How to Write a Book

December 17, 2010

While recently publishing my first book, it is natural to guess that I've done a lot of writing over the past year or so.  As a whole, I have written over 550 articles for this blog and on other sources throughout the web.

While writing a lot, I've learned some writing principles that I have followed and implemented.  If you write often, these might not be new to you, but they have been new to me as a new writer.

Here's my process for writing a book:

Get a sense for the main purpose

When writing it's important to get a sense for the main purpose of what you are going to write about.  What do you want to accomplish with your writing? What do you want the reader to learn and/or do? For my book, A Day of Hope, the main purpose was:

To inspire and teach others how to do A Day of Hope in their community.

Every chapter, section, sentence, and word of my book evolved around meeting that purpose.  That's the benefit of having a main purpose.  When you discover it, it's very easy to shed away anything that doesn't match up with it.

The first draft of my book was well over 300 pages long, but it dended up being published as 152 pages. How did so much content get cut? I knew my main purpose, and anyting that didn't match that main purpose was cut out.

Get all the ideas, stories, quotes, and illustrations on paper

This takes some serious work, but it pays off at the end.  I am not a person who can hold enormous amounts of information in my head at one time.  And because of that, I get everything down on paper so I can see it, organize it, and throw it out if I don't want it.  This usually means I write out stories, principles, and anything else that I might want to share.

I have found that if I get everything down on paper, then I have more room in my head to think of new content to add to the book.  As Jason Womack has taught me, our brains are designed to think creatively and come up with content, not to hold large amounts of information in our memory.

Start putting everything in the order of an outline

Once everything is on paper, I start to put it in the form of an outline.  At this point I might have a file folder two inches thick with content I want to write about in the book. 

This process of creating the outline starts by going through that two inch thick stack of paper and starting to group together similar topics.  If I find a principle about leadership and a story about leadership, I stack those two pieces of paper together.  If I find a story about integrity and a principle about integrity, I stack those together too. 

The outline creates itself because I allow the best content to bubble up to the top as the most popular, thus also being the most important too.

Fill in the outline with extra content if you need it

At this point, sometimes I need additional material for what I am writing about.  I might go do some research for more content in an area if I feel I need more support for my position on a specific subject.  This very rarely happens as I usually cut much more content than I add.  As my girlfriend Jen says, "Cut, cut, cut!"

Start typing

Now I sit down at the computer and start typing.  I have my outline and my content ready, so I sit down and start pecking away at the keyboard.  I peck, peck, and peck.  And the end result is a very rough draft of a lot of ideas supported by stories and research that hopefully makes sense and will help someone.

The bottom line to writing a book is to write!  You write a book one chapter at a time, one section at a time, one paragraph at a time, one sentence at a time, one word at a time, and one letter at a time.  Hence, the most important part of writing a book is to write!

Question: What is your process for writing books or articles?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."