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Keeping Your Head Above Water - A Reminder

 Keeping Your Head Above Water - A Reminder


by Mindy Obenhaus

I originally posted this two years ago, almost to the day. As with every post I share, I try to think about where I'm at in my writing, and lo and behold, it seems not much has changed in two years. So I'm reposting this because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who could use the reminder.

Life can be overwhelming. There are days/weeks/months when it seems the hurrier we go, the behinder we get. Some days you feel as though you’re barely keeping your head above water. Still, you press on, going through the motions, treading water like there’s no tomorrow because if you don’t, you might go under. Frustration turns to panic, and you grow weary from the struggle because no matter how hard you try, you’re not making any progress.

Let’s face it, our schedules are busy. We are multifaceted people who wear many hats—child, spouse, parent, employee, caregiver, chauffeur, and the list goes on. We have families to take care of, to-do lists a mile long, deadlines to meet. Throw in all of the uncertainty this year has piled on and it’s no wonder we find ourselves struggling to stay afloat.

I don’t know about you, but in times like that, I’m often my own worst enemy. I become so focused on the struggle that I forget I have other options. That instead of merely trying to keep my head above water and drifting with the tide, I can choose to be purposeful.

How?

Float – I know this seems counterproductive when you’re busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger but hear me out. When someone is in danger of drowning, floating gives them an opportunity to catch their breath, conserve energy and consider their options. But first they have to stop flailing.

We can’t shrug our duties, but in the midst of the chaos, we can pause to reevaluate. Waiting at a stoplight? Talk to God and ask Him to show you if everything on your to-do list is imperative or are some things simply desires. The Bible encourages us to “be still and know.” Sometimes we don’t know because we refuse to be still. Yet that stillness is where we renew our strength. That doesn’t mean you have to carve out a big chunk of time. Simply keep the conversation going. God is always there.

Keeping Your Head Above Water - A Reminder

Once we’ve had time to catch our breath, we’re ready to…

Swim – Unlike treading water, swimming means progress. But it helps to know where we’re going. That we’re headed in the right direction. So, we want to…

  • Be deliberate – Make a list, then contemplate the most efficient way to tackle that list. And don’t forget to cross things off as you complete them. Nothing energizes me more than seeing that I’m actually making progress.
  • Be realistic – Know your limitations. Just because you have the time doesn’t mean you’ll have the energy to bake those six dozen cookies for the church bake sale. Remember, it’s okay to say no.
  • Be flexible – You know what they say about the best laid plans. It’s better to expect the unexpected and be pleasantly surprised than to be blindsided. Building flexibility into your plans helps reduce your stress level should those unexpected things pop.
  • Be prayerful – God is our strength when we are weak. He’s the calm in the midst of our storm. Whatever task you’re facing, you’re not alone. Call on Him and He will answer.

As we head into what is, typically, the busiest time of the year, this post serves as much to encourage me as it does you. Unless you’re using it as a means of exercise, treading water involves expending a lot of energy for little to no gain. And the older I get, the more determined I am to work smarter, not harder. I don’t want to get nowhere fast. I want to move forward prayerfully and purposefully, savoring all God has in store along the journey.

Do you ever feel as though you’re treading water in the sea of life? What helps you stay on task without overextending yourself?

Keeping Your Head Above Water - A Reminder

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com  

All Those Moving Parts

 

All Those Moving Parts

by Mindy Obenhaus

I just turned in the proposal for book four in my current series, Hope Crossing, and let me tell you, there were a lot of things I had to keep track of. The hero, the heroine, a K-9 companion, two grandmas, previous/secondary characters, and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay, maybe not that last one, but it is a Christmas book, so you never know.

Yes, there are a lot of moving parts to every story. Those details you need to keep track of so that your heroine doesn’t start out with blond hair and blue eyes and then have brown hair and brown eyes by the end of the story. But when you’re doing a series, it’s not just about those characters. You have to consider all the ones who came before them. And, if the current characters have been in other books prior, you need to stay consistent with not only their physical appearance, but what the reader already knows about them.

Here are a few things you need to mindful of when writing a series –

Backstory – It goes without saying that you need to know the backstory of the person/persons your story is about, but what about secondary characters, particularly those who might have been in a previous book? How are secondary characters connected to the main characters? What’s happened to them since the last time the reader saw them in another book? Have they married or had a baby? None of these need to be lengthy, just snippets so the reader understands the relationship to the main characters and either satisfy the reader’s curiosity if they’ve read the previous books (readers want to know what's happened with those characters they've connected with) or make them curious enough that they want to go back and read about the other characters.

