When I was asked to contribute to the Wordserve blog, I immediately thought “No.”
But almost immediately after the first immediately, something in my heart said “Yes.”
The truth is, compared to many other writers, I am under qualified, untrained and rather unconventional in the way I write. Particularly the way I use sentence fragments (and parenthesis) for effect. So the thought of having a lot of trained writers reading my stuff is, well, a bit nerve wracking. (If I was being honest it makes me want to pee my pants.)
However, it strikes me that I may be able to offer an angle on writing from a speaker-turned-writer’s viewpoint that could be helpful. So with that in mind, I decided to jump in.
As far as some background on me, in my 30s, I published fourteen books under my maiden name of Polich. They were “How to” youth ministry books that sold like hotcakes in the audiences I served. However, just before I turned 50, I shifted out of youth ministry, survived a fiancé who broke our engagement to remarry his ex wife, and experienced some new and deeper truths about God; and suddenly, I felt I had more in me to write.
I remember running the idea of moving from the “Youth Ministry” sector to the “Christian Life” sector by my publisher, who met me with the encouraging words, “Good luck with that.”
I realized at that moment that switching book genres was not going to be done easily.
But I’m here to tell you it’s not impossible.
By the grace of God, I got hooked up with a great agent (Greg Johnson), a great editor at Zondervan (John Sloan), and was contracted for my first Christian Life book, titled Finding Faith in the Dark. It was my maiden voyage, and it released in 2014. I am currently at work on my second book, tentatively titled “When Changing Nothing Changes Everything” (this time for IVP). It’s due in three weeks, so I’ll keep the rest of this blog short.
I thought I could offer a couple of insights from a speaker-turned-writer’s viewpoint that might be helpful to you. Because when it comes right down to it, don’t many of us do both? The fact is, in today’s “Look at Me” world, holding an audience is a skill all of us need.
Here are three tips I’ve taken from my speaking into writing:
- Grab ‘em in the first 3 minutes
There is a rule in speaking that if you don’t grab the audience in the first three minutes, you have to work triple time to get them back. I think in today’s world with writing, it may even be more true. Your audience can actually leave your book without you ever having to know, which is harder to do when you’re speaking to them. (Unless they’re teenagers and aren’t polite enough to care.) Here’s the point: In today’s blog-reading, book-skimming culture, the first page of your book should be the one you focus on most.
- Anchor every truth you share
This may be more directed more to non fiction authors, but no matter how great your point is, it will be lost if you don’t break it up with something to anchor it. Whether you use an interesting story, a dash of humor, or a poignant quote, you need something to entice them to read on. In speaking, I call this “Keep yourself from becoming boring.” I think in writing, it could be called the same.
- End with a pow
This may feel like too much pressure when combined with point #1, but there is nothing worse than a reader who has stayed with you till the end and gets rewarded with nothing but a re-emphasis of what you’ve already said. Surprise them. Leave them thinking. Say something new. Give them a parting gift.
How you do this of course is all up to you.
And one last thing… if YOU have a voice nudging you to write something that may be different than you’ve ever written before, Don’t give up. There may be people out there who need what you have to write.
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