James Scott Bell james scott bell

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." 

 The Whole Truth


 On Becoming a Writer: by James Scott Bell

About ten years ago, losing all rationality, I decided to take up golf.

In those first couple of years I bought books and tapes and subscribed to the magazines. I was sure with enough study and practice I’d be shooting 80 soon.  Those of you who golf are laughing now.  But I wasn’t laughing.  I also wasn’t having fun.  I thought the best course might be to chuck the whole thing and take up needlepoint.

What had happened was that I’d pumped my head full of techniques and tips and reminders and visuals.  And I was always trying to remember every one of them as I played.  You know, like the twenty-two steps to perfect putting and the thirteen most important things remember at point of impact.


Just before flinging my clubs into the Dumpster, I met a golf teacher named Wally Armstrong.  Wally is well known for his teaching skills, using simple household items—like brooms and coat hangers and sponges—to implant the feel of various aspects of the game.

If you’re thinking about the swing while you’re playing, Wally says, you’re lost.  You’ll tense up.  You will find yourself in a labyrinth of theory, with no way out.

But if you have the feel ingrained, you can forget about all the technical stuff and just play.  Your body, trained in the feel, does its thing.

Wally was right, and I’ve been enjoying the game ever since.  I don’t shoot below 80 yet, but I have fun and don’t embarrass myself.

Or rarely, that is.

Now, it seems to me that writing good fiction is a lot like playing good golf.  With the same dangers, too.  There is no end of books and articles teaching various aspects of the craft.  But if you are trying to think of them all as you write, you’ll tense up. You won’t write, as Brenda Ueland puts it, “freely and rollickingly.” Plus, it won’t be any fun.  You’ll feel like throwing your pages in the Dumpster (okay, many writers feel this way anyway, but that’s just an occupational hazard).

So what I want you to be able to do is feel your writing.  When you sit down for a writing stint, don’t think about technique. Just write.  Let it flow.  Later, you’ll come back to it and revise.  This book will show you how.
When you’re not writing, keep learning the craft.  Increase the storehouse of knowledge.  Analyze your work with techniques in mind.

But when you’re writing, write. Trust that the techniques you are learning will flow out naturally.
When they don’t, you can learn to see where the problems are.
That’s what self-editing and revision are all about. Learning, feeling, writing, analyzing, correcting and making your writing better.

Over and over.

The rest of your life.

That’s right. You’re a writer, not someone who wants to write some books. You are a person of the craft, a dues paying member of the club.

So pay your dues, by doing the following:


You can’t be a great fiction writer without reading. A lot. All kinds of novels. And poetry and well-written nonfiction.
Each time you read a book the flow and rhythm of the writing implants itself in your brain. When it’s good writing, when you respond to it, it goes in the good file. When it’s not so good writing, you’ll sense it and put in under bad.
You’ll learn about plot and story construction and character building. Your storehouse will fill up and be ready for you when you’re in need.

Record Your Observations

When I was first trying to figure out this writing thing, I got very excited every time I spotted something in a novel that worked. Or learned a technique from a writing book that made a little light bulb go off in my head.
Whenever I learned something I’d jot it down. Sometimes on paper, sometimes on a napkin, whatever was handy. I still have a stack of these notes, carefully preserved in a large envelope. I look at them from time to time just to get my juices flowing again. It’s exciting to learn.



When you learn a technique from a writing book that looks promising, practice it. Write a scene that uses the technique.
Get it out of your head and onto the page.
When you do this, you’re assimilating the information. It’s going from information to transformation, making you into a better writer. It soaks into your memory, the way a golf technique that’s felt soaks itself into your muscles.
You will know, absolutely, that your writing is getting better and better. It’s an intoxicating feeling. As Ray Bradbury has said, stay drunk on writing so reality does not destroy you!

Continue to Learn

Don’t ever stop your growth process as a writer. Even after publication.
No, especially after publication. You want to keep publishing, and you do that by trying to make each new book a little better than the last. So improve.
In fact, be systematic about improving. Create your own “plan of attack” for strengthening your work.
Still Your Inner Skeptic

The most debilitating thing about writing is that the voice inside us, the voice we trust more than others, says, “You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, what you wrote yesterday really stinks.” What aspiring writers should keep in mind is that we all hear that voice, and sometimes that voice lies to us. In fact, when it comes to writing, that voice almost always lies to us. Midway through a book you are going to read back and think, “This is awful.” Now it may be awful, but it also may be wonderful and you’ve simply read it so many times your ear has gone deaf.  Don’t listen to that voice.

—Randy Waine White


Golf, Arnold Palmer once explained, came down to this: Hit it. Go find it. Then hit it again.
 Arnie could have been a writer, I think. Because that's what it is: Write it, learn, and write some more.
James Scott Bell is the bestselling author of many thrillers, and the popular Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (Writers Digest Books). Visit his website at


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Writing & Publishing Your Book

Web Resources for Writers

There are many web sites with great information for Christian writers. Below are some that you might find helpful.


  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Christian Writers Fellowship International

  • The Christian Writer's Manual of Style
  • Writer's Digest
  • Writer's Market
  • The Writer's Magazine
  • Christian Writer's Market Guide
  • ACW Press
  • Writer's Edge (Manuscript Service)

  • More Author Tips

     • Words of Advice: Chris Fabry

     • Writing Advice: Maureen Lang