Turn it upside down!

Hi Voices,

Susie is busy with writing, four kids and doing a bit of traveling, so we’ll get back to Blog-a-Book next week. Thanks for your patience. We appreciate you all.

Today I wanted to talk about some of the basics of story telling and fiction writing. A great story starts with an idea. Any idea. What makes it great is developing a seed of an idea.

Take an ordinary idea — boy meets a girl — and turn it upside down. “An engaged boy meets a girl he believes is his true love. But he’s getting married in a month.”

Good, but how can we turn it upside down even more?

Boy approaches the girl only to discover she is just recovering from her own heartbreak — her fiance left her at the altar. Literally.

Good, wow, conflict is building. How can we make it worse?

She is his new boss.

And they are going on a customer junket together.

When they arrive at their fist destination, a snow storm keeps them in the hotel for two days.

Good, good, we’ve really added tension. But can we turn it upside down again?

Girl has a recurring dream where she’s seen Boy’s face many times. But she’s not about to open her heart based on a dream.

Keep digging. Put the characters at odd-ends. Turn things upside down.

How about Boy really loves and needs his job. He supports his aging father and cannot risk getting fired. Plus, does he really want to break Fiance’s heart over a stupid crush?

What about Suspense?

A murder, a public defender and the accused. How can you turn it upside down?

The PD and the accused were in the murder together? Why? They ran in the mob together? The PD was in gambling debt up to his eyeballs?

Turn the story upside down.

LIES

What lies do your protagonist(s) believe? It’s not just “God doesn’t love them” or “Fate is always against them.” But something deeper. They don’t believe they are worthy of good because they are evil, because they lied or hurt someone in their past. Because their parents told them they were no good.

I’ve seen way too many stories where the heroine or hero clung to some believe that seemed to have no basis. If she believes she’ll never find true love because her father died when she was young, WHAT incident or life situation instilled that belief? GO DEEP!!

GREATEST FEAR VS GREATEST DESIRE

Figure out your characters’ greatest fears and desires. Put them in opposition to each other. Then, put the character in opposition to the fears and desires of another character. Keep asking questions!

He fears he’ll never succeed in his career but his greatest desire is to own his own photography studio. She fears her appearance will never attract a good man, but wants to find true love. When He spots her on the street and wants to take her picture in his studio, tension ensues. She doesn’t want a camera in her face. He thinks she’s unique and exotic. He needs photos for a client that might launch his career. She’s his hope. She is about to date a man less than her standard so she can have security. (Which I’d ask, why is security important to her.)

See the set up for contrast?

RAISE THE STAKES

Keep turning the story upside down and raising the stakes. If he doesn’t take her picture for his portfolio, he’ll lose the client which means he’ll have to give up his studio lease and go back to working for Olan Mills. 😉

If Boy breaks off with his fiance, will Girl and Boss yield to his advances.

Have the characters TAKE the leap, arms wide, eyes closed, praying for a safety net — which you will create! But make it unique.

It can’t be she’ll yield and let him take her picture. Make it more complicated and unique. It can’t be Girl/Boss knocks on his door and says, “Sure, I’ll go out with you.” Make it more like… six months go by and she doesn’t have the dream. Did she lose her chance at true love? Meanwhile, Boy has moved on, in fact, he’s moving across country. Can she get to him in time? Even that is a bit cliche.

BLACK MOMENT

When and where does the protagonist lose all hope? That’s it, I’ll never open a studio. That’s it, I’ve lost my chance at true love? What’s at stake? What is the weight of all they lost? Love, career, respect, friends, family? At least three of the previous if not all! Layer it on thick.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

Create a unique satisfying ending.

Sell your synopsis, sell your book

Rachel Here:

Most writers dread crafting the synopsis. We feel constrained and pressured. How can we boil down a 70,000 or 100,000 word manuscript into 3, 5, even 10 pages?

We can! And we will. I’ve never dreaded writing a synopsis because it enabled me to hash out my story points, to see in a consise manner what my book was going to be.

