Are you an Olympic writer?

The winter Olympic events terrify me.

Seriously. The Luge—a person hurtling down an icy trek at 100 mph on a tiny shovel-sized sled. (and have you heard of the Skeleton? Yeah, that’s the same thing, only head first. What—?) The Freestyle Skiing—aka bomb a double-diamond mogul run, (and don’t forget the two death-defying jumps in the middle). The Snowboard Cross—a free-for all down the slope that’s not unlike motocross. (and let’s not forget roller derby on skates—the Short Track event!) There’s the Giant Slalom—tuck and fly down a mountainside. Maybe touch the snow once in a while.

Even the Figure Skating pairs has me white knuckled as those tiny women fly in the air, hoping to be caught (please!) by their partners.

(By the way, that’s Alexa & Chris Knierim, pairs figure skaters who are married and happen to also be Christians. Click on their pic for their faith story.)

I love the terror. I’m an Olympic junkie. Mostly because I’m so awed by the courage and commitment of these athletes. (and I’m a Minnesotan, so winter sports speaks to my heart!)

What drives this courage, this commitment through pain and fear and struggle?

I loved the opening ceremony, but even more, the opening sequence that started with this line: When you are searching for the story of these athletes, always start with the dream.

Oh, how that truth translates into anything we do, right? Especially writing. Because without dreams, we have no fuel through the crashes, the dark nights. Nothing to pick us back up.

But I want to suggest that for you—there’s something even deeper. A calling. A calling to write a story that touches hearts, changes lives. A dream is often about a person. A calling is about the soul. About listening to that voice that refuses to stay silent.

A dream is a picture, a hope, a longing.

A calling is a purpose, a fire deep inside.

A calling is the thing that tells you to get out of the boat. (and here’s where the preaching starts, so you’ve been warned.)

This morning, I read: (Matthew 14)

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
“Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

That’s a dream and a calling put together. That’s Peter, seeing the miraculous, wanting it, then following Jesus’ call to do the miraculous with him. Peter, in faith, climbing out of the boat, doing the miraculous (until he realizes what’s happening!) It’s Peter, sinking, then taking his gaze off himself and putting it back on Jesus.

I think authors who build careers start with a dream, but they follow a calling. Whether it’s inspirational or not, it’s deep inside of them. A desire to tell stories that change lives. (by the way, I think athletes and musicians and even accountants can do the same thing.)

It’s the middle of February. It’s cold out. The wind is howling. But Jesus is calling. Get out of the boat. (and don’t forget to keep your eyes on Him.)

Oh, and by the way—want to really put power into your story? Give your character a Dream (something he’s always wanted) and then a CALLING to do something he can’t resist (which translates into a Noble Quest!) [And once you have that in place, you can easily put up obstacles and create tension. But that’s a different blog. Sorry—I get carried away when I start talking story structure!]

What is your calling? It’s not just to write a story—that’s just the HOW of your calling. Dig deeper.

Then go back your computer and keep writing something brilliant.

Your story matters!

Susie May

P.S. Are you working on a story that contains romance? Whether it be a thread, or a full out story—you need to know HOW to build it. Did you know that a great romance is layered on top of regular story structure? Or that knowing the 2 basic romantic structures can streamline your entire plot? Learn this and soooooo much more in our 6 hour seminar, Learn how to write a Brilliant Romance.ON SALE UNTIL VALENTINES DAY for $100 OFF! (and yes, we have a payment plan!) Get the BRILLIANT ROMANCE SEMINAR here.

​What happens when you don’t give up

I couldn’t believe it. Someone had sneaked into my office and in the middle of my manuscript had written:

You are making a mistake.

You are a missionary. You should be spending your time evangelizing, not writing fiction.

You are wasting God’s time.

Yep.

And frankly, right then…I thought they were right. See, hubs and I and our four children were living in Siberia, working as church-planting missionaries. Sharing the gospel, assisting short term mission teams and helping local bodies of believers build church buildings. I was homeschooling our four children and teaching ESL to Russians using the Bible.

And, I was trying to get published. I’m not sure why—I loved my “job” as a wife, mother and missionary. But God had ignited inside me a desire to tell stories of faith, romance and adventure, and I couldn’t seem to douse it.

Still, I was getting nowhere. I’d written four novels. All got rejected. I’d recently sent in a novella to a contest, but with the mail service in Siberia, it probably got thrown in some circular file.

He was probably right. Rude, but right.

There comes a time in our writing life when it feels like we’re getting nowhere. We’ve written manuscripts that our friends love…and publishers reject. Or maybe we’ve indie published and we’re getting no traction with readers. We’ve written and rewritten and right now…well, maybe we need to admit we’ve made a mistake.

OR.

We could press on, believing that our moment, our dreams, will come to fruition.

Because if we do…we might just get here:

Image result for nick foles super bowl trophy

In case you’re not a football fanatic, (like me), that’s Nick Foles. The BACK UP Quarterback for the Philadelphia EAGLES. The guy who just led his team to a Super Bowl Victory. The MVP of the team.

