Pregnant with Story

by Allen Arnold
It matters how a
story is conceived.
Nothing is more
important to
a novel than how it
was created.
And who you were
during its creation.
__________
Let’s start at the
beginning
The time you first
flirted with the idea.
Neither of you were
looking for anything serious.
But your eyes met.
Sparks flew.
You fell in love
and
got married to the
idea.
The next thing you
know…
you are pregnant
with story.
This affects male
and female writers
alike.
You love the story
inside you.
Can’t wait for it
to be born.
But man, is it
messy.
Part inspiration.
Part isolation.
You write all
night.
Eat too many
Doritos.
Your clothes don’t
fit.
Your brain goes
fuzzy.
And all your
friends are out playing
while you’re in
this whole new chapter.
You are officially
Pregnant with Story.
And what you do
during these months
will forever
determine the life of your novel.
______________
Am I saying that who
you are – and what you do – during the creation of your novel is more important
than anything else?
Yes. Absolutely.
Am I talking about
you hitting a certain word count each day?

Not at all.
Is this about a
killer concept, craft mastery, or better social media strategy?
No. There’s a place
for those.
But they are never
the foundation.
The main reason God
has given you the gift of story
is for the two of
you to spend time together.
The Creator showing
the created how to create.
Can you fathom that?
God wants to spend time creating with you.
You have a unique passion for story because God knit that into your being. Why?
I believe it is for your own heart and, secondarily, for the hearts of those
who will read your stories.
If you get so busy
writing that you miss that,
your story will be
less than it could.
Because you can’t write a better story than
you’re living.
But we try. During
my 20 years in the publishing industry, I worked with hundreds of authors and most
struggled to remember this during the creative process.
So let me ask you…
If your future readers could see the process
of how you create, would they want to read your story once it is born?
When you find
yourself pregnant with story, here are three ways to carry it well.
1.   
While You’re Expecting…Stay Expectant
In Scripture, I
love Mary’s reaction after realizing she is with child. That God has – in the
most miraculous way – allowed her to participate in the birth of the Savior.
Her primary emotion
is awe.
“I’m bursting with
good news.
I’m dancing with
the song of my Savior God…
His mercy flows in
wave after wave
On those who are in
awe before him.”
(The Message, Luke
1)
When you are giving
birth to story – is your primary emotion one of awe?
Do you awake
expectant about all God has in store for you each day? I try to begin each
morning, before my feet hit the floor, asking, “Father, what do you have
planned for us today?” It is a spirit of fellowship and expectancy…of walking
with God in a constant state of awe.
This enables life
to enter the pages you are writing.
But if you spend
more time with your fictional characters than God, your words will lack life.
If you are huffing and puffing on worry and stress during the creative process,
your story will be born small and frail.
In
actual pregnancies, experts have shown that when a mother-to-be is overly
stressed about her birth, the pre-born baby can feel it. This impacts not just
the pregnancy but also the child. How do you think stressful days of cranking
out a manuscript will impact the life of your book?  Can words of life and creativity really make
into your story when there’s no awe in the storyteller?
2.   
Nourish Yourself…and Your Story
When
pregnant with story, you must make sure you consume things that nourish both
your soul and your story.
Philippians
4:8 (The Message) urges us to focus on things that are “noble, pure, true,
reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the
beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Yet pop
culture feeds us a steady diet of media void of any real life. It offers songs
and story that celebrate hopelessness, death, violence, gratuitous sex, narcissism,
and the use of God and Jesus’ name as slurs. It’s hard to create life if you
are consuming this toxic mix of junk food.
3.   
Setting Your Story Apart
Remember Hannah.
She wanted a son more than anything else. So she made God a promise. If God
would give her a son, she vowed:  “I will
give him completely and unreservedly to you. I will set him apart for a life of
holy discipline.” (The Message). And God did just that. His name was Samuel.
God made a barren
womb a place of life. And God is the one who will bring your stories to life. I
encourage you to follow Hannah’s example. Even before you have the idea – give
your future story completely and unreservedly to God. Set it apart and allow
God to do with it what he desires. It is the bold act of giving back to God
what he so generously gave to you.
Yet many see
the birth of story as their ticket to fame or validation. We wouldn’t put that
burden on our child. And we shouldn’t put it on our novel. The reason to have a
child – and a story – is to bring life into the world and to make it a better
place. Not to enhance our stature or comfort.
____________
At last…the big
day arrives.
You give birth.
What started as an
idea is fully realized.
The press release,
um, I mean birth announcement, goes out.
But by then, the
story’s destiny is already set.
It was formed into
either an offering or a means to something other while the story was developing
inside you and being created.
It all depends on
understanding why God has given you the gift of story – and what your story is –
as you create.
Invite him into the
process.
Give him your story
as an offering before it is born.
Because it matters how
a story is conceived. 
Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing – overseeing  the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn’t really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series “Once Upon a Time” and is passionate about helping storytellers write from an awakened heart.