Most writers dread this process because they don’t know what the book is about, they don’t really know the characters and their story arc very well, and most likely don’t want to take the time to find out. It’s more fun to write.

Or, an author might feel the story is so good with so many layers they can’t possibly leave any out, so a 20 pager ensues. Their agent comes back with, “Can you cut this down to five?” Ack!

For plotters, writing a synopsis is not so difficult. They’ve plotted out the story so well they can pick the key pieces to link together in a synopsis.

For pantsers, those who write by the seat of their pants, story discovery is all the fun. They don’t want to stop and figure out the details. Besides, why labor over a synopsis that’s going to tell about a story the author ends up NOT writing?

A synopsis is a guideline. Even pantsers needa  guideline. I know, I know, you don’t want one, but trust me, you’ll go farther and write faster if you have some loosely based idea of where the story is going and what obstacle your characters will overcome.

More than once Susie May was struggling with a story point only to return to her synopsis where she’d alread planned out what was supposed to happen. Sure enough, it was what she needed.

One of the biggest hindrences to writing a synopsis is fear. We’re so worried we’re not going to get it right. We’ll turn off the editor because we have too many or too little pages. Are we saying the right things? Oh, how do we do this? What is the editor or agent going to like? Hand wringing. Sweat. Worry. Blah. Blah.

Let’s just say right now, No to synopsis fear! In Jesus name, even.

I came to a new revelation recently about the power and beauty of a synopsis.

While going to church one Sunday morning, I was telling my husband about a synopsis I’d read from an up and coming writer who had a phenomenal story idea. One where you think, “Dang, why didn’t I think of this?” But as I read the proposal and synopsis, I never understood the struggle of the main character. What did he face? What would he overcome? What would he learn at the end? What was his story question and journey? What inciting incident would launch him on his journey?

I said to hubby, kind of off the cuff, “If I was an editor, I’d love this concept, but I’d reject it based on the synopsis.”

My words were a revelation to me! Previously, I was flummoxed over why or how an editor would reject a book based on they synopsis. But that morning, I gained understanding.

The synopsis didn’t draw me into the heart of the characters. I had a 20,000 foot overview of a great story, but nothing that told me what made the character tick. What he was afraid of, and what he’d do to avoid pain. Or what he’d do to overcome. So, even if I requested a full manuscript (in my fictional editor world) I’d be doubtful the author captured the heart of the character in the book. Why? IT WASN’T REVEALED IN THE SYNOPSIS.

A synopsis, I concluded, is about telling the editor what the story is about — “she ran, she won, she loved,” — but it’s also to demonstrate that YOU, the author, know what the story is about. You know the characters struggle. You know the story question, and the journey to the conclusion.

What I wanted from the synopsis was the heart of the character. What he was like, his home world, his career, his struggle. It was missing.

Do YOU know what your story is about and how the protagonist wins? Even pantsers need to know this much to get a good story going.

When writing a synopsis, think first and foremost, “I want to let the editor or agent know that I KNOW what this story is about and how the characters live and move and breathe.”

If you’re scratching your head, here’s an example:

Jane is a twenty-nine year old single mom who just wants to find love. She meets John at the mall while shopping for new clothes for her baby girl. When her credit card is denied, she loses it and starts to cry. Out of nowhere, John steps up and pays for the purchase.”

Okay… interesting. But it’s a summary, an overview. What will make an editor JUMP at this story?

Jane is a twenty-nine year old single mom who wants to find love. After her parents died when she was eighteen, Jane worked her way through college and into the corporate world. A bad decision on a date with a man she thought she might like to make a future with resulted in her daughter, Chloe. The date abandoned her, even though he knows he’s the father. Now, he’s made life on her job miserable. She lost her promotion and raise which she needed to catch up on her bills. When her mechanic calls with a $1500 car bill, Jane loses it. She can’t even buy clothes for her daughter. Maybe she should just give her up for adoption. What kind of mother is she.

