I’ve taken lousy “goal” notes since I last posted, so all I know is that I’ve probably spent 4 to 5 hours on outlining and 0 hours on editing. I know, bad me, especially with the fact that I’m far ahead of my outlining goal and drawing near my editing goal. I’m about to miss one, I warrant.
This post may seem suspiciously TheoEc-y, but it belongs here as much as there--as a writer, I have to know what I’m writing for, and why. So here’s some of my “for and why.”
What does it mean to write for God?
My own perception about this has changed as I have grown older and matured. I’m not sure how often I’ve said that I write for God, but I know I’ve only actively believed it since sometime during my Forest of Lies writing. I don’t remember when exactly it was--if it came after I wrote my showdown, which would have been late February or early March in 2009, or after I finished the book in its entirety in late March, or even when I began the editing process in mid-April. I don’t really remember, but I would guess it was after I wrote the showdown. Because when I wrote the showdown, I realized that the book wasn’t mine. That chapter brought me to tears--it was so beautiful, such heart-wrenching loveliness that I knew I couldn’t have “created it” like I would like to believe. I couldn’t feel clever about my original plot and characters anymore. I realized, with that beauty, that there was something else going on--I couldn’t have written something that had such beauty, because I wasn’t that beautiful.
I do remember being in my room, and holding whatever I had printed off of Forest of Lies at the time, and knowing the story wasn’t mine, and I couldn’t bring it to fulfillment. God’s given me a gift as a writer, but He’s still the ultimate story-teller. I told Him then that it was His book, and it had been all along, and that I couldn’t do this on my own.
I don’t mean this as “props for me” because there’s an embarrassing number of times when I’ve had to slow down, realize this all over again, and re-dedicate my life and work to Him. When I freak out about not being able to pull stuff together the way I want to, or the weight of editing that has to be done, I’m forgetting my partner in this business, the one who does a better job than I do.
Dedication to Him isn’t all. There’s also the continuous attempt to be working on the project that He wants you on. You have to pray about each book, editing, outlining, writing--I’ve gotten to the point where I say: “Please, show me which one I need to focus on. Make it clear.” Each story idea you have to evaluate, and decide: will this bring glory to God?
When you write the kind of book that I do--which deals with the world as it really is, dark, sinful, and full of lies--you have to be careful, especially when it comes to evil. You have to show what evil is, or people aren’t going to buy the fact that good really exists and is really as great as you say it is. But you also don’t want to get obsessed with the evil you’re showing, and go into it at extravagant lengths. Evil for evil’s own sake is never a good idea, and there have been times when I’ve been sucked that way.
This conviction (will this bring glory to God?) is also part of the reason I’ve been held to the historical fiction genre. I know that God can be glorified through fantasy and science fiction, but I also know that I can’t do it very well, especially in fantasy. In fantasy, you by necessity have to set up some kind of allegory if the world is to make sense at all, and at the present time, I don’t feel comfortable creating a character for God. In science fiction, you find a genre even more firmly held by the secular world and atheists--most accounts of aliens, warp speed, and time travel are fun to read and watch, but depend the non-existence of God. For one, it’s far easier to believe in aliens if you believe everything evolves anyway--so of course there must be other life forms somewhere. The greater technology developed and civilizations at peace depend on the greatness of Man, which doesn’t really exist.
I got on a bit of a tangent there, but I don’t mean to say there’s no such thing as science fiction which glorifies God, though I’ve seen very, very little of it--in fact, only C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy comes to mind--but that I’ve chosen to opt out of both it and fantasy because of my uncertainty and, quite frankly, youth.
Another facet, which can be an encouraging one, is that when you write for God you don’t really have to write for the masses. Of course, “the masses” may end up loving your book, and hopefully being changed by it, but that’s note the first priority. My writing teacher has asked me, and dozens of other young writers, if we’d rather have thousands of people read and enjoy and forget our book, or have it read by one person--and have it change their life. It’s pretty easy to guess the answer. I’ve also come to realize that that one person can be me. Even if I end up writing only in a way that grows me as a Christian and a writer, it’ll be worth it. I’m not just saying this as an idea. Because, when I remember, Forest of Lies is worth a ton to me, if only because of what I learned about me, about writing, and about God through it.
If I didn’t write for God, I wouldn’t have these things to worry about. I wouldn’t have to remember who’s the real author. I wouldn’t have to pray about the stories and characters I’m dealing with. But if I didn’t write for God, I don’t think writing would be worthwhile to me. The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum says at one point something like: “boundaries inspire creativity.” On the very physical level, this is true. On a higher level, if I wasn’t always trying to remember that it’s not me, but Him--I wouldn’t get to go to the beautiful places that even I can’t imagine. Forest of Lies wouldn’t exist, not in the form it is in.
So, my suggestion? Don’t write for yourself. Don’t even write for readers. Write for God, and see where it takes you.
Soli Deo Gloria!