Last week I returned a manuscript with a number of changes requested by my editor. Responding to her comments and questions made me a better writer. Here are some of the things I learned from her about my writing habits:
What works online may not work in print.
I have a lot of bad blogging habits. When I write a blog post or online article, I keep paragraphs to 1-3 sentences each. That’s a habit I learned not to use in books a long time ago, however, I continue to bring bad blogging habits like superflous capitalization into my books. I also realized there were a number of phrases that would work well online for SEO purposes, but look strange in books. For example, a “vs.” looks great visually online, but not in the middle of a sentence in a book.
Consistent Verb Tense
I got into a bad habit of shifting between “could” and “can” or “would and “will” throughout the book. Consistency is key.
Point of View: I, We, You, or They
I was also very inconsistent in the way I addressed the reader. I often shifted between “we” and “you” throughout the manuscript, sometimes even in the same sentence. I have already caught myself doing this again even in this very blog post in the days since I returned the manuscript. I wrote about the rules I gave for myself regarding I, we, you, or they here.
Hierarchy of Headings
I use Scrivener to write my books. That program makes it easy to see the hierarchy of headings. I did not do a good job in the exported Microsoft word document distinguishing between each heading. This is an extra step I need to remind myself to take next time I format a book for an editor.
Use Active Verbs
Instead of “have students” use “direct students to” or something more specific in the instructions for the reader.
Use Specific Language
When writing a book about spirituality, for example, the word “faith” can have many meanings. While Christians may reference “the faith” liberally in conversation, the term has to be made more specific in a book. In this particular book, for example, I had to replace “faith” with “doctrines” in many places to more clearly identify what I wanted the reader to understand.