Posts Tagged ‘ideal reader’

PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 5–Don’t Run Ahead

By the end of May 2009, after successfully navigating most of the E-Book Check List, I thought I had everything I needed to get my book written. I began the rough draft of Heavenly Father’s Day, thinking I could just bang it all out in one month. But other things kept getting in the way–or so I thought.

I roughed out a website plan after looking at those of other people. I looked at lots of free internet marketing information on the web, and took lots of notes. I studied the style of other Christian authors, such as Rick Warren, Charles Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and Max Lucado. In fact, the ones I hadn’t read before looked so interesting I ended up reading them through (and taking more notes).

I was scheduled to preach on June 21. The theme was “Calm Our Storms.” I could see that just maybe this sermon might fit in somewhere near the end of the book. (And, in fact, it did.)

But toward the end of the month, I was frustrated with the fact that the end was still far off. The Spirit reminded me that I wasn’t to run ahead of God’s plan–that I was proceeding well and shouldn’t become anxious. The Spirit reassured me that even when I seemed not to be working, I was. I could be waiting, pondering, planning, researching, or otherwise furthering the work. It wasn’t necessary to actually write every day.

I got a call in late June from one of my reviewers. She had been looking over the outline I had sent her and was pleased with the direction I was headed. She told me a story about a sermon delivered in her church on Father’s Day.

The speaker mentioned that, just by chance, he had been scheduled to speak on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year. He said he realized while he was preparing that we have many special days for special things, but we never have a special day for God. My reviewer said she thought of me when he said this and considered it another confirmation of my work.

Way back in April, I had committed to serving as a counselor for our church’s Senior High Camp. I had hoped that by the time camp came along (in early July) that the book would be finished. It was not.

But once again, this act of service was not an interruption of the writing process, but a confirmation of it and a contribution to it. The spiritual development that enabled me to write this book in the first place just continued at camp.

It seemed to me like everything we discussed in our daily class at camp that week either fit nicely with or confirmed my message. I found myself explaining some things in my small group discussions just exactly as I had explained them in the book.

More importantly, I encountered some new ideas along with the campers. We did a really neat object lesson where we had to carry a bag of rocks around with us, symbolizing the guilt each of us carries around unnecessarily (because God has already forgiven us). This object lesson ended up in the book.

I told a few of the campers that I was writing a book called Heavenly Father’s Day. They were anxious to read it and asked me to let them know when it was published.

I came home encouraged once again. It wasn’t until I was back at home that I realized the campers were pretty close to my ideal reader.

So even as I was in the middle of writing, I continued to be fed. New material appeared, the appropriateness of my existing material was confirmed, and my efforts were encouraged.

Once again, the Spirit encouraged me by calling on me to trust in his words and in his message given through me. The Spirit confirmed that this was not my message, but his–not my will, but his. I am just the messenger. This insight from the Spirit really took the pressure off and I was comforted.

A week after camp (mid-July), I reviewed what I had written so far. There were some pretty big gaps I had no idea how to fill. But the Spirit told me not to worry about it–that he would provide. He told me to go forward in faith and to complete writing what had already been given to me.

So I kept on. Little did I know what challenge lay just over the horizon.

Next: The Last Chapter.

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 4–The E-Book Check List

One thing that’s been very interesting to me all along while writing Heavenly Father’s Day is how the Holy Spirit seems to know how to write a publishable book. (I know I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised at this because God invented everything…including writing and publishing and reader psychology.)

The first instructions the Spirit had given me were to assemble everything I had written over the last twenty years: my spiritual journal, summaries of books I had read, every sermon I had given, and any other scrap of writing I could find. This all came up before I even started researching the topic of how to write an e-book.

But one of the “rules” of e-book publishing I ran into, in multiple places, was to use what you already have. Check.

Second rule:  find a title that is a hook. If you remember, I rediscovered “Heavenly Father’s Day” in an old sermon from 2005. Check.

Third rule:  have a clearly defined message that is distinguishable from the messages of others. Check.

Fourth rule:  know who your target audience is. This would enable me to write as if I was addressing an ideal reader. Check.

