Writing a book: One thing that challenges first-time authors

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I love working with first-time authors. They’re bright and successful people who’ve been thinking about what should go in their book for a while. Most are also good writers. They could write their book themselves, but they’d rather work with an experienced partner who can help them make the book better. They want a partner who understands how writing a book is different.

How A Book Is Different

Most of the people I work with know that writing a book is different from any other kind of writing that they’ve done. For most of them, it’s much more writing than they’ve ever done. The big challenge is to make the finished book a single body of work.

The Way We Say Things Around Here

Your language and style needs to be the same throughout. If you’re writing informally in chapter one, you should be writing informally in other chapters, as well. A professional editor can catch lots of this later, but you should try to get it right yourself.

The Same Story

Many of the authors I work with use stories and examples to make their points. That’s good, but if you use a story in one part of the book, you should use it the same way in other parts of the book. In real life, when we’re talking to friends, we can tell a story a little bit differently every time. Not in your book. Make sure that the people and the location and the key points and the language match up throughout the book.

Get the Numbers Right

Most business authors use statistics and research findings in their books. When you do that, make sure you use the statistics the same way every time. I’m talking about exactly the same way.

If you say that a certain finding is 35 percent early in the book, it should be 35 percent every time you refer to the statistic. Don’t make it “about a third” or “more than a third.” Those are both valid, but if you express a statistic differently, it will jar readers and send them paging back through the book to see if they remember what you said correctly.

Bottom Line

It’s important to make your book as consistent as possible before you send it off to a professional editor. If you’re working with a writing partner, especially if that writing partner has written books before, you may assign the harmonization task to him or to her. If you’re doing it yourself, I suggest reading through the manuscript out loud. That will slow you down and make you more aware of inconsistencies.

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