WHEN I FIRST PRINTED IT OUT it was close to seven inches deep, a mountain of excess and overreach that would eventually become my first published book. In spite of the pride I felt at its completion, it begged for some serious editorial attention. In 2011, a good friend, Michael Hyatt, posted an article of mine on his web site. The article was called FROM BLOG TO BOOK: ONE SKEPTIC'S JOURNEY. While I am not going to plagiarize my own article, I want to draw attention to a few items of interest.
I actually was skeptical about transforming a blog into a book. I still have my doubts at times (though this series on wordcraft, WRITES, as I have chosen to call it, is intended for publication). Either way, the two forms, the short form (blog) and the long form (book) ask very different things of a writer. As pretentious as this may sound to some, the long form suggests that a writer has the necessary experience and craft behind her to go the distance it takes to produce a book. It means most often working with editors and publishers who help shape the unruly manuscript into something both readable and attractive, things that cannot necessarily be said of a blog.
That is not to say that blogs are by nature sloppy or inferior when compared to the book. On the contrary, experienced writers who know their voice, who consistently replicate that voice (sound) and exercise it, can take raw material and apply that voice with precision and power. The result is comparable to a well-written book, certainly, and we have all read books that seem more like sloppy first drafts, or worse. [shudder] And blogging is becoming more and more sophisticated. It is evolving, so to speak (literally), as art forms do (though I use the word "art" with caution). Competition has demanded a step up in quality, in both content and execution. Still, on the average, a book allows time and resources that the blog most often does not.
That said, my first book started as a blog, though I was unfamiliar with the word at the time (2002). I didn't, nor would I have called it a blog. I simply woke up August 2, 2002 and made a vow to write every day for a year, and to post what I wrote to my web site. After 15 months, I had a manuscript that was large, and to my eyes beautiful, but cumbersome and unwieldy. One thing led to another and that large confusion of overwritten text at last became a book. It took months of work, of long 12-16 hour days at times, but with a savvy (and patient) editor and being published by the largest Christian publishing company on the planet, I was rather enthused.
Here's what I was up against. Because it was a devotional, there were 365 days to consider, 365 micro chapters. In its raw state, a typical entry was anywhere from 200 to 1500 words. Thomas Nelson, once they got involved, asked me to reduce each entry to 200 words or less. Ouch! I complained (quietly, though, and to myself). After all, I was about to be a published author. Three things came out of the experience for which I remain grateful to this day.
1. The regularity, the discipline, the day to day obligation made a writer out of me.
2. Forcing myself to condense each entry to 200 words or less taught me the art of compression, of discovering what was necessary and what was not, what was excess and what was expendable, sharpening my vision of a text, to get to what the Williams Tyndale and Shakespeare called “pith," the soul of an idea. I developed a kind of editorial savagery.
3. I got a book deal. The advance was not huge by any standard, but who cared? I WAS PUBLISHED. And the little event did wonderful things to my thought life, to my confidence.
TO LOVE IS CHRIST, the book that slowly crept out of the ooze, will always be special to me, for all its lovely foibles. It is deliciously tweetable. Being more lyrical by nature as devotionals can be, TO LOVE IS CHRIST was the logical evolutionary step for me as a writer, transitioning, as I was, from music to books.
I have since learned to muzzle my skepticism. I am proof that a blog (a word I am truly not fond of) can become a book. That is, with a few necessary conditions. There are many conditions when making a book, but here are five that without question must be satisfied in the strange evolution from blog to book, from inspiration to book, or however the book comes to you. The following applies as well to the short form (or any other form of writing).
1. Hard work. There is no way to circumnavigate this one.
2. Obligate yourself to write every day. No exceptions.
3. Develop an editorial savagery, and even better, a great ear. I have become somewhat lactose intolerant, that is, I am able to detect cheese when I am guilty of manufacturing it, or when I hear it. Ernest Hemingway gave it another, more colorful name, but to be able to detect it is critical. The ear is the primary organ for the writer.
4. Learn and develop the art of restraint.
5. Love language. Love it. Never stop learning the craft.
That's it. My gratitude to Michael Hyatt, if not my apologies as well for reassembling this post. And though its original form was posted in 2011, its content is timeless, remembering that every time you sit down to write it is a new stage, a new performance, presenting all new challenges. All that, and an opportunity to shine. Happy blogmaking.