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paulchernoch

Challenges Outlining new Christian nonfiction book

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I am wrestling with my newest project, an exploration of the prophetic content of Ecclesiastes and Job. My working title is What Solomon Never Knew. It is an outgrowth of ideas that began forming while I was writing my previous book about Job.

 

This will be my third Christian nonfiction. My first, The Endless Hunt, was a search for spiritual treasures. Its structure came easily; one chapter for each of the twelve treasures I found, plus a few about how to integrate the material together. Practical life lessons were sprinkled throughout the book. Additionally, I employed a consistent metaphor of a treasure hunt with treasures, clues, compass, map and a rival pirate.

 

My last book, Job Rises, was more challenging. I required background material as well as a careful point-by-point defense of my interpretation of some controvesial points. After I had established my framework for interpreting Job, I proceded to examine all of Job's speeches, then Elihu's and God's, deriving lessons from each. At the end, I synthesized a plan for how to make your life resilient in the face of suffering. Each chapter I ended with meditations for life application. The chapters on Job's suffering in particular each offered rich lessons that were more than theoretical. I can safely say that no more than one or two chapters were solely logical and theoretical; practical life lessons abounded. 

 

Now I come to this study of Ecclesiastes. Context, patterns, connections and framework consumed most of my research. Many ideas that I shared in my book on Job were backed up by conservative theologians that I could cite. Not so the ideas I have for this new book. I will have to spend most of the book merely explaining and defending my framework for interpreting and connecting the prophecies found in Ecclesiastes, Job, Genesis, Matthew, Daniel and Revelation. I am struggling with how to present a progressive message of Peace thoughout the whole book, not just as bookends. 

 

Have any of you any experience presenting exegetical material for a popular audience?

 

What techniques can I use to break up the dryer material with inspirational ideas without derailing the logical flow or confusing the reader?

 

What ordering principles work for you?

 

I have never used sidebars in my books, but have made frequent use of personal anecdotes. What kinds of features lend themselves to a book on prophecy?

 

My primary motive for writing this book is to offer peace in troubled times. The COVID-19 pandemic will (God willing) have run its course before my book is finished and published, but the after effects could last years as the world's economies struggle to rebuild. People need reassurance that God's plans for the world continue unhindered and we can trust in His providence. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I was exercised over sensational books about the end of the world, speculation that Chernobyl was a plague from Revelation, nightmares and aberrant beliefs that inflicted great anxiety. How do you plan for the future when people are yelling that the world is about to end? How do you resist debilitating despair? I want to let the next generation know the source of the peace that I found so they don't make foolish decisions or contemplate the unthinkable. 

Do you think there is an audience for such a book? I am trying to reassure people both that there is a pattern to history that matches prophecies in the Bible, proving God's omnipotence and love, while at the same repeating the truth that we do not know when Christ will return. Believing both at once has proven difficult for the church and for individual Christians. You either see a pattern and predict a date for the Second Coming, or wisely set no date but lose the reassurance that seeing the hand of God can offer.

 

I believe that God wants us to have such reassurance to help us through dark days. Sadly, Solomon, the wisest man in the world, died without peace, because he couldn't see the light that follows the darkness in his visions. We should not imitate him.

 

- Paul

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1 hour ago, paulchernoch said:

Sadly, Solomon, the wisest man in the world, died without peace, because he couldn't see the light that follows the darkness in his visions. We should not imitate him.

Oh, so true!

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Sounds a really interesting project but not my field.

 

I will pray that you are able to resolve the issues you are wrestling with though.

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15 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

People need reassurance that God's plans for the world continue unhindered and we can trust in His providence.

 

15 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

I am trying to reassure people both that there is a pattern to history that matches prophecies in the Bible, proving God's omnipotence and love, while at the same repeating the truth that we do not know when Christ will return.

 

15 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

I believe that God wants us to have such reassurance to help us through dark days

 

Okay. Here's what I see in what you've written: prophecy is not your main concern. I think that's why you're having trouble. It's reassurance you want to write about. I think writing about encouragement and reassurance needs to come first with prophecy interspersed. Just my two coppers' insight. ;)

 

 

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I might start with a small mind map that shows the connections between the basic ideas and concepts I was wanting to express. It would need to include all the high level details/points to be made. From that, I'd go to lists of lower level details & concepts that might be covered under each major bubble.

 

From that, I might redraw a much bigger mind map, showing where these smaller details connect. I'd probably try a color code, distinguishing points that can be clearly understood by everybody, points that can be clearly demonstrated, but only after some explanation, and points that, being honest with myself, can be demonstrated to someone with my subjective viewpoint, and may not be accepted by everybody.

 

I'd take lots of time in deciding the colors for the last two, because it can often be hard to separate real facts from mere feelings.

