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.
Aside from her family and her Savior, Robin Patchen has two loves—writing and traveling. If she could combine them, she’d spend a lot of time sitting in front of her laptop at sidewalk cafes and ski lodges and beachside burger joints. She’d visit every place in the entire world—twice, if possible—and craft stories and tell people about her Savior. Alas, time is too short and money is too scarce for Patchen to traipse all over the globe, even if her husband and kids wanted to go with her. So she stays in Oklahoma, shares the Good News when she can, and writes to illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.