Last year, Nick Foles almost retired from football. Because, see, although he played football at the same Austin, TX high school as Drew Brees, although he was a Pac-12 stand out QB for Arizona, (coming off the bench to score his starting spot) he wasn’t recognized as a NFL superstar. Although he had good ratings when he got in the game, football seemed to conspire against him. Injury, second-team starts, trades to the Rams, then the Chiefs, and finally as a backup QB again for the Eagles. He got his chance when starting QB Carson Wentz went down, injured in week 14.

Let me just add that, on average, Foles won games. He completed passes. He was very good at his job. (in other words, he told a great story!)

He just never got his chance to shine.

When the Chiefs released him as a free agent 2 seasons ago, (that’s football talk for a publisher’s rejection), he thought seriously about giving up.

Reflecting on his career crossroads on the biggest night of his career, Foles, 29, said: “I think as people, we deal with struggles. And that was a moment in my life where I thought about it, and I prayed about it. I’m grateful that I made the decision to come back.” (Evening Standard,02/05/18)

Yeah, I’ll bet.

I have always said that getting published isn’t magic—it’s hard work. It’s not giving up. It’s seeing the big picture that your journey is worth the fight.

Nick Foles, by the way, is a Christian. As is Carson Wentz, as is Zach Ertz, (who made the winning touchdown), as is the coach of the Eagles (as are others on the team). And they all thanked God for the win yesterday. Does God care who won the Super Bowl? I don’t think so. Does He care who gets the glory? You bet. I don’t think it’s a leap to suggest that Foles trusted in God’s plan for his success, and that God used his trust to do something amazing.

Do you believe that you’ve been called to do this? If so, then don’t listen to the rejection, the discouragers, the people who think: You could be doing something better with your time.

There’s no time better spent than the one following God’s call on your life.

Keep honing your skills. Keep playing. Be ready to be put in the game.

Congratulations, Nick Foles and the rest of the Eagles. Well done. Keep saying YES to God.

Your story matters! Go, write something brilliant!

 

Susie May

P.S. If you’re working on a story that contains romance—whether it be a thread, or a full out story—you need to know HOW to build it. Did you know that a great romance is layered on top of regular story structure? Or that knowing the 2 basic romantic structures can streamline your entire plot? Learn this and soooooo much more in our 6 hour seminar, Learn how to write a Brilliant Romance. ON SALE UNTIL VALENTINES DAY for $100 OFF! (and yes, we have a payment plan!) Get the BRILLIANT ROMANCE SEMINAR here.(Click on the Link. Or use the coupon code: LOVE18 at checkout!)

 

(And, if you want to read more about the Eagles and their faith: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900009342/nfl-players-using-super-bowl-spotlight-as-a-platform-to-share-their-christian-faith.html)

​Four ways to recover from a devastating loss (or rejection from a publisher!)

Last week I was going to write an inspiring email about how you just have to keep trying. That you don’t know when one of your stories is going to hit with a publisher. Something about how it takes the right person, the right story, the right voice, and the right moment to get the novel published, and how you just have to keep throwing the ball, hoping for a completion until you get it right.

Yes, I was going to use the Minneapolis Miracle as a metaphor.

Image result for minneapolis miracle

Today, well…today is a different story. A different metaphor. But maybe one that is just as important because big losses come more frequently than miraculous touchdowns and we’d better figure out how to handle rejection as writers if we want to be successful.

Image result for sad minnesota viking

EVERY author gets rejected. EVERY idea can use improvement. EVERY novel has revisions.

The key is to know what to do after the rejection/painful editorial letter/bad review. Here are four thoughts to upping your game if you want to push yourself off the icy turf and keep playing.

  1. Go back to the fundamentals. The most common rejection from a publisher is because YOUR STORY ISN’T DEVELOPED ENOUGH. You’ve written a very good rough draft, with a solid plot and interesting characters but there aren’t enough layers, metaphors, character nuances and change and you just don’t nail the ending. This is a great rejection because it means you just need to go deeper. Start with your character and figure out what he wants, and why—and when I say WHY, I mean go back to that Dark Moment Story in the past and examine who your character is at his core. Then look at your character’s journey. Can he do something at the end that he can’t at the beginning? What is the theme of your story? Are there any metaphors embedded in your story? Going back to the core and putting the story back together helps you see the holes you might have missed. (BTW, if you need help on how to do that, check out The Story Equation)
  2. Show, don’t tell. Another reason your story might not catch is because your voice isn’t grabbing the reader. Voice is personality on the page, but it also involves the way you wordsmith, the way you describe the world, add in dialogue and most importantly, show versus tell your story. Do you “tell the story between the quotes,” meaning more dialogue, less narrative? (here’s a rule of thumb—if you can say it, do! Nothing moves the story faster, or causes more tension than dialogue!) Do you show the emotions through action, storyworld and metaphor? Don’t tell us that someone is smart, strong and brave. Show us.
  3. Add in an original twist. Have you ever heard from a publishing house, “oh, we just published a story like that?” You need something in your author’s hat of tricks that make your story unique. I have traveled extensively, as well as have lived some exciting adventures, and I often use those experiences in my novels. And since I write epic romantic adventure, it works. What unique element do you bring to your stories?
  4. Write a fresh novel, not book two! It’s common for authors to finish a novel and think—I can write an excellent follow up story. So they spend the next year creating book #2. Sadly, they’ve just (potentially) wasted their time. No one will read book #2 if book #1 hasn’t been published. Find a fresh new idea and go to work on THAT story. Your first story might still be contracted, someday, but don’t continue down the path of the same defeated story line. *Note: If your publisher suggests that you REWORK your current novel, then do THAT. But if you’ve exhausted the opportunities for that story…move on!

