Last night I printed the 22 blogs I wrote under the title of Beyond Atheism. 50 pages, 24,278 words, written in twenty daily writing sessions. Obviously, I have something to say about the topic. Now it is time for editing.
I started editing this morning. I did not make it past the very first paragraph before I started writing margin notes: “rewrite”, “delete”, “move this”, “need source here”, “need background here.” I am a cruel editor.
The information is all there. It is just in the wrong places. There is a wealth of information that does not need to be there at all. Delete that. Easy. The rest is going to be more difficult. As I reviewed the material, I asked what so many other writers ask: “Who is my audience?”
Many years ago, I was seated next to an elderly lady on a business flight. She worked through her fear of flying by talking to me about Jesus. I was patient and kind. After a while though, I thought her persistence was presumptuous. I turned to her and asked, “Have you ever been to an attorney’s office?”
She replied that she had.
“They have so many books to read, don’t they?” I smiled.
Again, she agreed.
“If you walked into a lawyer’s office and she only had one book on the bookcase behind her, you would probably think she wasn’t a very good lawyer,” I continued.
“Then why would you believe a preacher who only reads one book?”
She remained silent for the rest of the flight.
She is not in my audience. When you write a book about atheism, you have to realize that your audience reads a LOT of books. The second thing you should consider is that atheists are not the kind of people who like to be told that they are wrong. They are similar to Christians in that regard. The title “Beyond Atheism” implies that the atheist is wrong; that there is something yet to come that they have not yet discovered. Tough audience.
What about theologians? Oddly enough, theologians and ministers of every stripe are a big part of my target audience. The problem here is that they are all learned men and women. They are most often story tellers, but their stories are based on philosophical truths that make for pretty interesting sermons. Philosophy is a little dry. Okay, it is VERY dry. Stories are more fun to tell, and more people tend to come back to hear another story if they hear a good one. I admit, philosophy symposiums do not draw a big crowd. Did you ever hear of a philosopher being “held over for two more days” because of a sell-out crowd?
Me neither. “Back by popular demand,” isn’t going to be on the announcement too often.
You have to respect your audience. For an audience of theologians, that means I must do as much work as they have done in order to acquire the knowledge they possess. If there is something “Beyond Atheism,” they probably already know it, so what I have to say better say it in a different way, or bring new information to the table for discussion. Another tough crowd.
Old information can be reordered into something that inspires in a new way. (Let me just make a note of that.)
There are several smaller audiences that I need to consider, but none of them will be more demanding than the two I have mentioned.
This translates into a need for much editing and a complete rewrite. I need to make sure that what I wrote is what I intended to say.