My mother was a science fiction writer and had some short stories published by the time she was in her teens. When her first novel was accepted by a publisher, their contract came with the requirement that she cut her manuscript in half. Mom cried off and on while she typed a shortened version over the next two weeks, saying various angry things about Avalon publishers. But once she fought through slicing and dicing that story mom went on to have another 7-8 books published. A copy of her first book, “The Sea People” © Avalon Books 1959 sits proudly on my bookshelf next to a few others.
Did mom ever become a famous writer? Well, other than working as an instructor for “The Famous Writer’s School” the short answer is no. But mom was moderately successful, with her fourth book (Sons of the Wolf) published both in the U.S. as well as Germany, Italy and the UK. Whatever our ability level, we who work in words often fall into the trap of elaborating a scene, an idea or a character till only we are in love with our story. But longer is rarely better and less is usually more. Consider the brevity of the parable of the prodigal son. In just 495 words Jesus shares a story that has touched more lives and changed more hearts than all the works of Shakespeare, Twain, and Jane Austin combined. He tells us about a son who left the simple life of a family farm for the glittering complexity of a distant city. There the son lost all that his father had given him and wasted everything he had trying to be somebody important. But the oinking of the pigs soon made it clear that his dream job had ended up being just feeding hogs. There in the pigpen, Jesus tells us that, “He came to himself.” In that single moment of clear thinking, he remembered his father. On the way home, the prodigal son carefully rehearsed a list of apologies and explanations, but on his arrival, he was immediately interrupted by his joyful father’s welcome. To every one of us who have come home to a childlike faith in Jesus, God gives a story to tell. The less distance we put between the story He gives us and the heart of our neighbor the better. Every story is a pathway to somewhere and the story of grace should be a simple pathway that ends with a Father who is waiting to celebrate our return!