As It Is Written, Pt. 2
Yesterday, I shared some tips for writing in general (Dale Jenkins also shared similar thoughts, and I highly recommend you take the time to read them). But the process I use for writing blog posts vs. books is very different. Blog posts are designed to go live very soon after being authored. Books, on the other hand, are more involved. I think most people expect a higher level of quality from books than blogs. I know I do. I overlook typos in blog posts, and I have more than my fair share in my own posts. But typos in books are, to be plain, inexcusable to me (let's not talk about the typos in my books; it's too painful!). The biggest difference in my writing books vs. blogs, besides the length and quality expected is the RESEARCH required. Most people think research is required only for certain types of literature, but I'm not sure research shouldn't be done for EVERY type of book. One of my favorite all-time Western writers, Louis L'Amour, was well-known for feverishly researching his novels to be sure of accuracy. James Michener was the same way.
While researching/writing a book like "Epic of God," I prefer to have any commentaries/resources available in Logos Bible Software. It is my Bible Study software of choice, and I can't say too many good things about it. Using their iOS app, I can read the books on my iPad, highlight and make notes of what I read, and then I go into the app on my iMac and transfer the highlighted portions into a program called "Scrivener" where I compile all my research. Scrivener is too involved to go into a description here, but it makes the process of compiling research and hammering out a rough draft manuscript very easy.
When I'm ready to compose the second draft, I retype the manuscript into MS Word and upload the final file to Amazon's KDP platform. I lay the paperback file out in Adobe InDesign.
Early on, I noticed that it was difficult to keep track of which commentaries I had read and which I had not. I also noticed that I would come across citatinos that I wanted to track down, so I began keeping detailed notes of my reserach in Evernote. Every passage (e.g. Genesis 23) receives its own note and I make a checklist of all the resources I want to consult. I have a separate note for all journal articles I want to track down in the library and any dictionary articles I want to look up. I also keep a seperate checklist of any other books I want to read after the first draft is completed in order to supplement what I've already gained.
I believe I have a particular writing style that could be picked out of a line up by those who know me. I think of writing as a conversation, albeit a one-sided one. As I write, if I don't think I'd actually say "________" in a conversation, I don't write it. Nor do I want folks to have the feeling that I'm talking "at" them so much as "with" them.
Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. Apple installs a great dictionary/thesaurus program on their computers, and I use it heavily. If you don't have a Mac, there sevearl websites that can provide this for you. I also have a few stylebooks that I consult from time to time (e.g. AP Style Handbook), and I'm constantly googling proper grammar rules (the irony of that sentence is that I used "googling" as a verb, which may or may not be acceptable grammar).
Oh, and don't ignore or underestimate the value of a good editor.
I test out my material on someone who represrents my target audience… i.e., my wife. She grew up going to church, is very smart, reads her Bible regularly, and is intersted in spiritual things. But she has no formal theological training. So if she undesrstands what I'm trying to say, I figure I'm good. It isn't a fool-proof method, but I think it served me well while writing "Epic of God."
This is a good spot to say this: There will be someone, and likely several someones, who just hate your writing. OK, "hate" may be a strong word, but they will reach various levels of disgust over it. You can't do anything about that. That doesn't excuse you from never trying to mature and improve as a writer. But every great writer has had a body of critics. Learn from any constructive criticism, but don't let them keep you from continuing to write.
Overcome the fear that prevents you from hitting the "Send" button. What I mean by that is this: You will ALWAYS find a reason not to go to press with a manuscript. Continue to refine it and make it better, but at some point, you have to take the leap of faith. When it came time to publish "Epic of God," there was still more research I wanted to do. Plus, I was very apprehensive about how the book would be received. I wanted another month, but I also knew "another month" would have easily morphed into six. So I decided to ahead, take the leap, hit "send" on the manuscript, and I've not regretted it since.
Even after my mother-in-law found a dozen typos after the book was released. But she was super nice about it. She's awesome that way.
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