Simply writing a book is a step of faith. So, if you are interested in writing a book about your faith, you will need to exercise some.
Writing a book about your faith is so much more than simply jotting down your thoughts and opinions—at least if you want your story and message to be impactful…
The following principals, when applied, will help you with your journey.
Here are the steps to write a faith-based book:
- Notice the similarities and differences with other books
- Convey hope in your writing
- Write a story, not just a list
- Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books
- Draw on your own experiences
- Trust your faith
- Create flaws
- Write your faith-based book so they understand
- Have faith
- Create overwhelming odds against you/the protagonist
- Learn lessons from those who have done it before
- How to start writing your faith-based book today
How to Write a Faith-Based Book in 9 Easy Steps
There’s more to writing a faith-based book than jotting down your feelings and interpretations.
These steps will help you take your idea and vision to the next step and write a good book about your faith and understandings of it.
#1 – Similarities and differences between Faith Books and other books
The main difference between a book about faith and spirituality as opposed to other books is not so much what is seen, but what is unseen.
According to one Biblical writer: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
While this is a Christian scripture, it could apply to writing a book about any faith. One goal of writing about faith is to convey hope to those who are hurting.
So, in order to write and publish a book your audience will want to read…
#2 – Convey Hope in your writing
You hope your work will be published and, I assume, that it helps your readers.
Pass hope onto your readers with examples of how faith “moves mountains,” and your book will have a higher chance of success in selling more books and becoming an enjoyable experience for everyone who encounters it.
Here are a few examples of how you can convey hope in your writing:
- Display your own or others’ struggles
- Make a point to develop a full range of emotions by the “show, don’t tell” rule in writing
- Focus your book to look on the bright side
- Show the steps from struggle to hope so readers can understand how it’s done
#3 – Write a story; not just a list
The most popular faith-based books have story settings where people overcoming impossible challenges.
Perhaps the most famous example is David and Goliath.
You know how it goes; an unknown boy destined to become king slays an evil giant. Even if you heard this only once, you would never forget it.
Keep this in mind when looking to convey faith through your words.
Faith comes to life through stories, and those stories will be remembered longer than any list of does and don’ts. Not that I’m against lists; I’m writing some here. However, this is an article, not a book.
A good story helps ensure your words have staying power. Do you know anyone who doesn’t remember the story of David and Goliath? Exactly!
#4 – Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books
While far from fantasy, Cori Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place reveals parallel worlds.
Outwardly Ten Boom endures a brutal concentration camp while inwardly she lives in a world of faith. Faith, in this case, is essential to her survival. While the threat of death is ever-present, the main character and author find freedom against the ultimate antagonist.
After becoming friends with many ex gangsters, I wrote the book in the middle.
Fiction needs to be as real as nonfiction!
The more implausible the story, the more you need to anchor it in details that make it seem real.
This is one of the biggest writing mistakes new aspiring authors can make.
The people we met long ago in a galaxy far away behave like we on earth—they are sometimes petty and self-centered and at other times noble and selfless.
#5 – Draw on your own experiences
Recall a time when you needed a certain amount of money, and it came just in time.
If you are writing a fictitious book like The Shack, you can use the feelings you encountered in life, and exaggerate them to make your point. Can you remember needing a certain amount of cash on the first of the month and receiving near that amount in the mail, just in time?
Take the amount you received and multiply it along with the penalty for not coming up with the money.
Turn things from difficult to desperate in order to further your message and story.
#6 – Trust your faith
Trust in the force!
Star Wars may not seem like a faith story, but it is. An entire galaxy is under the boot of darkness when Princess Leah suddenly appears and utters those desperate and now famous words, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!”
The story of Moses who, with Pharos’s army before him and the sea behind him is similar.
The only option for Moses and the people he led was a great miracle. What is the only hope for the characters you want to write about?
Make the obstacles insurmountable, the solution nearly impossible, the resolution semi miraculous and you’ll even maintain that writing motivation on your way to a great faith book.
