Full disclosure: I’ve also been working on enjoying the Alaska summer, providing some fill-in child care, spending a week at a theater conference, hanging out with my life partner (he and I particularly enjoy the built-from-scraps greenhouse) and my BFF, being a writing coach and helping my daughter promote her book.
Both of us are personal finance writers, so it’s no surprise that both of our books have personal finance underpinnings. Abby’s is called “Frugality For Depressives: Money-Saving Tips For Those Who Find Life A Little Harder,” but it’s not strictly a PF how-to. She writes from painful personal experience about the ways she tried and failed to follow the frugal hacks with which she was raised, and how she (and later her husband) manage their money in the most sustainable ways.
My book also springs from painful experience, but in an odd way: To become a personal finance writer, I had to go broke.*
The working title is “Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul,” and I’d actually finished writing it at the end of May. Or so I thought.
Since then the book has undergone a couple of revisions and also a major re-imagining, i.e., it’s going to be two books. Several people whose opinions I trust told me that it was too long; with 19 chapters plus introduction and afterword it weighed in at 57,000 words and then some.
While it will be available in both paperback and e-versions, fact is that more and more people want virtual books and the average e-book is shorter than 57k. Or at least the average PF how-to/self-help book is.
Listening to others, and to yourself
I’m telling you this in order to emphasize two essential writer tools:
Flexibility. I resisted – oh, how I resisted! – the idea of cutting the book in half. My thought was that I’d give people all the money hacks at once.
But a professional editor told me that this would be “overwhelming” to some readers, especially those who were just starting to get control of their finances. Once they’ve mastered half the hacks they can buy the second volume, she said.
Self-awareness. Although I professed to be all-done! writing, few things nagged at my subconscious. Weren’t a few of those chapters noticeably longer than the others? Was my organization really the best that it could be? And about that intro: Any chance it was a little sterile and stern, which was not in keeping with the much-breezier nature of the rest of the manuscript?
Yep, nope and oh hell yes.
Despite an initial shutupshutupshutup response to my subconscious, I was able to do a marathon re-reading and re-editing of the work. Recommendations from that professional editor and a couple of other writers kind enough to give the book a read also helped me turn the piece into a better-organized and much more engaging manuscript.
Your best work
So what have we learned?
Always be willing to listen to editors, even if you don’t agree at first. They could be wrong; you really might know what’s best for your freelance article or book. But editing is what they do for a living. They might be suggesting changes/revisions that will make your work sing.
True, they could also be romping all over your perfectly good copy simply because they can. But at least listen and consider their advice. The work you save (or at least improve) may be your own.
And if you don’t have an editor, i.e., you’re a blogger or author-in-the-making? Put your best work out there by briefly divorcing yourself from it. Read it out loud, ask a friend to read it (and offer to reciprocate), join a writing group.
Or do all three of those things. The Internet already has enough junk. Don’t add to the pollution by throwing out slapdash work.
(Note: This is a topic I cover this topic in my online course, Write A Blog People Will Read. From now until July 31 you can get a 40 percent discount.)
*If you want to read more, wait for the book! It should be out by the third week of July. Or check out “Why I’m writing, and why you should read it,” over on my personal website.