John needs a present for his niece. But it’s been a long day. His “for the people” law firm is plenty busy but barely running in the black. And, one of his clients just went back to jail after John plea bargained him a deal. And, his best friend is getting married on Saturday to John’s ex fiance. A romantic at heart, he wants to find true love, but at thirty-three, his heart is becoming cynical.”

OKAY — The second example is longer, but wow, so much more detail. As an editor, I’m way more interested in this story. I feel like the author has really done her/his home work and thought the story through. I see conflict. Character flaws. Weakness with a huge window for triumph. I see Jane the self sufficient career girl butting heads with soft hearted, rescuer John. I like this story.

Are you seeing what a synopsis can do for you? Now, go write a GREAT synopsis. Chat on VOICES if you have quetions

Rachel

Finally – Chapter 3.1 with Susan’s Rebuttal to Rachel’s Changes

FINALLY – after a crazy week last week (I had a deadline) and also putting together a children’s musical, I finally had a chance to look over RH’s edits on this chapter!  Sorry it took so long – the next two weeks are pretty grueling for both RH and I as we finish up books, do some editing and teach some classes.  SO – bear with us, and I promise after we get past this, we’ll be rolling again with our chapters. 

For now, here’s my responses to RH’s great thots!

 

Chapter 3.1

Of course, Greg didn’t have the courage to pick up his cell phone – Kenzie’s call went immediately to voice mail. “Just what did you tell your cousin?” Kenzie said under her coiled breath,

RH: How does one coil their breath? SMW: I think it’s a matter of voice – I’m keeping this one.  J

all the while smiling at the large, dark-haired man who had finally acted with some chivalry, given her a blanket and made her a cup of tea.

RH: I’ve read this opening a few times and I can’t get the feel I’m in Kenzie’s POV. Thought” Can we open flop the opening sentence? “Kenzie’s call to Greg went directly to voice mail. Of course.”

Not that it tasted any better than the coffee offered by Mr. Lewd Suggestion – at least that’s what Luke’s I’m…not that type of guy comment felt like.

It had taken her a long, reeling moment to sink in what he’d meant, and well, she wasn’t THAT KIND OF GIRL either, thank you very much. (SMW – GOOD CATCH!)

What had Greg gotten her into? And, with whom? She pressed end on her phone and snuck a look at him. Luke Alexander. She remembered his name now – thanks to the memo on her phone. Park ranger. Local, Untamed Wildlife seemed a better description. Who, perchance, needed more monitoring that she did, because her so-called protector appeared a little on the unhinged side the way he paced in tiny circles, his ear pressed to his cell phone, glancing at her like she might be a wounded deer who wandered in under his watch. RH: Love this!

Not that he didn’t look capable of taking care of a wounded deer. Or elk. Or black bear. Easily over six foot, he had the lean, broad-shouldered appearance of many of her leading men – with the exception that his probably came from good, old fashioned hard work as opposed to the gym, and occasional body-enhancement surgery now popular in her neighborhood.

He wore his hair military short – brown as coffee, a solemn set to his clean shaven jaw as he now turned away from her, cutting his voice low, nearly growling in to his phone. RH: Sooz does this time of personal description so well!

She certainly wouldn’t want to be the person on the other end of the line.

“So, what brings you to Normandy, Miss Grace?”  Cooper or, “Coop,” as she had been instructed to call him, handed her the cup of tea.

RH: I am a stickler for this. I really want her answer after the question. “I’m here on vacation.” THEN, we can have internal thought or observation. The flow is much smoother.

SMW: I appreciate what RH says here, but often good dialogue is NOT answering the question right away.  Sometimes it is delayed. The key is making sure not too much happens between the dialogue and the words.  In this case, I want her to think about her answer – so I have her glancing at Luke, almost as if she is rethinking her answer. I am going to keep it for now.

Makenzie glanced again at Luke, a cosmically unfortunately piece of timing giving the fact he’d chosen then to hang up, turn and stare at her as if the might be a mess of road kill he had to clean up.

