Passion vs Publishing

 Susan May Warren’s got a lot to say about writing the
story of your heart versus writing something “to get the sale.” Grab a cup of java, sit back, and read some of her sage advice…
I receive a
lot of questions from aspiring writers and this one caught my eye.
Q: Have you
ever had a story that you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to
share, but it won’t let you just yet?

A: Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart that I haven’t had the
opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet. 

I’m a firm
believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect
ideas, impressions, do research and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right
timing.  But sometimes I’m not ready –
emotionally, or even professionally to write it.  Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet.  And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s
song on mediocre writing!  So, in the
meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.
This is what
happened with my “Josey” series.  The
story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart YEARS before
God opened the door to write it.  And
when he did, the timing was perfect.  (My
first book in that series, Everything’s
Coming Up  Josey
was a Christy
finalist).   The same thing happened with
Nothing but Trouble.  I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years
before I saw it come to publication.  And
I’m glad I waited – I was able to write a deeper story than the one I had
originally envisioned. 
I’ve always
loved historical fiction, but I had to wait until I had the time to do the
research, as well as the ability to pull them off.  I envisioned something more literary, so I
had to grow into those skills, reading widely and doing a thorough scrutiny of
my writing.  My first dive into the historical
genre was Sons of Thunder (which won
an ACFW Carol this year) , and I’ve continued my love of Historical with Heiress and Baroness (due out next month!) 
I think a lot
of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps
they’re also not ready to write that
story yet
.  I think it’s wise to ask
God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in
the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.
So, don’t give
up on your heart story. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else
in the meantime to that you’re ready to write the “story of your heart.”
God Bless you
on your writing journey!
Susan May

The Bomb in the Body

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. She is also the founder, a crafting and coaching community for writers.
A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:
Bomb in the Body: A lesson on Subplots
Okay, raise your hand out there
if you watch Grey’s Anatomy. It’s okay, no one can see you. And, not like I’m
raising MY hand or anything, but hypothetically, let’s just say that if you are
familiar with this particular medical (and I’m using that term a bit freely)
drama, then you know that it is really a big long soap opera. Grey’s Anatomy
is, essentially, the on again, off again, now on (they’re sort of married, so I
think it will stick) romance of Dr. Derrick McDreamy and Dr. Meredith Grey. Inside
all this romance are the daily (read: episodic) events of a hospital in
What makes Grey’s fun are the
running monologues of the lead heroine, the thematic nuances she puts into the
story, usually centered around the events of the episode, but also alluding to
her current state of relationship with Derrick. One could say that the episode
theme relates to the overall story arc of the series.
Episodes in a show like this act at subplots to the main
They are by subplot definition: Short, but concise stories that reveal
theme, and taken alone, would stand on their own merit.

Let’s take one of my favorites
(er, I mean, one that I’ve heard about…oh, forget it, I’m a Grey’s addict. I
admit it). ..the Bomb in the Body episode. (Also had Kyle Friday Night Lights
guy (formerly Early Edition) guest starring, and I just love him). The subplot
starts with the inciting incident: a fella comes in with a hole in his gut. A paramedic
is holding onto the bleeding inside his body. 
Conflict: If she takes her hand
out, then he’ll bleed to death, so they have to take them up to surgery. Further
conflict: Wife comes in and reveals that the man was playing with a bazooka and
there is an unexploded bomb in his body. More conflict: Paramedic freaks out,
pulls her hand from his body, wherein Dr. Grey takes her place.
Of course, Meredith is doomed,
and the rest of the show is her wishing that she could turn back time and
rethink where she is right now.
Meanwhile, in the BIG plot,
Derrick, the Dr. and she have had an affair, and she’s in love with him UNTIL
just a few weeks prior his WIFE (and poor Meredith didn’t even know she existed
until then) shows up. (again this is rather old, if you follow the plot, but
such a good example I had to use it.) Derrick wants a divorce…he thinks. But,
maybe not, so he decides to give his marriage another chance.
Meredith’s heart
is broken. She wishes she could turn back time and rethink her life.  See the parallel?
Of course, they get the bomb
out of the body, and sadly, as cute Kyle walks away with it, it blows up. He’s
vaporized. And Meredith is left with blood all over her, a casualty of another
person’s errors in judgment. Of course, the patient who wreaked all this havoc,
Again, see the parallel to the
main story arc?
A great subplot is about mirroring the theme of the main
. It can either enhance it – i.e.,
show what could happen if one choice is made, or put it in relief – show what
will happen if that choice isn’t
made. It can be a testing ground for “what if.”
I employ subplots frequently in
a large (90K+) novel because of the depth they bring to the main storyline. In
the Shadow of Your Smile (Tyndale)
out last month, the subplot between the son and daughter of two of the main
characters allows me to reach a wider audience and actually add a “romance”
into the story (as opposed to a “love story” thread that embodies the bulk of
the book).
Subplots can also launch your
next story. In Baroness (Summerside,
hitting bookstores any day), the subplot actually serves as the backstory for
the story I’m writing right now – Duchess.
The heroine in Baroness, Rosie Worth,
has a smaller storyline, but it’s profound enough that I could carry her over
into her own book.
The biggest subplot I’ve ever
written is the subplot within a subplot I put into Taming Rafe (Tyndale, a few years ago). In the novel, a love story
written by one of the characters reveals the feelings that character has for a
woman he’s never declared his love to, written via the romance of the
characters in HIS book, a book that the POV characters in Rafe all read. (Okay,
did that make sense? Basically, it’s a story within a story that tells declares
his love for her via the characters.) It is a fun subplot because the reader
essentially gets three romances in one story.
A lot of bang for their buck.
As you’re developing your
subplot, ask yourself – what lesson will the characters in my main plot learn? Is
there a smaller lesson, or a piece of that lesson I can illuminate through the
Remember, a subplot has to have
all the elements of a story: Inciting incident, conflict, black moment,
epiphany and a climatic ending.
Here’s a hint – a good subplot
should start after you’ve establish the main character, perhaps in chapter two
or three. And, you should tie up the threads of your subplot before you get
into the finale of your main plot. To keep the subplot flowing, I usually put
in one subplot pov per every 4-5 main POVS. That way I don’t overwhelm the main
If you want a deeper, wider
story, try inserting a subplot. You’ll be giving your reader more for their
money, and create characters you might even use for book 2!
Thank you Novel Rocket for
allowing me to stop by! Can I put in a shameless plug for our membership site?
If you are an aspiring author, check out MBT ( Or reader our blogs (AFTER you read Novel Rocket, of
course) at to
get your daily dose of writing craft.
Have a great writing day!
Susie May Warren

