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Are You A Risk-taker?

Angie here:
Have you ever been asked, "Are you a risk-taker?" If so, what was your answer?

My answer is, "That depends on what you consider a risk."

Look at the photo. Know what it's of? A sidewalk, a tree or two, a farmhouse... Yes, doesn't look very risky. But then when we find out one of the bloodiest battles in American history happened here at Gettysburg, and people risked everything for their beliefs and the dream of freedom, it becomes much more. 

I watched the movie Selma tonight because one of my friends, actress Elizabeth Diane Wells, had a part in it. That movie blew my mind by bringing to life the dream of freedom, equality, and the right to vote-- and the risks people took to change society. 

When people ask me whether I take risks, yes. Am I a risk-taker? Yes. I'm willing to fail, to put it all on the line for the chance to succeed. I want to make a difference in the lives around me too. But I'm grateful to remember the lives lost as we go into this Memorial Day. Lives of people who gave me the opportunity to take risks with my talent, such a puny thing compared to what those risk-taking heroes did to free people, get the vote, change the world! 

I'm a writer who loves story telling. I love research and travel and people. I love freedom and equality and opportunity. If I don't take risks to exercise my rights, use my talents, I'm disrespecting what was fought for as our country battled to bring equality to men and women over the centuries. 

I take risks when I send a proposal that can be rejected. I take risks when I'm vulnerable whether writing a book, a movie, or speaking from a stage. But I'm not willing to throw away the chance to see my dreams happen. Too many other people died or struggled to make my life here and now possible. To fear a "no" compared to the sacrifices given so I could simply try? I can't fathom what it would be like to say to one of those heroes, "Um, no, I was too afraid to show anyone my story. They might not like it. What if they said no?" I picture the stunned disbelief on those heroic faces and push into the opportunity. I can't let down those who went before me.

Are you willing to take a risk? To seize the opportunity with respect for what others have done and given so we could have the chance to reach for our dreams--and maybe change society through our writing?

Put a date on sending your proposal. Go ahead and take the class you've wanted. Try self-publishing or painting or auditioning. So what if you hear "no". You  won't regret taking the risk, but you will regret a risk not taken. 

That Leap of Faith

Liz here.

As I thought about what to write for this month's theme on taking chances, my mind went so many places. Because living life to the fullest is all about taking chances. 

How do we, as writers, take chances? 

When I first started in this crazy business, I wrote what I read and what I thought was hot in the market - prairie romances. Well, they were hot at the time. That's what all of the publishers wanted, what flew off the shelves. So, that's where I concentrated my efforts. I got one novella published, and that was it. 

It was time to take a chance, to branch out. Sure, the Thoenes could write WWII, but could I? Would I have a chance in the world at getting published? As the time approached for the ACFW conference, I put together a proposal for another prairie romance series. Almost as an afterthought, I also crafted a one sheet for a WWII series. Completely different than anything I had ever tried. 


That's scary enough, just having it in my bag, carrying it around. What was I going to do with it?
 
Well, at one of the spotlight sessions, the editor mentioned they were interested in WWII. With fear and trembling, I approached an editor after a panel discussion with my one sheet. I was petrified. But she loved the concept and asked for the full manuscript. Though she didn't end up buying it, a different publisher did. If I hadn't taken the chance with a new genre, and if I hadn't taken the chance to talk to an editor, those books would never have been written and sold. 

As writers, we have to step out of our comfort zones and take a chance. We tend to sit behind our computers, with the anonymity of the screen protecting us, and keep at what's safe. Easy. Comfortable. But how will your career move forward if you don't? In order to get published, you have to put yourself out there. Take a chance. Pray about it. Then leap off that cliff. 

You never know where it will lead. 

When have you taken a chance that lead to something good?
 

Writers As Learners




Jen here:

Writers should always be working to improve their craft like any artist. One way to do that is by reading. While it’s important to read novels in and outside of your genre, you also need to be reading books about the craft of writing.

Books about the craft of writing help in many ways. They can help you learn new things. But I also like to use them when I’m plotting and need inspiration for the structure or characters. Or when I’m writing and I’m stuck. A good craft book can help me figure out what’s not working.

Neither of those reasons is why I’ve picked up The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. I first tracked it down through my library and then I liked it enough that I knew I wanted to buy a copy for my library.

“The hero’s journey is a pattern that seems to extend in many dimensions, describing more than one reality. It accurately describes, among other things, the process of making a journey, the necessary working parts of a story, the joys and despairs of being a writer, and the passage of a soul through life” (p. xiv).

I’ve been intrigued for a long time by the idea of the hero’s journey and have generally used the structure in plotting my books. It was a structure that made sense to me, and it was easy to see in the many Disney movies my kids watched. Don Miller talks about the power of story to reach people in many types of situations and has developed his Story Brand marketing around this idea.

The more I heard about this tool, the more I wanted to dig deeper and see if I could leverage this in a greater way instead of just scratching the surface.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a basic outline of the hero’s journey.

ACT ONE

  • The Ordinary World (the hero going about her everyday life)
  • The Call to Adventure (the day things change that makes it impossible to keep living life as it is)
  • Refusal of the Call (fear of going on the adventure and the change it requires)
  • Meeting with the Mentor (someone who has been down this road and can give the hero the tools she needs for the adventure)
  • Crossing the First Threshold (she commits to the adventure)


ACT TWO

  • Tests, Allies, Enemies (adventures in the new “world”)
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave (preparing for the big test to come)
  • Ordeal (hits bottom with the confrontation of her biggest fear)
  • Reward (overcomes her fear)


ACT THREE

  • The Road Back (usually involves a chase scene or battle, things have been shaken up and are different now)
  • Resurrection (the hero appears to die or suffers some sort of figurative death before coming back to life in a transforming experience)
  • Return with the Elixir (a physical or psychological gift that the hero can now give to those around her because of her experiences)


While these terms seem mythic, when you dig a bit deeper, you can see how they apply in many stories in some shape or form.


What are some tools that you return to again and again to help shape your writing?