoyed your blog, Donna, because it resonates with so much that's true for me. I don't write romances, either, but seem to have one in every mystery I write.

Ellis Vidler said...

Donna, good advice. I write romantic suspense, and while it could happen anywhere, I like to pick the setting as someplace that could add to the atmosphere or contribute to the story. I have to like the place and what I see in it.
As for my reading habits, they vary. I'm certainly influenced by the language and style, both good and not-so-good. I think the more you read, the better your ear becomes. I hope it translates to my writing.

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

I agree, Marilyn. It seems that romance just about has to crop up somewhere in some form because it's part of life and it's hard to imagine having a group of characters together without there being some romantic attachment somewhere--at least in the background.