I've written over 40 stories now, and it surprises me to realize that until the last year, I didn't necessarily know just how to figure out what matters
in the story. I usually had an interesting idea that I wanted to explore. I knew I wanted conflict and action as well as mystery and romance. But about a year and a half ago, I was brainstorming with the fiction team in the big conference room before I spoke at sales conference
Eric Mullett (marketing manager in this picture who is sharing my passion for coffee with me) pulled out a big white board and said, "Okay, what are the top three elements of a Colleen Coble novel?"
My team started throwing out words and a little while later we had the clearest, most empowering statement of my brand that I'd ever seen. Writing has gotten easier since I understood, REALLY understood, what it is I'm writing. And in that same meeting, my editor, Ami McConnell, challenged me to juxtaposition vice and virtue. Those two elements have transformed my writing ever since.
is the first of the books written with these things so clearly in mind. Libby is learning about the virtue of generosity even as the villain is slowly but surely being transformed by the power of greed. Writing that book changed me as well. It made me dig deeper into story than ever before. It made me think about virtue in my own life and how easily sin can lead us astray one little step at a time. And it made STORY more fun for me than it ever has been.
And I got a great endorsement from Karen White: Tidewater Inn is a story as hot and sultry as its Outer Banks setting. Old architecture, a missing woman, a sudden inheritance, and a great mystery with unexpected twists make this a hard-to-put-down book. The characters' faith and their relationships aren't eclipsed by the riveting plot, but instead complement each other to make this a fun and compelling read.
So as we discuss writing topics this week, I want you to take a look at yourself and what you write. Toss out lots of words and phrases about what you do, then drill down to the three that matter most. Think about your story. What really matters in that book? Who is being transformed--and by what? Can you illustrate the theme of your book in even better ways by contrasting it with something else? Can you turn your plot on its head by looking at it from a different direction?
And after you've thought about it a bit, I'd love it if you'd share your brand and what you've discovered about story. I'll go first. Here are the three words that characterize a Colleen Coble novel: redeeming the past, overcomer, and hope.
And as I wrote Tidewater Inn
I discovered the power of generosity. We all know perfectly well that we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out, yet how many of us live
that way? How many of us are easily seduced by things that don't really matter? That new TV, that new Apple computer (pointing the finger back at me here) or other earthly things. I'm not saying buying things for ourselves is wrong, but our first thought should always be HOW CAN I HELP OTHERS with this little bit I have? I loved learning that lesson so deeply through the writing of Tidewater Inn.
I'll be eager to see what you think and if you see a difference in this new book!