Outlining, Writing, and the Author of Everything

Christians and the Creative Writing Process, Part 4

 “All things came into being through Him [Christ], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” – John 1:3 (NASB)

“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” – Luke 24:27 (NASB)

 

Themes, World, and Characters—all pieces of the writing process that point to the Lord in various ways. Once these pieces are established, only one thing remains for the writer to do: write the story.

I find that the actual writing part of the creative writing process constantly prompts me to reflect on the Lord in a myriad of ways. Not only does it bring to mind the same lessons I take from themes, world, and characters, but it can also be a time for me to fully experience and reflect what the Lord is teaching me in my own life story. Oftentimes as I write, I find myself pausing to reflect because God uses the story I’m writing and its themes to encourage or exhort me in whatever season of life I happen to be in. I still remember a moment when I literally cried over a scene I’d just written because it encouraged and confronted me in my own pursuit of bravery (the theme of that book and what the main character had to learn). Our Company of Fools, as a whole, was a poignant novel for me to write as well. I originally wrote it because I needed a way to process my own grief, loss, and fears. It was a book written for myself at first, helping me through my heartache, though I did go on to share it with others not long after I completed it. More recently, when I finally finished The Queen of Imagination after years of hiatus, it was during a period of time when I was confronting the reality of change—a big part of that book’s overall theme. It’s neat to see how God works through my own writing to prompt me to think on the areas He wants me to grow in.

In a more general way, though, the process of outlining, writing, and any sort of narrative-shaping points me towards the Truth of God’s amazing authorship. He wrote all of history. He is responsible for everything in Scripture, from each instance of foreshadowing of Christ to the redemption and salvation of mankind through His Son. Plus, He orchestrated everything that happens in our own lives: the ways our lives intersect with others, the Lord’s perfect timing in His blessings and discipline, and the trials we face on our journey to Heaven.

Personally, I think it’s so cool to think about the authorship of God. How did He manage to interweave every single person’s character arc and plot? It’s insanely complex! And yet He did it, organizing all of our different threads across history. He works on us individually, but also uses us in others’ lives to shape His grand plan for redemption and His glory. I marvel at this reality. Quite frankly, I can barely plot and outline my own novels. I like having a ton of characters, connections, and plots. But it’s so hard to balance, sometimes even within just one POV. So when I’m in the midst of outlining, I’m in awe of the ways God works in the lives of all His people to create one cohesive narrative that brings Him the ultimate glory. I can’t fathom how He interweaves the lives of billions upon billions of people into a cohesive narrative, and yet He does. And—even more incredible—He doesn’t forget about a single person in His story for the universe. Yeah, He doesn’t forget a single person. That’s crazy to me. Mind-blowing crazy.

Even more remarkable to me, God writes the perfect rough drafts for each of us. In His sovereignty, He gets it right the first time for each of our plots. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never written a perfect first draft. Or second. Or third, fourth, fifth, etc. Even my so-called “finished” novel Our Company of Fools will never be perfect. But God—in His perfection and unfailing design—His first draft for us and for the world is exactly what needs to happen. We can never “write ourselves” into a hole deep enough that we completely fall out of line with God’s purpose for our lives. We may not always understand where our story is going, or even where the course of the world is heading, but nonetheless, it is exactly as He intends. He uses change, hardship, and our failings to teach us something about Himself and, potentially, give us the opportunity to minister to others going through similar trials. I don’t often (or really ever) understand why I’m going through a difficult season or struggling with a particular sin while I’m in that chapter, but once I’ve turned the page to the next part, I see only His good purposes for my life when I look back. It’s comforting to think about the perfection of God’s plan in our lives.

Writing also makes me consider the ways God delights or mourns over us as we traverse through His narrative for our lives. While writing my novels, I’ve certainly cried during emotionally-intense scenes, delighted at writing the exciting or happy bits, and felt remorse when my characters inevitably screwed up. I like to think that God looks at us in a similar way as we live out our lives—the lives He’s written for us, even with all our flaws and our mistakes. We sin, He grieves. We find redemption and He celebrates. He weeps with us when He has to discipline us, a painful process for many of us as idols are rooted out of our lives. Yet, when He blesses us, when He reminds us of His grace and love, He rejoices. For me, this paints a beautiful picture of God.

I find peace in remembering that the Lord is the great Author of Everything. He certainly knows better than I do, and for that I’m thankful. I’m not always great at relinquishing my hold on the Pen writing Life’s Story, but I know His design is always the better one.

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How have you learned from the books you’ve written? Do they tend to relate to the season you’re personally walking through, too?

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