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.

How the 4 Reasons People Read Help You Change The World

It was a rough weekend, wasn’t it?

Hard to process the ongoing tragedy, the idea of someone again so coldly, painfully hurting, killing so many innocent people.

It just takes the wind out of us, collectively, and privately.

I was watching the news last night, trying to process and pray for all the victims in the Texas church shooting tragedy when I got a text telling me a friend I’d known since high school had passed away. She was my age and left behind a son and a husband.

My heart is breaking, for our nation. For my friend’s family.

All I know is that this is not the end of the story.

I’m not going to debate theology on the question of where was God when life turned tragic. That’s a bigger conversation. Let’s talk about writing and story and why it matters when things like this happen.

People typically read novels for three reasons: Entertainment, Escape and Enlightenment. Historically, stories (books, movies, plays) rise when life gets hard. In the Soviet Union, reading and movie going was a huge pastime during the cold war era. Why? Because stories offer a glimpse at hope, meaning, even escape in the tragedy. In stories (well, most of them), although there is loss, there is also triumph.

Redemption.

Hope.

A glimpse at a happy ending.

I strive to put all those “E’s” into my stories. Still, the recent events have reminded me that there is another “E” that people need as they read: Enrichment. I love this word. (it’s so overworked, it’s lost its meaning) Synonyms include: preparation, regeneration, nurturing, elevation.

Enrichment is diving into the heart and soul of the reader and giving them something that matters. Truth. Hope.

I was in church yesterday, chatting with a woman who was frustrated with her book club because they often read books on the national best-seller lists, but that left her feeling empty, angry and discouraged. They even read 50 Shades of Gray, saying, this was part of being a “mature” reader.

Reminded me of junior high school when someone would say, “Don’t be a pansy. A little weed won’t hurt you.” Maybe not. But maybe yes. I have one body, one brain and little time. Why would I put something in my body designed to destroy it?

Being a mature reader doesn’t mean I have to put darkness in my head.

I can handle gritty. I can handle pain. I just want to be reminded of hope in the end.

I want to be elevated. Nurtured. Maybe even a little regenerated. Enriched.

Sure, this isn’t every reader. But in a world filled with hurt and darkness and tragedy, maybe we should try to do more than entertain (nothing wrong with that, by the way—I loved Thor!) and enlighten, and even help them escape. Let’s leave them with truth, hope and a reminder that there is a different ending to the story than the world wants to tell us.

Your story matters. The world needs it.

Keep writing.

 

Susie May

P.S. Are you the kind of person who wants to dig deep into your story, find the truths and metaphors and character journeys that will make your story matter to readers? That will entertain, enlighten, help them escape and enrich their lives. Then you might want to join us for our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat this February in Florida. (February 23-27, 2018) Learn, brainstorm, write, get feedback…create a story that matters.

An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences

by Connilyn Cossette,@ConniCossette 

Last week was the annual ACFW conference, which, for many writers, is one of the highlights of the year. Let me tell you, stepping out of my comfort zone to pursue a writing career was scary enough, but going to that first conference to mingle with hundreds of people I didn’t know was terrifying. If you are an introvert like me, then the prospect of small talk with strangers is a little like nails on the chalkboard, but if you have a plan you can face any writers conference with confidence.

The best way I’ve found to push past my natural bent to clam up during writers conferences is to brainstorm conversation starters in advance. Open-ended questions are best, so try to avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type questions if possible. Here are some great ones to get you started:

  • How long have you been writing?
  • Which genre do you write?
  • Which sessions are you attending?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish this week?
  • Tell me about your work in progress.
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • What got you started writing?
  • What great tips have you learned so far this week?
  • What’s your elevator pitch? (This has the benefit of helping people practice!)
  • Which agents/editors are you meeting with?
  • How are your appointments going so far?
  • Which critique group are you a part of?

The possibilities are endless! Write a few of them down if you are nervous and scan over them before you head to a meal or a class to keep them fresh in your mind. And don’t forget to bring your business cards wherever you go, exchanging cards is a great way to break the ice.

Also, keep in mind that the writing industry is full of introverts. We are, in general, a very introspective sort, which is a great strength for a writer. Start out by assuming that most of the people in the room are probably feeling a lot like you, a little out of sorts, a little insecure, and more interested in making strong connections than meaningless small-talk. At my first conference, I was at a table all by myself, feeling like a fish out of water, when two gals purposefully sat down on either side of me and engaged me in conversation. That breakfast was the beginning of two very precious friendships and writing partnerships for me. So make an effort to search out someone looks a little uncomfortable or is standing alone, you never know if that person is a future writing partner, a future best friend, or just someone who will help you practice your pitch or pray with you before an appointment.