 

If I'd done a decent job on the mind map, I'd have a clear picture of all the major milestones that must be traversed by a reader going through my book. I would only then be in a position to start determining the order of those milestones, and putting them into outline form. For your book, only you would be in a position to picture a reader at the end of the journey, and figure out how they would be most satisfied/interested at each milestone, and what previous points would have been the most successful in getting them there.

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6 hours ago, lynnmosher said:

 

 

 

Okay. Here's what I see in what you've written: prophecy is not your main concern. I think that's why you're having trouble. It's reassurance you want to write about. I think writing about encouragement and reassurance needs to come first with prophecy interspersed. Just my two coppers' insight. ;)

 

 

Okay, I think Solomon has competition. Great insight.

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@Wes B - The fact that your explanation of how to create a mindmap sounds like Greek to me says a lot. I am great at digging into the details, but stepping back and getting the big picture is hard for me. At the moment, I have a chapter outline that encompasses all my research. There is a place for every idea to be slotted in. I just don’t see the current organization telling a story. 

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3 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

@Wes B - The fact that your explanation of how to create a mindmap sounds like Greek to me says a lot. I am great at digging into the details, but stepping back and getting the big picture is hard for me. At the moment, I have a chapter outline that encompasses all my research. There is a place for every idea to be slotted in. I just don’t see the current organization telling a story. 

 

Try this:

 

https://blog.iqmatrix.com/how-to-mind-map

 

to get an idea of a mind map. What they do is organize information according to associations, the way our memory does, and does it in visual form, so we can see the connections. These are the connections you'll want to create in the minds of your readers, and it's what mental associations should be in their minds, after they close the back cover of your book.

 

I rarely use mind maps myself, but if i were in a situation where the information to be presented were so varied and disjointed that I couldn't see a good way to organize it, a mind map would show me what my endpoint in the reader's' minds looks like. Then i could start outlining a sequence of statements that would end up producing those associations.

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I read some reviews and decided to try MindNode (the free version). It is fun and easy to use!

 

If I get good results, I may try using the mind maps as illustrations in the final book.

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On 4/5/2020 at 11:35 AM, paulchernoch said:

Maybe this old dog can learn new tricks.

Unless you dye your hair, you don't qualify as an "old dog." Or do you mean the collie?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, carolinamtne said:

Unless you dye your hair, you don't qualify as an "old dog." Or do you mean the collie?

He's a shelty! Smaller body, larger bark.

 

I finished a first draft of a mind map!

Peace.thumb.png.c5776e36506498fc3fc9408aca704d13.png

 

 

Edited by paulchernoch
Wrong image

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@lynnmosher - After reading a theology paper on the structure of Job, doing the mindmap and reflecting on your insightful comment that what I was caring about was not so much prophecy as “peace”, I have a story and a way to orient my readers. The paper I read talked about how we begin life trying to plan and live a self-determined life. Then things turn sour, as we realize our plans are meaningless. If we follow the right path, then  through mourning we learn wisdom. We struggle to apply it because of human limitations and sin. If we master our flaws and open our eyes, we can see how our temporal plans made in accord with the fear of the Lord fit into God’s eternal plan. This draws us into a profound sense of our place in eternity and a satisfying peace.

 

There are many pieces that have to fall into place for that to work out. A difficult one is making that eternal connection, because we cannot see God’s grand design. Sketching a few strokes of that bigger picture is what I hope to do, as well as summarizing what I have learned about the other parts (which constituted the majority of my previous two books.) What excites me is that the work I did in my two previous books, one on values and worship and the other on Job and suffering, fits so well with the theme of this third book. It makes me feel like I am part of that Grand design. Of course if I didn’t feel that way, how could I write such a book?

 

Paul

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14 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

He's a shelty! Smaller body, larger bark.

Oops! I have seen Shelties. I should have recognized that. 

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11 hours ago, paulchernoch said:

It makes me feel like I am part of that Grand design. Of course if I didn’t feel that way, how could I write such a book?

So write on! God bless your work.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/7/2020 at 12:09 PM, lynnmosher said:

Keep at it, Paul! ;)

I am! Last night I created another mind map. This time I focused on Ecclesiastes 3. I decided to explore the relationships between the 28 "times". I found that I was able to group them into seven groups of four each, attach a category and derive some insight. This passage lends itself to conducting an inventory, to see what is blocking your path to peace. In fact, I am refocusing a huge section of my book based on this insight. I was not planning on conducting as extensive a study of Ecclesiastes as I did when I wrote my book on Job. Now I am excited because each day shows me new wonders in God's word!

 

Here is my new mind map:

 

 

Peace times seven.png

Edited by paulchernoch
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