Browsing at B&N

barnesnoble2Today I spent about 2 hours at Barnes and Nobles with my best friend Tim. It’s like walking around a candy store. Books everywhere. So many topics. Ideas. Thoughts. Some developed with precision and others that are sloppily thrown together. Words. Concepts. Dreams with a binding. Passions in ink. Musings in print.

After our time at B&N, Tim and I went back to his office and sat for about an hour talking about books we can (and should) write. Ideas swirled and loose plans were formulated. What, though, will I/we do with all that? How does one go about starting the process? The simple answer is…well, just do it. Grab a pen. Open the laptop.

But, really, how do you start writing a book? Anyone? Thoughts?


  1. PatrickO says:

    Hey John! Realized you are back at this, so I’m wandering my way through and found this great topic…

    How do you start writing a book?

    You start writing.

    That’s it. But you said that.

    What to write? That’s a big one. You have to see something that needs to be said, or be saying something a lot to people that no one has written on, or just have a big interest in a particular topic that you want to study more.

    Have a topic, then just start writing on it. Sketch things out. Try different approaches. Break the topic down into different ideas.

    Then set a certain amount of words each day as a goal. I try to do a 1000 words a day when I’m writing regularly. That was Jack London’s goal and I started doing that. Then, I later added a goal that I would try to finish a chapter a week. That turns out about a 20 page (double spaced) chapter a week.

    Doing it like this makes the goals approachable. You’re not writing a book… you just have a certain amount of words each day to get to.

    Seeing my name pop up in the comments was nice… but I’m not sure I’m understanding. As far as I know Brian McClaren never endorsed my book. But I understand why people would have him endorse books. Endorsers are about getting books marketed. If a book isn’t marketed it doesn’t sell, and if a book doesn’t sell it’s hard to get people to try to sell it. It’s circular, to be sure, but that’s a problem I had with my book. Bookstores won’t carry it because my publisher isn’t big enough to get involved in the major distributors. It’s a tricky world, this book selling business. Of course, I should also add that I’ve never read a Brian McClaren book, and I’m not sure why but it never grabbed me very much to do so.

  2. Josh says:

    Hey Fehlen,

    I have been thinking about your question and it seems you have received some really good advice. In reflecting upon first books, I thought about Ron Mehl’s book ‘God Works the Night Shift’. It was the first book of his I read and I think it was one of his earlier published works. I inferred that he had possibly 3 guiding factors: He picked a simple topic, wrote something he was passionate about, and used material that he was well versed in. Perhaps these or similar guiding principles might help you in your quest.

    Josh 🙂

  3. Jim Giordano says:


    Here’s a post I ran across (still looking at emergent and emerging church stuff). It’s pretty brief and yet thoughtprovoking. Many of the comments that follow are excellent as well. Let me know what you think.

    P.S. I like what Alan Hirsch wrote but am bothered by the fact that he too, like Patrick Oden, had his book endorsed by Brian McLaren. Oh my. Why do these guys let Brian McLaren endorse their books? I guess I might add that to my suggestions. Choose carefully the people you ask to write endorsements(or make sure it is in the contract with your publisher if that is who controls endorsements).

  4. Jim Giordano says:


    Start by asking the author of the number #1 best selling book of all time. You’re blessed to know Him personally so why not ask;-)

    I’m certainly no expert on writing a book but I’ve got some ideas to toss your way.

    1.) I would start with the big idea that you want your book to communicate. Can you put it into a single sentence?

    2.) Who do you want to write to? Describe (in writing) your intended audience. Keep that description close by when working on your book. Feel free to change, expand, or contract the intended audience but be ready to change your tone and approach accordingly if you do.

    3.) Create an outline so that your book follows a logical structure that supports your “big idea” or main point you are trying to communicate. I’d use the outline as a basis for chapters.

    4.) Keep your book as concise, yet substantive as possible. (Perhaps an exception to this would be a novel.)

    5.) Communicate truths directly. People are hungry for truth.

    6.) Have strangers as well as friends read manuscripts and offer feedback. Honest feedback is the only kind of feedback that is really valuable. They can be gracious but they need to be honest. Of course, you’ll want to ask folks who you consider mentors or accomplished authors. I think you should also have a handful of folks from your intended audience read your manuscript as well. Have them take it for a test drive so to speak.

    7.) Finally, and this is very important, be sure to include those who helped you figure out how to write your first book in the acknowledgments section of your book;-)

  5. Eileen Fehlen says:

    The first book you guys should write should be about male friendships. The ups and downs, why it is important, your own experiences.

    Is there anything like that out there? Not being a male I don’t know. But it is something you have worked on and could teach others about.

    Or is that “too female” an idea? MOM

  6. Tim Clark says:


    That was the most fun I’ve had in a B&N for a long time. I dig the books you steer me towards. And the conversation after…lot’s to act on. Let me know when you find out how to start writing!