How I Wrote a Leadership Book in 4 Months: 10 Writing Tips

I’ve written four books and my third book (People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership) took me, from contract to manuscript delivery, four months. I’m working on my fifth (99% done) and my sixth (15% done). How was I able to write 60,000 words in such a short amount of time? If you have a book in mind, what would it take for yours to get published? Here’s my brief story and 10 writing tips to consider if you want to write a book.

It might be helpful to give you some background first.

I’ve been a pastor for over 30 years and at that time I had resigned my church to begin a church consulting company, travel, write books, and get another degree. So, I had more time than the average full-time pastor. I had already published two books prior to this one. Thomas Nelson published my first one in 2005 that I co-authored with my daughter Heather, Daughters Gone Wild-Dads Gone Crazy. Bethany House (Baker) published my second one in 2010, Five Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them. Prior to my first book I had published over 25 articles in various Christian magazines and had attended several writers’ conferences. When I began this project I had some experience under my belt.

I write and read mostly non-fiction. I have a passion to help pastors and writing is one way I can help them. I’ve been around the block a few times. And I’m disciplined with my time.

So, how was I able to write at book in four months? And is that reasonable for most authors?

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last several years that has helped me consistently write and publish and helped me write that book in four months.

  1. Start writing regularly. Write for your church newsletter, your local paper, and/or blog. Before I ever considered writing a book I wrote articles. I now blog about twice a week to keep my writing skills sharp and to build my platform. Small writing chunks can keep you motivated because you can quickly see your finished product.
  2. Attend writer’s conferences. I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference several times as well as numerous others. At those conferences I learned how to write, I connected with editors and agents, and I learned what publishers want. Number 3 below can point you to various conferences around the country.
  3. Buy the book The Christian Writer’s Guide, 2017This book lists everything you need to know about the Christian publishing world including an agent list, publishing house needs, available writers’ conferences, and magazines where you can submit your writing.
  4. Do your homework. I had already done research for this book for about two years prior to writing it. I had attended conferences on family systems and had begun a master’s program in neuroscience, which I based the book on. I had also read many books on the subject. Begin learning now more about the subject matter of the book you want to write.
  5. Consistently capture your ideas. I used a visual thinking software program called Inspiration that includes a great mind-mapping function. Mind mapping is a simple visual process that captures and organizes your ideas and thoughts. I also used an outliner app on my iPad and iPhone to quickly record ideas that came to mind. It’s called Outliner.
  6. Learn how to write a good proposal. Michael Hyatt’s e-book on proposal writing is great.You probably won’t get published unless you write an outstanding proposal.
  7. Learn how to expand your platform. Again, Michael Hyatt has written the definitive manual on developing your platform in his book Platform. Get it and learn from it.
  8. Get an agent. Most publishing houses don’t accept manuscripts directly from authors. They only do so through agents. The Christian Writer’s Guide I referenced above lists many agents and what they accept. You can, of course, bypass agents and opt for self-publishing. Some of the big publishing houses even have self-publishing divisions. Essentially self-publishing requires that you pay upfront to have your book printed. A great article on self-publishing is here.
  9. Schedule time to write that works best for you. Some authors set a daily or weekly word count. I prefer to set up my calendar with hours I will write each week. I also figure the total hours I think it will take me to write a chapter, about 20-30 for a chapter of 4,000-5,000 works. Then, based on the number of hours I’ve allocated each week, I schedule a reasonable completion date. Remember, by the time I got to this stage I’d already compiled lots of research, written my proposal, and put my book ideas into a mind-map format. Find the best time for you to write and follow Nike’s advice, just do it.
  10. Edit. Edit. Edit. Once you’ve written your book, the job is only half done. I once heard someone say, “I don’t like to write. I like to ‘have written.'” After your write, the editing process is indispensible for improving your writing. Few if any writers get it right the first time.

So, if you have a book in your heart, go for it. You can leave a lasting legacy through writing. One of the most satisfying feelings I experienced lately was when I pressed ‘send’ and emailed my manuscript to my editor.

If you’re a writer, what advice would you give to budding writers?

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E-mail Etiquette for Busy Leaders

We’ve all gotten emails that either wasted our time, took us off task, or stirred up our emotions because someone just dumped on us. Email is both a blessing and a curse. One study discovered that we waste over eight hours a week from the distraction caused by emails [1]. Yikes! If you’re a busy pastor, ministry leader, or business professional, we can probably help each other by incorporating some simple e-mail etiquette pointers.

E-mail etiquette:

  1. Keep emails brief and to the point. Put the key message you want to convey right up front.
  2. Limit emails to one main subject. Try not to mix several subjects into one email.
  3. Don’t ‘Cc’ everybody. If you need to copy your email to another, make sure it goes only to the person who needs to get it, not to everybody that may have received the initial email.
  4. Don’t email messages that are emotional. If you need to communicate something emotional, criticize someone, or give negative feedback, pick up the phone and speak to the person. Or better yet, talk to them face-to-face. It’s easy to take an emotional email the wrong way.
  5. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE YELLING!
  6. Avoid the power play game by copying the email recipient’s boss. Sometimes it’s appropriate to copy the boss for information purposes. But if you’re trying to coerce the recipient by leveraging the boss’s influence, that’s not fair.
  7. Include your contact info in your signature.
  8. Re-read your email before you press “send.”