And, just for the record, if you need to take a day off and binge watch The Crown, or Travelers, or even Stranger Things, that’s okay too.

Just don’t stay down. Because that icy grass can turn your writing joints stiff and achy. Get back up.

You’re still in this game.

SKOL forever! Oops, I mean Your Story Matters.

Go write something brilliant!

 

Susie May

P.S. If you feel like you’re stuck on a story that’s been rejected, or your writing has stalled, or even, you don’t know how to develop a new game plan, then our annual Deep Thinker’s retreat will get you up and going again! We have 3 spaces left—and it’s one glorious month away, in WARM and SUNNY Destin, Florida. Check out the details and join us here!

​Five ways to get the elephant moving (or overcome writer’s block!)

This morning, I dragged an elephant around my neighborhood for roughly 2.3 miles.

Aka, I went on my morning walk. But it felt that way because I’d taken three (yes!) weeks off during the cold snap of the century (read: year). And it was Christmas.

I left the house brimming with vim. Five minutes later, as I tackled the first hill, I slowed to a crawl, my legs burning, huffing breath hard into my lungs. Not so pretty. But I kept going, despite the elephant I felt like I was dragging and finished my walk.

Tomorrow, it will be easier.

Then I sat down to write. Alas, the elephant was back! Because I’d also taken a hiatus from writing, and my writing muscles had atrophied too. Each word seemed laborious, as if an elephant had sat on my brain.

Maybe you’re there too. Sitting at the computer, trying to get back into the discipline and flow of writing only to feel like an elephant has sat on your brain. Wrenching words, and often bad ones, from your frozen creativity.

Keep going. See I know your writing muscles are stiff, but tomorrow will be easier. And eventually, the elephant will get up and start moving.

One day, it’ll nearly run you over with the energy to be set free.

But until then, here are five tips to get the elephant off its duff and at least ambling.

  1. Read for inspiration. When I’m stuck, I turn to stories that get my storytelling and wordsmithing juices simmering. It might be a favorite author, or someone new, but someone whose voice is intriguing, beautiful and inspires you. Just one chapter every morning…(but don’t forget to put the book DOWN and write your own book!)
  2. Give your characters a problem! Ask your POV: what is the worst thing that could happen to you, next? Often, we’re stuck because we’re bored. We’ve solved all the problems, and our characters are busy napping. Wake them up! Give them a new problem—make their worst fear happen. Or at least a piece of those fears. If you’re characters are sleeping, the you and your reader will too. Sleeping is bad.
  3. Give your characters an urgent need! Besides asking what they fear, ask them how they feel about what happened in the previous scene, and what they want right now. Their immediate need/desire. This sets up your goal. Then, grab their greatest fear from above and create an obstacle to that goal that produces that fear. Whalla—you have the basic ingredients for scene tension!
  4. Talk out your scene. I like to call my writing partner, but I’ve been known to talk to my dog, a nearby child, even bribe my husband with a cup of coffee (or dinner…) Just discussing the events of the scene helps spark ideas of dialogue and action.
  5. Use SHARP – or our Scene Starter trick to get the first line. Gather up your ingredients: What’s at Stake in the scene, your Hero/Heroine’s emotional state, the storyworld (or Anchoring) and finally, the problem they need to solve (and the problem they will end the scene with!) Once you figure these elements out, ask: What is my POV thinking right now? Could you use that thought, or some variation of it as the first line of the scene?

Now, you’re in POV, armed with inspiration and with a loose blueprint of what needs to happen, and you’re ready to write.

Let the words be bad. And if you’re slow, just keep wrestling them out. You’ll eventually pick up speed.

And tomorrow, like I said, it’ll be easier.

Have a great writing week! Your story matters—write something brilliant!

Susie May

 

P.S. If you missed the Brilliant Year peptalk on how to create and plan a year that sets you free to write with joy,then you can watch the replay, for a limited time, here. And if you are looking for the planner we talked about, it’s on Amazon.

(And for those who want just the PDF)

 

P.P.S. Struggling to get the story on the page? Need help shaping it? Want to polish your wordsmithing? Need career help? We’ll be talking about all these things, and more, at our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat, Feb 23-27, in Destin, Florida. 5 spots left! Check it out here!