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.

​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!

Three powerful Show-Don’t Tell-themes to put in your life-changing novel this season

show and tell Christmas themes

Anyone catch the snowball fight in Buffalo yesterday?

While I watched the Vikes struggle it out against the Panthers, the Bills and Colts had an epic pigskin fight in the snow:

Hubs said, “We could use some of that snow. It doesn’t even look like Christmas around here.”

Of course, we have a smidgen of snow, but admittedly, we are used to drifts and snow castles this time of year.

(this is NOT this year…this is from years past…)

So sure, you might tell us it’s Christmas time, but we’d like a little SHOW, er SNOW please.

Show me, don’t tell me!

The fact is, although the heart can be told something, sometimes it needs to see it to believe it.

I finished writing a novel last week—the epic finale to my Montana Rescue series. I was a little worried about it because I didn’t have my typical “truth teller” in the story, a wise old guy who drops in nuggets of wisdom. I had to rely on the transformation of my characters to reveal the truths of the story. But it occurred to me as I wrote that sometimes that’s the best kind of storythe kind that makes the reader take a second look, that makes them dig deep into the truths and appropriate them through the experience of the characters.

Like, oh, say, the Greatest Story Ever Told…the Christmas Story.

The ultimate Show-Don’t Tell, I Love You, and I’ll Prove It message from God. Jesus is the action and the words, the show, as well as the tell from God.

Our pastor said something this Sunday that is ringing with me: “Truth from heaven should affect our daily life.” It made me think about my life. Do I SHOW the experiences of truth in my life? Or do I just talk about it? And how does it affect my writing life?

If you want a powerful story, here are three themes we can take from the Ultimate Story to weave into our own.

  1. JUSTICE. The world is not fair. It’s a horrible lesson we learn as children. And it gets worse as we get older—we see the injustice in the world and it calls to us to fix it. But it never seems like we can do enough. Thankfully, this will end. God will enact justice upon our evil world. (Revelation 19:11-16). This is not the end. But what does that have to do with story? As inspirational writers, we need to remind the world of hope—that justice will prevail. Give your reader a sense of justice in your story, that taste of things to come.
  2. SACRIFICE. Thankfully, GOD is also not fair. Because if he were, we’d surely be doomed. This is what Christmas is about—God saving us when we didn’t deserve it. But it came at great sacrifice. There can be no redemption, no salvation without death. Even in your stories—your character must “die” to himself, to his will, to his pride in order to be transformed. Make your character sacrifice something of himself to show this death.
  3. REDEMPTION. BUT THERE IS HOPE. And that is the point of a great story. Do not leave your readers, or your characters despairing. Because we do not live in a tragedy when we have Christ. (Romans 10:13 – for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”). We show hope through the redemption of our characters. They should be different at the end than they were in the beginning. Think differently, act differently. Have a different life. Show us living in their happy ending. (we often say, have them DO something at the end they couldn’t at the beginning!)

As writers who want to make an impact on our world, we need to remember: We are the testimony. We are the purveyors of light. We are the vessels that reveal truth. Our stories should overflow with hope.

This season, give your readers a taste of what awaits us. (Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.)

Your story matters. Write something brilliant!

Susie May

P.S. One of our epic morning chats during the Deep Thinker’s Retreat 2017 will be about how to put reader-engaging themes into your story! If you want to write stories that impact the world, we’d love to help you. (in February, in Florida!) Join us for the 2018 Deep Thinker’s Retreat Feb 23-27.

3 Keys to a Happy Ending

Do you see that rainbow and pot of gold 10 days away?  That is the end of NaNoWriMo, the grand finale of the project that might right now make you feel a little like this.

 

And standing in the way of you and your finale is a giant turkey.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get in his way. Besides, the Minnesota Vikings are playing the Detroit Lions, so that is a mandatory time out/no writing day).

So, let’s optimize this weekend, take a couple days off to hang out with our people…and consider our Grand Finale.

You know those movies where you finish a book and you think…did I like this?  How do I feel?  Often it’s because the author hasn’t give you the  3 Keys of a Happy Ending.

A great happy ending has three parts:

  1. Your hero/heroine is freed from the lie they believe, allowing them to become a New Person (and do that think at the end they couldn’t at the beginning)
  2. Your hero/heroine’s WOUND is healed. The wound is the emotional heartache from the Dark Moment Story. That think that he/she had always wanted but never gotten.
  3. Your hero/heroine receive a piece of the Greatest Dream. Something sweet and unexpected that is also pulled from the Dark Moment story.

 

The LIE is defeated by TRUTH.

This is the capstone of your ending. It’s what ignites the epiphany and change in your charcter. It’s WHY your hero is on his journey.  If you do nothing else, give your character TRUTH.

Now, let’s add all the Feels:

Heal the Wound:

Remember when we were building characters and we asked our character what their darkest moment in their past was? We pulled out of that the lie and the greatest fear and used those to create the inner journey and the black moment event.

But from this moment, you can also find The Wound. 

From the dark places of our past, those things that have hurt us, we’ve learned a lie…but we’ve also received a deep wound.  Something that just…hurts.  It could be rejection, or betrayal, or even grief.  Often, it has to do with a broken relationship.  We carry these wounds around with us, keeping us away from people who might pour salt into the wound, or reopen it.  Hence why people self-sabotage relationships, or veer away from anything substantial – their wounds simply won’t allow them to draw close for the fear of reopening.

Hello, it’s thanksgiving. Time to spend time with FAMILY.  We love them…but oh, they can hurt us, right?  Imagine your hero going to hang out with his family over thanksgiving. What are the wounds that might inadvertently be opened?

When you give your hero his HEA…heal one of those wounds by giving him what he wants.

And then…delight us with a piece of the Greatest Dream:

The Greatest Dream isn’t just about healing the wound or winning the day, or conquering their fear. It’s something deeper, something sometimes your character won’t even know or understand.

Start by asking: What is your characters’ happiest moment in their past?

We want to dig around in their past to find that one moment when everything worked, everything was right.  And, we want to extrapolate from that some element that we can then use in the ending.

Don’t let them off the hook by saying, “when I graduated from college,” or “when I got married,” – make them be specific.  You want to pinpoint an exact event, with details. An exact event allows you to take a good look at it, and frankly, if you want, recreate it.  Most of all, it allows you to find the nuances that pull out exactly why this was the happiest moment

 

So…while you’re eating turkey, or watching the Vikings crush the Lions, think:  How can I give my hero truth, heal his wounds and give him a piece of his greatest dream?

Then…okay, you can have dessert.

Have a fabulous thanksgiving!

 

P.S.  Another reward you can give yourself for finishing that epic novel is to bring it to the annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat and let us help you hone it into publication!  We specialize in individual help, getting to the root and power and magic of YOUR story. In short…we help you find the happy ending for your brilliant book.  Join us in FLORIDA in February—check it out here!