A working title ... naming your book
When you start writing your book, you may have a title in mind.
Don’t get too attached to it.
It’s best to consider an early title a working title. This will allow you to keep an open mind if another title presents itself.
Here are a few questions to consider as you name your book
- does the title include words that define what the book is about? Does it need to?
- is it memorable and easy to say?
- does another book use a similar title? Or worse, the same title?
If you’re thinking of a catchy title that doesn’t reveal what the book is about, consider adding a subtitle that does.
Austin Kleon's books pictured above have succinct, catchy titles. You may not be writing a series of books. but with Kleon's books you can see that each one offers a clue to what the book is about. Steal Like an Artist encourages readers to look at the work of others and use it as inspiration. Stealing like an artist is not about copying the work of other artists, it's about using what others have done as guidance. Show Your Work talks about sharing your work with others. Inviting them to see the process and engage with you ... in a blog, on social media, through email newsletters. And finally, Keep Going offers tools and guidance to help you push through when you don't want to. Feel like you can't. It's effective because it's something we all feel. But we all need to ... keep going.
It's not easy to develop a name that's clear, creative, and concise. But it's worth working on. One of the best ways to do that is to keep a running list of titles. Keep adding to them. Modify them.
And when you've got a title, run it by a few people and see what they think.
If you're stuck, maybe I can help. Reach out with an email today.
Don't do it alone.
Yes, writing is a solitary effort. With fingers poised above the keyboard—pen or pencil in hand—you work alone to get what you want to say into words. But if you're writing is meant to be published, working with an editor is an important, and necessary, step in making it the best it can be.
As you write you'll make changes to each of the sentences you write. You might find a sentence works better at the end of a paragraph than in the middle. You may decide you don’t need that sentence at all. You'll reorder chapters and paragraphs. You'll fix things, changes things, and you'll miss things. Even if you’re a highly organized, detailed writer.
It can also be difficult to see your writing or manuscript as others might.
An editor can help.
Four levels of editing:
1) developmental editing
2) line editing
Depending on your writing ability and where you are with your book, you may need all, or at least one of the first three levels of editing listed.
Proofreading is last on the list, and it should not be ignored. Every book needs to be proofread. And it's best to hire someone who'll be seeing the book for the first time. You (and your editor) have been reading, correcting, and modifying your book for weeks, months, years maybe. It will be difficult to see typos and small mistakes at this stage.
Here's what each level brings to your writing:
1) Developmental Editing
This is done early on. If you’re questioning the direction of your book or struggling with how to pull it all together, a developmental editor can help. Here, the editor can help you plan and organize what you want to write. If you've already done a bit of writing, a developmental editor will look for gaps. They'll note cumbersome transitions ... maybe suggest a chapter placed early in the book would work better toward the end. Or suggest you cut it altogether and replace it with something else.
Developmental editing considers the book as a whole.
2) Line Editing
Line editing focuses on the style and flow of your writing. A line edit will tighten awkward phrases, eliminate jargon, and optimize flow. Have you used clichés where your own writing would be more effective?
Line editing brings out the best in your writing style.
Copyediting focuses on the technical side of your writing with a close look at grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and formatting issues.
Copyediting puts the polish on your writing.
This is the final step before you publish. Here, the proofreader checks for spelling errors, missing punctuation, and minor errors.
Ideally, there will be few corrections at this stage.
Writing and rewriting can be rewarding, tiring ,and frustrating. But when you arrange that troublesome sentence into something concise, something that says exactly what you’re trying to say, you know it was worth all the back and forth.
A thoughtful editor can help you become a better writer.
Reviewing the changes an editor suggests will help you look more closely at what you’ve written. Oftentimes an editor might make a comment about something you might have caught on your own with a more focused reading, but that can be difficult.
Working with an editor is like an athlete working with a trainer. It's a learning experience that will sharpen your skill, make you a better writer, and help you write the best book possible.
What is your book about?
There are lots of things to consider before you start writing your book. One of the most important is answering the question: what is your book about?
It may seem obvious to you, but the real test is whether or not you can explain it to someone else—in just a sentence or two.
It's a good way, too, to help you focus your efforts and writing.
To answer the question, consider what you’re trying to accomplish with your book. Do you have insights and experience that might be helpful to others? Are you eager to share your knowledge? Is it a guide or handbook? Will your book recount the history of an event or company?
It can be difficult to distill what your book is about in one sentence, but the process can help you define what you're writing about ... and why.
What's the point?
When I started my book A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice, it started as a book about cursive writing. Why cursive? Schools across the country have cut cursive writing instruction from the curriculum and friends and family have recounted stories of their children not being able to read cursive.
Writing is an important part of my life and I wondered: does it matter that children aren't being taught cursive. That they can't read cursive? I think so.
Studies show writing by hand can help us learn and retain more information. And if we’re worried or struggling with something, writing about it by hand can help us make sense of things.
Making a connection
I decided to write an instruction book for cursive writing, but also understood I needed to give people a reason to write by hand. I had to find a reason for them to write.
The answer came through letter writing. As an avid letter writer, I know letters, cards and notes build connections. Letters can help us reach out, in a tangible way, to the people we care about. And someone’s handwriting on the envelope and letter inside? It brings them closer. Your handwriting is a reflection of your personality and is as unique as you are. It's part of what makes the letters we send so special. When I get letters, I don't even need to read the return address ... I know who it's from just by looking at the handwriting.
And now, as we navigate the isolation and social distancing of the pandemic, more people are writing letters.
Years ago my grandfather wrote to me and I saved one of his letters.
The broad stroke of the capital "H" that begins his first name reflects his strength and wisdom; the big loop on his letter "y" at the end of my name, his warmth and open kindness.
When I talk about writing letters, so many people tell me they worry about their handwriting. Say they’re embarrassed by it. I want to change that. I want people to use their handwriting as a tool, not to shy away from it.
I knew I wanted to write about cursive writing and letter writing, but I had to figure out what I was trying to say. I needed a hook, an emotional connection. Here's what I came up with:
Spend more time with the people you love and like and improve your handwriting at the same time.
Reducing your book to one sentence may be a challenge, but when you do, you’ll find the clarity and purpose you need to move forward.
Need help clarifying what your book is about? Reach out, maybe I can help.
Get your book started
One way to get your book underway is to create a mind map; a visual diagram of what your book will be about.
There are a number of ways to create a mind map.
We'll start with a circle and spoke diagram.
Draw a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper and write the working title of your book inside the circle. Draw three or more lines out from the edge of the circle; like spokes on a wheel.
At the end of each spoke, write a topic to be covered in your book. As you draw the spokes, be mindful that these are your main topics. The mind map below was an early version I did for my book, A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice. This mind map focused on illustrations and graphic elements. I went on to create other mind maps. This was a good start.
If you're feeling stuck or aren't even sure what you want to include in your book, start with a mind map. It serves two purposes:
It's productive - especially when you're struggling with your writing
You'll find clarity - the visual stye of a mind map can help you see things differently
Now it’s your turn. Grab a piece of paper, draw a circle and create a mind map for your book. And let me know how it goes.