Coming of age in the turbulent Roaring Twenties, two daughters of fortune can have anything they possibly want—except freedom. 

Expected to marry well and take the reins of the family empire, Lilly and Rosie have their entire lives planned out for them. But Lilly longs to flee the confines of New York City for the untamed wilds of Montana. Her cousin Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. Following their dreams—to avant-garde France, to dazzling Broadway, to the skies of the fearless wing walkers—will demand all their courage. 

When forced to decide, will Lilly and Rosie truly be able to abandon lives of ease and luxury for the love and adventure that beckons? At what cost will each daughter of fortune find her true love and a happy ending? 

Therapize Your Writing

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author. Her book, Love Starts With Elle is a RITA finalist. Her next book, Sweet By and By, written with country music star Sara Evans will release this summer. Visit her web site and find her on Twitter.

How To Therapize Your Writing

One of the things we face as writers is improving our craft and learning to discern what works and what doesn’t.

This fall, Susan Warren and I are teaching a Continuing Education class for ACFW called “Become Your Own Book Therapist.”

I thought I’d talk about one way to therapize your own work here on Novel Journey. Is therapize a word? It is now.

After awhile, authors should grow to some level where we can evaluate our own work – like taking the training wheels off the bicycle.

Most of us get stuck. No matter how long we plan or how hard we think things through, we get stuck.

At least I do. Am I alone here? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Here are several things you can do if you find yourself in the middle of a story that seems to have no life or punch, and you’re struggling with where to go next.

1. Go back to the original goal of the story. If you can’t succinctly define it, maybe your goal is too broad. Take some time to fine tune the story goal, whittle it down to a specific sentence.

2. What is the lie your protagonist believes? Are you straying for his or her belief system? Stop to think how your scenes are going. Did she start off afraid of snakes, but is now a snake charmer. Okay, an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. In every story, our characters start off with some kind of belief system and in the middle of the truth, there’s a lie.

The goal of the story is to correct the lie. Make sure the lie is not too broad. I hear this a lot. “She’s mad at God.” Or, “He thinks if he lets her in, he’ll get hurt.”

Great starting points, but why is she mad at God. Why is he afraid of getting hurt.

3. Is he or she too heroic? Like, they can do no wrong and every thing is working out for them? All the conflicts are resolved in the same or sequel scene? Go back to the conflicts, or the scenes where you dropped a story bomb, and stretch it out. Hint at the bomb. Don’t resolve the conflict.

Readers love real, flawed characters who have a heart to overcome.

4. Is your dialog dying? Notice the first sound in dialog is “die.” Bad, flat dialog can kill a scene. Kill a character. Make sure all the good lines are said, not thought.

Here’s what I mean:
“Hey Dan.”
“Hi Fred.” Dan looked like he’d been hitting the gym.
“I heard you were in town.”
“Just moved back.” Fred hated being caught in the middle of a hostile take over, losing his job and moving back home with his mother. He’d never get a date now.

All of Fred’s thoughts give great information. If he says them, then Dan can react and you can move the story forward.

Try to limit “yes,” “no,” “okay” in dialog. Sure, they are necessary at times, but make sure you’re using them to increase tension or for subtexting.

5. Change the point of view. Is the scene feeling slow? Try writing it from another character’s point of view.

I hope these help. Over on MyBookTherapy we’re blogging-a-book and you can see how we’re putting some therapy ideas into place.

Blessings on your writing!