AUTHORSHIP & After 13 books: My tips about how to get your 1st book published

I am often asked how I became an author and what advice I might give to someone starting out.  Here is a 12-minute video introduction that covers: how to get a publisher interested, how to pick a topic, where to promote your book and the future of publishing.  I pray this helps more colleagues/students spread the good news of their budding, ministry insights.

©️Bob Whitesel used by permission only.

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WRITING & How to Write an Executive Summary

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I encourage my students and the Missional Coaches I train to write “executive summaries” of books and articles they read. It is a helpful way to help other students who haven’t read the book/article.

Below are some brief bulleted points describing what constitutes an executive summary. (BTW, an executive summary of a book/article is different than an executive summary of a business plan which serves as an overview of a business proposal).

An Executive Summary is:

+ Often about 10% of the length of a short document, but not over 10 pages long, + Written to provide an “executive” with,
– An overview of the document and its main points.
– A recommendation to the executive based on the overview.

An executive summary is usually written for an executive that will not read the original document, hence accuracy and a recommendation are paramount.

I suggest that students and Missional Coaches aim for a two page overview, including recommendations.

If the writer is reading the document for their own benefit, then the recommendations would be for improving their own ministry.

STUDENT SUCCESS & How I Outline My Books and Why It is the Key to Communication

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/11/15.

After 12 books and many published articles, I have come to see there is a key writing device that can help you explain your thoughts clearly and logically. This is to write an outline before you write your paper, article or book.

When I was in college I would write “off the top of my head,” which meant I would write a paper based upon whatever came into my mind while writing it.  I would just put in down in the order it appeared in my thoughts.  I am sure teachers thought I had good insights, but they usually couldn’t follow my logic and reasoning.

It was not until I was in graduate school that I realized the importance of outlining a paper before I wrote it.  I think it began because in my courses at Fuller Seminary, I was required to outline Greek and Hebrew sentences before I was allowed to translate them.  Slowly I found that this outlining helped me focus my thoughts into categories and into a logical unfolding of my argument.

Here is how one student emphasized this, ” I know for me in writing these papers and final projects, the format (and flow) can make or break it.” She was right, the structure can be the key to getting your ideas across (and getting people to distribute and read your hard work).

I can that over the years I have had mostly exceptional students.  But, if there is one area of improvement that might be needed, it might be for most of my students to outline their paper first.

For example.  I try to help students outline their papers by giving them general outlines in my instructions.  For example, in CONG 520 I suggested three broad areas to address in their final paper.  Then, I also suggested 7-steps for the tactical stages of their paper.  They didn’t have to follow these structures, for they were only there to give them an idea of one way to outline their paper.  They could all experiment with different ways to outline their final paper.

The key though is to use an outline.  In fact, writers should create an outline first, regardless of stages you use.  Using an outline can help you see the “format (and flow) [that] can make or break it [the paper].”

In fact, to this day here is how I outlined all 12 my books.

1) I first decided on what each chapter will cover and how all the chapters fit together.

2) Then I outline the basic structure of each chapter, e.g.

2.1 a story,
2.2 lessons learned,
2.3 applications of those lessons,
2.4 how to evaluate if the lessons worked,
2.5 questions for discussion,
2.6 endnotes.

3) Then each time I start a new chapter I outline that individual chapter keeping in mind this reoccurring structure.

People tell me by books are very easy to comprehend, and I think it is because I spend about 1/4 of my time working on the outline.  All this is to say, to clearly present your ideas … use an outline.  Outlining can help you have a clear presentation of your thoughts to both professor and to others.

SCHOLARLY WRITING & Tips for the Wide-eyed & Mystified Graduate School Student

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

Seminary writing, as well as graduate school writing, is a bit different from undergraduate writing and even writing for the regular marketplace.

This is because in graduate school you are seeking to obtain a “Master’s degree.” The “master” designation means you have demonstrated to the Academy (i.e. the faculty) that you have “mastered” the subject manner, e.g. have read widely in it and know how to apply it.  Thus, citations show the Academy that you are becoming a master of the material and its application.

To help my students I like to steer them toward a helpful titled, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: A Practical Guide for the Wide-eyed and Mystified. It is available as a Kindle download for the amazingly low price of $4.99.

I hope this resource further helps you, the reader, adjust to your new scholarly and practical journey into missional leadership.

Chapter Ten, “Researching and Writing Essays” has some very helpful advice:

I have a simple source rule that I teach my students that if you follow will enable you to produce quality work.  The rule is 1 source per page +1. What this means is that for a 10-page paper, aim for at minimum 11 sources. For a 20-page paper, aim for at minimum 21 resources. Aiming for this number of quality resources and actually making use of them will signal to your professor that you took the time to find an adequate number of resources to research your topic.

In observing this rule for class essays, try and keep this mind: make 1/ 3 of your resources academic journal articles. Although they are not best-sellers nor are they widely read, academic journals is where the latest research first gets published in academia. That research (some, not all) then makes its way into books and book chapters— often many years later. So when you use journal articles for your research, you signal to your professor that you are engaging in the latest discussion on the matter at hand. (Kindle Locations 867-871)

Later in the chapter Zacharias offers some more helpful insights:

If you are researching a particular topic and already have either a book or a book chapter that covers the topic, then the bibliography and footnotes of these resources will provide you with a wealth of possible resources. Like the above methods, you will need to judge for yourself based on the title if the source is worth your time (see the Reading chapter for more on this).

If your bibliography is still thin for your essay, ATLA is the place to go. ATLA was covered in the Skills chapter (including the bonus video). Getting the Resources Getting a list of resources is only half of the battle— you still need to go and actually collect them. This is where your library skills will come into play. If you have not yet followed my advice and received a tutorial from your library, I strongly suggest you do that. You will need to tap into your library’s online catalogue as well as ATLA Serials to determine if your library has the resource, and if not, then how to attain it. (Kindle Location 911)

And, the book includes a helpful video.  I cannot say enough good things about the video.  When you buy the book it includes a link to a video that demonstrates how to do an ATLA search.  Here is how one student described the book:

“This little gem of a book is filled with some great pointers like this one: ‘Remember that as you enter your studies, you are meeting and rubbing shoulders with people that are already on the same team as you. You are not entering a competitive business school where one-upmanship may ensure you securing a limited pool of jobs. You are not in the rat race of private-sector work— you are a fellow builder of God’s kingdom. You and your fellow students are in this together. Their success is your success.’ (Kindle Locations 218-221).

The bonus video and the chapters on reading and writing are helpful for not only any current assignments, but also for the duration of your seminary journey.

Zacharias, D. (2013). Surviving and thriving in seminary: a practical guide for the wide-eyed and mystified. Kindle: Danny Zacharias

WRITING & Why It Is The Absolutely Essential, But Most-Overlooked Skill You Need To Succeed at Management

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This article cites compelling research that suggests a leader’s ability to ‘write out clearly’ their plans and objectives is critical for good leadership and management. Writing down your plans creates accountability, shared goal-ownership and a history that can be evaluated. No wonder leaders such as John Wesley, known as the founder of Methodism, was renowned for journaling about almost everything. My students sometimes wonder why I require excellent writing skills, and this article reminds us that having a written account speeds communication and fosters teamwork while creating a history that can be tracked, measured and replicated.”

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