Any email tips you’ve discovered that make emails more useful?


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[1] www.drthomasjackson.com/pdf/Bad%20Habits.rtf

The Controversy Behind ‘Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Tithe’

Recently I posted a blog titled “Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Tithe.” I took it from a recent sermon I preached at my church, West Park Church in London, Ontario. I didn’t expect it to go viral and certainly didn’t anticipate the controversy it generated.  Here’s the reader interaction stats on it (from my website, Google analytics, and Churchleaders.com that posted it twice) and what I learned.

  • Re-tweets: almost 100
  • Facebook shares: 1124
  • Comments on Churchleaders.com: 253 at last count
  • Facebook ‘Likes’ on Churchleaders.com: 3,400 at last count
  • Pageviews on my website: 12,000 plus at last count

To put this into context, I’m not a big league blogger like some you probably read. I post twice a week primarily on church leadership. I average around 7,000 unique page views per month and I have an email list of followers of around 2,400. So, I don’t rank very high in the blogosphere.

So, when I began to see these trends, I knew something was up. Here are the insights I’ve learned from this post.

  • The concept of tithing remains very controversial. From my 35 years in ministry I knew people had differing views. However, I never knew those views would create such emotion.
  • Some people get incendiary when pastors talk about money. I was quite surprised at some of the emotion laden darts commenters threw out at pastors. The comments revealed lots of angst people carry toward pastors and money.
  • Some people can disagree agreeably. Although I didn’t read all 250 plus comments, I read enough to see that several thoughtfully shared their differing viewpoints. They made good points without SHOUTING!
  • Social media is reinforcing unhealthy ‘filterless’ communication.

    I was shocked at how mean some of the comments were. In contrast to those who agreeably disagreed with me, some commenters threw multiple verbal grenades. In our social networking world when we don’t have to talk to a real live person standing a few feet away from us, we tend to thoughtlessly speak our mind with no love to temper us. Social networking is giving people a forum to say what they want with no filters. This is not a healthy trend.

  • I support everyone’s right to dissent, even if they lack filters. Although filterless communication is not the healthiest kind, I still support everyone’s right to dissent. Unfortunately, especially in today’s politically correct world, those of us who take biblical stances on issues (i.e., on biblical marriage) are being marginalized more and more.

Why do you think this post generated so much controversy?

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Facebook and Twitter RANTERS…my Response

I’ve used Facebook and Twitter for a few years to help communicate my message on living for Christ as a leader and as a person. It’s been a valuable tool to share my thoughts and I’ve learned a great deal from others. However, I’m finding that more and more people are using it as a club against those who may disagree with their views. I’ve especially seen vitriolic rants come from those who who oppose Biblical perspectives on life issues. If you’ve every received an angry email, you know it’s not a pleasant experience. I’m now seeing many people misuse social media in the same way. Here’s what I’ve decided to do in response.

First, social media has benefited me in many ways.

  1. I’ve learned insights from others, even from those with whom I disagree. Such insight motivates me to be a better Christ follower and a better leader.
  2. I’ve kept up with friends and family and re-connected with friends from the past.
  3. I’ve gotten a good laugh from funny videos on social media. Sometimes I simply need some levity and many of these videos have provided that.
  4. I’ve become more informed about current Biblical and world issues I care about.
  5. I’ve been inspired by stories of men and women of great faith and by those who have overcome incredible odds.
  6. I’ve been touched by the amazing stories and videos of dog rescues. I admit. I am a sucker for those.

Since the recent increase in vitriol even from some of my so called Facebook friends, I’ve decided that to maintain the value social media brings to me (the above reasons) and to minimize my frustration from those who rant, set up straw men to then tear them down, or throw out ‘in your face’ unfounded criticism about issues I hold dear, I’m taking these steps.

  1. I’m not going to automatically ‘friend’ someone who simply requests it, as I have until now.
  2. I have and will ‘unfriend’ those who rant, spew invectives, are dismissive of those who hold Biblical values, or otherwise misuse social media.
  3. I’m considering turning off the comment section on my blog as many well-known bloggers have now done. Fortunately, I’ve not had any commenters misuse this blog feature but I’m not confident that will continue given the current social media climate.
  4. I won’t be guilty of that which I find offensive. I won’t rant back to those who rant. I will simply use the power of the Facebook pull down menu and ‘click’ the ranter off my friend list.
  5. I will check my heart attitude to make sure that my thoughts about the ranters are pleasing to God.

Have you seen an uptick in social media vitriol? If so, how do you plan to deal with it?

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