Nice. Her thumb hovered over Greg’s speed dial. “I’m here on…vacation.” She said, breaking away from his rather lethal, unfriendly gaze and stirring the tea with a spoon, then spooning out the bag, pressing it against the side of the cup.

“Vacation? In Normandy?” Cooper, who reminded her a little of a much younger Jim Belushi, pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her, as if ready to hear her life story. RH: Love that movement by Cooper. “No one ever comes to Normandy to va-cate.” He bit off the end of his word with a smile, and a chuckle. “At least not big movie stars.” RH: We’re getting a good feel for Normandy and its people here.

She held up her hand. “Actually, I’d like to keep my presence here on the down-low. That’s why I…picked Normandy.” She smiled at him, a conspiratorial look she dragged up from 006, and pressed a long, manicured finger to her lips.

“Oh,” he said, his mouth a round O. He mimicked her. “Gotcha.”

Luke strolled over to her, every step weighted with a sort of sigh. He leaned against the doorjamb, folding his arms over his chest. Considered her a long moment as she sipped her tea.

“Should I be apologizing for something? Because it seems to me that you were the one with the ugly assumptions,” she said.

He ran his hand OVER his cheek. She couldn’t read the emotion in his eyes – half frustration, maybe annoyance?

What did he have to frustrated about? It wasn’t like he would have to camp out on her doorstep. And he wasn’t the one who had to pick up his life and ran half-way across the country. He didn’t have his name and face splashed across every rag in the country Mackenzie Grace in hiding. She’d nearly wanted to clean out the entire rack when she stopped for a soda and gas at the local airport. RH: Good way to deliver some back story and some internal emotion.

Good thing she’d insisted on renting her own car, or she’d be trapped here – or whatever backwoods location he decided to dump her.

“No, I didn’t get Greg’s message until now.”

Oh. She replayed their unfortunate conversation and didn’t know HOW to unsnarl it. Worse, from his death-row expression, looking after her for a month appeared to be the dead-last thing Luke Alexander wanted to spend the next month doing.

And now she’d gone from BEING a victim, to BEING a hassle. Perfect.

      I’m sorry to put you in this position, Mr. Alexander—“

“Luke is fine.” RH: Sounds like he’s telling her someone is not sick. This line stood out to me each time I read it. How about. Call me Luke. Or something to indicate his name.

“Call me Luke.”

“Then, Luke. Maybe I should just call Greg and tell him –“

“No, He briefed me on the situation.” Luke’s gaze flitted to Cooper, back to her. “I’ll take you up to the cabin, make sure you’re snug as a bug, and keep an eye on you until Greg tracks down some fulltime security.”

“But I don’t want someone babysitting–“

The front door opened, and with it, a peel of thunder. Rain splashed into the room as a yellow-slickered form entered, shaking off a red umbrella. “Is Luke Alexander here?”

Luke leaned up from the door, a sigh escaping.

Kenzie watched as he sulked over to the woman – a petite brunette with eagerness written all over the way she introduced herself – Candy Sloan – and practically lunged for Luke’s proffered hand.

Luke offered her a cup of coffee, and then, glancing at the conference room, gestured toward his desk.

Mackenzie could have been dreaming it, but the guy had gone from tightly wound to about to snap.

Interesting.

“Who’s that,” she asked Coop, keeping her voice light.

“A reporter for the Harmony Voice. Luke saved his nephew from being pancaked by traffic last week – and he’s sort of a local hero, so they wanted to do a story on him. She’s new in town, so she’s doing a follow-up special interest piece. “ (SMW:  I agree with one of our Voices, that I don’t like her being a VFW reporter – so I just put her as a local reporter, new in town. She’ll dig up some dirt on Luke and cause him trouble.)

A local hero. He’s former military. Greg’s words pinged in her mind as she watched Luke sit down, fold his hands over his chest. He looked at the woman as if he wanted to devour her for lunch. RH: Hmm, devour her for lunch means he wants to eat her up which would be a good thing, IMHO. Like he’s into her. How about chew her up and spit her out – only in less clichéd words.

