Stories Grab and Germinate Inside a Writer – A Writer’s Journey

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Ordinary World 

I’ve happily written inspirational contemporary romances. I center my blog posts on the writing craft, and I have a nonfiction out on writing.

Call to Adventure

Inciting Incident: Early one morning, I woke and a story plot came to me. Writers are told never to pitch a book with the spiel, “God gave me this story.” Although I’d never say that in a pitch, I consider God and me co-authors. And the story entered my consciousness fairly complete.

Refusal of the Call

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The story had a speculative bent. I’d write historical romances before I wrote a speculative novel. Besides, writers are told to stick to one genre so their readers won’t feel betrayed when they read a book outside the author’s usual genre. The speculative idea was intriguing, but I discounted it as a project I’d pursue.

For days, the storyline would enter my mind, and I’d toy with a possible scene. Then for my Word Weavers group, I was expected to bring something to be critiqued. But I was in promotion mode for two released books. Needing something, I fleshed out a Hero’s Journey outline for the speculative idea.

Meeting the Mentor

In the Word Weaver meeting, a member read my submission aloud. I surprised the group that I’d write a speculative book, but the ladies told me I must write the story.

Crossing the Threshold

Then my husband and I attended a writers conference. I planned to enjoy the conference because I wouldn’t be pitching to an editor—a nerve-wracking experience. Then I noted one publisher sought speculative fiction. Strangely compelled to discuss the story with an editor, I signed up for a fifteen-minute appointment.

During the appointment, I confirmed the publisher wanted speculative fiction. The acquisition editor said his publisher would accept only an extremely well done speculative. I said I was seeking only his feedback on my germinating idea. Animated, I relayed the plot.

When I finished, he stared at me for several beats, then he said, “I like it.” Another beat. “I like it a lot.” Another beat. “But I don’t want them to ____ (no spoiler). We brainstormed that point. Then he told me to send him the completed story.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

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The next morning while I stood in the breakfast line, I heard someone behind me speak. It was the acquisition editor. He said he kept thinking about my story. He agreed the novel would be much work, but he thought I should write the book. We brainstormed another story point until we reached the eggs and bacon.

Approach to the Inmost Cave

In a workshop on imagery that day, I saw a cockroach crawling over the guard’s boot in the first scene of my speculative.

At home, I feared the work, but I believed I was to attack the novel.


Then came pokes. 

  • From one devotional: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:33
  • From another devotional: “For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:37
  • In the dentist’s chair: one of the framed pictures on the wall was the perfect prop for a scene in the story.
  • From a reading, I discovered the perfect voice for a character.
  • An interesting inset on a brick house sparked a whole scene.

Since the story wouldn’t leave me alone, I told my husband, “As soon as three obligations stop for the summer, I need to take a sabbatical, go to our lake cabin for a month, and write the book.”

He agreed.

(The 5 remaining stages of my personal Writer’s Journey are yet to come—Ordeal, Seizing the Reward, The Road Back, Resurrection, and Return with the Elixir.)

Can you share how something similar happened to you?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author