A Writing Process for Christian Writers
Do most people like to tip-toe through the tulips? Of course, we love the joy of it. Do we like to run through fields with wild abandon? Yes, the freedom is exhilarating. Do we want to do what we want, when we want? Yes, now more than ever.
However, when it comes to accomplishing something, a casual, free-spirited approach works against human nature, especially creative people. And especially Christian creatives.
Christians have an important word in our lexicon, and that is the word “disciple.” Jesus gathered disciples around him. What is a disciple? It is a person who exercises the “controlled behavior” espoused by the teacher. Disciples are disciplined.
The Christian life is about controlling our behavior. Growth in grace is a process, not a single event. Our natural inclination as humans is to be carnal, but Jesus calls us to be spiritual. That takes effort.
Habits are powerful. Positive habits are as important to us as Christian writers as they are to our individual lives. Habits are part of a process, not isolated events.
Evaluate Your Process
Christian writers with romantic notions about writing think words will automatically pop into their head the instant they touch their keyboard. That’s not how it works.
Millions believe this is how writing is done, and most of them fail. It’s not a sustainable method for 99% of writers. Without a writing process, they are pinning their hopes on a kind of creative spontaneous combustion.
Writing, by its nature, is a process. A process is defined as “A series of linked activities that results in a specific output.”
A Business Process Example
Selling on the Internet embodies a series of linked events in a chain that results in a sale.
■ Think of a product people will want to buy.
■ Build the website infrastructure.
■ Write sales copy for the website that persuades people to buy.
■ Promote the website so visitors will come and read the sales copy.
■ Include a system for receiving orders, invoicing, and delivering the product when people do buy.
That is a business process. An undisciplined business person might decide to sell something they think others might like, throw up a website, and sit back and wait to see what happens. These people soon fail because they have no process.
A Christian Writing Process
Writing is a process too. Here’s a writing workflow for Christian writers.
■ Start with an idea that solves a real-life problem that people experience. This applies to both nonfiction and fiction. In fiction, readers are still looking for solutions to their problems in the lives of the characters you create.
■ Pray and ask God to bless your efforts.
■ Research the topic of your idea.
■ Create an outline as a roadmap.
■ Write your first draft as rapidly as possible.
■ Revise your draft until you are happy with it.
■ Copy edit your work or have it done by a qualified professional.
■ Format your book or blog.
■ Publish it.
■ Promote it.
Do you see the process here? It is a series of linked activities that results in a specific output.
Set a Time and Place
Within the process, you must set a time and place to write. This is perhaps the most crucial writing habit. It is the basis of the mental groove you want to achieve to do your best creative work.
If you are one of those people who say, “I write when I have time,” then you are severely limiting yourself. There is always something that gets in the way and keeps you from accomplishing your writing goals.
If you’re serious about writing, you set aside a specific time to do it. You may have to get up an hour earlier or not watch favorite TV programs to make the time available for writing, but successful writers set those kinds of priorities.
Remember, you want to create a disciplined pattern. If you decide to write every morning starting at 5:30 AM, then do it faithfully. If you choose to write at lunchtime each Tuesday and Thursday, then follow that schedule diligently. Make the habit a part of your process.
How long should you write during the time you have set aside? I’d say a minimum of 30 minutes for each writing session. More time if possible. By way of example, I work in 3-hour writing blocks.
Regardless of the pattern you select, stick to it as if it were a solemn obligation to the Lord. Read this post about time management during each writing session.
Writing should be a pleasurable activity. You can add to the pleasure by finding an environment that enhances the pleasure.
You always want to write in the same place at the same time for your predetermined session length to further your writing process.
What’s the best place for you? I can’t say because we all react differently to our environments. The important question is, what environment enhances your productivity the most?
In my opinion, the key requirement is to be in a room where I can close the door. I don’t care if the room is a closet. I just want to be able to control interruptions. I hate being jolted from my writing groove when I’m in it.
You may be different. Many writers are most productive in a library or at Starbucks. They can filter out background noise and commotion.
Not sure of the environment is most conducive to productivity for you? Do a test. Write at your stated time for your committed length of time in various locations, and then check your word count. Which location yields the best productivity?
Word Count is Part of the Process
Some say that the word count yield for each session not important. They say quality is more important.
I couldn’t disagree more.
In the writing process, the goal is to write the first draft as rapidly as possible. Once you have your book or blog post completed, you go back and revise it. That is the stage where you iron out all the wrinkles and introduce the level of quality you envisioned.
Revising as you write is a terrible habit. It is evidence of a bent toward perfectionism, and that is a very negative character trait.
It might be an overstatement, but I’d say that writers who revise as they write are on Satan’s team, not God’s team. Satan said he wanted to be perfect, “like the most-high God” (Isaiah 14:14).
God’s process (yes, God has a process) is to develop our spiritual behavior over time in layers (2 Peter 1:4-8).
We can write in layers too, and that is best. I urge all Christian writers to reject perfectionism as part of their writing process.
The Ideal Word Count Per Session
What is an ideal word count? It depends on the time you set aside for your writing sessions.
If you use the writing process I suggested earlier, then you have done your research and have your roadmap. You can start writing immediately without gazing off into the distance for an undetermined amount of time trying to think up something to say.
The only real question is, “How fast can you type?” As a rule of thumb, if your session is 30 minutes and you type 30 words per minute, then you should be able to write about 100 words.
On the other hand, if you intend to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, as nearly 800,000 would-be novelists do each year, then you need to allocate more time each day or type faster. Your daily word count needs to be 1,667 words per day to meet that goal.
You must determine your goals and apply your process to them. Your process should be a knee-jerk response. It’s a habit that you implement without additional thought.
You Control Process and Word Count
Let me shock you. I type about 30-35 words per minute, and I write for 3 hours each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. That’s my process. What is my weekly word count? Over 60,000 words.
I always have a book of my own in progress, I ghostwrite books for clients, and I maintain my three blogs. My process works for me. What do I do with the other two days, and my afternoons? Research, outlining, revision, copy editing, and related work for clients.
How do I achieve this high word count for first drafts? Long ago, I examined my process and saw my typing speed with the logjam. I have made my living as a writer, author, and journalist for many decades, and have disparaged myself over the years for blowing off my Junior High typing class. I should have learned to type back then, but didn’t, and my wpm has not improved much since.
So, I began exploring options, and I discovered that I could dictate at the rate of 120 words per minute. Yes, it took a few weeks to build to that, but I meet or exceed that rate regularly now. Dictation software has never been better, and it’s easier to learn than typing.
What is your process? Story-telling or story-typing? Do you have self-doubt as a writer because you have not “found your voice”? That’s because you don’t use your voice. Talking is the natural way to tell a story, and that makes it ideal for first drafts.
I am such a fan of voice-writing that I created an online course and teach it. Many hundreds have benefited from taking the course.
Develop Your Writing Process
Develop daily writing habits. The mental and spiritual reflex you create by developing writing habits will make you a better writer. You develop a writing process.
Daily writing habits will enhance the quality of your writing as well as increase your productivity.
Evaluate your current pattern, discover the weak points in it, and create a new process that gets consistent results.
Measure what you are doing in various ways and build new habits from what you learn. Christian writing is not like drifting down the river without care. It is a focused mental and spiritual activity.
Author H. James Harrington was right on target when he said, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” Evaluate your present status and develop a personal writing process.