Girls Write Out
Monday, June 04, 2012
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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.

Tidewater Inn 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!
Colleen Coble  
posted at 8:43 PM  
  Comments (4)
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At 10:17 PM, Blogger Tonya said...

This is really great :) I never thought about it and I can't wait to start thinking about it more? especially since I'm in the planning/brainstorming phase. This could totally help.
The first this that comes to mind is when I first started writing I said I always wanted to write about strong female friendship. Now I know to be more aware of it than I was before. Thanks!

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Fascinating, Colleen. I think of my most recent novels and I'd say mine revolve around my characters facing past failure, forgiving others for their failures, and exercising what they've learned by doing it right the second time around. Likely very cliche, but I haven't thought about it that often.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Mary F. Allen said...

overcoming failures, power of God, Christians in conflict with self or Satan

I think more about encouraging struggling Christians to
find empowerment of the Holy Spirit than I do about conversion. Our enemy would love to keep believers as ineffectual babies, confused and condemned by their mistakes rather than transformed and walking in power.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

glad you're thinking about it, Tonya! :)

I don't write conversion stories either, Mary. I'm not sure many of us do. Cheryl, I'd say those elements are in your stories for sure!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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