I dedicate this post to my pot plant: Friend, Rock, "Green Dog" Plant.
"I will not say: do not weep. For not all tears are an evil." Gandalf.
We've all been there, sitting in front of a blank screen, awed by the potential of unstarted creation and scared by the awesome weight of responsibility that falls on an author's shoulders. Writing a book is hard. Sentence construction is a pain. And the less said about spelling and grammar the better.
This book come from my journey, my quest, my adventure to fill up such a space and forge, in the twin fires of writing and experience, the golden ring of an American Christian Book. It comes from my beating heart for the unimaginative and the uninspired and for all the empty, white, unfilled screens lacking in the richness of a black spidery crawl.
But mainly this book comes with a biblical message, a message best summed up in Daniel 5 v 5: "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote."
Here we find a biblical warrant for writing. A warrant that suggests that a Christian author can expect to be read by the kings of this world. It also stresses the importance of writing near a good light source. I know what you're going to say: "But Ben, we don't use handwriting any more."
And you'd be right.
We need take the principle from the above verse and weed out the culturally specific method. Our principle is: Writing is Good, Godly and Great. The method in question is a disembodied hand writing on the plaster of the wall. Some people have suggested that Christians shouldn't use anything but wall plaster and handwriting to write on and with. But that confuses the principle for the method.
Dave met his wife while he was busy writing his debut novel on the walls of his apartment. "She laughed in my face." he remembers "And she showed me her laptop. I've never looked back."
A book dies or lives by its title. Make sure to pick a good one. I recall with some embarrassment that one of my books (the one which won the Pulitzer Prize) did not sell very well because the title of the book was: "The Haphazard and Circumstantial Approach to Writer's Sovereignty Favoured by Modern Authors and How This Terrible Set of Affairs Can Be Mitigated from a Christian Worldview."
While I get bonus points for such a "in" phrase as "Christian Worldview" the length of this title was very off-putting for readers. A recent survey showed that 78% of people did not get to the end of my title.
Short, sweet and simple is the key. It is also extremely important to include some form of punctuation mark in the title. My next book, which you can preorder at all good retailers, is going to be called "," for precisely this reason.
The wise man writes a subtitle for his book.
The other important consideration is the dedication. A boring dedication can lose a sale. A good dedication will be meaningful, witty and reference a private joke that only the individual in question will ever get.
In the introduction, you have failed if you haven't mentioned yourself by the end of the second paragraph. People don't want to know what you have to say before they know who you are as a person. Tell them about you and tell them why you are so extremely qualified to write about them. Get your biblical basis for writing the book down in the introduction. Make it clear that your book is vital to a good Christian life. We are not saved by the books we read but your reader do not know that!
Whack them with the Bible.
Words are often boring. Sentences more so. Paragraphs even more so. And don't get me started on chapters. To write a bestselling book make sure to keep the language simple and the sentences short. People love hearing stories about people. All Christian books mention a guy called Dave, who has a story about meeting his wife. Include one in your book.
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." C. S. Lewis.
Quotes are another must in any book. It is impossible to write an American Christian book and not quote from Lord of the Rings or C. S. Lewis. Preferably both. Both are excellent sources for profound soundbites that require little in the way of explanation. It also makes you look intellectual and well read.
And nothing says profundity more than single line paragraphs.
The shorter the more poignant.
The best piece of advise I can give is to write about your two greatest loves: the gospel and yourself. Personal examples go a long way to making your message more real, more down to earth, more personal. I once wrote a book that had no stories about me in and it was not good. It really wasn't.
"GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise."
You need to end the book well. A good way of doing this is to revisit early examples used and carry their story further showing how implementing your advise improved their life by at least a factor of twenty. Remember Dave? He is now a millionaire author with four kids. "The day I read "#Write!" changed my life. I've written a computer program to write my books for me now. It can produce a bestseller in fifty six seconds."
Writing is as much of a measure of a man as his sock collection.
By taking these biblical principles I've written books that have been read by kings and Barack Obama. If you take my advise you could see such a thing too. “I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.” (C. S. Lewis). Be on Aslan's side, write like a Narnian, be all that you can be, write as though writing on the wall, do this and prosperity will be your sister and the New York Times Bestseller List your brother.