Friday, 31 March 2017

The heart of the story

By Jenny Glazebrook


Have you ever taught something you thought you understood, and then found that really, you had no idea?

Take this quote for example.



I remember someone saying it at an Omega Writers’ Conference several years back and it stuck with me. It made so much sense. I taught it to others and was passionate about its truth.
I thought I knew how to do it – how to ‘kill my darlings’ and allow my work to be edited without clinging to my raw, heartfelt, flowing, first words.

I knew I must cling to the heart of my story and let everything else go.


But now I have a new publisher. I am excited that she believes in my ability enough to invest in me. What a privilege. I owe it to her to listen to her expertise. So what is the 'but'? 

She has asked me to sculpt my novel to under half the size of the original. 

That's 130,000 words which I thought formed a beautiful masterpiece, but which I now need to see as a clumpy, raw piece of wood with which to work. 130,000 words which came from my heart. 130,000 words which were finalist in a competition, which have touched hearts, which come from my life, my very soul.

I need to cut the word count back to 60,000. I need to modernise the 20 year old language and characters. I need to change the title. I need to change from third person to first person. In short, I need to hold the heart of the story in my hands and re-write almost every single word.

The doubts creep in. If it’s not good enough as it is, can I even write at all? I can’t believe all the mistakes the publisher picked up when I thought I’d fixed them, all the ideas she suggested I need to change and hone. I was humbled when she pointed out the techniques I’ve taught others but failed to carry out myself. 

What do I think I’m doing? Who do I think I am?

It feels too hard, too big a project. I’ve had 4 children since I wrote that first version and I’m sure I’ve lost brain cells since then. I can’t even remember where I put my pen a few moments ago. I’ve tried to re-write the story but it’s so close to me I can’t let go of the old. I worry: will readers still connect with my characters if I take out all the details, back-up characters, plot ideas? I love all the characters. I love the witty banter. It's part of me.
I’ve tried changing font type and font size to give me a fresh perspective. Why can’t I let it go?

I'm not proud enough to think I know more than my experienced publisher. There is obviously a lot I can do to improve; to reach excellence. And I know God can use anybody. He doesn't even need me. I know it in my head, so why won't my heart listen?

And what is the heart of my story? Really?

That’s my greatest fear: what if I lose the heart of the story? What if it slips through my fingers with the words? What if God isn’t in it this time? What if I’m just trying to fit in with a market, an ideal, a publisher’s ideas of what is popular and will sell?

And that is when God’s quiet voice breaks through all the noise and says, ‘Trust.’

Trust whom? The publisher? My ability? My experience? My story?

No. 

God.

If there truly was something valuable in that first version of the novel, then it came from Him. And He never changes. He can choose to use me again. Or not.

And so I bury my head in my hands as I place it before Him and let go. My fingers itch to snatch it back up, but no, I have to put my muddy clump of clay into the master potter’s hands and let Him guide my fingers, my words, my heart. I need to let my publisher guide me as the Lord guides her.

I never thought it would be so scary to let go. Or so exhilarating, freeing, and amazing. I feel like I’ve jumped off a cliff and I am free-falling, waiting for the hand of God to catch me and carry me safely to the other side.

And even if He doesn’t, I will still trust Him. I will still love Him. I will still honour and glorify Him. Because He can choose what to do with this pot He has made.


But first, I have to write that first new word. So help me, God … please guard and guide my heart for without You I am nothing.





Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day. She has a Diploma of Theology and is a 3 times CALEB finalist. Jenny’s website is: www.jennyglazebrook.com

12 comments:

  1. I love your posts, Jenny. So real, so identifiable, so honest - thank you. Finding the heart of the story is such a great analogy: finding God's heart for the story itself, finding God's heart for others through it, and like you say, trusting Him as you strip away the fat and excess (70k worth! Oh my!) to find the true core. You can do it! (Hope the witty banter stays!)

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    1. Jenny, Carolyn kinda says what I thought to on reading your post. Stepping out of the boat is both terrifying and exhilarating. And knowing He's right there with you as you cull all those words is a wonderful place to be in even if the waves get a bit rough from time to time.

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    2. Love your summary of it, Carolyn. And thanks for the encouragement! And Ian, I agree there's no better place to be, than out of the boat if it's with Jesus.

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  2. Thanks for sharing so honestly once again, Jenny. Wow, I can well imagine how daunting a task rewriting your book must seem right now--but the exciting thing is that, through all this, you will find a whole new audience for that particular book. Just a thought though--I guess it's not a possibility to divide the book into two? On the other hand, tightening up and refining your original manuscript may well make that heart of the story shine out so much more clearly.

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    1. Thanks Jo-Anne. Yes, I did think about two books, but as you say, I think refining the manuscript should make the heart shine brighter.

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  3. Great post, Jenny. I can feel your dilemma and struggle. Obviously some great feedback from your new publisher. " What if I’m just trying to fit in with a market, an ideal, a publisher’s ideas of what is popular and will sell?" is a question that resonates with me. I love that God calls you to trust him in the process. Praying that you keep the heart of the story amid such radical surgery.

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    1. Thanks Jenny! And may God guide us both as we listen to His voice.

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  4. Fabulous post Jenny. Wow, that is a lot of words to cull, and I can see why you would be so distressed ... after all, it is everything that has been written from your heart with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That's a huge book 130,000 words, I would love to read it as it is one day, if you are agreeable. This whole process is going to be quite daunting for you, but in another way it could be quite exciting. Once you 'let go' and 'get down that first word' I am certain you will become illuminated. I shall pray that you are able to keep both the heart and soul of your story, and that God does an extra special job as He guides your publisher along the way.

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    1. Thanks Jo'Anne! Yes, it is both daunting and exciting. I've grown a lot spiritually since that first version, so hopefully this one will be better! I am happy to send you a copy of the old version if you like. If you inbox me your address I'll get it to you.

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  5. Good on you, Jenny. Wow, that's a big task. I (and I know several others) can relate to you, as we've done similar trimmings and prunings, but you're talking about a lot of words! And you'll be using a different mindset to the one you used to write the novel in the first place. That's an exciting stretch. Looking forward to seeing how you go with it <3

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    1. Thanks Paula. I know I'm not alone in the challenge and it's encouraging to know that authors whom I so greatly admire (such as yourself) have been there.

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  6. Hi Jenny, thanks for sharing your heart with us. It can be helpful to view this as a gift. You have an opportunity to rework the story for a brand new audience. If you're deleting complete sub-plots or secondary viewpoint characters, you could consider reworking the deleted scenes into short stories ie. free bonus material for your newsletter subscribers. The old writing can be recycled in novel ways. :)

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