Required Reading for Writers of Catholic Fiction
The mission of Tuscany Press includes being devoted to gifted writers of great Catholic fiction. It also has another mission: To help these writers grow and use their literary gifts. Many writers have asked what they can do or read to help them become better at writing Catholic fiction. We have considered ways to help. The writer of Catholic fiction is unique. For many, their faith serves to enlarge their understanding of the world and those around them. They often ask how God and Grace fit into a writer’s imagination; or how they can make them come alive in a meaningful way in the fiction they are writing. These are important questions. Here are some answers. Tuscany Press will continue to enlarge its answers to these and other questions in the months and years to come, but here is a beginning, Suggested Reading for Writers of Catholic Fiction, share with others, or read below.
1.) Letter to Artists by Pope John Paul II. At Tuscany Press we recommend to authors who wish to write great Catholic fiction begin by reading John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. John Paul’s mission to evangelize the world for Christ Jesus included artists and writers. He understood the artist and the writer because he himself was a playwright: The Jeweler’s Shop. To quote the letter "None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you." John Paul II. Tuscany recommends this as must reading for writers.
2.) The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner. Authors of Catholic fiction should make John Gardner’s writing about the craft of fiction must reading. A good story follows the structure, form and art of fiction. There is a basic structure to a novel, novella, and a short story. John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers provides a wealth of information on defining good fiction, how to write good fiction and the craft of writing. It is a must read for all writers – young and old, published or unpublished. In the first half of The Art of Fiction, he explains what makes great fiction and the second half he discusses common errors, technique, plotting and exercises. Gardner explains the "fictional dream" and Interest and Truth. Tuscany Press is looking for what Gardner calls "conventional" fiction not the metafiction, deconstructive fiction or jazzing around fiction of today. It is a must read for our editors and writers who wish to be published by Tuscany Press.
3.) On Moral Fiction by John Gardner. On Moral Fiction was a controversial book at the time of publication. He criticized many contemporary writers including John Updike. Gardner's central thesis: that fiction should be moral. Gardner meant "moral" not in the sense of narrow religious or cultural "morality," but rather that fiction should aspire to discover those human values that are universally sustaining. WARNING: HE QUOTES SOME OFFENSIVE MATERIAL THAT YOUNG ADULTS SHOULD NOT READ. However, the book is a must read to know what it means to write "moral fiction" or fiction with meaning.
4.) Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor. Flannery O'Connor is the Catholic fiction writer. She puts the Catholic substance and skin in and on what it means to be a writer of Catholic fiction and write great Catholic fiction. She writes ". . . the Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but simply that it is one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by." She continues "The novelist is required to create the illusion of a whole world with believable people in it, and the chief difference between a novelist who is an orthodox Christian and the novelist who is merely a naturalist is that the Christian novelist lives in a larger universe. He believes that the natural world contains the supernatural. And this doesn’t mean that his obligation to portray the natural is less; it means it is greater." Mystery and Manners is a collection of articles and essays about writing and what it means to be a Catholic writer. Her essays include: The Fiction Writer & His Country, The Nature and Aim of Fiction, Writing Short Stories, The Church and the Fiction Writer, Novelist and Believer, Catholic Novelists and Their Readers and more. Again, she defines what it means to be a writer of Catholic fiction. It is a must read for any Catholic Writer.
5.) Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. A master editor to some of the most successful writers shares his techniques and strategies. If you want to learn the craft of writing that will lead to being published, then this book is for you. He provides solutions to some of the more common challenges that a writer faces. Also, his How to Grow a Novel is a good second book, but much of it is repetition. However, pages 163 -171 contain a summary of important concepts to remember. Stein's advice on writing is invaluable.
6.) Making Scenes Come Alive - A short explanation and guide on how to make your scenes come alive for your reader. A must read for every writer.
7.) Breaks and Chaptering - A internet post that explains where to make breaks and chapters.
8.) Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King. This is a book you should read before you have written your first draft. Writers must self-edit and know what to look for in their manuscripts. Browne & King help you not to be an amateur.
Tuscany Press recognizes we publish not for ourselves but for you - the readers. The stories we produce must appeal to the tastes of the 21st Century reader. When we say taste, we mean from a Catholic perspective. The books should appeal to you, all Catholics and every reader. They should be of the highest standards where when the reader finishes the book, the reader has to recommend it to their friends.
Donald Maass is the top literary agent today. We have found his concepts mostly correct but not all we agree with. He lacks the moral component. Some of the material he quotes is offensive and we think incorrect. However, you will benefit from reading all three of his books.
9.) Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It is an anlysis of the commonalities of the successful novel. It important to read to understand what that there are commonalities across genres that make a book successful.
10.) The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. This book is important because Maass shows the writing techniques used in bestselling fiction. Every writer should know and understand what "micro-tension" is in a scene.
11.) Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. Mass wrote this book recently to explain the shifting tastes in the 21st century reader.
Finally, but most importantly, prayer. God wants all his writers to know Him. To know Grace through prayer, is to be able to write about Grace and the world of people, God and their interaction.
In His Peace and Grace,
Peter Mongeau Founder and Publisher
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