Friday, February 8, 2013

Treat your story as a gift


Photo courtesy of "anankkml"/Freedigitalphotos.net
The contract was signed and now we had to complete the final draft. Lion Fiction had kindly provided me with an experienced editor to work with to tighten the manuscript. In addition, I had to lose an additional 20% of it, that being 30,000 words or 60 pages.
It was now 8 years since the first 700-page draft. It’s incredible how many scenes and characters I’ve deleted including entire sub-plots. I hope one day some of those characters may make a re-appearance. In particular, there were a number of angels and demons that I let go. I think of this culling process like the casting call for a movie or TV show. Some actors get the nod, many don’t. Those that missed out were just not right for this publication but may well be in a future one.
My experience of working with editors has been exceptionally rewarding. Both Claire, who worked on the original draft, and Jan, on the latest one, took the opportunity to teach me how to write. They re-wrote a small sample of the manuscript, say a few pages, explaining why they made each change. I was then able to incorporate those methods in the rest of the manuscript.
Significant Re-work
Over the years the manuscript had passed through many “readers” of the various publishing houses who reviewed it, rarely was any comment made about needing to change plot or story elements. Typically all the queries related to the language and writing style. Accordingly, it came as somewhat of a surprise when I received Jan’s first five pages of review notes as they addressed the story, and the story alone.
Some very key elements of the story weren’t good enough.
Gulp.
I must have re-read those five pages and, the key scenes Jan was referencing, a hundred times that day. After swallowing my pride it soon dawned on me I had a lot of work to do. This wasn’t an edit. This was a re-write.
I was back at the beginning having to re-create scenes from scratch. So besides losing 20% of the manuscript I estimated I had to significantly amend 50% of the rest.
The final manuscript was due in Oxford by New Year’s Eve. Three months and counting.
I seriously questioned whether I could do it.
Let go of your story
One morning as I prayed prior to starting work on a particularly challenging scene that required major modification, I sensed this quiet nudge from the Lord: “Angelguard isn’t yours, Ian, it’s mine. I’ve invited you to write it. Do you think I’d abandon you now, this close to publication?”
Peace settled in my heart.
I can do this. Or more to the point He can do it. My executive editor is the Creator of the universe.
Hallelujah!
As the day passed and the new scene came together, I was able to reflect on the following:
“Our stories are His and He invites us to write them.”
This was incredible encouragement for me as I motored along each day. I was amazed how I was able to rapidly engineer new scenes, perform major surgeries on others plus modify characters with this fresh perspective.
I had set myself a target of mid-December so I could put the novel down for a few days before Christmas. Then give it a final read after Boxing Day before sending it off on 31 December.
It was a great feeling to reach that target.
If you’re struggling with your story may I encourage you to let it go. Thank God for the story by handing it back to Him. He might give it back. Maybe He won’t, because He has other stories in mind.  As challenging as that may be, press into Him and believe He will guide you.


Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel, Angelguard, releases this month in the USA/Canada, UK in March and finally home sweet Oz, in May. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website and on his author Facebook page.

23 comments:

  1. Hi Ian

    That was a great post. It must have been hard to let go of so many parts of that story, but what a great reminder that it's God's story not ours. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Cheers

    Nola

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    1. Thanks Nola. It's amazing how much I learnt from editing (and more editing) as against actually writing the drafts. It's all a great learning process, isn't it?

      Cheers Ian

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  2. I am just starting out on this journey. That was very helpful. I am going to put your line "Our stories are His, and He invites us to write them" on my motivational wall. I love it. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Good on you Kerry-Lee. Stick with it. Angelguard took me 10 years, and I wouldn't change it. It's been an incredible experience for me from a writing perspective but more significantly in my walk with the Lord.

      As all authors say: write, write, write and read, read, read. I like to add: pray, pray, pray, too. They're the keys to improving as a writer.

