Key Lessons of Writing a Nonfiction Book: Lessons 5, 6, & 7
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
In the last update in this series about key learnings in writing my first nonfiction book, I shared lesson #4, which was all about giving yourself space during the writing process. Today’s post contains lessons 5, 6 and 7.
Lessons five and six are related, and as an Asian expression goes, they are 'same-same', meaning, the same, but different or similar.
Lesson #5: Cut, Cut and Cut again
In the process of writing Natural Healing Techniques, I found that it was important to first get everything down.
After you have it all down, review and decide what's important and what's not, or rather, decide what's important to keep and what's not.
That's not to say that what you wrote is not important, it's defining and refining what is necessary and what's not. It's finding the right balance of how much information is enough and how much is too much.
Does your reader need or want to know everything to the nth degree? Will you lose your readers attention with too much or too little information? Are you able to communicate your message better with less? What was your books purpose?
My goal in writing Natural Healing Techniques, Get Well & Stay Well with Asian-Bioenergetic Therapy, was to provide an awareness of some of the techniques available, some which are rarely heard of and I didn't want to get too low level with details.
Just last week I received my first public review from a person who did not know me and who was unfamiliar with Asian Bio-Energetic Therapy. Her overall review was positive, and she also mentioned she would have liked to see more detail.
Some may have taken this particular comment to heart. I viewed it as a positive because it supported my original purpose of the book.
Stay true to and focused on your books purpose, your intended audience, and the benefit it brings to them. Stay disciplined in continuing to ask, 'is this, or how is this adding value?'.
Lesson #6: Edit, Edit and Edit again
Have you ever finished something and thought, thank god!, only to find you have to do it again and again! You find yourself wondering when is this going to end, really end, no I mean really, really, end?!?
This is what the editing process feels like for me. Every time I reached the finish line, it seemed to move.
Expect a constant and reiterative editing process as you're writing your manuscript until you reached what you feel is your final draft. Now understand, you may think this is your final draft, but it's not!
Lesson #7: Hire a professional editor
To hire a professional editor sounds easy right? Did you know there were different types of editing?
So, first you have to decide what type of editing you require.
The names of the editing services may vary, however the category of editing services are generally similar. For example:
Editorial Assessment: This type of editing service typically gives a first overview of your manuscript and provides feedback on your plot, structure, style and consistency.
Developmental Editing: This type of editing service looks at your book inside out, particularly in relation to your structure, plot, tone, flow, concepts clarity, and so on. To me it's like a sanity check after you have a first draft. The outcome may require major edits and rewrites.
Copy Editing: This type of service focuses on your grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistencies, and so on.
Proofreading: I consider this service like a final polish before going to the next phase/s in your project, such as cover design, interior formatting and print.
Determine the service/s you need for your specific project and ensure you are clear on what your editor is providing, or not.
Whatever you decide on editing services, do hire a professional editor and don't cut yourself short.
You not only need fresh eyes, you need professional eyes and experts that do this for a living!
I learned a few things from my editors; some lessons were new, and some were reminders of what you overlooked or forgot. Here are some:
Your editor will catch things you never even saw or considered. They will see things that you will never see yourself even if you reviewed your draft 100 times.
Did you know that style guides exist for writing, i.e. the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press? Editors will inform you of the style they following when editing as well as what dictionary they use.
Should you separate your sentences with one space or two? I automatically use two as habit, however this appears to be incorrect.
The Chicago Manual of Style calls for the spelling out of numbers from one through hundred and use numerals for numbers above that; I always thought it was you spelled out numbers one through ten only.
So now that you've had your manuscript professionally edited, you are finally finished with editing right? Yes and no.
Once you have your final edited manuscript, you will move on to formatting the interior of your printed book and conversion to eBook. Technically you should not be editing at this stage, you are reviewing your manuscript from cover to cover to ensure no errors occurred in the formatting process, however I picked up on things that were missed in previous edits.
Is editing ever finished? Yes and no.
Yes of course you have to draw the line somewhere and at the same time I could review my manuscript another 50 times and still see changes or improvements that could be made.
Would I take the same approach to editing next time? Mostly yes, and I would probably do less reiterative editing during the writing process, get it all down, and then focus heavy on editing. I would also add an additional editing service.
I would love to hear about your writing experiences. If you’re new to writing nonfiction, what questions do you have?
In the meantime, stay tuned for lesson #8. Happy writing and happy journeys,
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