SMW: GOOD THINKING!  How about:

A local hero. He’s former military. Greg’s words pinged in her mind as she watched Luke sit down, fold his hands over his chest. He looked at the woman as if he wanted to turn her into a pile of ash.

A smile touched Mackenzie’s lips. So, apparently she and Luke had something in common – a hatred of the press. Or at least a vivid wariness.

“If he doesn’t want to be interviewed, why is he doing it?”

“His sister asked him to do it. She’s head of the chamber of commerce in town, and apparently tourism is down. Normandy has a big World War Two remembrance every year and she thinks a nod in a national paper will increase our website hits.” 

“A national paper?” 

“This reporter is from some national magazine doing a piece about everyday heroes – although Luke is anything but everyday day.” 

Oh, she could see that. 

 They’re trying to raise money for the upcoming Memorial Day celebration, and he’s agreed to He sorta feels it’s his duty to his country. Once a soldier, always a soldier.” RH: But he rescued a local kid. How does doing this interview help his country? More motive here. More definition? Can we link this into his past? Is the reporter looking to link this to his past military exploits?

A crabby soldier, by the looks of it.

{SMW: I thought long and hard about RH’s question – because that is what has been holding me up for 2 weeks!  Arrgh! I think, however I figured it out…see, without a goal, we can’t really move a character forward and I never had a satisfactory goal for our character…but thanks to this question, I was able to figure out our hero’s goal.  Phew.  NOW we can go forward. (some thots on his goals tomorrow). Yay!)

 

Candy – really, that was the byline she wanted to use? RH: LOL! – began to pepper Luke with questions – although, from the conference room, Kenzie couldn’t hear or see Luke’s nearly monotone, one-syllable answers.

“What did he do?”

“His nephew was making a quick get-away on a boosted wheelchair and drove into traffic. Luke tackled him just as it flew into traffic.”

“No, I meant in the military.”

Cooper sat down across from her, having found a package of Lorna dunes. He opened them and set them in front of her.

“He was a special forces solder, and he and his team went into rescue this DEA agent a few years ago. Only, he and another guy got taken. He was held hostage for about six weeks – everybody thought he’d died. And then, he escaped. With the DEA agent. He was a hero – except for the facT his buddy died trying to escape. Luke’s never really gotten over leaving him behind. “ cooper helped himself to a cookie. “It made the news – big time magazine article, exposing the drug lords of south America. Luke even appeared on GMA and the Today show.”

“Why did he leave the military?”

“He was injured, too, in the escape. Nearly lost his leg. Took years of physical therapy.”

Kenzie watched him now as Candy, leaned in, asked something that made his breath intake. He shook his head.

She raised an eyebrow, and then pulled out something from his files. Asked him another question.

Even from here, Kenzie could see his recoil. His eyes flashed, then, with some sort of pain.

        Kenzie found herself on her feet, edging toward the door. RH: Does she know why? I think she does. She’s siding with Luke against this reporter. Let’s give her a reason, a gut reflex, a knowing, something. (I will in a moment – I want her reaction first, and then the reason second – almost as if it is a reflex..)

“I’m not going to talk about that,” Luke said, almost a growl. RH: Who said this?

“Is it true that you’ve never talked to his widow about what really happened? Because in her book, Dark Secrets, she says that you left her husband to die– “

“Is this what this is really about?” Luke had now found his feet. RH: Were his feet lost? (Ha ha – you know what I meant.  I dont adhere to the fear of Floating Body Parts.  I think we can use expressions like “threw up his hands” or “found his feet.”  We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.)

“I’m not doing this–” RH: I think he’s on his feet accusing her of false representation or something. She said she wanted a story on the boy-rescue, but now she’s digging into his past. He should lay into her with this.  SMW: Good idea!

