For the Love of Writing

Have you ever been around someone who loves Christmas? I can’t quite rival Santa, but I love this season. I love the scent of cider as we decorate the tree and the chaos of Christmas decorations. I love the music, lights, winter clothes, the Christmas parties, and my dad sharing a devotional on Christmas morning. I love time with extended family, laughing and making memories. I love reading the Christmas story and imagining it from the perspective of the people who experienced it. And I love being around people who love Christmas, because their joy is contagious.

It’s the same way with our writing. When we love the story, our readers love it, too. My third book, Surrendered, comes out December 26. It’s the end of a series, the end of an era, the end of a contract, and a beautiful beginning (I hope) to many more stories to come. Under the pressure of deadlines, pursuing a contract, and learning to market, I can forget the joy of this calling. So this month, I’m falling in love with writing again.

Write what you love

Write what you love.

This year, Christmas also comes with a book release. I can’t wait to share Surrendered with readers. I loved crafting the romance that made me swoon, conflict that made me cringe, and action that had me scratching my head to figure out how to rescue them.

Now it’s time to begin again.

I have a couple of different manuscripts going, but I’m also working on one just for me.  A fairy tale. Even if it never sees the light of day, it makes me remember what I loved about my favorite stories as a kid and what I still love about romance, magic, and characters as an adult. The new manuscripts, the ones editors have requested to see are experiencing new life, as well, as I read and remember all that I love about Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series, Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter Family series, and Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series. I look at what other people love about those stories, too. Then I add my own creativity, a new story idea, and something I love is born.

Write because you love it.

It’s taken finishing the Heart of a Warrior series to finally own the fact that I am a hopeless romantic who happens to write romance. But once I fully accepted that, I was able to embrace my new manuscripts in a greater way. I write because I love it, because I have a story to share, because I love bringing a character to life. I love tossing them into trouble and watching them come out shining like gold because they wrestled and emerged victorious. I love writing scenes with courage, heart, and emotion. I write because that’s how God made me. This month, I am writing for the love of the craft and not for the deadline.

Others will love it, too.

It’s important to hole up and remember to write because I love it, to write a heart story, but the beautiful benefit is that even when I close the door to my writing closet and let everything I love and am passionate about spill out on the page, I’m writing something that others will love, too. People connect with emotion, with stories that make them think and dream and imagine. They connect with vulnerability. When I write for me, I  am ultimately writing for them. Out of the overflow of what I have learned as a writer, as a person, as a woman made in the image of Creator God, my experiences, quirks, and imagination pour onto the page and the creativity of the reader is captured.

In this Christmas season, a time of joy and celebration and thanking the God who sent His Son to earth, I’m celebrating in a different way – with the gifts he’s given me. I truly believe when we write what we love because we love it, then others will love it, too.

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Writers are Readers

Writers are Readers Kariss LynchI’ve been a bookworm since I could hold a book. Between my dad and Dr. Suess, I was breezing through rhymes and learning to recognize words from the time I could talk. The love for reading never changed but the time available to read changed drastically, especially when I began to work full time and write books on the side. I know I’m not the only one juggling a hectic schedule (can I get an amen?). As writing time increased, reading time decreased until it trickled to almost nothing with the exception of the occasional holiday.

Big problem.

For a writer, reading is mandatory. It ranks right up there with learning proper grammar. My writing began to suffer without a constant intake. In May, I wrapped up writing Surrendered and hit pause on future projects. My tank read empty in glaring red letters. I needed fuel. I needed to rest and read.

So I picked a genre I didn’t write, chose authors that are highly recommended but whom I’d never read, and I drank in the pages. Since May, I have read over 90 fiction books, and as I read, new stories came to mind. I remembered why I love writing. I remembered the power of a story. And I learned a few things in the process.

1. Read To Learn 

As book after book came to an end, I began to read reviews and reader comments. I discovered what today’s reader loves in a hero, the longing in our hearts for something bigger and grander than ourselves, and the craving for romance to be earth-shattering and enduring. I specifically read YA and NA books. This audience is the rising generation of readers, and they are reading a lot. I want to know what they like and don’t like. Concentrating on this genre helped me spot patterns that I can now apply to my own writing.

2. Read To Recognize

Every author has a different style, different voice, different way of thinking and dreaming, a different way of spinning the story on the page. Once again, I began to spot patterns from the author. I loved to identify reoccurring themes in their writing and then visit their author page to see if anything in their bio bled into their stories. I paid attention when my heart or brain keyed into particular language or how a specific story unfolded and made a note to incorporate elements of that in my own writing. One of my professors in college said that the best writers steal. I stole a lot this summer, but in the end, it shapes my own style, creating something unique.

3. Read To Enjoy

There’s something beautiful about unplugging and simply sinking into a story, especially Surrendered Heart of a Warrior Kariss Lynchone that is well crafted. My to-do lists and schedule fled as I jumped on the page and experienced the action with each character. Every time I put down the book, I rose more refreshed to tackle the world and more excited to unlock the stories bubbling within me. Reading helps me unwind and escape, but it also helps me dream. It makes me better.

I’m wrapping up a steady season of reading and diving back into my edits for Surrendered, but I’m doing so with renewed energy. I’m excited to see what happens as I begin new projects. If you’re stuck on your manuscript and feel dry and drained with new ideas, get off your computer and grab a book. Dream a little. Rest a little. Learn a little. I promise it will be time well spent. Then jump back to your story and see what happens.

Happy reading!

Finding the Fatal Flaw

It is the core of every struggle. The root cause of many reactions. It is a constant enemy lurking below the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head.

It’s the fatal flaw. Everyone has one. Every character has one, too.

