An author whose work I developmentally edited some years ago wrote a very short preface—a mere 70 words—in which he stated that his book was guided by an old adage: “To convince people,” he wrote, “tell them a story or give them the facts.” He added that his book attempted to do both, and he ended with a recommendation to his readers to “Go gently.” It was an appropriate suggestion.
On the one hand, the book was about some relatively sophisticated scientific psychology; on the other, the science was told through the guise of two true stories, one about a young boy with mysterious behavioral issues and the other about a horse with what appeared to be equally unexplainable mathematical intelligence. Coincidently (and conveniently to afford some enticing literary impact), both were named Hans. The narrative successfully wove these two tales together to demonstrate the way scientific method discovers certain underlying truths while at the same time dispels false empirical conclusions to arrive at those truths.
And the concept worked: One could more easily come to understand the science while being engrossed in the thoroughly engaging contextual story.
I think that the same advice, to “go gently,” often applies equally well when you are writing your story or stories. That’s because I believe a really good story often tells itself—and that goes for nonfiction as well as fiction. Authors I work with are often surprised when, at the very beginning of a project, I do not put a lot of emphasis on establishing a definitive outline or table of contents before getting into the writing itself.
Of course I have a general idea of where the story is going, of the important ideas and events that need to be included. But I believe that writing one’s story is often very palpably a form of reliving it, and that through this creative process, of in some ways “recalling” the story in our own minds, the optimal presentation to maximize dramatic storyline impact reveals itself. And at the risk of being cryptic, I believe this, too, goes for fiction as well as nonfiction. In my view, that’s what really forms the basis for a gripping story expertly told.
This is the first of what I intend to be a regular blog in which my primary goal—in fact my only goal—is to encourage you to write the stories you have kicking around inside your head. Whether fiction or nonfiction, autobiographical or entrepreneurial, I believe that everyone’s story matters, and whether you have the wherewithal to write it yourself, or through working with an editor, and even with a ghostwriter if your primary pursuits leave you no time, I want to urge you to “go for it!”
Going forward, I hope that I will be able to offer helpful ideas, recommendations, and suggestions to get you get excited about writing your book and getting it published in some form, whether through a traditional or self-publishing avenue. I hope that I can be of help to both aspiring and accomplished authors, and I invite your feedback as a means of helping me to identify issues in the writing and publishing universe that today’s authors are most interested in learning about.
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