by Barbara McNichol
F. Scott Fitzgerald has said you don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. When an author is too “into” doing the writing itself, the “something to say” part can get lost.
I recently edited a book that fell into this trap. The author kept losing sight of what his readers would care about—that is, a system he had created. What were the clues? Passages such as these:
- “In a previous chapter, I stressed the importance of self-awareness, and I assure you, dear reader, that I am very much aware of the preachy tone of this chapter.”
- “When I wrote the first draft of this book, I worked for several hours each day for three months.”
- “Before tackling Chapter Eight, I asked myself, ‘Does what you have written through Chapter Seven capture the essence of what you set out to say?’”
Do you see how he’s drawing readers into his own process rather than emphasizing his core message? Remember, people read your book because of the promises you imply with your title and subtitle.
Guess what. Unless you’re Stephen King writing about writing, they don’t care about your writing process! If the title of your book is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, readers expect a discussion of those 7 habits, not what Stephen Covey asked himself while he was writing the book.
What’s the fix?
Remain conscious of the readers’ point of view—not your own— even when you’re deep into the writing and rewriting process. And it never hurts to get an impartial opinion from a good editor!