Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Point of the Book

I've recently discovered Mark Buchanan, Canadian pastor and author of a number of helpful books on living the Christian life. I'm currently reading The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, and I'm being blessed in the reading.

As a writer, I was tickled by the author's imaginative letter from the editor in response to Solomon's submission of his book, The Proverbs, for publication. I'm trying not to gloat over the implication that editors don't always recognize a best seller when they see it. It's tempting to gloat, since I haven't yet found an editor who appreciates the great writing and marketing potential of my novel manuscript.


Dear Sol:

Thanks for the opportunity to glance over your recent submission. We loved your dad's book and continue to be humbled and amazed by how many people it's blessed.

About your book: there's some great stuff here--some real gems of insight (my four-year-old loved the one about a dog's vomit, though I'm not sure something like that would make the final cut). I also appreciate your ability to cover a wide range of topics with brevity. You explore everything from domestic squabbles to international politics to corporate strategy, and so succinctly (though, I admit, here and there a tad cryptically).

But I need to be frank with you, Sol: this is an editorial nightmare. It is all over the place. One minute you're talking about nattering wives, the next about kings' hearts, and then suddenly you're on about table manners, lazy people, poor men, whatever. You repeat yourself in many places, contradict yourself in others. I'm intrigued but confused. I wish you would take one theme per chapter and develop it fully.

I'm not saying no. But I am asking this: sum up the whole book in one clear sentence--I'm talking thesis statement here, Sol, just as in your college days. If we can nail that, I think we can build the book from there.

Say hi to the wives and concubines and kids. And congratulations on your recent marriages last month.

Kindest regards,
Friendly Publisher

P.S. I should have mentioned, the title "The Proverbs" strikes me as a bit pedestrian. I'm thinking something catchier, like "Zingers: One-Liners to Delight Your Friends and Humiliate Your Enemies." What do you think?

Sol’s imagined response:

Dear Friendly Publisher,

I’ve thought about your critique and request, and though I think you’ve missed the point of my book’s (dis)organization (hint: it mimics life), I at least want to give you the “one clear” sentence that sums up the entire work. I simply lifted this straight out of my book. Here it is:

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception." [Proverbs 14:8]

Hope that helps.


P.S. I prefer the original title.

Check out this YouTube link for a face-to-face introduction to Mark Buchanan. He's talking about his latest book, Hidden in Plain Sight.


May God bless your inspired words, and may He open the eyes of your editors to their glorious potential!

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