Fifth rule: have a plan for how to get published: e-book, print on demand, or traditional publishing. No check…yet.

On the brink of actually writing the book, the Spirit still hadn’t told me how to get the book published, except that I should try everything–traditional methods and internet methods.

Now the experience I gained in playing with eBay appeared to have been part of the whole plan. (“All things work together for good for those who love the Lord,” Romans 8:28.) The Spirit did suggest that I should consider learning website design.

The Spirit warned me that I would be subject to scorn, misunderstanding, and prejudice because of this book–a scary thought. One chapter, called “Ministry by Monogamy” will be especially controversial because of the extent to which it challenges traditional Bible theology. But lots of other parts will be controversial, too, in a Shack sort of way. This leads me to the next rule of publishing.

Sixth rule:  controversy is good. The worst thing is for people to be indifferent about your message. (And remember that scripture about not being lukewarm in your testimony.) Check.

As I continued to work on the book, I kept hearing sermons and testimonies that fit really well with what I had to say. This encouraged me to continue. But I also heard of others’ reactions to some of these same testimonies that let me know that many will think I’ve lost my mind. The Spirit has told me that I should be prepared for the pain this work will bring me.

General rule of life: be careful what you ask for…you may get it. In response to this rule, let me just say I have wanted to become a published author for at least fifteen years. (But I wasn’t planning on any pain. Then again, nothing worth having or being comes free.) Check.

By the end of May, I had mailed a tentative outline to a few people I had asked to be reviewers. I was making progress and look forward to finishing by late June. In my email one day, I got an offer for an e-course called something like “Finish Your E-book in 72 Hours or Less.” Could I do it? Should I do it? Or would I be running ahead of the Lord? Stay tuned!

P.S. In case you’re an aspiring writer, here are my two favorite resources:

Earma Brown:  http://www.WriteToWin.org/

Ellen Violette:  http://www.TheEbookCoach.com/

(I am not receiving any form of remuneration from either of these authors.)

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PostHeaderIcon Writing Heavenly Father’s Day, Part 3–Finding Message and Audience

Now that I had the title and the topic, I had started to outline some chapters. But I still didn’t know why the Lord wanted me to write–what my key message was. I felt my book should be kind of along the lines of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

However, at this point, I couldn’t see how my book would be that different. I needed to be able to clearly articulate how my message differed from his. But the Spirit had told me at the beginning that more would be revealed as I finished each step, so I just kept going.

By now it was early May 2009. The question of the book’s purpose weighed heavily on my heart one Friday night as I said my prayers. About two hours later, the Spirit woke me with the answer. The message is that (1) God wants to be a part of your life every day, and (2) you, as a Christian, are called to bring the peace of Jesus Christ into others’ lives. Armed with this additional direction, the message and flow of the book took shape

The next question I had was who is my ideal reader? The internet articles on getting published said to think of your target audience in terms of an ideal reader. Then have this ideal reader in mind as you write. I was already seeing how this was important as I considered what to include or leave out and how formal my style should be.

After several days of trying to figure this out for myself, the Spirit let me know that my ideal reader is someone like the people who worked for me at our convenience store. I took that to mean someone with these characteristics:

(1) intelligent enough to go to college, but either hadn’t gone or hadn’t finished,

(2) Christian, but not spiritual and not a Bible reader, and

(3) someone who had perhaps asked questions of ministers in the past, but had not received satisfying answers.

Mostly, this type of person would not be “set in their religious ways,” but would be open to what I had to share. The challenge is that this type of person tends not to be a big reader of any kind of religious book. In fact, many of my employees were not big readers, period.

In addition, the Spirit showed me that my goal would be to share the message of Jesus Christ in a way that a 21st century citizen of the United States, or really in any of the developed countries, would find easy to understand.

This led me to include many references recognizable to anyone familiar with current American popular culture. In updating the setting of Jesus’ parables and illustrations, I am seeking to make the basic principles of Christianity as culturally relevant to the average person living in my time as Jesus made them to those living in his time 2000 years ago.

So now I had title, topic, message, target audience, outline…what’s next? Oh…actually writing the book! And then there’s the stickiest question of all–how to publish?

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