Prodigal Writer by Nick Kording

You know the story of the prodigal son. It’s probably the most replicated parable in the Bible. He’s the runner. When he’s broke and broken, he realizes there’s no place like home. Well, maybe I’ve thrown a little Wizard of Oz in there but it goes something like that. He goes home. And, for the longest time, I resented the prodigal. Then I realized there is a little prodigal in all of us. We have all rebelled against God at some point or another; even if was just in our initial unbelief.

As writers, it’s easy to run away from the calling to write. Writing is not an easy path. Not to sound cliché, but writing requires sacrifice. It requires that some part of your heart and soul be left on the page, which is no small task. And even if you are excited about the work, getting from manuscript to publication is more than just hard work. Even a book deal is no guarantee you can quit your day job. And most of us have or had other jobs as well at some point along the way. For me, I am a ghostwriter and used to be a professor and editor. Deep down, though, I am a writer. Yet, still, I am prone to run. Run from the possibility of being rejected, of finding out I may not be good enough, of failing. Sometimes we run because our day job is too demanding, we’ve taken on too much or we are sick. Mostly, though, it’s fear.

Running seems preferable to failing any day. Still, ultimately, when we run from God’s calling to write, the end result is no different than the prodigal son. Broke in spirit, there is little choice but to go home and start again.

This year, I ran a lot, which means I’ve not written nearly as much as I should. And it was not fear based, as much as life’s circumstances and a little stubbornness. In the end, it was costly. Running always is. It kept me from entering contests, working on the craft and finishing the rewrites of both books I planned to have done by now. Like the prodigal, I had to get to a point where deadlines passed and I was spiritually starving as a writer to see how far I had run. For me, running partly meant rebelling against some of the non-writing aspects to being a writer.

So, like the prodigal, we as writers can turn around and go back to God. Doing so is as simple as making a list, and, of course, doing the things on it. What does that look like? Well, a list might look like this:

  1. Pray: Make sure you really are called to write and pray about what God wants you to write. Seek confirmation from God, not by testing Him to give you an award or book deal, but just confirmation of the calling. God is not a god of confusion. He will let you know;
  1. Schedule it: Set a schedule and check it off. Give yourself mini goals and reward yourself when you meet them. It is easy to get discouraged in the journey and process of writing, so, even if you are a pantser, having goals (chapters/scenes done, character developed/brainstorming done) will not only keep you on track, but also, by doing so, means you will be writing and the joy and excitement in doing so, at least for me, confirms His calling;
  1. Money: Conferences, education and marketing are expensive. Set a plan for the economic costs you expect to spend (for example, there is a conference I’ve wanted to attend for four years, including this winter. It’s an expensive one, and, while I know that, I’ve never saved for it. So, I reached out and contacted the person who organizes it and now I am on a payment plan. So, next year, I’ll be there.);
  1. Read: Read books about the craft and books for the joy of reading. Good writing – good stories – are encouraging and inspirational. And don’t be afraid to give honest reviews. It helps other readers and allows you to consider where your writing might suffer from the same issues;
  1. Huddle: A group of writers will encourage and support you, hold you accountable and help you become a better writer.
  1. Connect: I realized I read certain genres, but I also read books from authors I know. I will give a new author a chance more readily when I feel a connection with them either through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) YouTube, conferences and, at times, giveaways. You might think I am talking about building platforms. And, in a way I am. Build them for your children.
  1. Write: Just write something every day. You can’t call yourself a writer if you are not writing.

There are no guarantees when you write. However, there are many if you do not. You won’t have anything to pitch. You will not have content for your website or social media sources. And, if you are like me, you don’t hear any future direction from God. You see, He’s given you the direction. You just have to take it.

~*~

A Frasier Bronze Medalist, Rattler finalist and Splickety Love finalist, Nick Kording writes contemporary, speculative and modern-day adaptations of Biblical stories with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies and devotionals.

 

I admit I’m a little spoiled

For years, I’ve attended churches with preachers who dig deep into the Word, dissect the meanings of verses with a scalpel and basically train their congregants in theology like we might be attending Dallas Theological. And this is a good thing…we need to know what we believe and why.

But, every once in a while while I’m travelling, I’ll attend church where the preaching is more, well, let’s say basic. This week, while I was in Montana, the local church had a guest speaker—not their usual preacher—but a troubadour whose strengths were in his musical abilities.

They asked him to preach.

The sweet man gave a simple sermon about the miracle of Christmas, of God coming to man to rescue him.

Simple. But powerful. No exegesis. No digging deep into the etymology, no commentary connected to other scripture. Just a retelling of why Jesus came to earth and why it matters today.

He said, “Christmas is the beginning of God’s rescue mission.”

And then we sang carols to the strum of his guitar. Joy to the World, The First Noel, Silent Night.

Again, familiar. But as our voices raised with the simplicity of the accompaniment, the words became the focus, and I was overwhelmed with the simple joy of being rescued.

There’s nothing wrong with simple. With focusing on the basics.

In fact, a great story starts out with the basics.

A person with a problem, who wants something, for a good reason. Goal. Motivation. They run into obstacles as they pursue it, and this causes Conflict.

GMC, we call it, and every story starts there.

All the rest is the accompaniment—the storyworld, the dialogue, the emotional layering. And then we add the exegesis—the themes, the backstory, the transformation.

But it’s the basics, it’s that simplicity of focus that create the powerful story. The Goal. The Why behind the Goal. The obstacles standing in the way.

The happy ending.

Most of you just finished NaNoWriMo (YAY for you!) and are looking at your story, still cooling after the rush of creation. You might be worried it doesn’t have the layers you need, or the plot twists, or the scene tension.

Don’t panic. You’ll get to that. But for now, start with the basics, and keep it simple…Goal. Motivation. Conflict.

Happy ending.

Storytelling doesn’t have to be that complicated.

Nor does your writing career. As you head into the new year, keep your goals simple:

  • What is your goal. Why?
  • What obstacles do you see ahead of you? How will you conquer them?
  • What does a happy ending look like for you in 2017?

If you have a solid foundation there, the rest will fall into place.

Your story matters. Go! Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May

PS. If you’re interested in learning how to write a story, simply, organically, starting with the character, check out my how-to book The Story Equation!

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