Writing a book is nothing like I ever expected. Many people believe it’s a mysterious process, and I was no different. I didn’t know the first thing about the publishing world or how a book goes from a brain to a bookstore. So I asked! Even as I sat with my editor, my publishing team, my PR team and my sales/marketing team from InterVarsity Press and listened to them tell me the ins-and-outs of how a publishing timeline works, I still had no idea what was going on. It’s very difficult, or maybe just very difficult for me, to wrap my head around each step as integral to the bigger picture. I was just so concerned with the writing that I didn’t really have any time to think about anything else. Anything else that is, until after I turned my manuscript in. And now each day is a new day, and ultimately a new experience, that I have no pre-existing knowledge or experience with.
I’m not one of those people who loves change or a lot of closely compacted new experiences. I love my comfort zone and I’m not a big fan of being in ‘limbo.’ And yet ‘limbo’ is exactly what I’m in with this whole book writing process. It was a daunting enough task for me to sit down, never having written anything over a 25 page paper in my life, realizing I had 200 pages starring me in the face. The Lord showed favor and I ended up writing 420 pages, of which was cut down to 211.
And here we now stand.
I just got back my heavily edited version back (which I’m ok with because I knew it had to be ½ the length) on Friday when I was speaking in Los Angeles. As I read it over I started to get really scared because I was reading 90% of what is going to be my final book. Exciting, yes. But this is not a book that is going to make anyone feel good. It’s not going to make anyone feel better about themselves nor is it a self help book to solve all of the world’s issues. It’s a hard look at the life of the Church and the gay community through the eyes of a straight, evangelical man who has been immersed in the gay community for almost a decade. Not quite the traditional Christian book! Because of that I know there will be a firestorm to follow. Not necessarily a bad one, not necessarily a good one; but one the Lord will use to further His message. And as a fervent supporter of my work, Dr. Randy Dattoli, says “the messenger always gets shot.”
In this case, I am that messenger. But none the less I am that messenger who has to deliver a key component about gay relations and the Church, to teach future generations how to productively handle this ever growing topic. I’ll save that topic for another time, but here I want to reflect on my writing experience now that I am almost completely done. I want to reflect on my writing as a ministry, and the things I learned to not only help myself become more self-aware just in case there is another book in the future, but also to help others in my position of walking blindly into writing a book and not knowing what this experience will be like.
How did I write the book:
Wow was writing the book difficult! To put it in student terms that I myself could understand at that time, it was like I had to write 12, 20-page papers all about the same subject, yet on totally different areas about that subject. That is no joke! Now I never took the writing process as a joke, but I sure wasn’t prepared for it to be so grueling. 12, 14, 16 hour days just sitting in front of a computer screen typing, trying to clearly communicate life, experience, calling and unique lessons learned. I didn’t really think it would be that hard. I mean, how hard could it be to know you have nothing else to do all day, every day, besides write. Boy was I ever wrong on that front. I found it to be a very difficult task to clearly, succinctly map out everything I wanted to say not only in each chapter, but also do the same for the entire book. It’s like there are 12 mini sub-plots that have to be interwoven within the broader plot of the book.
When I started to write I put together 4 different outlines, each with the same base-outline used at its core, but each had a different example, story or plot characteristic I wanted to develop. And for the first couple of weeks I would flip back and forth between each of the 4 outlines and my manuscript as I tried to write the book. After muddling around for a couple weeks not being able to write as clearly or concisely as I wanted to, I ditched the 4 outline model and tried to condense all 4 into one Grand Outline. It took me about 2 full days to do that – 2 days that took a lot of time out of my writing schedule because I only had 7 weeks to write the entire book! But none the less those 2 days were worth their weight in gold! Using my one Grand Outline from that point forward I was able to pump out an average of 20 pages per day for 5 full weeks! And I finished on time!
Use one outline, and take whatever time is needed to put that Grand Outline together in as much detail as possible. Each time I started a new chapter I praised the Lord for my extremely detailed (52 pages) outline. If it were not for that Grand Outline I never could have written, let alone kept straight, anything I wanted to say!