Do you know how to write a book? If not, I want to share with you some of the steps I took to give birth to a new work of non-fiction. I trace the seed back to my graduate study at Brandeis University (Waltham, MA), 1959-1960, where I took a course in the Book of Job under Professor Nahum Glatzer. To see the different sources of authority used by Job’s three “Friends” excited me. Later, reading Norman Habel’s exposition of the author’ s theological and literary threads again excited (The Book of Job: A Commentary, Old Testament Library, 1985). After I presented a workshop at Rivergate Community Church in the early ’90’s, the late Rev. John Fischer of Portland, pastor there, encouraged me to write a book on Job. Of course, I dismissed the idea.
By the time I felt ready to retire from my counseling practice in 2003, however, I had decided to write. In fact, I retired in order to write. Only one thing hindered me: I didn’t know how. I had never taken a course in writing, never written anything beyond my doctoral dissertation (which led me in the opposite direction stylistically), and had to start from scratch. I attended annual writer’s conferences in California, and later in Oregon; I took two mentoring clinics early on with Cecil Murphey (author of Ninety Minutes In Heaven and over 130 books, many best-sellers), one in Washington state, one in Atlanta (his home). I wrote at least three hours nearly every weekday at George Fox Theological Library, West Linn Public Library, and at home, for 12 years. I read most of the major commentaries, researched ideas that came up, consulted with my psychologist supervisor at work (an expert at the relationship between psychology and theology), and interviewed people who had experienced tragedy.
Cecil referred me to Patrick Borders (www.platinumprose.com) for editing. I benefitted from his forcing me to discipline my writing. I had found a great story of tragedy in the Nazi SS murder of all the Jews in Grodno, Poland. But my writing focused on despair. “Where is the despair?” Patrick asked. Unable to demonstrate the connection, sadly I had to forego that story. Several years ago, I felt I needed someone to sit down with me and see my whole vision for my book: Patrick lived in Atlanta. Jill Kelly, PhD, who lives in Portland, (www.jillkellyeditor.com) helped me shape my book into its present form. She also had me add self-help suggestions at the end of each chapter. Jill, like Patrick, hammered me: “You go on and on and on about Job; where is your reader?” I learned to connect, apply what Job experienced with what people today experience.
(Next week: Publishing, Promoting, and The Terror of Writing)