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

4 Insights about Leadership I Learned from a Bunch of Creatives

I’m a writer and a pastor. To improve my writing and book marketing skills, I joined a coaching group led by one of the smartest book marketing dudes anywhere, Chadwick Cannon. This past weekend I attended an intense 1-day session on book marketing in Nashville, Tennessee. It was an amazing day with eight bright and talented creatives. Our focus was not on leadership. Nevertheless, I came away not only with a head full of ideas on book marketing but a few insights on leadership as well.

4 leadership insights I learned from creatives:

  1. Good leaders must learn from those outside the ‘leadership’ field.
    • I was the only pastor in the group although one guy was a former pastor. Our group included a wide range of people: one woman was called to serve the homeless, another had owned an art gallery, one was facing terminal cancer, another was in accounting, one had a special needs child with a rare disease, etc., etc. This eclectic group reminded me that God has given us all certain life experiences for His glory and our benefit. I learned insights from each of these incredible people that I took away to apply in my role as a pastor.
  2. Leaders must avoid getting ‘leadership tunnel vision’ (a close cousin to number 1 above)
    • Leadership tunnel vision happens when we only expose ourselves to leadership ‘stuff.’ We read leadership books, go to leadership conferences, and mostly keep our minds in the leadership ‘headspace.’ This weekend took me out of a formal leadership ‘headspace.’ As I heard their stories and learned how to sell books, it reminded me how easily I can slip into leadership tunnel vision and that I must periodically step out of that space to learn fresh ideas.
  3. Creatives provide great examples of self-leadership.
    • Writing is a lonely business. For an author to have written a book means that she has disciplined herself to say no to other time demands so that she can focus on writing. It takes great self-leadership to say yes to the solitude writing requires. Good leaders can’t lead churches or businesses or ministries without leading themselves. A productive creative understands self-leadership.
  4. Feedback from creatives provides a helpful window to help leaders lead better.
    • As part of our session together, we shared our book marketing plans, book benefit statements, and our tag-lines for our books. After we presented, the group gave feedback. The feedback they gave me was invaluable. Their creative perspectives gave me a fresh evaluative window that I seldom get. ‘Leadership tunnel vision’ can sometimes inadvertently exclude input we need to hear from those not in the leadership space. I came away tired, but full not only of marketing ideas, but challenged to be a better leader through their unique feedback.

If you’re a leader, consider this suggestion. Get to know some creatives in or outside your church or ministry. Spend time learning about what they do and how they do it. Ask them about what it’s like being a painter or a sculptor or a musician or a writer. You’ll probably come away with some new insight about how you can be a better leader that you probably won’t get from other leaders.

Who is a creative in your circle of relationships that you could learn from?