An idea exists, the need is there – now what?
First drafts can be fun, at least they are when you are writing about things you feel passionately
about. A first draft s the first material you put on paper or computer screen. In my case, a first draft is less fun, when I am writing something requiring a significant amount of footnoting. For the sake of scholarship and positioning ourselves to be better understood, we definitely need more writing that requires footnotes – because an array of source material indicates a level of research and scholarship that serves to help validate the authors efforts. So, some of you with Master and Doctoral degrees we need the sort of material you can produce.
Have an idea, now clearly define your objective – Public speakers are told, “If the idea of your speech cannot be condensed to a single sentence then you are not yet clear about what it is that you want to say.” This is a good practice for both preaching and writing. It helps you clarify your objective.
Outline – If developing an outline sounds like middle school, it’s because it is like middle school. Outlining for a writer is like the basic significance of addition to math. An outline is the building block, the framework, the skeleton for your work. After I have an idea, and a clarifying sentence – I draft a rough preliminary outline that i think will move me toward my objective. When writing a book, my initial outline is chapter titles. Each chapter then has its own rough outline. My rough outline is a skeleton to eventually flesh out and put skin on.
Writing is messy and your ideas are movable – Notice, my italicizing for emphasis – rough outline. Draw attention, to “rough.” At this stage of the writing process sometime the “ankle bone is not connected to the shin bone.” In the early rough outline, “the ankle bone may be connected to the cheek bone.” Later, the bones of the skeleton will get moved around.
Understand: writing is messy! Don’t let a final manuscript fool you – each writing project begins rough. Some weeks back, a proof text of the autobiography of the actor James Earl Jones came into my hands. A proof text is a book in final stages sent out for review. In the case of Mr. Jones book – the proof text was still rather messy. I’ve completed 21 books and have several additional projects currently in the works. During the process of writing, my last book, Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper was just as messy as my first book Daily Things of Christian Living.
NOW Just Write – Within each main outline point do a free flowing “Brain Dump” where you put thoughts on paper related to that particular point. You aren’t writing, you are “thinking on paper.” As my friend Larry Booker said, “Writing a book is first of all about getting something on paper.” At this point, you are getting something, anything on paper. Your new project is several generations from a completed document, so let the words flow.
Now . . . no editing at this point. The reason – editing inhibits creativity. The editorial part of your brain is something of a critic. The early stages of creativity has no place for a critic. While you are doing a “brain dump,” put the editing part of your brain on the shelf. If you aspire to do quality work, your book will be rewritten so many times that it will look nothing like what is in front of you just now. As a rule, for my 21 books, each of the bi-monthly North American Missions Director’s Communique and numerous articles for publication – there were at least 12 re-writes before the process was complete.
During this rough draft part of the process, you are gathering a massive collection of information.
Take the work of writing a bite at a time! – Last week, my ten year-old grandsons asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?” They laughed heartily at the idea of eating an elephant “one bite at a time.” Writing a book is like eating an elephant. An author cannot work on a book. At times the author cannot work on a chapter. Break the work down into bite size pieces. If a chapter has headings or subheading, you may want to eat that bite before considering any of the rest of the book. You may work on one page – one page per day for 120 days is a book of some significance.
To keep from getting bored with the process, or when inspiration is flowing for a particular area feel free to jump around inside the “brain dump” process. Actually, this applies to all of the work of writing, there are times when I’ll have one chapter at the back of the book, entirely completed, including all rewrites while a much earlier chapter is only outlined.
I do recommend getting on a writing project and finishing it. Each time I return to my project, The Bible as More Than Literature I have to review the work and almost restart. Learn from my mistakes.
Do what works for you – but write! An arriving generation and the one that follows them and then the one after that will need your voice.
As always – any author enjoys selling their stuff. I’ve quite a number of books already in print – an omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or daughter, or a son-in-law who is a developing minister. Not a bad option as a gift for yourself actually.
Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.