Timing – How much time has passed between the ending of the previous story and the opening of the current story? Not between release dates, but the stories themselves. Does the current book pick up where the last one left off or is it months later? This also plays into the ages of the characters, as well as seasons and changes in the lives of previous characters.

All Those Moving Parts

People – Whether they are main characters or secondary characters, keep the physical appearance consistent, unless there’s a specific reason for a change. What role do they play in the main character’s life? What’s their connection? Or, if they’re a secondary character who’s going to have their own story later, what can you hint at? The heroine in the proposal I just sent off has a cameo in my upcoming Christmas book. I was able to create a connection between her and the heroine in my upcoming release that I was then able to use in my current WIP.

Setting –Are there any landmarks, businesses or other places people frequent? Make sure your descriptions of them are consistent, though they can be tweaked based on a character’s perception. How does the landscape change with the seasons? If there’s a flood in one story, don’t have a drought in the next unless there’s been a reasonable passage of time.

Book series are a great way to build readership. If they like one, they’re apt to pick up the next. If they read one out of order, they may decide to start at the beginning so they can fit all the pieces together. However, there are a lot of moving parts that the author has to keep track of. Some use spreadsheets while others use a document or even a notebook. And then there are those who find themselves pulling up previous manuscripts to check their facts (raising hand but contemplating a spreadsheet 😉). Whatever works for best you.

Readers, have you ever read a series that had inconsistencies? Writers, how do you keep facts straight on your stories? Leave a comment for an opportunity to win a signed copy of my latest release, The Cowgirl’s Redemption OR a copy of Her Holiday Lawman a 2-in-1 rerelease with Ruthy’s The Lawman’s Yuletide Babyand my The Deputy’s Holiday Family. US mailing addresses only, please.

All Those Moving Parts


All Those Moving Parts

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Post-Conference Evaluation

 by Mindy Obenhaus

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in St. Louis. Something we haven't been able to do since 2019, so there was a whole lot of this going on.

Post-Conference Evaluation

Writers' conferences can be exhilarating and uplifting. They can rejuvenate your writing. But they can also be overwhelming. With so much information packed into just a few days, one can come home wondering what to do and where to start implementing all that you've learned. So here are a few tips for wading into those post-conference waters.

Rest - This is number one not only because you've been put through the paces physically, running from one workshop to the next, but because it's important for your mind. While you sleep, your mind processes all of that information you took in so when you finally review your notes, your recall will be better.

Break it down - Instead of reviewing your notes as a whole, focus on the workshops you attended one by one. Otherwise, they'll all blend together. By recalling individual sessions, you're apt to trigger even more recollections. Questions someone asked that you failed to write down (I'm the worst at notetaking). Comments from the presenter that weren't on the PowerPoint. 

Try out what you learned - Once you've reviewed the sessions you attended, contemplate how you can apply your new knowledge to your writing/publication process. Strategize each one by asking where it might fit or how you can best utilize them and then test them out.

Be realistic - I've been to a lot of writers' conferences over the last sixteen years and heard many stellar ideas. Ideas other people raved about. Yet didn't work for me. Everyone has to find their own writing process. What works for someone else might boost your productivity, or it might styme you. And no writer wants to feel stymied. So don't beat yourself up, simply set those notes aside and move on.

Writers' conferences can be beneficial no matter where you are in your writing career. We never stop learning. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a workshop to find well-known, multi-published, best-selling authors among the students. Yet we all learn differently. So gather all the information you can, evaluate it, try it, then take what works for you and set aside the rest. Because we're always evolving, always moving forward, pressing on to that which God has called us to. 

Post-Conference Evaluation

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

The Cowgirl's Redemption Launch Party


Today marks the release of not only a new book, but the first book in a new series. The Cowgirl's Redemption is our first visit to the tiny rural Texas community of Hope Crossing and introduces us to many of its residents. So, grab yourself a cupcake and some chocolate while I tell you a little bit about this story.


The Cowgirl's Redemption revolves around the homecoming of Gloriana Prescott, a prodigal daughter and former bad girl whose life is being transformed by her new-found faith. Yet while she longs to prove she's changed, those she's hurt aren't necessarily willing to give her a second chance.

