New book; new website where I’ll write it

Hey, guys. So the other day I published the opening of the new book I’m writing, which I was planning to write, post by post, right here on my blog.

I pretty quickly thereafter understood that a better idea would be to write the book on an entirely separate website. So for that purpose I have now set up the blog [No Title Yet]: a book in progress.

The main reason I’ve moved the book to another site is because I don’t want first drafts of the book’s chapters going out to those who subscribe to my blog. One of the biggest reasons I decided to write this book online was because I so wanted the input on it I knew I would get from my mondo-smart readers. But incorporating that input means making a lot of changes to each piece I publish. Well (as far as I know), people who subscribe to this blog only receive in their email the first version of whatever posts I publish.

Duh. I forgot about that.

I don’t want my subscribers seeing the first version of [NTY's] chapters. If they see anything, I want them to see the book’s awesome, post-input rewritten chapters. An altogether different site for the book-in-progress eliminates that concern.

Moving the new book off-site solves some other problems, too. I don’t want the thing taking over my blog, is a lot of what it basically boils down to. And it surely would have.

Oh. It would have.

So if I might say a bit about the whole editing-your-book-as-people-comment-on-it thing.

It’s so awesome!!

I don’t even know how to start to express how much I value this way of writing, where you guys get to just say, right away, what you think of what I’ve done. I’m actually … frozen, trying to find the words for how freakin’ fantastic that is.

Let me take but one example by way of trying to show what I mean.

Originally, I concluded the part of [NTY] that I’ve thus far published by essentially saying how my intention for the book overall was to show what amounts to the inevitability of Christ on the cross.

As originally published, the conclusion of the piece in part read:

A straight, clear, and uncompromisingly logical line of reasoning leads directly from the simple proposition, “God exists,” to God incarnating himself as Jesus Christ, and then, just as we have it in the Gospels, sacrificing himself on the cross by way of establishing a means by which any person, at any time, for any reason, can shed their guilt and remorse, and be fully reconciled to God.

Right? Perfect. I loved it.

But a fair number of comments I received on that opening chapter had to do with the idea of alienating my “intended audience.” Now, to me, “intended audience” is a trigger phrase. One of the big reasons I left “legacy” [read: normal/"traditional"] book publishing is because (most) people in that business are forever talking about a book’s “target audience.” They won’t publish anything unless they’re perfectly clear ahead of time on who exactly they’re going to sell that book to: who the book’s “target audience” is. “Target audience” (along with, in Christian publishing, “felt need”) is the phrase that I think most perfectly captures the core of everything that is today wrong with book publishing generally, and with Christian publishing in particular; it is the ultimate manifestation of the awful time when, in the publishing business, marketeers and advertising people became more important than editorial people.

Ugh. Marketeers and advertising drones slimed publishing. And it’s never going back.

Anyway, I loathe the phrase “intended audience.” But if you hear something often enough, you’re wise to consider what about it might be credible. And I kept hearing from my commenting friends that I needed to think about my (erg) “intended audience.”

And voila: because of such comments this morning I realized that, with the above paragraph, I had made it seem as if all this book is about is justifying Christ on the cross.

Pfft. Hardly.

So yikes!

So this morning I spent three or four hours changing the ending of the book’s chapter/intro to … well, this:

If you start with the premise that God exists, a straight, clear, and uncompromisingly logical line of reasoning leads to a perfect explanation for virtually everything about the human experience: the nature of birth and death, morality, space, time, free-will, guilt . . . all of it. You don’t need to posit a God in order for everything to make rational sense—but doing so does satisfactorily answers a lot of fundamental questions about the universal human experience that must otherwise remain unknowable.

The line of reasoning that begins with the premise that God exists also leads directly to a full understanding of what exactly happened with Jesus on the cross.

It is the purpose of this book to, in as straightforward a manner as possible, trace that whole line.

That is solid. And it really captures, in a way my first version doesn’t even approach, the breadth and depth of what this book is really all about.

So, you see the magnitude of that improvement. And that’s just one of the many improvements I was able to make to the book thus far based on the comments readers wrote me about it.

It’s just … well, the culmination, for me, of the value of the community that we’ve together built here. I’m really cashing in on that now. I’ve got a prodigious amout of important stuff I need to say with this book; without you guys to help me, I couldn’t say it with anywhere near the power and precision I can with your help.

I know what I want to say. And I’ve got a reasonably decent set of skills to say it. What I don’t have anymore are really good editors. I’ve worked with the best in the business, and of course they’re invaluable. But leaving traditional book publishing, as I have, means losing access to such professionals. And relative to any particular written work, that’s pretty seriously problematic, because writing—especially about something as deep and complex as the issues I’ll be writing about in this book—involves considerations, nuances, and articulations way beyond the capabilities of any one person, no matter who they are.

