GOD-STORMING: A Christian Author’s Take on Brainstorming.
☘️ Happy St. Pat’s Day, everyone, and the top of the morning to ya! It’s an honor and a privilege to be back here on Seekerville on one of my favorite days of the year.
And okay … maybe you don’t have to kiss me because I’m Irish, but a giant hug might be in order because—whoo-hoo!—my seventh O’Connor Family novel, A Wing and a Prayer releases next month, April 1! So … I thought St. Patrick’s Day would be an appropriate time to talk about this Irish family saga and how God took it—and me—by storm. Or, more appropriately, by “God-Storming.”
What is “God-storming,” you ask? Well, for some people it may be a last resort, but for this author, it’s the number one way I brainstorm when I run into a wall on my plots. Ahem … just like I did on A Wing and a Prayer. You see, every single one of my O’Connor novels has a twist at the end that hopefully drops a jaw or two. Everyone, that is, except A Wing and a Prayer, and I gotta tell you, it bothered me something fierce.
So, I decided to do a little “God-storming,” which is a mix between brainstorming and praying, accent mark on praying. I’ve done it on all of my O’Connor books, and in every single case, an amazing answer to my dilemma was dropped in my lap like a bolt from the blue.
For example, take my very first novel, A Passion Most Pure. Yes, I was a newbie, no doubt about it—SO green that when my agent labeled my book a “historical,” I actually argued with her, saying, “but I don’t write “historicals, I write romance.”
Let’s pause here for a moment of silent prayer on behalf of my agent Natasha Kern.
Sigh. Yes, I really was that green. An author who actually didn’t consider the historical aspect of my story as important as the emotional tug-of-war between the hero and heroine. I mean, come on, everybody knows the most important thing is WHAT happens in the story, not WHEN it happens, right?
Uh, wrong.That misconception almost derailed my plot for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure with a HUGE research blunder that got past me, my critique partners, proofreaders, and my editor. You see, the first half of APMP takes place in Boston, and when WWI breaks out, the 2nd half of the book shifts to Dublin, Ireland. It was essential to the plot that the O’Connor women and children travel to Ireland mid-book, but during 1916, the only way to do that was by ship. No problemo—I simply plopped them all on a comfy-cozy passenger ship.
Beep, beep … back the truck up … or in this case, the passenger ship!
“No can do,” says my editor, whose husband just happened to be—what are the odds?—an Irish historian! He innocently pointed out to his wife that the O’Connors traveling on a ship to Ireland during World War I would not have been feasible as passenger ships at that time were commandeered for war. Not to mention the annoying fact that German U-boat warfare made it too dangerous for ship travel. Double sigh.
So, what did I do when my editor called me with the dilemma?
I had a meltdown. Cried for days. Walked around in a fog. Then frantically began researching other destinations (other than Europe) that the O’Connors could possibly travel to via ship. Consequently, I was a basket case, not only because of the MAJOR research and rewrites looming mere months from release date, but because I had fallen in love with Dublin, and mourned it’s potential loss.
GOD TO THE RESCUE!
“Pray for a simple solution,” came the thought one day after I’d spent hours and hours laboring over daunting research.
Oh. What a novel idea for a Christian author!So I did. And guess what? Out of the blue, an old friend called me for lunch, and when I told her my dilemma, she squinted at me and said, “You know … I just read something recently about the introduction of the freighter convoy system during WWI, which greatly reduced the likelihood of being sunk by a German U-boats.” Excuse me?? I remember just blinking at her, jaw dangling while the wheels turned in my head, heart bursting with gratitude. Because by adding a freighter convoy, a menopausal wife having a breakdown because her grandmother is dying in Dublin, and a cousin in the freighter business, my massive plot rewrites/research dwindled down to two measly paragraphs—count ‘em, two!—added to make that book historically accurate.
WOW … who knew?? Well, God apparently, because He masterminded the lunch with my resourceful friend who just happened to have read an article on freighter convoys during WWI. I mean again, seriously, what are the odds?
Another brick wall I hit was on A Hope Undaunted, a real doozy that reduced me to tears, rants, and a black hole for almost a week. It took me nine months to write that book and it’s my absolute favorite, so I was really excited. Instead of popping the huge surprise at the end of the book like I did in the prior three novels, I pulled the old grenade pin mid-book, blowing up both my hero and heroine’s future together and, hopefully, the reader’s mind as well. Unfortunately, my editor tossed her grenade first, demolishing my plot so completely, a total rewrite/replotting appeared to be in store.
That night my husband held me while I sobbed in his arms. “We’ll just pray about it, Julie,” he said softly, “and God will get you through this, babe—He always does.”
“No, you don’t understand,” I wailed, lunging away to lay prostrate on a soggy pillow, “the heart and soul of my plot has been destroyed, and now I have to start over, coming up with a whole new book!”
Oh ye of little faith.
So, yes, we prayed and God showed up carrying a few grenades of His own. Talk about a wall-crumbler! One minute my editor is talking total plot rewrite, and the next she’s saying, “You know … what if we just shift things a bit, deleting your main twist component—a component she patiently explained I could not do in Christian romance—making it vague enough that the shock value was still in effect?”