I don't know about you, but I can relate to those people. I recently found myself in a situation where I was confronted with someone who'd once caused me a lot of grief. And, of course, I still thought of that person as the same one I'd once known, instead of who they were today. Yet as we talked, God let me see that person through a different lens. One that allowed me to show them some grace.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? 

This story has it all. A spunky yet tender-hearted heroine, a fun-loving teen who's into barrel racing, a wounded rancher hero, a long-held secret and even a rodeo! Not to mention glimpses of characters whose stories are yet to come.

In honor of this special day, I'm giving away THREE copies of The Cowgirl's Redemption (US mailing addresses only, please). Simply leave a comment to be entered. And don't forget to check the Weekend Edition on Saturday to see if you're a winner.

Here's the back cover copy:

She came home to make things right. Will she be given a second chance?

Gloriana Prescott has returned to her Texas hometown to make amends—even if the townsfolk she left behind aren’t ready to forgive. But when her mother’s ranch manager, Justin Broussard, is tasked with saving the struggling rodeo so his teen daughter can compete, Gloriana sees a chance to prove she’s really changed. But can she prove to Justin, and the town, that she’s trustworthy? 

And if you'd like to read the first chapter, you can do that here.

Oh, and let's not forget about the book trailer. 


Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Beyond Blessed

by Mindy Obenhaus

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Right now, I'm staring down the barrels of two deadlines, a blessing for sure. But just when I thought I was on track to finish ahead of schedule, life happened. Family came to visit. A granddaughter who wasn't supposed to give birth until after those deadlines develops preeclampsia and the doctor decides they have to induce NOW. So, we made the four-hour drive and waited out the twenty-four-plus hour labor so we could be there to greet our first great-grandchild.

Beyond Blessed

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

As an only child, the desire of my heart was to be part of a large family. As a writer, the desire of my heart is to write stories that touch readers' hearts with biblical truths. 
Beyond Blessed

Beyond Blessed
These images bring me to tears. I don't know why God chose to give me the desires of my heart. I certainly don't deserve them. So, I can't help but praise Him for the blessings He's bestowed upon me and live keenly aware that they could also be taken away from me at any time. 

I'm back at my desk now, a good night's sleep behind me, working hard to meet those deadlines. Will it be a challenge? Yes. Can I do it in my own strength? No. But I know that with God nothing is impossible. So, I will trust in Him, knowing that while He may not be early, He's never late. 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Beyond Blessed

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Finessing a Story

Finessing a Story

by Mindy Obenhaus

Today's post come from the vault but has some great tips for polishing that manuscript before we send it off. 

I have a book due in less than three weeks. The story is out of my head and on the page, the metamorphosis from idea to book almost complete. But before I can submit this story, it must be finessed.

Finessing involves skillful maneuvering. As writers, we need to skillfully, purposefully, write our stories in a way that takes readers on a journey and leaves them basking in the glow of a satisfying ending.

When finessing a manuscript, there are certain things I look for.

Have I adequately described each setting? 

Each and every scene needs a sense of place to ground it, otherwise you just have talking heads. However, too much description can bore a reader. Too little leaves them wanting and maybe even feeling a little lost. Determine what aspects of your setting are important, then sprinkle those details throughout the scene. Also, ask yourself if you’re showing the reader the scene, allowing them to see it through the POV character’s eyes, or if you’re telling them. 

Showing is always better because it allows the reader to experience the story.
Finessing a Story

Strong word choices.  

Is your character running, hurrying, scurrying or speeding? Each of these words means, essentially, the same thing, but which is best for the context of your scene? If it’s a lighthearted scene, your heroine might be scurrying to gather things for a party. On the other hand, your police office hero would likely race or speed to the scene of an accident. 

What words best fit the emotion and feel of your scene?

Are my characters actions/reactions believable and appropriate?  

When I receive my line edits, they sometimes contain notes from my editor saying things like, “This seems out of character for her.” Or “His reaction is too strong,” or even, “Not strong enough.”

Whether it’s in word, thought or action, a character’s response to an event or comment, needs to fit not only who the character is becoming, but who they are at their core. Yes, your meek heroine might need to show a little backbone, but does her response show growth and change, that she’s finally standing up for herself, or does she simply come off as rude?

Even as they change, your characters will remain true to their essence.
Finessing a Story

Characters’ journey. 

Reading is about watching someone embark on a journey. Hopefully, your main characters have grown during the course of your story. But will the reader be able to see that growth?

