Since my first book Outbreak I've written (and co-written) 18 books with four more in the pipeline to be released in the next six months. The day before yesterday I finished a writing retreat where I finished what may prove to be my biggest book (70,000 words!) Oh if they just made sense! :) Hopefully youth leaders will want to read these words I and Jane Dratz, my amazing editor and phenomenal writer of many things at Dare 2 Share, labored over so intensely.
Over the years I've developed some habits that have helped me write more and more effectively. I wanted to share seven of them with you:
1. Gestation Time
People often have asked me, "How do you just sit down and write a book?" The answer is I don't! The process begins well before I type the first words on a page. Before the actual writing begins I need enough time for the seed to be planted and the whole concept begins to gestate. Hopefully by the time it's time to write a book the ideas are developed enough to put pen to page. During this gestation process I pray, think and jot down notes, sometimes for weeks or even months beforehand. I have found that it's way easier to write a book when I've had enough time to pray and think through it well in advance.
I try to blog 2-3x's a week. The habit of blogging sharpens my ability to write when it comes to books. There's even been a few times my 1,000+ previous posts become pre-made illustrations that I can cut and paste right into my book (cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater!) Blogging is an essential habit for writers and aspiring writers to develop. Why? Because the best way to get better at writing is to actually write. Blogging forces your hand (literally and figuratively!)
3. Having a primary Scripture for each chapter.
I know. I know. This is probably the preacher in me but it really helps my non-fiction writing when I have a key passage to build each chapter on. With my latest book I had previous writing retreat several months ago. On it I completed four or five chapters. After realizing that these chapters were less than my best I shook the Etch A Sketch and decided to start all over again. I became convinced that this new book should be based on key passages in the book of Acts. What a world of difference in my latest writing retreat! I blazed through writing the chapters this time because each one was built on a solid foundation of Scripture (as opposed to the flimsy foundation of Greg Stier's creativity!) Properly exegeted Biblical truth used appropriately and applied practically, provides divine gravitas for our writing endeavors.
4. Going on writing retreats for 3-4 days.
There are those who can pick and peck away at their books, 60 minutes a day or so. That would drive me crazy! I like to write for 12-14 hours straight (with a few breaks along the way) for three to four days at a pop. If the ideas are properly gestated (see point #1) then the book comes out pretty fast. Now, maybe you have a different rhythm and that's fine. Discover it and do it!
5. Prayer walks in the middle of my writing days.
Whether I'm in the mountains or my home town (Arvada, a Northwest suburb of Denver, Colorado) I like to take a break from writing to go, walk, hike and pray. This clears the cobwebs, re-energizes my tire-from-sitting body and gives me access to the most creative, wise and powerful being in the universe! Having divine access is something that only Christian writers have. What a privilege to be able to brainstorm with the ultimate Writer (after all he wrote the best selling book of all time…the Bible!)
6. Having a handful of honest people I can run ideas by.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Proverbs 27:6
I thanks God for the honest people he has placed in my life. Because of their inputs, criticisms, flashes of brilliance, concerns and encouragements I've been able to write many books that have, hopefully, helped teenagers and youth leaders advance the Gospel. Don't be afraid to surround yourself with people who genuinely love you enough to be honest.
7. An editor who is strong and skilled.
Praise God for Jane Dratz! She has been an amazing editor and co-writer! She is both strong and skilled. She has no problem pushing back when she feels like I've over-stated, understated or failed to state what needs to be stated! She graciously takes me on and we work it out. I fully trust her and it's been a privilege to work with her to produce tons of books and tools to unleash Gospel Advancing teenagers and youth leaders across the United States (and beyond!)
These are my seven habits for writing books? What are your writing habits?