Friday, April 3, 2015

Writing for the Soul: A Book Review

One of the many books Jerry's written (not even
counting the Left Behind series) I wish I'd written.
I first read Jerry B. Jenkins' Writing for the Soul when I was a student with his Christian Writers Guild. I took all three courses--the Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman. Naturally, I was interested in what the owner of the CWG had to say on the subject of writing, particularly in light of my association with the Guild and having met him on numerous occasions at conferences. During a five-day residency in Denver as part of the Craftsman class, I sat down at least twice with Jerry for a one-on-one critique of my manuscript. We had wonderful and informative discussions and being the subtle person I am, I requested he sign each page of my manuscript on which he made notes. With a smile, he agreed to do so. I have those pages to this day.

Given that, I thought I might be a tad biased when I reread Writing for the Soul recently. I made a special effort to read and review it with an eye toward complete impartiality. Not surprisingly, my opinion remains the same as when I first enjoyed it.

Writing for the Soul provides an intimate and often humorous look at Jerry's writing life and the principles he adheres to as a Christian. But it also delivers by providing readers myriad pointers on what does and doesn't work when writing. These topics include, but are not limited to, keeping your soul intact, what to write, equipping your writing space, creating realism through research, and the importance of conflict, pacing, and plotting. Several anecdotes relating experiences with people he's written books about are scattered throughout and offer interesting tidbits, often funny, that made his experience working with them that much more enjoyable. As a result, our enjoyment is also enhanced.

Jenkins writes in a conversational style, very laid back and personable--just as he was when I worked with him on my manuscript. This is one of those books you'll enjoy reading straight through (as it's difficult to put down), but will want to keep on your shelf for future reference. His down-to-earth advice will resonate with any writer--new, grizzled, or somewhere between. His self-revelation and tales of working with celebrities (often laughably awestruck and tongue-tied in their presence) makes this author of 125 books before the Left Behind series (let alone what he's written since then) seem like your next-door neighbor. He's funny, wildly successful, hard-working, and yet, still humble and honored to be an author. I don't think it gets much better than that.

I've found that I discover new things in this book the farther along I get on my writing journey. As a new, uninitiated writer, I gleaned the importance of calling myself a writer, exploring my reasons for writing (versus simply wanting to be a writer), and writing what I knew. As the years passed and I paid some of my dues and can see things improving in my career, I can home in on those areas that have given me problems or that I simply want to improve. I imagine I'll still find things to learn and improve upon when I'm old and gray(er).

All in all, you can't go wrong with Writing for the Soul. Whether you're new at this writing game or the author of bestsellers, you'll learn something new and helpful. As Jerry says, "But I fear that if I'm not growing, I'm stagnating. There's no reaching one level and staying there. And so I read everything there is to read about the craft, listen carefully to colleagues and idols, and try to keep expanding my knowledge and learning." Reading Writing for the Soul is one way for the rest of us to do just that.

You can purchase it in an e-book or hardcover version from Amazon at Writing for the Soul.

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