As of today, the book is in final edit mode. I’m giving it one more critical rewrite before sending it off to my editor. For the process, I’ve written up a simple set of rules, which sum up the key parts of the final edit stage. Final Edit Rules Punctuation, matters. Getting all the little […]
As of today, the book is in final edit mode. I’m giving it one more critical rewrite before sending it off to my editor. For the process, I’ve written up a simple set of rules, which sum up the key parts of the final edit stage.
Final Edit Rules
Punctuation, matters. Getting all the little things right, not just commas, semi-colons and full stops, but also spaces and paragraph markers will not only help readers understand the text, it will also speed up the final formatting process as well. And, yes, I’m paying attention to my en and em dashes as well!
Relentlessly style everything. What became clear as I assembled the first draft of the book was exactly how much my writing style has evolved over the last ten years. What became clear as I rewrote the whole first draft was how limited my style still was. I love crafting words and phrases, but doing it over a whole manuscript takes endurance. Cleaning up the prose while adding variation and subtelty is essential at this stage.
Snark-less. The early drafts of the book, when I was adapting the old blogposts, had a fair bit attitude about them. I was, perhaps, having an argument with myself, or with some folks who had taken issue with my ideas and approach to work in the past, or maybe it was a few too many wine-fuelled nights of writing on those cold Adelaide nights. Whatever it was, I don’t make room for snark or ranting in my life normally, so I don’t want it appearing in this book either.
Replace boasting with vulnerability. There’s always a certain amount of self-vaildation that goes into many blogposts. It’s in the nature of serialised, personal writing. But, when you start compiling blogposts and reading them like a piece of longer pice of prose, it can feel uncomfortably boastful, even arrogant. it’s something I’ve noticed a few times when bloggers try their hand at long form writing. My solution, which is more in keeping with the tone of the book, is to replace boasts with vulnerability, to reflect struggles, uncertainties and doubts more clearly, which makes more humbler and more hospitable prose.
Convert adjectives into examples. I’m far too inclined to write phrases like “solitude is a great way to feel inspired,” which is true, but also vague to the point of absolute meaninglessness. What does solitude feel like, when does it intersect with inspiration and how would someone who has never met me and only has the text i’ve written to guide them, be able to identify when the two are intersecting in their lives?
Tie the middles together. As an essayist, I’ve got a sense for crafting an argument including the way beginnings and ends tie together. But, a book raises a lot of different kinds of questions. Especially how the middle of each chapter relates to other chapters and especially, how ideas that need to pop up in more than one place connect together. I’m on the look out for ideas, phrases and arguments that feel loosely connected or have been repeated too often.
If in doubt, delete. This is my key mantra for any kind of final editing. If it’s not clear how a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph contributes to the great whole, just delete it. This seldom proves to be a mistake.
Exercising Unused Muscles
Trying to turn a stack of blog posts into a book has been a fascinating experience. The thought-processes and work practices involved in writing a 50,000 word book are so very different from those required for pushing out 700 word blogposts. It feels like using a whole different set of thinking muscles.
Of course, I was a writer a long time before I became a blogger. But, my previous published work was almost all academically inclined. This time, I am streamlining and simplifying my writing style a lot. Not dumbing-down, just simplifying.
All that said, I’m really thankful for the time to put in the hard work on this book. I’m excited by it, especially the feedback I’ve had from those who’ve read the early drafts. Next week I’ll be making some announcements about the availability of the book.