What’s Your Credo?

A writer with a credo will not be tempted to settle for mediocrity.

Do you have a writing philosophy? Have you written it down? You haven’t? Oh, good, me neither. If you have, well, please share! A credo will act like a compass to guide our wayward thoughts and tighten our prose to bring out the awesome story that is running around in our heads.

In The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell gives us three essentials he’s taken from John D. MacDonald’s credo. A successful novel must have:

  1. A compelling story, unforgettable characters we love facing difficulties and us asking: how’s it all going to end?
  2. Suspension of disbelief. Take me away!
  3. Magical prose that sing without being too poetic

Those essentials pretty much covers it, huh? In Writing the Breakout Novel, literary agent Donald Maas adds a fourth: The passion of the author bleeds through the story and we aren’t the same after reading it.

The question then, is how? And that is what I hope to learn, to accomplish. The best way to learn is to read. So let’s take off our writing hats for the moment and explore why we love to read.

  1. What are your favorite books?
  2. Who are your favorite characters?
  3. Which books have swept you away to a different time, place, setting that you loved?
  4. What books impacted you the most?
  5. What are some of your favorite phrases or magical prose that just sing?

It’s not a secret that I LOVE the Harry Potter books.ย Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)I love the characters, the creativity, the setting, the story. One of my favorite quotes:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to liveโ€ฆ”


One of the books that impacted me the most was Christy by Catherine Marshall. I know, my tastes are all over the place. At sixteen, this story hit me hard and hinted at something I was searching for, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. It orchestrated a major turning point in my life. Crazy, huh?

Recently, I read I am Ocilla by Diane M. Graham and I think the prose are beautifully written. Once I got over the present tense, the story really swept me away on an adventure. I need to reread it now that I know what I know now about the ending. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I love, love, love this phrase:

“Flashes of sea creatures and jagged cliffs flip through my thoughts like shredded pages in a storybook, always at theย edge of focus, never completely whole.”

Oh, I better stop here, otherwise I’ll get carried away. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting our love of books down the road. ๐Ÿ™‚

So what say you?


6 thoughts on “What’s Your Credo?

  1. C.L. Dyck says:

    Hmm, I don’t know if it’s a credo of the technical sort, more of a life-creed that informs writing for me: “People are the only thing you can take with you to heaven.”

    I find all kinds of reasons to seek excellence in that thought. Good living, in the economy of Christ, is meant to be a service to others in a broken world. So, I think, is good writing.

    (Also, yay Diane! She rocks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for sharing!
      Yeah, her prose blew me out of the water. The writing flowed well and was very tight… and I know who edited it ๐Ÿ˜‰

      anywho…I’m working on my credo/vision/mission statement for my life. At MOPS last year we had a speaker talk about figuring that out and I’m sure whatever mine boils down to will ultimately affect my writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • C.L. Dyck says:

        I actually did not have a huge hand in that–much credit goes to the staff editors. I worked with Diane on partials before she subbed to Splashdown. That gal is smart as a whip. She picked stuff up instantly and had no problem taking it and running with it in self-directed revisions.

      • J. L. Mbewe says:

        That’s cool. Still, I might be looking you up down the road sometime, depending on what direction I go and when I get something as good as I think I can get it on my own. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • C.L. Dyck says:

        I would be delighted to see your writing sometime, if you find yourself led in my direction. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. J. L. Mbewe says:

    Soon and very soon…hopefully…ha! by the rate I’m going it might be a year or two or three…life, right? I’ve shelved my first novel, which I have committed almost every writer sin there is to commit under the sun and moon and stars…not sure if there is hope for that one. In the meantime, I’m rewriting an old NaNo project. That one will have to see a couple around of edits before I seek professional help and by then I’ll have the money saved up for it, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So…keep a weather eye on the horizon…although, instead of sailing in, I’ll be chugging in like Mr. Fogg and remaining with half of a ship. ๐Ÿ™‚

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