A few years ago, while attending a writer’s conference, I met a guest author named Leonard Bishop. He was an old man with the bulky physique and heavy shoulders that spoke of past physical strength. There was something direct, even blunt about him. A no-nonsense type of guy with an edge. He said what he thought. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. The bright and phoney young editors who were also guest speakers failed to impress him. And underneath his rather gruff, intimidating exterior beat a warm and generous heart for new writers trying to make it in this tough business.

I’d never heard of him. I’d never read any of his novels. He’d never heard of me. He’d never read my work. We were introduced. We sized each other up quickly, the way working novelists do. We were instant friends and colleagues.

I bought his book on writing. He signed it on the title page as follows: “Deborah–Thank you for buying this book. If you have any suggestion on how to improve it, keep it to yourself.”

Even today, that little flash of witticism still makes me smile.

DARE TO BE A GREAT WRITER is a handbook of 329 tips. It’s written piecemeal. No pontificating chapters of advice here. No table of contents. No index. No attempts to impress. Instead, his suggestions and insights are as honest, direct, and insightful as the man in person.

What comes through strongest is his passion for writing. Bishop grew up a street kid, rough and semi-literate. He didn’t decide to be a writer until he was 27, and what he chose to write about was raw, straight from the heart and guts.

He chose his title deliberately and carefully. (And he would hate all the adverbs in that sentence!) He doesn’t want to help you be a good writer. He wants you to be a great writer.

He wants you to write from the core of who and what you truly are. Not what you want people to think about you. Not from behind a mask or a safety net. He wants you to write what he calls powerful fiction.

That takes courage.

But as they say in the South: “Go big or go home.”

Are you holding yourself back? Dare to check into Bishop’s work and see what you might become.

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