When we read the work of writers, we read the successes. We usually do not know the whole story. The reality is that many writers have written far more than what they publish. Like learning to practice a musical instrument, there will be years of practice involved.
My non-fiction writing journey started well before the publication of 1-2-1 Discipleship. Looking back now I can see I was honing my writing with the discipline of weekly letter writing (age 5 until today) and daily journaling. It is a little like the training that a marathon runner puts in. The race itself is a tiny part of the actual work.
My more formal writing journey started in 2002, when I had a visitor staying with me for two months sat me down and said, “You’ve been teaching me for two months, you need to sit down and write down some of these things.” So I did. The result was a short book on ‘leading better Bible studies.’ A friend translated it into Chinese and I paid to print about 200 copies. It was definitely not a bestseller. In fact, I may have only sold about five copies and gave the rest away. Some still languish in my cupboard.
It never occurred to me that I might write something else. It was just saving myself time by writing down things I’d learned in ministering in Taiwan. The back of the book included notes for a study through Ephesians. It was no high quality work.
About the same time I printed a volume of poetry with their background stories as a thank you for friends who had supported me overseas. I think I had 400 copies printed. I began to learn things about designing book covers and layout. I also began to develop my networks and learn the practicalities of printers. How fast they worked, costs and qualities. All these things are part of the process.
I also worked on some small projects that developed my editing skills. The first was a 30 Day prayer guide for Taiwan. I wrote some of the short stories (only 200 words each) and also edited the others. These stories required major editing, some down from over 1000 words. We also had about 80 stories submitted. I had to learn the process of choosing stories not based on what I liked but what the audience needed to hear. I also learned a lot from working with a professional editor who knew far more than I did. That booklet has been the best seller with over 30,000 distributed (again printed rather than published).
In 2008, I wrote another non-fiction book that I called ‘Swordfighting.’ It was a practical book on how to use the ‘sword of the Spirit’ that is, the word of God to deal with daily issues like anger, low self-esteem, discouragement …It’s a pdf file I’ve sent to people as they’ve requested it.
About 2010, I also edited and wrote the front piece and end piece of a booklet called, “Three Hundred Years in Taiwan.” This was a series of letters written from ten senior missionaries who had each served more than thirty years in Taiwan, to the less experienced missionaries. This project taught me to be realistic in writing goals. After much thought it made sense to not aim for a bestseller but rather for a ‘sharing of wisdom’ with a limited print run and limited aims.
Has practice made perfect? I doubt it but my writing is improving and along the way I’m learning much about publishing, marketing and the whole book industry.
What has been your journey?