When a baby is born, he or she is completely helpless. Newborns can’t feed themselves. They can’t hold up their little heads. They can't sit up and they’re only mobile when someone carries them from one place to another. Yet week by week, month by month, they change and grow. So by the time baby’s first birthday rolls around, he or she can do all of these things and more. 

No matter how long or short the timeframe of your story, the characters need to grow and change. But don’t just ask yourself what they can do at the end of the story that they couldn’t do at the beginning. Make sure your reader knows how they got there. Show those baby steps of growth along the way. How did the heroine who was deathly afraid of horses end up being comfortable in the saddle? 

And if you’re writing for the Christian market, don’t forget about their spiritual journey.

Writing a book is a process. All of the elements have come together for a story to be successful. Taking the time to finesse will help ensure the finished product is the best it can possibly be.

Now it's your turn. Readers, in your opinion, what makes a good book great? Writers, how do you know when your manuscripts are ready to submit?

Finessing a Story

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Sparking Ideas

Sparking Ideas

by Mindy Obenhaus 

People often ask me where I find ideas for my stories. And while I wish I could say something like, "Well, there's this secret book and it has all these great ideas," I usually just shrug my shoulders and say, "Everywhere."

The truth is, we never know what will spark a story idea. It can be an event, a personal experience, genealogy research, even a place. My very first book began forming in my mind as I roamed the mountains around the small town of Ouray, Colorado. 

An integral part of any story idea is asking, "What if?" You hear/see/read something and the next thing you know, your mind has latched onto a tiny morsel of information and is already running with it. Sometimes it hits a brick wall, other times you find yourself with the makings of a really good story.

Here are a few places you can find story ideas:

  • The News - Yes, these days watching the news can be torture, but occasionally there will be a nugget buried somewhere in a story that has you asking, "What if?" Human interest stories can really spark things. I saw something on a local news station not long ago that triggered an idea.
  • Research - Sometimes research for one story can lead to an idea for another.
  • Other books or movies - No, I'm not talking about plagiarizing, I'm saying put a spin on them. Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and thought to yourself, "What if this had happened instead?" You know, there are only so many tropes out there. The key is to flip them around and look at them from every angle and come up with a different approach and a whole new story. 
  • Divine Intervention - Ever have one of those moments where a story idea just pops into your head while you're doing something mundane like washing dishes or folding laundry. No matter how crazy the idea might be, write it down, because you just never know. While you may think it's nothing that would lead to something, it could be that God's only giving you what you need at that very moment. If He formed the universe out of nothing, He can certainly get the ball rolling on a story by giving you one tiny glimpse.
The key to finding story ideas is to never discount anything. Even if you have a nugget of something and can't figure out what to do with it, don't cast it aside. Save it, because you never know when you might come across another idea to pair it with. I know this, because the story I'm currently working on is one that first blipped on my mental radar back in 2005. It's been sitting in reserve all these years and has now taken on a totally different incarnation.

Now it's your turn. Writers, where are some odd places you've come up with story ideas? Readers, what do you think when you read a story that's put a spin on a classic trope? I've got a copy of A Soldier's Homecoming, an upcoming a 2-in-1 with my 2016 release, Falling for the Hometown Hero and Renee Ryan's 2010 release, Homecoming Hero for one lucky commenter (US only, please).
Sparking Ideas

Sparking Ideas

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Increasing Productivity

Increasing Productivity

by Mindy Obenhaus

Lately I’ve been working on increasing my productivity as a writer. I’d come to a crossroads in my writing that called for a change. What I’ve been doing, the pace at which I’d been working just wasn’t sufficient anymore. So I was faced with a dilemma. Settle for the status quo or strive for something more?

I wanted more.

The big question, though, was “How?” I mean, I was already at my computer for hours each day. Granted, a good bit of that might have been spent staring at the ceiling as I struggled to write an entire scene each day. At least, a scene a day was the goal, though I rarely achieved it. Inevitably, I’d get bogged down in details. Setting, what is she wearing—

Of course, that led to an internet search and down a big old rabbit hole. And by the end of many a day, I hadn’t made much progress at all. At least, until it got down to crunch time. As that deadline approached, I buckled down and sailed through those scenes. I began to wonder why I wasn’t that disciplined all the time.