“I’m not doing this – I agreed to talk to you about my nephew’s rescue, not substantiate some wild accusations – “

“Is that what you’re calling leaving your friend behind to be tortured by drug runners?” 

“I told you to leave it alone!” Luke thundered. 

“What are you hiding? The public deserves to know the truth!” Candy stood and jabbed the recorder at Luke, clearly unable to see the torment that raked across Luke’s face.

But Kenzie saw it. A raw, bone-deep pain that rocked him back on his heels, and if she wasn’t mistaken, slicked sweat across his face. RH: LOVE that line. “This interview is over,” he said tightly. “Get out.”

Get out. How many times had she wanted to say that to some reporter? Or, better yet, say – how would you like to have your life exposed for the world to see? And seeing Luke turn away, stalk toward the back windows, nearly shaking, well, something akin to comradery turned inside her.

Why did the press think they could take a rumor and turn it into a headline? Why did they get to own a person’s privacy?

Candy shook her head to Luke’s less than polite request, and Kenzie had the sudden urge to shake her. RH: Where is Kenzie physically at this point? But the woman pocketed the recorder with a, “we’re far from done, Mr. Alexander.”

She turned on her heel and headed toward the door, nearly bowling Kenzie over as she breezed by.

Almost without realizing she was moving, Kenzie turned, hot on Candy’s tail. “Excuse me—“

Candy turned, her eyes landing on Mackenzie with some disgust. Kenzie had already put together the fact that perhaps she didn’t look quite herself – what with her hair plastered to her head, her makeup splotchy. Still, the redneck disdain stirred her ire, not to mention the rather snarky, “What?”

“You know, maybe you should just leave him alone. What gives you the right to pry into someone’s past? He clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. How would you like someone to dig around in your back-story, maybe drag up a few skeletons?”

“The public has a right to know what really happened.”

“That’s baloney. RH: “that’s baloney, in this context, sounds too school yard. Can we have a different response. Or just have Kenzie pressing on with her argument. You’re only interested in selling magazines – or—“ She leaned down close to Candy – “Or, are you intending on selling this article somewhere…else?” RH: I think Candy has a book deal or something.

Candy had a lousy poker face.  “You tell your friend that this thing isn’t going to go away. The truth will find him out.” She looked over Kenzie’s shoulder. “He’s not the hero everyone thinks he is.  Unless Hero is a euphemism for Traitor.” She banged out the door. RH: She should accuse him. He’s a … what? Murder? Traitor? Killer? Something.

Kenzie watched her go, splashing through the puddles as the rain slicked her coat to her body.

Everything in Kenzie tremored. RH: What everything? Be specific when possible. Her muscles? Her skin? (SMW: This is where we differ, again –I like to just say everything, or something.  Sometimes, when we’re in an emotional scene to narrow it down to one physical thing feels too scripted.  In this case I’m going to keep it.  But it’s a matter of voice.) She shook her head, turned, ready to launch into a loud dissertation about the evils of unchecked journalism when her gaze landed on Luke.

He sat, propped against the desk, his arms folded across his chest, and the look he wore she wouldn’t define as friendly. Then again, she wouldn’t exactly peg it as hostile either. More…Annoyed. Even, Confused.

“What?” she said. Excuse her, but she’d been watching his back. Which, after their rather rocky start, should earn her a few points.

He pushed up from the desk, walked toward her. “You’d make my new job a lot easier if you’d refrain from taking down the local reporters.” RH: Hmm, I think he’s mad because this Hollywood babe felt she had to defend him. He’s a Seal. He doesn’t need her bullying reporters for him. He doesn’t like her and he doesn’t want her in his battles.  (SMW: I think he’s a Green Beret, but yes, he’s a hero and doesn’t want her fighting his battles.  But also, he’s above that, too – he’s not going to react out of manly pride – that’s a bit too childish, I think, for Luke.  He has thicker skin than that. I think, privately, yes, it bothers him, but on the outside, he has just gotten off the phone with Greg who has told him to keep her safe, so I think he’s still processing this.)