So relax fellow introvert, plan ahead, keep yourself open to divine appointments, and keep in mind that all of us writers are just a wee bit different than the “normals,” anyhow.

Tweet: An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences by @connicossette via @Novel.Academy #writing https://ctt.ec/c09bu+

~*~

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA Best-Selling author of the Out from Egypt Series with Bethany House Publishing. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for both an INSPY Award and a Christian Retailing’s Best Award. There’s not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in a little town near Dallas, Texas with her husband of twenty years and two awesome kids, who fill her days with laughter, joy, and inspiration. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

What are you reading?

What are you reading?

I asked this question to approximately 40 aspiring writers this weekend as I sat across from them at a table during our private one-on-one sessions at the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference. A few of them would tell me of a story that they were reading, a bestseller perhaps or some obscure book from series they liked. And then I would ask them is this story in the genre you are writing?

Only a couple nodded. The rest sort of shrugged and said, “well, no, I actually don’t read in my genre.”

What?

They followed up with, “I really prefer this genre over the one that I’m writing.”

“Then why are you writing in that genre?” I asked. “Because if you don’t love it then why spend all that time writing in it?”

And, honestly, I was astounded at those that admitted they weren’t reading. They were simply writing.

Writing is GOOD, very good for a writer. But…how will you know what to write in the genre, if you’re not reading in that genre?

Becoming an author isn’t an instinct…it’s a craft. It’s something you need to be proactive about. But you can’t be trained by simply going to writer’s conferences, or reading books on writing. (Although, I do understand that I have a writing website, and teach people how to write on it! So I definitely want you to stop by and take a look!)

Of course learning the craft through classes is essential as you pursue your writing craft. But you need application as well. Which means you need to learn from those who are already exercising the craft. Reading a writing book is fantastic when you then take those lessons and apply them to a book by, say, John Grisham. Or Stephen King. Or Harlan Coben. Or Nora Roberts. Or any of the bestsellers that we find on the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon, CBA, and ECPA bestseller lists. You must look at those who are already good at their craft, already making sales, already connecting with their audiences, to understand how to apply those writing techniques.

Analyze, then turn to your own work.

The learning curve is steep for an aspiring writer. You must learn how to plot, how to create great characters, how to layer in metaphors, how to create scene tension, how to create storyworld, how to make sure the middle doesn’t sag, and do it all in a way that doesn’t stunt your voice. Don’t make it tougher on yourself by having to learn a genre that you’re not already familiar with. When we read, the elements of the genre we’re reading naturally sink into us. Those who write suspense instinctively know they need to set up a problem, illustrate that problem by having a danger or a dead body at the beginning of the book, create a trigger that ignites the suspense plot, add a deadline and utilize a number of other elements to create the suspense. But because they’ve invested in reading suspense, they already understand these elements. They just need to learn HOW to implement them (cue: writing classes!)

Same with romances. All romance writers know they need a “meet cute” at the beginning. They need a reason for the hero and heroine to spend time together. They know there needs to be at least a breakup even if they don’t know how to create it or why. And they know there needs to be a happy ending.

Reading in your genre is essential to understanding that genre.

Summer is busy. Family vacations, kids at home, visiting relatives. It can be hard to study the writing craft. Instead, I give you permission to turn to novels. Read a novel in your genre. Get it into your heart, if not your head. You might not have time to analyze it but if you’re reading it you’ve already learned something.

I have a strategy. During the week I read for work–I read research books, biographies, and novel about my topic. Right now I’m reading a novel in a first person voice, similar to one I’m working on.

On the weekends I read for pleasure. I find a book that’s going to delight my heart. On Monday I go back to reading in my genre—my work.

Here’s the secretwhen someone asks me what I’m doing when I’m sprawled on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon, listening to music, my feet up, the laundry undone and supper forgotten, reading a book, and eating bon-bons (really, what are bon-bons, anyway?) I can turn to them and say… I’m working! Can’t you tell?

So, pick up a book and read something brilliant this summer!

I have a couple great events coming up.

One of them is a career building event that will help you figure out how to launch your writing career. It’s a summit I’m involved with along with a number of other masterminds in the industry. It’s awesome and it’s only $99 during the early bird! You don’t want to miss it because it will ignite your publishing career.

The next thing you might want to take a look at is our Deep Woods Writing Camp! It’s an intense week of writing for authors at every level. (If you’re new, you might have some prerequisites for you to prepare, so check with me first (susan@mybooktherapy.com)) If you’re a little farther down the road, spend a week with me in the north woods of Minnesota, writing, getting feedback on your stories, and brainstorming with other authors. I can’t wait to come alongside you and help you write your brilliant story.

Your story matters! Go! Write something brilliant!

Susie May

www.learnhowtowriteanovel.com