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E3: Writing A Book - The Learning Curve (11-15)

Editing...

· writing a book

Welcome back to edition #3. I'm guessing you won't mind this - but I am going to release these when ready, instead of on a regular cadence. So today, we're going to dig into the harrowing process of editing. It was the biggest struggle through the process, and if I knew then what I know now, it likely wouldn't have been so painful.

"The first draft of anything is shit"

- Ernest Hemingway

Learnings 11-16

11. A good editor makes a good book: Editing is very different from proofreading. The editor is employed to help you ensure that what you’re writing makes sense, flows, is engaging and stays on track. They are professional writing critics and coaches. I had an amazing editor, who has an attention-to-detail I could only dream of. She would have potentially had feedback on every single word if allowed to. If you’re not sure if you’re a good writer, a good editor will make your book read-ready.

12. But, they’ll make you feel like you suck repeatedly, and that’s ok!: When you send your first pass to the editor, you wait. You hope that the editor will come back to you and say, “this is perfect”, but if you have a good editor, that ain’t gonna happen. When my editor went through the first draft, she had to stop after chapter four. She had made so many edits, she sent it back, telling me there was a consistent theme to what needed to be fixed (which I discuss in #15 below) - and to basically reread / rewrite the whole thing. I was almost devastated, but her perspective was totally correct. She then sent me the Hemingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”. It was meant to make me feel better, because at the time, I felt awful. It put things into perspective, that's for sure. He was right, and she was right.

13. My cutting floor doc has 13,000 words in it: The first draft of the book was around 48,000 words. As the editor crossed out paragraphs and in some cases, wanted me to rewrite entire chapters, I cut and pasted crossed out paragraphs into a separate document. That document has 13,000 words in it, and the final book is still right around 48,000 words. There was that much rewriting. But - keep yours! It inspires many future articles, and maybe even another book.

14. Passive voice: Learn about it, then try to avoid it in your writing. I was guilty of using the passive voice throughout my writing, and didn’t actually know what that meant. The passive voice makes sentences unclear and overly wordy. For example, a “passive voice” sentence might say, “My book was read by Tom in one day”. Active voice would read, “Tom read my book in one day.” I quickly learned how important it is to eliminate the fluff in a non-fiction book.

15. Maintain target audience consistency: Ladies and gentlemen...this was the biggest problem with my first draft. My editor stopped editing after Chapter Four because of this issue - I had so many thoughts and ideas to share as a part of my writing, I didn’t focus the content on my intended audience. I wrote as though I was writing to a novice seller in some paragraphs, while others I wrote as though I was communicating to an experienced seller in the B2B technology space. My editor told me to firmly identify my intended audience, put it on a post it note on my monitor, then write to it.

In the next edition (16-20), we talk about writer's block, hitting the wall, and saying no.

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