How do you know when an idea is worthy of developing into a book? With songs or other shorter formats, you can get to a point of knowing if something will work relatively soon, but getting several thousand words into a manuscript and then deciding it’s a waste of time is far more frustrating.
We are regular columnists and contributors on both print and electronic platforms. Naturally, we receive tons of correspondence from various people who need help with sorting out some of the challenges they go through in their marriages. We’d often look at common themes that come up the most and focus our research from there. Also, to make our material personal, we juxtapose some of those themes against our 16 years of married life in order to make the themes even more practical.
The depth of the subject for us is determined by how often it comes up on our platforms and in our counselling room; how universal it is; if we can personalise the subject, or at least aspects of it, through our own marriage; whether we have a distinct and sellable view on the issue; and, when we objectively apply our minds to it, does it inspire us – can we develop it into a clear and succinct idea that can be dissected to various smaller and chewable views?
Research: how much do you do, and how detailed is it? And how much of it is internet-based, given that fact-checking may not be a priority on many websites?
We have quite a number of followers on social media, and most of them follow us for our ideas and views on marriage and family. We often select focus groups from them to test ideas for our books. We stay away as much as possible from the internet when it comes to writing our books, unless we need material on specific research papers by credible institutions. In fact, due to our weekly columns, we – ourselves – have plenty of our own articles on Google!
How much planning do you do before beginning in earnest? Do you have to know where you’re going to end up before you start?
We always begin with the end in mind. We start with determining what our goal is with the book, who specifically our target reader is and how big that audience is.
If the hundreds of memes about writing are to be believed, sitting down and actually putting words on a page is perhaps the toughest part of the job. What are the distractions you battle with the most when trying to work?
Perhaps interestingly, actually sitting down and writing is the easiest part. We work together as a couple, and our brand is marriage. After dissecting the book idea, we are able to determine how many chapters the book will have, and then divide the chapters between us to write. We work independently of one another as a couple, so we are able to stave off physical distractions more easily. And our kids are 15, 14 and seven years old. They are at the point of understanding boundaries.
What’s the weirdest or craziest way you’ve found to avoid meeting a deadline?
Our first book, Love Isn’t For Cowards, was self-published. We determined and set our own standards and timetable. This being our second book, we had already finished writing it when we first engaged with our publisher. So meeting deadlines was never an issue for us.
Daily goals: what, for you, is an acceptable daily target, in terms of word-count or the quality of what you complete, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter?
Our first book had 11 chapters, each with approximately 7000 words per chapter, and 248 pages including the introduction. For this current book, we’ve decided to scale down to 13 chapters and 201 pages, with each chapter averaging about 5000 words. Given that we are full-time in marriage ministry, actually sitting down and typing about 3000 words a day (with everything else we do) is within the bounds of possibility.
What have you found are the best ways to get this done?
We mark our calendar in advance and block off days that we’ll be focused on writing. This is communicated to the kids and the house assistant. However, we do get distracted by emergency or unforeseen eventualities that we have to attend to. But we try to be as strict as possible.
Marketing new books – print or digital: what fresh ideas do you think could be introduced to the process to make new work more accessible and appealing to both new and established readers?
With the COVID-19 situation, opening ourselves up more aggressively on digital platforms is the most dominant strategy. More than ever, people have their electronic devices, especially smartphones, in their hands more often.