10 Things I Learned After Writing My First Book

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Blog, Book Thoughts | 0 comments

 

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After 3 years of researching, writing, rewriting, rereading and yawning while staring at a computer screen in the early hours of the morning, my book is finally all done and published! There is no way to even describe how it feels to hold that finished book in my hands. What an amazing thing to know that people I will never meet will read it and be affected by it. It is extremely exciting and humbling!

I thought I should share 10 things I have learned on this first journey into authorship, so here goes…

1. Begin work with devotion and prayer. The days that I just jumped in and started writing were the days I accomplished the least. Seriously. My typical writing time started at 4:30 AM or on days when I wasn’t at my day job it was the hour or two when my wife and kids were napping. Time was almost always limited and sometimes I would really get in the groove and my fingers were flying on the keys, and I would look at the clock and have to tear myself away from the computer because time was up.  How easy it was to forget to pray before I started writing. How often I was tempted to skip my devotion time. Sometimes I did that for the sake of more time and without fail those were the days I got nothing done, the days I got most irritated, the days that became more about me and less about God and others. Asking God to bless my work was and is an essential, daily need. It helps me focus. It gives perspective. That is not just important for writing, but important for all the tasks, stresses, ups and downs of each day. When I have taken the time to focus on my God and the salvation that is mine because of him, then I am ready to meet the day. When I read and meditate on his powerful promises everything falls into the proper perspective. That does not mean that life goes on like a song as long as I do a devotion, but it does mean that I am better prepared for the twists and turns that the day holds, because I know God holds my day and my eternal future in his loving hands.
2. Get into the characters. Those imaginary people almost had to become part of my life. They were my friends. I laughed and cried with them and felt what they were feeling. Kind of odd…but it really does happen. I found that the more real those characters feel to me, the better and more well-rounded those characters will be in the story.
3. Enjoy it…even when it is tough. Writing is fun for me. Most days I would lose track of time researching, writing and creating. I thoroughly enjoy doing it–most of the time. Of course, there were days when I did not want to touch my computer, think about my characters or even write one sentence. Yes, sometimes that meant I just needed to take a day off of it. Other times I would force myself to go to work. I would intentionally tell myself that I was enjoying it, and after a little while I was! The mind is powerful and if you willfully choose to enjoy something, it can become enjoyable. Sometimes that meant skipping a section I was stuck on, realizing that I would return to it another time. Other times that meant powering through and getting something on the page, knowing that I would probably have to come back and edit it later. Other times the spark would start a fire and my fingers were off to the races on the keyboard.
4. Pay attention to life and take notes. There were so many times that people in my life and things that happened to me gave me ideas for my book and ideas for future writing.  Interactions between people at work, conversations with customers, issues that came up at home or things I saw on TV or heard on the radio influenced how and what I would write that day. Writing a book helped me open my eyes and see day-to-day experiences from a whole different viewpoint. I would ask myself: How can I use this in my book? For example, the scene in my book where Goliath is beheaded was influenced by a conversation with one of my coworkers who witnessed a beheading when he was stationed in the Middle East. Certain personality traits of my characters have been drawn from people I met in my life journey. Bits and pieces of the book developed out of real-life observations. The world is a classroom for writing. I am constantly picking up new and interesting insights that help me as a writer. I just have to have a notebook with me at all times so I can write them down!
5. Set goals and stick to them. I say this with some hesitation. I mean, how can I say that when my original goal was to have this book published in the middle of summer and then later the goal was by the end of October at the latest….and now finally it is out November 1st? I should have followed through and accomplished those goals, right? Right! However, just having each goal helped propel me forward and work hard. The editing process was so important. If I wanted to have a finished novel that I was proud of, it was going to take a little longer than I first thought. I think it is okay to modify goals if it is necessary. Still, I see the huge value of having goals…little goals for every day, every week, every month and sticking to them as well as a big end of the road goal. I did not do that perfectly on this first book. I think that if I had been better about setting and reaching realistic short and long term goals, I could have been done with the book a year ago! Lesson learned. Next time I will do better.
6. Research, research, research…and then STOP! I wanted to know everything I could know about daily life in Israel at about 1000 BC. I read and read. I got books. I did searches. I took notes. After wading through a pile of information I realized I was not going to be an expert and that even some experts disagreed with other experts and I would have to simply make an educated choice as to who was right. This was very enjoyable to me. Throughout the process of writing, I was constantly consulting books and doing research. I am sure I do not have it all perfectly right (if anyone does see anything, I would love to be corrected and learn), but I wanted to be true to the time period as much as possible. That being said, I also had to STOP. I could seriously be researching still at this point and not have even started page one, if I had let that happen.
7. Edit, edit, edit…and then STOP! Editing is such an amazing time. I thought I would not enjoy editing so much when I set out to write this book. It was a necessary evil. Make sure punctuation is right, make sure sentence structure is there and makes sense…blah blah blah. I thought this would be boring…I was far from right! My editor, Rachel Kamin, helped me in so many ways. Her suggestions often made my writing much more crisp, clear, accurate and interesting! I loved wrestling with better ways of saying the same thing. I read and reread the book trying to get things right and again. If I wanted to, I could still be editing it for a full year! Eventually I had to STOP and say, it is done! I am sure there are still mistakes. I am sure that there are still better ways to phrase a particular phrase…but finally editing had to end, and the book had to get out.

8. It is not over when it is over.  Right now, part of me is tempted to just relax. Whew…finished a book, time for a break. Yes…the book is done and it is published and people are buying it. However, it is not over. I still need to talk about the book, promote the book, garner feedback and learn from it, explain the value of it to people and get the word out. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. I can’t just sit back and relax. Besides, another part of me wants to get writing again. I have already started researching and doing character sketches for my next book which will also take a little known bible character and have him witness a famous event in salvation history…more about that in another post coming soon. I can’t help it, I just want to write…
9. Don’t expect overnight success and realize what true success is.  I honestly had no idea how well-received this book would be. How many people are going to take a leap and purchase a book from a first-time author? Will I ever be able to recoup my editing costs, cover art costs, lay out and design costs, etc.? It is an act of faith to invest time and money into a project and then put it out there and see how it does. I have full confidence that the Lord will bless the project exactly as he sees fit. I should not give into any temptations to worry. I will leave it in the Lord’s totally capable hands and continue to ask him to bless it.  Even if I don’t recoup those costs, I realize that success comes in many forms. Even if one person reads this book and the Holy Spirit uses it to pull one lost soul into the Word and open blind eyes to the truth of the world’s Savior–this book will be a fantastic success.
10. Remember who it is all for. In anything in life, small or great, there is a temptation to despair or pride. Either one is self-focused and self-serving. May God keep you and me from thinking so little of the gifts he has given us that we do not use them fully or do not fully grow in them.  May God keep you and me from thinking so greatly of ourselves and our gifts that we imagine we do not need him every moment of every day. May he always keep us humble and focused on the truth of his undeserved love and the salvation we have in Christ. Thankful for that love, I want Colossians 3:17 to guide every project I undertake:  Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.