      All the best...Ian

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  3. Interesting I had to do a major rewrite recently and some bits I knew had to go but I couldn't bear to part with them. So I copied and pasted them into a separate file and hope one day I can use them elsewhere.

    Also love the quote: "Our stories are His..."

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    1. Hi Susan, I struggled for days over one particular scene involving a "new demon" grappling with one of the angels. I so loved it. But, it's kinda like a step of faith and in the end I handed it over to the great casting agent. But I'm so hoping He allows me to have it back for the sequel or 3rd episode.

      Blessings to you, Susan.

      Ian

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  4. Thanks for that great blog Ian and for sharing your story. I think you've pinpointed something ever so important for us - not just as writers but as followers of Jesus. Martin Luther said something like "All I have clung onto God took away from me. All I gave Him, I still have". So important for us writers to give our stories to Him and us Christians to give all we have (gifts, abilities, talents, treasures, time) back to Him in order for Him to use it.
    Thanks Ian,
    Anusha

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    1. Hi Anusha. Great words of encouragement for us all.

      Thank you..

      Ian

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  5. Congratulations on your novel!
    And thanks for the above - I'm battling away at something at present and your reminder to keep handing it back is a timely one.

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  6. Thanks for reminder Ian. I agree with Anusha. We need to think of our writing as we should about everything else in our lives. All belongs to God and He blesses us by giving us gifts to use. It helps us not to be too precious about parts of our stories, or even the whole.

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    1. Hi Carol. Yes, we can get very caught up in our stories and also all the marketing & promotion we "need to do". It's amazing how God just loves doing things differently, hence, as you and Anusha remind us, we need to be continually pressing into Him, so we can understand His ways.

      Take care.

      Ian

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  7. Just visited your site, Ian. Fascinating. I got in touch with Tosca after reading Havah. She has a whole new slant on the way she approaches her writing. Stay in touch with her as your chosen genre has a lot in common with her style. And your cover...scary. I'll get one for my nephew,who is leaning toward New Age philosophy. And I know he'd read a novel like yours.

    We all learn to write on our very first book. The more rewriting the sharper you get...thankfully. The Lord gives us these gifts and we need to hone them to please Him first of all.

    God bless

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    1. Hi Rita, thanks for your comment and visiting my site.

      I'm actually a member of Tosca's tribe she affectionately calls her "Midnight Garden". She's always encouraging new members via her website. She is very unique in her approach. I particularly appreciate her generosity of spirit in giving to her readers. Tosca's a wonderful example to all of us in how to interact with her audience.

      Oh and re: the cover, be assured there's plenty of "light" in the novel.

      Blessings to you, Rita.

      Ian

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  8. Congratulations on the publication of your book.

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  9. Hello Dear :) .
    Great blog. Interesting post.
    Have a nice weekend.
    Welcome to my blog.
    http://photographyismyexistence.blogspot.com/

    Like me on Facebook. I will be extremely grateful.
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/In-another-light/413836138693856

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    1. Thanks Patrycja. Appreciate your comments.

      Wishing you a great weekend too. I'll check out your blog. Ian

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  10. 'Executive Editor.' I love that. Yes, yes, yes. The stories are His, why do we hold on so tightly? Thanks for the reminder. So looking forward to reading the product of this journey you've had. Blessings. :)

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    1. Hi Amanda, thanks. Blessings to you too.

      Ian

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  11. Challenging, Ian. Many of us are having to 'let go' of things lately and it is the mark of maturity to do so. More and more I realise we have no real control and that there is freedom in knowing that our Creator is very much on the throne and has it all under His control. Nice post.

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  12. Wonderfully expressed, Catherine.

    Thank you.

    Ian

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  13. GREAT article Ian. I love that when God nudges you because it is not only reassuring of His presence, but of His guidance, and our purpose or place in His plans.

    I was about to take a slight detour (out of financial desperation), nothing bad but God moved in and said 'Just remember you are working for me.' This has rung in my ears ever since but it is nice to know that if we are unsure of our direction - he will soon let us know.

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