I’ve been a journal writer for years. But writing a book is different. So much of the success of our public writing hinges on the smallest details. As the nursery rhyme goes: for want of a nail the battle was lost.
If our writing is inauthentic, sloppy, or inaccurate, readers will abandon us quickly and mercilessly. If we don’t value their time, why should they value our work?
Below is my list of strategies for getting the details right.
- Let your internal compass guide you; write what you truly observe, think, and feel.
- Care about grammar, spelling, and syntax.
- If you quote others, make sure you have the correct quotes and credit the source.
- Spend time rewriting. This is where the hard work of getting it right begins.
- Don’t rely on your own powers of editing and proofreading–seek professional help.
- Make sure you have your facts straight.
- Keep organized files so that you know where to track quotes, ideas, older versions, etc. (This is my biggest learning.)
- Put yourself in your readers’ heads. Have you made your case and told your story clearly?
- Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to make your work a little sharper, smarter, more compelling?
- Forgive yourself for any mistakes you do end up making, knowing you have done the very best you can.
So what do you do to ensure your writing doesn’t fail for want of a nail?