Obviously, it was time to change my approach to writing. It was right around that time Mary Connealy shared that she wrote a thousand words a day. Period. And if you’re familiar with Mary’s books, then you know just how quickly those thousand words can add up.

Hmph. “A thousand words a day,” I thought. That’s doable. So you know what I did? I tucked that little nugget into my memory and continued along the path I was on. Until I came to the afore mentioned crossroads. I did a little math. If I did a thousand words only five days a week that would be five thousand words a week. Twenty thousand words in a month.

So, I decided to make the change. I committed to those thousand words a day, five days a week. There were a couple of days I fell short, but I made them up the next day. And you know what? It worked. By the end of the month I’d written almost 24,000 words. Not only that, I found I was much more disciplined. I felt less pressure, too.

So if you’re looking to increase your productivity—

Set an achievable goal – Something that will work with your schedule. For me, a thousand words a day is maybe two-thirds to half a scene. Yet I often found that once I got going, I was more eager to finish it.

It doesn’t have to be perfect – The goal was to simply get the story out of my head. Part of my problem before, why I’d labor over each scene, was that I wanted it to be perfect. By giving myself the freedom to simply get the bones of the scene down, along with a good chunk of dialog, I was able to move on instead of getting bogged down in the details. Though often times, they still made it in there. Particularly if I had a good visual in my head.

Stick with it – This was not difficult once I saw how much progress I was making. It felt good to see that word count climb. Honestly, I’ve never really tracked my daily word count before, so that might have played a role. I’m goal oriented, so knowing I was aiming for a specific number was good for me. It was a more tangible goal than simply saying I wanted to write a scene.

Now, I’m sure many of you may be looking at this and thinking this is no big deal, that it’s what you do this all the time. In which case, I applaud you. But April 2022 was a pivotal month for this writer. And to think, I owe it all to Mary Connealy. Go figure.

Mary, I owe you a dinner. For the rest of you, give me your thoughts. Have you ever made one small change in your life that suddenly made a world of difference?

Oh, and before I go, I’ve got a brand-new cover to share with you. The Cowgirl’s Redemption is the first book in my new Hope Crossing series and releases on August 23rd. Here’s a bit about the story.

Increasing Productivity

She came home to make things right. Will she be given a second chance?

Gloriana Prescott has returned to her Texas hometown to make amends—even if the townsfolk she left behind aren’t ready to forgive. But when her mother’s ranch manager, Justin Broussard, is tasked with saving the struggling rodeo so his teen daughter can compete, Gloriana sees a chance to prove she’s really changed. But can she prove to Justin, and the town, that she’s trustworthy? 


Increasing Productivity

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Growing Pains

 

Growing Pains

by Mindy Obenhaus

Did you ever get growing pains when you were a child? My youngest son sure did. He’d have a hard time getting to sleep because his legs always hurt. He’s now 6’2”, so that could explain things.

What about spiritual growing pains? You know, when God decides He wants to grow us.

That’s where I find myself right now.

While I’m walking the path, I believe, God has set before me, He’s recently suggested a slight deviation from the course I had planned. Not verbally, mind you, but through a series of events. This amended route I feel He’s pointing me to is going to be more challenging than what I’m used to. It’s going to require some adjustments in the routine I’ve grown comfortable with. I’m going to have to work at it.

Kind of like weight training. I enjoy weight training. But when I become accustomed to a certain weight and start thinking it’s easy, that’s when it’s time for me step things up a notch. Which means increasing the amount of weight I’m lifting. And it’s not easy. Matter of fact, it’s downright hard. For a while. Then, as I build more muscle, it gets easier.

And so it is with our spiritual life. God doesn’t want us to be comfortable. On the contrary, He wants to push us out of our comfort zones.

How we respond is up to us.

We can…

Fight it – Been there, done that. When I was writing my fourth book, there was something God wanted in that story, but I knew it was going to be very emotional to write. So I ignored it. Bottom line, I had to rewrite that book three times. The third time, I did what God had been telling me to do all along. Not only did my editor love it, I had no revisions. If I would have listened and done it God’s way the first time, I could’ve saved myself a whole lot of time and stress.

Carefully consider – This is my modus operandi. I want to be certain that what I’m sensing truly is from God and not my own foolish desires. And having an honest discussion with Him is the only way I’m going to know. Expressing my concerns and fears. He already knows them anyway. Then I have to be willing to listen and remain watchful for those little signposts He puts in my path, pointing me in the way I should go.

