by Katy Kauffman, @KatyKauffman28
How do you know when you’ve written enough in your book or chapter, and it’s time to stop?
Some may say …
When the deadline comes.
When it’s 1 am and you’re going cross-eyed.
When you can’t think of anything else to say.
When the coffee runs out.
I like to be thorough when I explain something. But as my editing partner tells me, I need to RUE—Resist the Urge to Explain. I may take “thorough” a little too far in my first draft. Often I need to remind myself to stop when I have written enough.
Sometimes a concept will take just a few sentences to explain, and sometimes we need to write a few paragraphs. While we don’t want to insult the reader’s intelligence, we do want to say enough to get our point across. So when is “enough,” enough?
I would like to offer some questions to ask yourself when you’re wondering if you’ve written enough. “Enough” happens when we have delivered our message with punch, zip, and wow. When we’ve adequately illustrated our point. When we’ve helped the reader to see our topic in a new light. Ask yourself the following ten questions to define “enough” for your nonfiction book.
10 Questions to Help You Know When “Enough” is Enough
- Have I followed my outline well, and delivered the message I wanted to convey?
- Have I included relevant stories that illustrate my point without too many “distracting” details?
- Have I ended each paragraph and chapter with “punch”—a point that cuts to the heart of the matter and is delivered in a powerful way?
- Have I limited the amount of information I give my readers on a particular point, so that I don’t overwhelm them or cause them to forget what I’ve said?
- Have I spoken to my readers as a friend, encouraging them instead of sounding “preachy”?
- Have I given the readers a new or fresh perspective on my subject?
- If I were the reader, would I feel like the take away was strong enough in each chapter and in the book as a whole?
- Have I resisted the urge to explain too much, allowing the readers to draw conclusions and apply the principles to their lives?
- Have I given valuable help in my book that warrants someone using hard-earned money to purchase it?
- Have I adequately delivered what my introduction and back cover copy promised that readers would discover in my book?
Don’t Finish Your Book Alone
Always get feedback on your writing, allowing a few honest (and hopefully kind) writers to help you know if you practiced “RUE” and if you gave enough information on your topic. Give them the list of questions above, and go through the questions together. They may help you to know when to cut some explanations out and when to add some. Working with someone else on your project gives you a fresh perspective.
If you have time before your deadline, form a group of people who represent your target audience, and ask them specific questions as they read your book. Do you give enough explanation in each chapter? Does anything sound long-winded? Which paragraphs have “punch” and “zip,” and which ones need some?
Then Stop and Breathe
When you and your trusted helpers have reached the end of what you know to do with your book, stop. Breathe. Sleep. If you hire an agent, he or she will help you to know if the book needs some more work. Also, publishing houses will have their editors go over your book with a fine tooth comb.
Give your book your very best, and then let it improve with every person who reads it. Take new feedback to heart, and apply that advice to future projects.
Be encouraged. An end does come to a project. Till it does, keep working hard, and you will reap the benefits of that work when it’s published.
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her Bible studies for women focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she has the privilege of editing compilations written by Christian authors from around the country. Her next compilation—a Bible study on godly character—releases in the spring of 2018. Katy currently contributes to four blogs, and she loves spending time with family and friends, scrapbooking, and making jewelry. Connect with her at her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.