Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Is Craft?

Posted by: Dee Tenorio
The other day, my Mom visited. Which is great because, you know, I loves my mom. She's an avid reader and she writes too--though she doesn't give her stories much credit. Mom is where my love of words came from. (My inability to function math as well, but that's another post.) So, you can imagine the knot in my gut when she tells me she's been reading "Tempting The Enemy".

Mom is not from the ebook generation. She doesn't have an ereader and has no interest whatsoever of getting one. So, it's taken a while to get her a hard copy and she's gotten started. And she told me she's gotten started.

Luckily, I was picking something off the floor behind the couch at the time, so she had no idea my knees were knocking. "Y-you have?"

A laser stare and a slow nod.

*gulp* "How far have you gotten?" A slight duck so only my eyes are over the top of the couch. Yes, I immediately turned 4 years old at the prospect of Mommy a) not liking the book b) noticing there's a lot of bad words in it and c) disliking that the couple gets hot pretty quick.

"Oh, they're still in the police station." A loooooong pause until she says, her eyes going ever so slightly soft. "I had no idea you could write like that. You're amazing." (She said more, but I won't bore you with that. Just be happy, like I was, she didn't smack me for using the f-word. A lot.)

My sigh of relief probably moved a giant mountain in India. Then she said something that I'm still not sure I've recovered from.

"I'll never be able to write like that." She went on to detail the way the story opens, that it was so clear to her how the characters felt, how real they came across, the way they talked being believable. "You have so much talent."

You have no idea how great it was to hear that from the woman I have the most respect for on the entire planet. And while I'll take the Talent compliment--dude, I'm totally a greedy cow for remarks like that one--I had to tell her the truth. Talent is needed, no doubt, if you plan to make writing your life, but so is one other thing and it's something that everyone who picks up a pen can and SHOULD learn. Craft.

Craft, in anything, smooths out the rough edges. Even Leonardo Da Vinci had to learn the best way to hold a brush, how to angle the strokes and work layer by layer to make the shadows come through the lighter paints. He'd always have talent, but it's nothing without learning to better apply his skills. Writing is much the same. To write a good book, a writer must be a student at all times. Learning about the best use of dialogue and exposition, avoiding repetition, applying theme, weaving subplots, adding a red herring or two and of course, when to use a smoking gun.

As I explained to Mom, she's got the hard part--the drive and desire to write. The ability to see an entire story or world or relationship out of thin air. She's even got the patience to put it all to the page. Craft, though, isn't outside anyone's reach. She may not write just like me and she shouldn't want to. She's got her own voice and talent and viewpoint that's awesome. It's just about polishing the lines until she's happy. Until you're happy.

So, if you're interested in writing and you read your favorite authors, don't let their awesomeness make you feel like you're not doing something right. Ask yourself what you're enjoying most and see if your favorites can teach you a little craft as well as giving you a story to enjoy.

Would love to hear thoughts on what you may have learned for writers you love!


  1. I have to provide hard copies for my mum too. :-)
    Interesting how we turn into little kids awaiting their opinion.
    I've learned so many things from other writers it's hard to pick just one. Probably the most important was that you can combine paranormal/humour/romance/mystery and make it work. I learned that from Charlaine Harris.

  2. I think Susan Elizabeth Phillips is amazing, and I think a lot of Carina authors are amazing. I want to be amazing, and I'm working on it. My folks a both gone, but my step-mom will read my books once they're out. She's 74, and she just got a Kindle. She loves it, by the way. Last year I traveled to Canada with her, so that she could spread her brother's ashes over his favorite golf course--illegally, of course. We had a blast.

  3. Great story, Dee. The power of mums!

    What have I learned from authors I love? Margery Allingham once said something about writing as a craft profession and working at it, polishing, perfectng. Her writing clarity, vividness, style (though I don't want to write exactly like her, that would be dated) are what I aim for. I think the key point I took from reading that was taking pride in the profession of novelist.

  4. Janni--that's definitely a challenge of themes to blend. And yes, I'm absolutely a kid for my Mom, lol. Not so much my Dad, lol.

    Barbara--LOL, I want to be amazing too. That's a shirt I can see myself wearing everyday, actually. Also, I very much believe doing harmless illegal stuff can be the very most fun, especially with a parent. LOL!

    Jenny--Oh, I love that way of putting it. A Craft Profession. That's way better than what I've been calling it ("Um, it's just something I do to quiet the crazy voices...")



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