Once upon a time, an American schoolgirl wrote to eminent Christian scholar C.S. Lewis. The year was 1959, and she wanted to know if he had any suggestions for her on the art of writing. He sent her a list of eight rules, including admonitions to turn off the radio and dial out the white noise of daily life, write with the ear and not the eye, write about the things which interest you, and know the meaning of every word you use. His most revealing point of advice, however, was to be clear, and to remember that readers can’t know your mind. “Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you,” he wrote. And if you’re the author of a Christian or Spiritual book, this advice resonates with a special power. After all, there’s a lot at stake when it comes to misunderstanding our place in the world and in relationship to the divine.
How can you go about writing in a way that helps readers understand you? Here are six recommendations for getting started:
- Do your due diligence. Research, research, research. Knowing your readers, what they’re reading, and how they find their books is key to engaging your ideal readers, in Christian and Spiritual subjects more than most. Reader behavior in these groups is radically different from reader behavior in other genres, such as mainstream science fiction or romance.
- Know thy reader. Building upon the previous point, it’s really important to not just know your reader but be able to articulate the anticipated audience for your book. Who might actually pluck your book off of a bookstore shelf and spend money with your writing persona in order to truly understand what you have to say? The more specific you can be, the better, because this will help you refine your text before publication and market your book after publication.
- Polish those rough edges. Writing well and ensuring that your manuscript reads well before submitting it for publication are vital processes, as there’s nothing which will turn off readers so quickly as a poorly edited text. Don’t just depend on your own eyes, either, and expand your beta readers to include a professional who edits for a living. An expert will know exactly what works and what doesn’t, and will save you time (which is, ultimately, money).
- Know and love your material. If you don’t already believe that you are the best person to write this particular book, and that the world needs this book, then take some more time to spend with the material. Full immersion is often the only way to truly feel like an expert, and your book will most definitely benefit if you have the conviction that you and it are a match made in the stars, or Heaven.
- Write what’s next. It doesn’t take long to notice that there are a lot of books out there in the world; all it takes is a five-minute visit to your local public library or indie bookstore. There are practical as well as personal reasons to write something new rather than something which has already been written in twenty or a hundred other books: a book which dares to do what hasn’t been done will sell. Readers want the next new thing in their hands, not a threadbare trope or ten. And you, as an author, know when you’re departing from the “has-been-dones,” and it’s a rewarding feeling, isn’t it?
- Think big, and think ahead. You’re an author, which makes you a visionary. You’re able to imagine not just the outline for a book, but a world in which the book already exists, and you’re willing to make it happen. Some writers get hung up on the fact that one writing prompt or strategy which used to work for them doesn’t anymore, and fall into the black hole of the dreaded Writer’s Block as a result. Don’t linger on the past; think of what will work for you in the here and now, and don’t hesitate to experiment with form, style, and voice as you forge ahead in writing your manuscript. If you find yourself struggling, try something new … or try taking a moment to breathe. The most stifling of pressures are the ones we impose on ourselves!
And there you have it: six fresh ways to hone your craft as you draft your next book! Still not sure what you need to get started publishing your next Spiritual or Christian manuscript? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.
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