Many writers have a mental file folder of ideas they would love to write about. And, though there are lots of ideas, those thoughts and words get trapped somewhere and never written. Most have trouble knowing where to start and how to structure their project. A mental file folder, as nice as that sounds, will not get a book written. I suspect that some are waiting until they have more time or have their lives more together. Maybe it’s waiting for the perfect beach retreat, mountain cabin, or for for the kids to grow up. There are many things that can stand in the way of beginning that book or article that is dancing upon your heart. If we all waited until we felt ready to write, there wouldn’t be published books on the shelves.
None of us have life figured out or all the pieces perfectly together. But most of us can do things to follow the passion that God has placed in our hearts. We can follow the subject into our own lives, following where it leads, writing from the place of learner, follower and disciple.
There are a few things that prepare a Christian writer to launch into a full-length work. Each of these, in no specific order are important.
1. Read books in the genre you desire to write in.
It’s been said that good writers are frequent readers. Make reading a goal. Each book written started long before a word was penned to a page. Reading prepares us.
Though life is busy, we can still carve out time to read. As writers, this might be one of the most important preparations to begin writing. Give yourself a goal. Read a book each month that is in the genre you feel called to write in. Here are some ideas:
- Read as part of your sabbath day.
- Read instead of snacking.
- Find accountability by reading a book and discussing with a friend.
- Keep a book at your bedside and commit to one chapter each night.
- Use vacation or down time to catch up on reading. (I personally just finished four books, while relaxing in Maui. I came home a little browner and with a heart that was filled to the brim.)
My first four books written were Bible studies. It was a natural genre for me to write in because as a women’s ministry director, every quarter I was choosing or teaching from Bible studies. My heart was knitted to studies and I was knee deep into the lives of women who were doing them. Because of this, I had a feel for studies and saw what women responded to. I wrote from a place of what God had been teaching me for several years on His love for me.
2. Pay attention to the structure of books you love reading.
Note things that draw you in as a reader. What take away techniques does the writer use? How many chapters? Short chapters or long chapters? How is story included. How much is the authors story and how much story is included from other sources. Which type of writing makes your heart lean in?
Long studies overwhelmed me, so I wrote studies that were interactive, writing out scripture, because that is something that God used in my own life.
3. Based on what you enjoy reading, develop the structure of your book.
You will write best if you write what you love and something you would buy. Decide how many chapters you want. Do you want the book divided in sections? If writing a study or devotional, how many days?
My first non-fiction trade book, Deeper: Living in the Reality of God’s Love ( Revell), was written as a book I wished I had during a hard season of starting over in my own life. I wrote something I would want to read.
4. Begin a journal specific to your subject matter.
Take notes on scripture that God is making real to you. Note sights, sounds and emotional responses to the subject. Jot down quotes from other books, to use later.
Make sure you include all the necessary reference points, such as: author, title, publisher, year published and page number.My recent Maui journal is filled with many points of growth, discovery and things I now want to speak and write about.
5. Cut out or bookmark articles, references and stories that you could add to your work.
From magazines, newspapers, Pinterest, twitter and social media posts….there are others who relay information, facts or statistics, that will make your work richer.
6. Don’t wait until you feel completely ready.
Feelings will trick you and stop your progress. I never felt ready or qualified, but I did have a sense of calling. You don’t have to have your subject more figured out to begin writing.
Write words in the raw and beautiful experience of learning. Later write also from a place of roots that have grown deep into the soil of your subject.
7. Be committed to prayer, asking God to lead you.
Develop a plan. How many words a day can you commit to write? Some choose 300-500 words a day. This keeps their head into the writing and develops a rhythm. Will you use pen and paper to get your creativity flowing? Will your fingers quickly tap out your thoughts on a keyboard? Will you voice dictate your chapters and then go edit and clean them up?
I wrote for a recent compilation book and both my chapters were voice dictated because I had a cast on a broken right hand. I am amazed at how efficient this feature on Microsoft Word is.
8. Don’t wait for a contract or open door to begin.
Start writing your passion now so that when the time comes, you are ready to walk through that ministry open door with a big, “Yes Lord!”
Remember: We can follow the subject into our own lives, following where it leads, writing from the place of learner, follower and disciple. As I finish this post, I am thinking of you dear bookies. Obviously this post most applies to those of you writing non-fiction, but I think all can develop some new paths from the tips here.
I’m praying now that God will put a fire in you to write passionately about all the things He is calling you to write about. I am praying that He gives you a plan to accomplish his purpose and the courage to begin now.