Once you’ve made your book map, you may find that it reveals a gap or disconnect in the writing — a place where you’ve jumped from point A to Point D without explaining to the reader how you got there. Storybreaking can help you close that gap.
Narrative gaps can happen when you know how your characters accomplished something, but the readers don’t. In first drafts we may accidentally omit a scene that needs to be included. It’s also possible to write a scene so quickly that your characters accomplish their goal but you’ve failed to give enough detail for the reader to imagine it happening. Continue reading
If you’ve read the last few posts, you may have decided to make a book map of your current project, whether it’s in progress or in editing. Great! But once you’ve built a book map, what do you do with it?
You use it to examine the structure of your book and see whether it shows any anomalies or holes.
In an informational nonfiction book with multiple elements, the book map can be used to ensure everything is in place. Continue reading
There are lots of ways to build a book map, and once I describe my method, you may think of better ones. Whatever works for you will be the method to use. You can write your book map on paper as J.K. Rowling did, or you can get a little more technical with it.
Remember that the first step in editing is to do a fast read-through. When working on client manuscripts, I often build the book map during the read-though, but sometimes I wait until I’m done. Some manuscripts don’t need a map because all the major pieces are in place, or there are only one or two that need fixing. Other times, I start building the book map at the first sign of trouble. If I come into a project knowing that it will require restructuring, I will build the book map right away.
When I made my first book map, I didn’t realize I was doing that. It was basically a scene list in Excel, with columns for each character and subplot. Continue reading
A book map is a visual representation of a book’s contents. This allows for easy analysis of elements and can reveal gaps in the content of a nonfiction book or the storyline of a novel. You may have used a book map without even realizing that’s what you were doing. It’s really just a visual way of rendering an outline. You may also have heard book maps called story grids or plot charts. Anything more complex than a simple outline could be called a book map.
There are many different ways to map a book, and I think often writers find them by accident, just out of the necessity of keeping track of a complex work. I know that was the case for me. Continue reading
As I noted when talking about editing a novel, writers often fall into an endless editing trap. You could go over your manuscript an infinite number of times and still find things to improve—or at least change.
A client and I once made two rounds of edits on his book. If he had asked for a third round, I would have had this talk with him, but he beat me to it. “How many times could we go back and forth like this?”
I said, “We have reached the point of diminishing returns.” He’s a finance guy, so he understood my meaning. There comes a time when further editing doesn’t produce a better book, it just produces a different book. Continue reading
I’ve written before about When Passive Voice is Permissible. Strunk and White admit that “Use the active voice … does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.”
Illustration by kikkerdirk • Fotolia
But one of the biggest problems writers face in critique groups is the problem of partners who flag passages as “passive” when they’re really not. Often verbs of being (be, is, was) are flagged as “incorrect” or “passive.” They are not. They are not particularly strong verbs, but they are not passive in and of themselves. Continue reading
Once you have worked your way through the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist, taking as many passes as needed to address the Personality, Presentation, Voice, Information, and Mechanics of your book, what next?
The first thing many writers do is run their manuscript past some beta readers or critique partners. Maybe both. These are two different things, so let me explain. Continue reading
When we talk about the mechanics of a manuscript, we are ultimately talking about details: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the like. Style is also a component of mechanics, as is manuscript format.
But remember that when I introduced the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist I said it was in order of importance. There’s a reason Mechanics is the last category on the list. It’s the least important.
Which isn’t to say that it’s unimportant. Continue reading
Often when we’re writing nonfiction we need to refer to words in such a way that the term being used is itself the subject of the discussion, rather than the concept the term describes. If I say “My Sunday school students have difficulty understanding the concept of propitiation,” it means something very different from “English is her second language, so she has difficulty understanding the word propitiation.”
Photo by Brenton Nicholls • FreeImages
When in your writing you need to discuss the word or phrase itself rather than the concept described by the term, put the term in italics. Continue reading
An editor once excised the semicolons from my writing with the marginal note “Death to semicolons.” He changed every one of them to a period.
Not every editor is so vehement about this much-maligned mark, but those who are may be provoked by the fact that so many writers don’t know how to use it properly.
This lack of accuracy may come about because some people learn that a comma is a pause and a period is a stop. One could readily deduce that a semicolon is somewhere in between.
Almost, but not quite. Continue reading