So You Want to Write a Book: A Strange Blend

By Daniel Overdorf

The heights of delight and vulnerability come when you tear open the cardboard box that holds your first book. For those who wish to pursue this strange mix of glee and embarrassment, I offer seven bits of advice.

1. Check your motives.

Many want to have written; few want to write. Unless you relish the process—from the monotony of research to the tedium of rewriting and editing—you will never endure the meticulous work required to author a book and to convince a publisher it’s worth their investment.

10_Overdorf_JN22. Read good writers.

Whether you connect best with Shakespeare, Steinbeck, or Strobel, immerse yourself in the musings, plots, and arguments penned by the greats. Analyze their imagery, plot, dialogue, rhythms, and suspense. Dissect their nouns, verbs, moods, and tenses.

3. Read about writing.

You might pick up a classic like On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, or something more recent such as On Writing, by Stephen King. And, every writer needs to keep The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White, within arm’s reach.

4. Write often.

Even if you can catch only 15 minutes on the laptop, spend those 15 minutes pouring words into your word processor. Tomorrow you might find 30 minutes, or 45. Consistent writing stimulates your mind to mull over sentences and paragraphs long after you rise from the keyboard. And remember: a page a day equals a book a year.

5. Attend a writers’ conference. 

Several years ago I attended an American Christian Writers Conference in Atlanta. I filled my legal pad with pages about the craft and the business of writing that I still refer to today.

6. Connect with an editor.

Acquisition editors receive mountains of unsolicited proposals from aspiring writers. They have neither the time nor the patience to read them all. If, however, you make a personal connection with an editor at a conference or coffee shop, your proposal gains a face and personality. They just might read it.

7. Remember, it’s a business.

Christian publishers view their work as ministry. They know, however, that their ministry will continue only if they sell enough books to stay in business. They view a book proposal, therefore, with one eye on its ministry potential and another on its market potential. Writers who wish to be published must do the same.

Daniel Overdorf serves as professor of preaching and dean of the School of Congregational Ministry at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Read a  chapter from Daniel Overdorf’s book One Year to Better Preaching FREE in the new Christian Standard app. Download information here: https://christianstandard.com/subscribe/digital-subscriptions/

Books by Daniel Overdorf:

Ministering to Your Minister (College Press, 2008; CrossLink, 2012)

Applying the Sermon: How to Balance Biblical Integrity and Cultural Relevance (Kregel, 2009)

Rediscovering Community: What the Bible Says About the Church (College Press, 2012)

One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills (Kregel, 2013)

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