I would argue that fatal flaws never completely go away. They just manifest in different ways as we grow and change and conquer certain circumstances. But what does this really look like?

Kariss Lynch Heart of a WarriorTake Superman. I would say his emotional fatal flaw, or one of them, is a deep desire to belong. It shapes his decisions and actions to blend in at the Daily Planet, settle down with Lois Lane, but still seek the true identity of his parents. We all know his physical flaw is kryptonite. Or Lois Lane, depending on how you look at it.

Choosing and shaping a fatal flaw proved an interesting challenge as I finished out my Heart of a Warrior series. I noticed there are multiple factors I need to account for as I select flaws for my characters.

Timeline

All three of my books take place over the course of fifteen months, which made it a challenge to have a fatal flaw that never disappears but consistently morphs. Kaylan, my main character, struggles with fear. Since our fatal flaws never really go away, I had to figure out how to cause this kryptonite to reemerge as she grew. In Shaken, she fears letting people close to her because of the loss of people she loved in the Haiti earthquake. In Shadowed, she has to learn to love a man she could lose at any second, Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael. In Surrendered, she will learn to accept Nick’s career and the constant danger, and not only accept it but thrive in his absences. The root of every one of her struggles is fear of losing a loved one, but as she accepts growth, the flaw manifests differently. Still always fear.

Complementing Characters

If you are writing romance, what fatal flaw will most threaten the relationship and will cause the characters to have to fight together to overcome? In Shadowed, Nick struggles with anger and detachment. This creates a challenge when Kaylan needs reassurance in her fear and Nick needs her to get over it and let him deploy in peace. Both characters grow as they learn what it looks like to merge two lives into one.

Plot and Theme

Shadowed_AUG 1 (1)Each book in this series, had to capture the overall theme: Anyone can develop the heart of a warrior if they are willing to have courage and commitment in the face of insurmountable obstacles. My fatal flaw for each character needed to threaten accomplishing this goal. Kaylan’s fear has the potential to stunt the relationship. Nick’s anger prohibits him from being a strong leader in his home and confident and in control in war. My villain’s flaw causes her to sabotage others in an effort to obtain what she secretly desires most but also never wants to have.

The fatal flaws is one of simplest yet most complex aspects of your character. Which flaws will create complicated conflict? How does that flaw force your character to respond? How will your character grow through the flaw?

One of my favorite ways to identify character growth and a consistent flaw is to follow a specific television series. Over time, you will notice a core struggle emerge. This helps me understand how to develop a character over the course of a book and over the course of a series. I’m still learning, but this is becoming one of my favorite parts of creating characters.

How do you identify your character’s fatal flaw?

You’ve Been “Notebooked”

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Have you ever read or watched a scene that gave you chills? The guy says all the right things, the girl responds accordingly, and the scene ends in an epic kiss that you feel down to your toes because you know that these two are meant for each other.

Those are the kind of scenes I like to write. And I’m still learning. Several years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who told me I would write romance. Don’t get me wrong…I’m definitely a romantic, but I’m more of a closet romantic who only expresses it if the situation allows. As I write, I’m learning to tap into that closet romantic side of myself. To do so, it helps to understand why people love the romantic pop culture hits.

Let’s face it: You can’t talk pop culture romance without talking The Notebook.

People mock it. Chicks dig it. He’s hot, and she’s girl next door gorgeous. Guys groan when their girlfriends “Notebook” them. But there’s a reason that The Notebook and other movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ books do so well. If you can move past your bias, you’ll identify the attracting factor.

It’s all about love. Those are the moments in the movie/book most remembered and most quoted. Think about it. You remember what Noah said to Ally. You remember the passion and tears. You remember the words, the heartache, and the victory.

You root for this couple. So what can we take away that will help us write memorable romance?

1. The scene becomes another character and sets the mood.

Whether it’s the sweeping southern scenes that make you long for small towns, front porches, and handsome gentlemen, or the throes of war that make you cheer for the soldiers on the battlefield, Sparks (and others) knows how to give the scene a personality all its own. The scene definitely sets the stage of the romance, tugging at your sympathies.

2. The characters are three dimensional.

I love following Noah’s story in The Notebook. And no, it’s not just because he’s good looking. I love watching his growth. He starts out as a gutsy teenager who works to help his family and experiences summer love. Only he doesn’t let go when the summer comes to a close. He writes, growing in the midst of recording his heart to a girl who left. Then he heads off to war with his best friend, loses him, comes home, buys a home, loses his dad, and spends some time refurbishing a house. He is no longer the gutsy teenager out to charm the girl. He’s experienced heartache, loss, success, regret, and loneliness. But then Ally comes back. He’s the same romantic guy, but more mature, calm, confident in what he wants. By the end of the movie, he is an old man still set on charming his one and only love and fully confident in their love story. Who doesn’t like to watch love conquer all?

3. The dialogue is memorable and passionate.

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Once again, I love Noah’s dialogue. This country boy is deep. Why? He realizes the cost of love, the difficulty, the pain, the joy, and he’s willing and ready to weather it all. He believes it’s worth it. And he makes us believe it, too.

4. Good, bad, or indifferent – it doesn’t shy away from cultural issues or trends.

We live in a culture of sex, drugs, and whatever you want goes. Don’t shy away from the issues. Be in the world but not of it with your writing. Some writers define love by physical relationships. We have to address how Jesus defines life and love in the midst of our romance.

5. It relates to our desire to be known, loved, and belong to something greater than ourselves.

Why is this a big deal? Because God created us for relationships, set eternity in our hearts, and said it isn’t good for us to be alone. Tap into your emotions. Let them flow on the page with every word. And in the midst of the character romance, point people to the romance they can have with Jesus.

What tools help you when writing romance?