# 7 – Flawed, but not too flawed
When it comes to stories like this, you want to make sure you never write it as anything being “perfect.”
Firstly, no reader will want that type of character development or story structure as a whole because it’s not realistic and therefore, not interesting.
Here are some tips to avoid creating not enough or too many flaws:
- Don’t make your faith hero too good. Nobody is perfect, and your characters should not be perfect either.
- On the other hand, don’t give your characters fatal flaws. Some flaws are endearing while others are repulsive. Readers will easily forgive a woman who chews gum constantly while a man who runs over a puppy for the fun of it will remain beyond redemption to them.
- Make flaws relatable. If your reader thinks, I do that, or if they know someone with similar quirks to your characters, they will most likely relate to your creations and enjoy the story.
Tip for writing flaws in your faith-based book:
Think of it this way: You are on a bus. It is crowded and noisy with all sorts of distractions. Someone takes a seat across the aisle from you. You have something important to tell them…
Hold that image; the person you envision is your audience.
Write to them alone. The first thing out of your mouth should be more attractive to them than anything competing for their attention. Also, everything that follows after those initial words should hold that attention.
Lose them for a moment, and you may never get them back.
By the time you reach your destination, your imaginary friend should be so intrigued by what you have said that he or she will follow you when you exit the bus.
# 8 – Write so they understand
Know what moves your readers and talk to them like you would any other friend, in terms they understand.
Everyone understands words like hope, faith, and love.
What you want to avoid is speaking in terms and scriptures and such in a way that those even looking to build their faith won’t understand.
#9 – Have a strong faith
One of the most famous writing tips, and wisely so, is that you write on what you know.
To write about faith, you will need to exercise faith. That starts by getting up early and writing.
Tip: I begin fiction drafts first thing in the morning, pre-coffee (tea in my case) while still in pajamas. Being nearly half asleep tends to bring out a loose, dreamy quality. While this style is good for fiction when getting the framework of the story down, it is not recommended for non-fiction or final drafts.
Nonfiction and self-editing require concrete logic. I suggest attempting them later in the day, when well fed, fully caffeinated, and wide-awake. You can then correct the mistakes you made while floating in that pleasant morning haze.
#10 – The Protagonist needs to face overwhelming odds
Hosoi, my life as a skateboarder, junkie, inmate and Pastor is a book I co-authored for HarperOne.
The memoir follows famed skateboarder Christian Hosoi, who became one of the world’s top skateboarders before falling to meth addiction.
After his incarceration, Hosoi faces himself for the first time, a showdown that ends at the feet of faith.
Immersed in fame, money, and vice since his childhood, the character has little chance of surviving, much less in becoming what he is now—a faithful husband, attentive father of four and a church pastor.
The example here is that your protagonist has to face challenges and odds stacked against them.
And if you’re writing a nonfiction book, your job is to ensure that your own struggles are evident.
When others relate to hardship, it creates a more powerful emotional impact in your faith-based book.
#11 – Learn lessons from those experienced
Some of the most powerful lessons can be learned by those who have experience. I learned as much when interviewing Shack author, William Paul Young.
In the last century writers like C.S Lewis and G.K. Chesterton led the faith-based fiction pack.
More recently, William Paul Young made a big splash with a small volume called The Shack.
I interviewed Young a short while ago, and he mentioned that Shack began as a hand-stapled gift for his grandchildren.
As you may know it went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.
C.S. Lewis had similar success with a book he wrote for his grandchildren, The Chronicles of Narnia.
While these are extraordinary examples, they illustrate two things: The power of faith and focusing on a narrow audience.
While written thousands of years after the books in the bible, both Lewis’s and Young’s tales weave in some timeless common threads: For one, the main characters have little or no chance of succeeding in their goals. Similar to the story of young King David, a cursed land is liberated by a band of children in The Chronicles of Narnia.