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
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.
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?
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
Oh. What a novel idea for a Christian
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.”
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
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
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 Prayer
OR 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
She’s dead-set on giving everything to
the war overseas …
Even if it means losing everything in a
war of the heart.
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
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.