“Your new job?”

“As your tour guide-slash-bodyguard?” He said without a smile. “According to Greg, you’re supposed to stay under the radar.” He raised an annoying eyebrow.

“I would have thought a thank you might be in order.  Besides, you let her walk over all over you.  You have to handle her .  Now she’s only going to reload, and launch another attack, only with more ammo.  RH: Give her a stronger response. Like: “You weren’t handling her, you were blowing her off. When it comes to the press, I know–” (See my changes)

“Oh, I have no doubt she’ll be back.” He picked up a baseball cap from a hook, then slid his coat Especially since she’s right. Let’s go.”

He left her standing there, the rain spattering her legs as he stomped out to the truck.

RH’s questions really made me think – and that is what Book Therapy is all about! Now, we can move on – yay! 

Like I mentioned at the top – RH is finishing up a book this week, and I’m working on edits for Double Trouble – the next PJ Sugar book. We’ll try and get  the next chapter up, but no promises until AFTER the Colorado Christian writer’s conference!  Then – we have plates clear and we’ll start rolling with our chapters again (and stay tuned, because YOU are going to get a chance to submit YOUR chapter for inclusion in the story in future weeks!!)

Thanks for your patience!

 

Status Seekers verses Storytellers

Rachel here:

Donald Maass has graced the writing world with a new fiction craft book. “The Fire in Fiction.” The opening chapter is worth the price of the book.

Maass  talks about the status seekers of publishing and the storytellers. While there is a little bit of storytelling in the status seekers and a bit of status seeking in storytellers, each author has a strong leaning.

Starting out, we all feel committed to the process. We will advance step-by-step, no matter what it takes, we’ll achieve excellence. We want to be the best.

But, we grow impatient. After one manuscript with a crit partner we shuffle the manuscript off to agents or editors. We see other writers in our “class” moving ahead, signing with an agent, getting a full manuscript request.

I remember at the first ACFW conference over hearing buzz about a writer who’d blown the socks off Tracie Peterson who took appointments for Bethany House that year.

My stomach knotted. While I wanted to rejoice with this writer, all the people I talked to lost neither their shoes nor their socks. In fact, a few yawned mid conversation. What was wrong with me and my stupid ideas?

I prayed and kept writing. I looked at what I did have going on in my own backyard. I was co-writing with someone who opened the door to Heartsong for me. Rumor at that same conference was Becky Germany was going to buy our book!

About then, 2002, agent buzz was growing. Do I sign with an agent? Should I talk with one? Submit manuscripts? There was one at the conference. Should I talk with him? My gut said no, so I waited. The Lord opened a fabulous door for me a year and a half later.

It’s hard to wait. We hear publishing news and we get the sensation the narrow door to publishers is closing fast and we’ll be like Indiana Jones making a mad dash for the narrow opening at the base of the stone door.

Publishing is not a mad dash. It’s a calculated, yellow brick road journey. We stay on the road with a goal in mind, meeting people along the way who can help us, and learning what we need to learn. Dorothy matured in her own heart along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.

Status seekers are too anxious for publication. They don’t hear advice, “wait.” They  jump from idea to idea, genre to genre. They can be impatient, demanding. Eventually, they may reach publication  but then become focused on the next deal, marketing and promotions, who’s doing what for them. They might jump agents and publishers because they think they aren’t moving ahead fast enough.

Story tellers look to tell a better, more powerful story. Maass writes, “they look to themselves to be more successful.” They don’t look for marketing and promotions to top their last book sales, they look internally and say, “Write a better book!”

My friend Debbie Macomber one said, “I’m a twenty-five year over night success.”

Debbie worked her craft. She stayed steady. She’s been with the same editor for twenty years. I should be so blessed in my career.

What are you? Status seeker? Over eager, over anxious, not listening to counsel? Or are you a storyteller?

All you need to be aggressive with yourself is you backside in the chair writing the best “next” book you can. Looking in, not looking out.

Pray hard!