Story from God
Craft of Writing | Business of Writing

“This story came straight from God.”

For the first time in my editing career, I walked away from a client I’d agreed to work with. He was a very nice man, loved the Lord with passion, and had unquenchable faith. I wanted to partner with him even though I knew his project would require extensive rewriting. But after the first segment of his story, it was clear we weren’t going to be able to work together.

What led me to that decision? My every suggestion was met with the emphatic argument that God had given him the story, and he couldn’t change anything. This author wanted me to fix the grammar and punctuation and spelling but to leave the rest alone.

Unfortunately, the way he’d written it wasn’t good. The characters lacked clear goals. Much of the time, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. There was a whole storyline that seemed utterly gratuitous, long graphic descriptions of teenage girls trying to seduce teenage boys for no apparent reason. And after 200 pages, nothing had really happened. The author assured me that eventually, it would all make sense, but I doubted any reader would hang in there to reach “eventually.”

I found the whole situation ironic because early in the process, the author had told me, “The Lord appointed you to be my editor.”

Apparently, I was supposed to be his editor, but I wasn’t supposed to edit.

I have no idea what God’s plan is for that man or his story. He might have been spot-on about what God wanted him to do, and I might have been wrong. But I couldn’t do what he asked. I believe Christians’ work ought to stand above that of non-believers. I believe we should be known for quality, and his book was far from that standard. In order to stay true to my beliefs, I had to walk away.

In my own writing, only once have I been given a story I believe came straight from God. Because I feel so strongly that it’s His story, I have labored over that novel for years. I’ve sought extensive counsel to make it the best it can be. Though I’ve published many other novels, I haven’t published that one. I don’t know what God’s plan is for it, but I trust that He will make it clear to me when the time is right.

The way I look at my story and the way my client looks at his are completely opposite. I don’t know that my way is right. I do believe what the Scriptures says in Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” On the other hand, we don’t see a lot of Biblical prophets hiring editors, and it seems my former client believes himself to be a prophet. Maybe he is.

Have you ever felt the Lord gave you a story or a message? Where do you fall on this debate? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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6 Comments

  1. I see you humbly and honestly wrestling with this, but…. when something comes straight from God, others bear witness to it, generally. It sounds like this person is lost in his own delusion and it is an important step in learning to hear from God — facing one’s own delusions about when God is speaking.
    Watchman Nee once wrote a book, “Spiritual Reality or Obsession?” It’s a great book about how some folks are walking in spiritual reality, but some folks are just obsessed with their own spirituality and are lacking true reality.
    Thankfully, those categories are not fixed in stone — we are all on a journey. A story that God and us are writing together 😉

  2. I believe Callie was “straight from God”. It needed a lot of work and I didn’t have a clue when I started but I always believed, even when a couple of more experienced writers expressed their beliefs that most writers never see publication for their “first” story, that God had a plan. I won’t quite admit to patience, but I think I was right in that belief. The finished product has been revised and polished, but the basic story never changed.

    1. Sharon, you are the perfect example of how to handle your “straight from God” story. You wrote it, then sought input from others and edited, edited, edited. The finished product, and all the books that have come since, are a testament to your dedication to treating God’s gift with respect.

  3. I had a short story come straight to me once. The whole day it kept filling my head, and the next day, I wrote it out word for word for word. It was the most intense experience, and after I edited it, I gave it to people asking, what do I do with this? They were like, it’s good, go ahead. I submitted it to a contest and took second place, so yeah. It happens. But I don’t know that it happens as often as people want to believe it does. (I’d been writing for what, 25 years at that point? Workshopped a million times? Degree in fiction? But even then, I asked for beta reads.)

    (And you know, God is perfect, but writers aren’t perfect. Even if God gave this dude the perfect story, maybe the dude wasn’t the perfect writer of the story. Maybe that’s why Dude was directed to find an editor. The step after “find an editor” should be “and allow her to edit,” but yanno. Docility of spirit isn’t a universal.)

    1. I love that your story won a contest! Congrats on that–and on being blessed to have been given a story from God. Really, it’s an amazing gift, isn’t it?

      And you’re right–not everybody is docile. Amazing how being docile and being humble go hand in hand.