Rainy Days and Mondays

It is 56 degrees in Minneapolis today. And raining.

Here’s a glimpse of my gloomy backyard.

But…all is well because I’m leaving in two days for sunny Destin, Florida, for our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat. This year, again, we have a full house, and about half of our retreaters are repeaters (say that fast five times!) Why? Because although we change up the retreat classes every year, we always offer the same essential content: Encouragement. Brainstorming. Fellowship. And, most of all, a clear path to plotting your novel.

We watch and dissect movies. We read passages from books and discuss why they work (or don’t) and we brainstorm everyone’s story from the inside-out, putting their plots on giant pieces of paper (like these).

Our goal is to give people tools to help them build brilliant books.

Our biggest tool is The Story Equation. It’s a cool technique that I developed, with the help of my writing partner, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hauck to help get the story on the page.

Randy Ingermanson, author of the Snowflake Method and Fiction for Dummies called it pure genius. And my writing heroine, Francine Rivers said she wished she’d learned this method years ago.

Yes, I’m flattered, but mostly I’m just super happy that it works. That it takes the complicated process of storycrafting and drills it down to the bones, makes the process logical and organic.

And did I mention, fun?

Frankly, although storycrafting is hard work, my favorite part about the Deep Thinker’s Retreat is the fun we have together as we bring a story to life, watch it emerge from the dark corners of our brains and onto the page.

I remember, years ago, when I was starting this writing gig, I said to myself, “Suz, if you want to make a career out of this, you need to figure out a way to write a brilliant book, every time, on deadline. A system, a plan, a technique, a process.” Now 54 books later, I use the SEQ for every single book. Meet every single deadline. And write stories that readers enjoy.

What is your process? Your method? How do you get the story on the page, meet your deadline and build a career even when life feels gloomy? Whether you use something like the SEQ, or a combination of many great techniques (e.g Randy’s Snowflake Method, which is a super way to get started!) (or James Scott Bell’s LOCK method) you need to develop something to help you write consistently excellent books.

(And it helps to get away with friends who understand this method brainstorm, too!)

So, my encouragement for you today is figure out YOUR method. Your process. Develop it, hone it, master it. Make it work for you even when the muse is tucked under a blanket, refusing to emerge.

Your story matters. Go, write something brilliant!

Susie May

P.S. If you’d like to check out the SEQ method, you can pick up the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWXKLZV/

And, by the way we have a mini-course that teaches the SEQwith 2 free lessons to get you started! http://novel.academy/p/theseq

Promises to Keep by Angie Arndt

“I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.” Psalm 119:58 ESV

In France, there’s a Parisian bridge called the Pont des Arts overlooking the Seine River. Built during the reign of Napoleon, it was designed to show off the beauty of their lovely river and promote the arts. After it was damaged during the wars, they rebuilt it and people started using it again. Problem solved.

Not quite. A young couple, fiercely in love, placed a padlock with their initials on the fence, and then threw the key into the Seine. In time, the entire bridge was covered in “love locks” – promises of eternal devotion. The lovely Pont des Arts Bridge became walled-in with ugly padlocks. A tourist trap, pickpockets and thieves stalked the crowds. Greedy shopkeepers sold cheap locks at exorbitant prices. Locals stayed away.

The city officials scrambled for an answer. They urged couples to take selfies instead, but their campaign was ignored. As sections of the fence crumbled under the immense weight, they decided to remove the fencing from the bridge. Romantics wailed, but good sense prevailed as chain link was replaced with Plexiglas. The view was restored.

You just can’t padlock love. Promises can be broken. I wonder how many couples were separated by the time their locks were removed. See, I was raised in a “no excuses childhood.” If you promised to do something, you did it. Period. Promises were kept. Chores and homework were completed before anything else. If you stayed home, you had a fever and stayed in bed.

Then life happened. You know what I mean: chronic illness, sick children, rocky relationships, elderly parents, etc. I learned to consider carefully before I made any promises.

How can we keep our promises to ourselves when we have [insert your own obstacle here]? Just as the officials in Paris looked for answers to solve the problem of the Pont des Arts Bridge, we can

  • Ask for help if needed,
  • Look for other ways to get things done,
  • Accept help from those who offer, and
  • Search for God’s guidance in making your promises.

God calls us to do amazing things. He never breaks his promises. And you’ll never need a padlock to know how much He loves you!

~*~

angie-arndt-LR-3Angela Arndt writes women’s fiction with a thread of romance. She loves to tell stories of strong, independent women in difficult situations, set in small Southern towns. Her biggest hope is that she will encourage others to overcome their “back roads” and find their own joy in the Lord. She and her husband, Charles, live on a bee farm in the middle of a big wood with their three furbabies: Beau, Harley, and Buddy the Wonder Dog (because she wonders where he came from). Read more thoughts from Angie at her blog, Joy on the Back Roads. Connect with Angela at her website, on Twitter, and Facebook.