Jump right in – I rarely do this unless I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Which, most often, doesn’t come until I’ve carefully considered. But occasionally, I just know God is saying, “Go!.”  For some with more faith, though, this may be right where they start. They’re so in tune with God, they don’t even stop to think about self, they just do. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I aspire to.

After nearly colliding with more than one signpost, I know where God is leading me. And while I know it’s not going to be easy, He’s already confirming my decision. Letting me know that He’s got me right where He wants me. And that’s always a good place to be.

 How do you approach things when you feel as though God is trying to stretch you? 


Growing Pains

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Revisiting Conflict

Revisiting Conflict 
by Mindy Obenhaus

Once again, as I contemplate what to post, I'm asking myself where I'm at in my writing right now. What am I struggling with? Well, as I close in on the end of my WIP I'm wondering if I have enough conflict. Then I recalled a post I'd done on conflict a couple of years ago. So rather than retelling, I thought I'd simply share that post again. So here we go.

Conflict. The word alone is enough to make us squirm. Most of us avoid conflict at all costs. Then you become a writer and they say you must have conflict.

Noooo…

The reality is that a story without conflict is, well, boring. If Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters had helped her with her chores so she could get ready for the ball, we would’ve had no reason to cheer Cinderella on to victory. If the yellow-brick road hadn’t been plagued with flying monkeys and the wizard hadn’t told Dorothy to bring him the broom of the wicked witch, Dorothy would have kept moping, never realizing that home was a pretty special place after all.

Of course, conflict doesn’t always come in the form of a villain. Conflict is anything that stands in the way of a character achieving their goal. Have you ever been late for an appointment because you were stuck in traffic? And how many horrible scenarios ran through your head before you got to said appointment? Only to find out that the person you were meeting with was stuck in the same traffic.
Revisiting Conflict
Conflict is a part of growth. It teaches us to leave extra early for those important appointments. It forces one to look within themself to realize that maybe they can love again. And conflict encourages us to turn to God and allow Him to give us the strength we need to overcome something we think is impossible. Such as adding conflict.

So how do we how do we create conflict?

Since we're still warming up to conflict, let's keep things simple.
  • Know your character’s goal – While characters have an overarching goal in a story, each and every scene also needs a goal, motivation and conflict. Start by asking yourself what the character’s goal is in any given scene.
  • Keep them from reaching that goal – Say their goal is to make it to the bank before it closes. What will happen if they don’t? Will a check bounce? Will their house be foreclosed on? And what if there’s a traffic accident along the way that prevents them from getting there? See how those small things can all work together to create conflict for your character?
    Revisiting Conflict
  • Take things from bad to worse – In his book Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says to ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that can happen to your character at that moment?" Then he says to find a way to make it happen. I’ll admit, I kind of blew that one off for a while. But then I tried it and not only did it work, it's now my go-to weapon for adding conflict. Here's an example from the story I'm currently working on. When the heroine deserts the hero, leaving him to tackle a two-person job by himself, he jumps in her stuff, accusing her of taking advantage of him. Naturally, she's indignant. He didn't even give her chance to explain. Yet as she's stewing about his behavior, she finds herself acknowledging that even though she thought they were finished, she really just wanted to get away from him because she's attracted to him and doesn't want to be. So, what's the worst thing that can happen? She realizes she was in the wrong and that she needs to apologize. Yet just when she's about to do just that, her parents arrive, trying to talk her into selling the Christmas tree farm she's inherited. But she loves the place and wants to convince her parents she's doing the right thing. But while she's showing them the farm, hoping to overcome their objections and impress them with her extensive plans, the hero comes back. Is he still angry? Will he make her look bad in front of her parents, confirming their opinion that she's being foolish? Okay, that was a very rough scenario, but I hope you were able to see how each of those little things--realizing she was the one in the wrong, her folks arriving, preventing her from apologizing, and then the hero coming back before she's had a chance to apologize--only add to the heroine's conflict.
Conflict helps refine our characters which then enriches the story. Conflict can bring out the best or the worst in people. It shows them and the reader what they’re really made of. What's important to them. Conflict can humble a person. And it is an essential part of every story.

Writers, do you struggle with conflict or look forward to it? Readers, how do you feel about the push and pull of conflict in stories? Often, it’s what keeps you reading. Which is a good thing, unless you have to get up early and you just can’t put the book down. Then you have a conflict. 

Revisiting Conflict

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

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