Just proofreading a book like this is a seriously prodigious undertaking.

It is, that is, unless you have a whole lot of people who want to help you with your book, because they care enough about what you’re saying to help you say it right. Then you’re . . . pretty freakin’ good.

This book isn’t just blog posts I’m writing. (Not that each one of those doesn’t take insane amounts of time.) This is a work I mean to … last for a while.

Go big or go home, right? Well, there’s no way I can go bigger than this book. Topic-wise, this is about as big as it gets.

And when I say I can’t do it without you, I am really, really not kidding. That’s why I’m writing it this way.

I’ll let you know, on my Facebook page, when, on its site, I’ve put up new chapters of [No Title Yet]. Thanks ahead of time for whatever you might do to help this book become all I know it can and should be.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • textjunkie

    Well, I definitely like that ending better, though I’m still dubious about your last line. :) I’ll try to remember to check out the other site; I’m so used to just coming here that it’ll take me a while to learn the new site. (Too cheap to buy the book? Help edit it! :)

  • Molly Crosby Pellettiere via Facebook

    first blog post sounds fab. keep it up!

  • Matthew Tweedell

    You sure have high hopes for us. You do know we can’t even tie our shoes without getting ourselves all confused, right? I suppose we’ll try not to let you down too much.

    • vj

      ;-)

  • Laurel

    I don’t know if I’m part of the “target audience” because–well. Bread on the waters, isn’t it? But I read this post, and it made me happy, and I went to the new website and read the beginning of your book, and it’s apt and concise and resonates beautifully, and I’m all excited about it.

  • Anne Kinney

    I am so excited for you, for us, and for all who have yet to hear what you have to say! Is it too soon to declare you a leader in “Reformation II”??

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I’m not special, I’m just opinionated and don’t know when to shut up. I’ll just assume you’re referring ot the rest of your readers with that ingelligence-stuff. I’ve got the insane part down, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.maynes Charles Maynes via Facebook

    JS- what would you say is v2.0 Christianity? the Reformation? this is a serious, and not sarcastic question btw….

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I always think of it as 1 being Christianity after Christ, 2 being Xtianity as after Luther, and 3 what’s being born in our own time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.maynes Charles Maynes via Facebook

    cool- thanks! I have always described our present time as v2.0, but I feel your timeline is far more accurate…

  • Allie

    I like the new version. It IS solid. I also believe that Christianity, more than other types of theism, leads to a reasonable explanation of a lot of things that don’t otherwise make sense about everything.

    Not too sure about the title, though, because I think your theology at its best is not so much a new-fangled version of Christianity that discards the past but how true Christians have followed the faith all along.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You know what? I think I need to understand that people don’t (and why would they?) get the whole “working title” thing. It’s just a placeholder; it’s not supposed to be the actual title. I think I better spend today thinking of the TITLE-title for the book, and start using/sticking with that. Thanks for idea about going back to origins; that’s how I feel, too. Thank you!

  • vj

    Oooh, goody – TWO John Shore websites. Now I’ll *really* never get any proper work done….

    But what a truly marvelous way of producing a book – publishing 3.0!

  • Lymis

    It’s extremely solid, and appears to really state your point.

    Would it be more powerful if you changed the “you” in these paragraphs to “I”?

    The two paragraphs that preceded it got shifted to “I” – starting with “For my part…” and continuing through “…on my table, I will continue to leave the God card turned face up….”

    Especially since this is the introduction, would it be more powerful to continue to speak of it as your journey and your card?

    “If I start with the premise that God exists, a straight, clear, and uncompromisingly logical line of reasoning leads….”

    “I don’t need to posit a God in order for everything to make rational sense…..”

    “The line of reasoning that begins with the premise that God exists also leads me directly to a full understanding of what exactly happened with Jesus on the cross.”

    You are inviting the reader along on your journey, and setting out your views. It strikes me as more powerful, especially knowing how strongly you feel that God speaks to different people differently (at least in the style details) for you to lead with “This is a strong and confident statement of my understanding, my belief, and my path to it” (which is pretty darn unassailable) rather than what I think some people are reacting to, which is that slight hint of “everyone will inevitably come to the same conclusion” that I think people are reacting to.

    We are so conditioned to people who speak openly of religion being adamant that their particular orthodoxy is The One Truth that I think we knee-jerk into reading that into things even when it isn’t the intention, and unless this short-circuits a strong conviction of yours, it might be harder to dismiss if this opening was in “I” language, or at the very least, in “we” language.


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