Say what? I blinked. Squinted. Caught my breath. A slow smile curved. Oh. My. Goodness! One minor shift, and the entire plot remains intact with nothing more than a few line revisions. WOW—from total rewrite to total peace for my editor and me in a blink of a prayer!
By my 5th book, I was confident I was getting this plotting thing down, so when it came time to write A Heart Revealed, I was ready. But as an author who incorporated a hairpin twist at the end of my prior books, I was a wee bit concerned. Emma and Sean’s romance was not my typical romance where boy meets girl and sparks fly. Instead, this plot hinged on a ten-year friendship that grows spiritually and emotionally, ripening into unconditional love where two people sacrifice themselves for the other. Great story, I thought … with one itsy-bitsy problem.
There was no way I could surprise my readers because Emma is married to an abusive husband, who is very much alive back in Dublin. Since both she and Sean are Catholic, the two of them can’t get together until the slime-bucket husband kicks the bucket. I figured everybody who read the book would assume I had to X the ex in order to make this plot work, and regrettably, they were right. Believe me, I researched divorce and annulment ad nauseum in the Catholic church back then and frankly, they were not a viable option for my story, so I was stuck.
Okay, so I don’t have an earth-shattering plot twist at the end—so what? If it’s a good story, does it really matter if I shock my readers senseless?
Unfortunately, to this CDQ, it does. I get such a thrill out of those high-voltage electrical twists that cause my readers to jolt right up in bed so hard that they wake up their husbands with a mild expletive. And, yes, that is a true story, written to me by one of my sweet readers. 😍
But … how do you write a jaw-dropping climax when there’s only one predictable, ho-hum ending in sight?
YOU CALL THE GOD SQUAD!
Without question, A Heart Revealed was the coolest God-storming experience I’ve ever had. There I am praying on my lower deck one crisp autumn day, staring at the kaleidoscope of color in my sun-dappled woods when I looked up at the sky. “God,” I say, “You are the God of creativity, so I know You have an ending that will blow everybody away, including me. Would You mind sharing it with me, please?”
As God is my witness, within ten seconds, an idea fluttered into my brain like those scarlet and gold leaves that were fluttering all around. The idea was SO masterful and SO genius, that I literally shot straight up in the chair and started laughing, knowing that I could never have come up with anything like that on my own. And to this day, no one that I am aware of has guessed the ending ahead of time. So, if you have, let me know, okay? But, no spoilers, please.
Now that’s the kind of brainstorming partner you want!
So, how did God-storming provide my coveted “twist” in A Wing and a Prayer? Not quickly, I can tell you that. I prayed the whole time I was writing it, asking God to give me an “O’Connor twist” that would put a smile on my face. But, alas, when I wrote “The End,” it was the “end” of my quest for a twist because I still didn’t have one. “Oh, well,” I said to my hubby with a sigh, “with its rich WWII and WASP history, it’s still an exciting book, I hope, so this must be the way God wants it to be.”
Not. There I am on the treadmill during the final-edit stage, praising God to worship music when, BOOM! A bolt from the blue has me bolting downstairs to my computer to put the finishing touches on a book that now puts a big smile on my face. 😁
And yours, too, I hope, if you win my giveaway below, so good luck!
GIVEAWAY: I would love to hear your own stories of “God-storming,” whether you’re a writer or reader, because we all have them, right? So, leave a comment below to be entered to win a signed paperback copy of A Wing and A PrayerOR your choice of three of my e-books.
BRAINSTORMING LINKS: And, for those of you who like to add a little brainstorming to your God-storming, I have some great “brainstorming” links listed below you’ll want be sure to check out!
ABOUT A WING AND A PRAYER:
She’s dead-set on giving everything to the war overseas …
Even if it means losing everything in a war of the heart.
A street orphan abused and abandoned by an alcoholic father at age five, Gabriella (Gabe) O’Connor has never let a man stand in her way yet. So when a handsome flight officer thwarts her plans to become a Women Airforce Service Pilot, she’s determined to join the war effort anyway she can. Her chance comes when she “borrows” foreign correspondent credentials from the Boston Herald—where her father is the editor—to stow away on a medical ship to the front. Lieutenant Reece Kincaid pegs Gabe O’Connor as trouble the moment she steps foot on Avenger Field as a WASP cadet. As the eldest brother of a boy whose jaw Gabe broke in grade school, Reece is familiar with her reputation as both a charismatic ringleader and a headstrong hooligan who’s challenged every male and nun from grade school to college. As her WASP flight instructor, Reece eventually expels Gabe when she pulls a dangerous stunt. But when he is an evacuation pilot in France eight months later, their lives intertwine once again, exposing them to a danger as perilous as the German tanks roaming the Reichswald Forest: a love that neither expects.
ABOUT JULIE LESSMAN:
A lover of all things Irish, Julie Lessman writes close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, Isle of Hope, and Silver Lining Ranch series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 21 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017-2020, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.