My debut novel Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, released in 2010. Since then I’ve learned a lot about writing and relationships.
1.) Let God romance you. I believe God gave me the sale of my first book before I’d earned or deserved it. He gave me a hardback edition, Costco book-signing, and a film option without me having to work for any of those things. He knew I was going to have to finish writing a romance as my own first marriage fell apart, and He wanted me to know that not everyone leaves. We love because He first loved us. -I John 4:19
2.) Forgive. Sometimes people do leave us. Sometimes they even hurt us on purpose. Sometimes they deserve to be punched in the face. But in the same way God gave me more than I deserved, I am free to want more for those who have done me wrong. They have their own backstory and character arc, as do we all. Mercy triumphs over judgement every time. -James 2:13
3.) Set boundaries. When offering mercy, we are inviting the other person into the light. We don’t join them in the dark just to be together. Heroes or heroines who do this give romance novels a bad rap. The story can teach codependency if authors don’t show healthy boundaries. For that reason, I included the following line in Finding Love in Eureka, California: “She already has a savior, and it’s not you.” Each one should carry his own load. -Galatians 6:5
4.) Pain has a purpose. As authors, we are mean to our characters, but we have to be. In the beginning, they have a fear that holds them back from what they really want, so our job is to give them a bigger fear to help them overcome the smaller fear. For example, a character may be afraid of water, but if her baby falls in a swimming pool, her greater fear of losing her child will push her out of her comfort zone and give her the strength needed to overcome. This is also true in our own lives. God allows hard stuff for our greater good. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-4
5.) Ask for help. Whether in my personal life or in my writing, if I try to go it alone, I get discouraged and stuck. God gave us each other for this reason. It makes me so thankful for my writing group and is also the whole premise for my book Presumed Dead: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. -Ecclesiastes 4:10
6.) Pursue your dreams. Any good character is going to have a goal at the beginning of the book that carries them to the end. There’s a driving force that keeps them moving forward. With God as the Author of Life, I believe He’s given us each a dream, and that our own life stories won’t be fulfilling if we don’t work toward it. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4
7.) Don’t give up. As with any goal, there will be obstacles and setbacks. There will be seasons of drought. There will be times when we fail. It will be hard. But if God gives us a dream, he prepares us to pursue them just like I prepare my characters. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9
8.) Don’t let feelings run your life. If I only wrote when I felt like it, I’d never get any books finished. If my characters only did what they felt like, there would be a lot more secret baby tropes. (My least favorite trope of all.) The heart is deceitful above all else. -Jeremiah 17:9
8.) Wait on the Lord. This might be the toughest one for me, especially when waiting for an editor to reject a manuscript or offer a sale. I have to learn to trust. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14
9.) Always hope. What sets romance novels apart from others is the requirement of a happy ending. No matter what happens, the reader knows the main characters have not struggled in vain. There is hope that love will conquer all. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. -Isaiah 40:31
10.) Love like a hero. While I enjoy a good happily-ever-after, what makes us happy is loving others. True love is when we can give without expectation because all our expectations are fulfilled by God. This means putting others above ourselves, which brings me to one of my favorite quotes about writing. “The villain and the hero are both wounded. The villain hides their wound with evil while the hero finds healing through self-sacrifice.” Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
I’ve kept writing romance for a decade because I believe love changes lives. May the truths you find in my fictional characters help make your heart strong.
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