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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Buy the book The Christian Writer’s Guide, 2017. This 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?