How long should a how-to (prescriptive nonfiction) book be? 100 pages? 200 pages? A quick read? A deep dive?
There’s no single correct answer.
Then there’s the question of what the reader wants. That may be the most important consideration of all.
You might impress people with the heft of your 300-page tome, but will they read it?
If you want to write a book that makes a difference in people’s lives, they will…
Our crowded inboxes drive us nuts. We resent their intrusion on our lives and the pull they have on our attention when we’re trying to work.
Then we get frustrated when other people don’t respond to the emails we send them.
Plenty of people think that email is broken. In A World Without Email, Cal Newport writes about the cost that the constant stream work-related emails has on actual productivity. It’s a fascinating book, yet even Newport agrees that email will be with us for a long time.
It’s time to confess that we are part of the problem.
How many words do you look at each day? Think of all the text that you encounter: emails, Slack messages, news headlines, LinkedIn or Facebook posts, reports, books, articles, and more.
Research conducted in 2009 found that Americans saw or listened to an average of 100K words each day. I’d bet that the number is higher now in our remote world.
You couldn’t possibly read all of those words carefully. Your attention and focus is precious. Spend it wisely.
Now flip this situation. Instead of yourself, think of the people you hope to reach-your readers. …
As a prolific nonfiction reader, I ask two questions of each new book I encounter:
I can usually answer the first question by the end of the first chapter. The second one, about lasting impact, takes more time to assess. Many books are enjoyable to read, but fewer make a permanent impression in my thought processes.
That brings me to the new book by April Rinne, Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving…
How audiobooks change as as readers, and as writers
A few years ago, ebooks were a hot topic of debate among the bookish. Were ebooks destroying our attention and killing the publishing industry? Or were they making books more accessible and increasing readership?
Now the buzz is about audiobooks. Audiobook revenues and titles are growing, and our reading habits are expanding to include listening. Some authors are bypassing print altogether for their works. Business author David Burkus released Pick a Fight as audio only, and historian Erik Larsen is publishing an audio-only ghost story, No One Goes Alone.
What’s the most important attribute for a writer?
Facility with words, creativity, imagination, even empathy — all of these are important. They can be cultivated. The hardest thing to learn and live is the most important.
We need patience to build the skills …
… to write the book
… to revise and polish the words
… to build the author platform
It all takes time.
I confess, sometimes impatience rears its head.
I want to get the book done quickly, so set nearly impossible deadlines for myself, and then miss them.
Others want to write well, and are frustrated…
“Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?”
Ann Patchett, “The Getaway Car”
Want to become a better writer? Forget sitting around waiting for inspiration. You’re going to have to practice. You can improve quickly or slowly, but you won’t make progress without practice.
Practice is almost magical-and it’s accessible to everyone.
My parents made my siblings and me take piano lessons as children.
As an adult, I recognize the gift of that decision. Music lessons introduce us early in life to the cumulative power of practice…
On January 1, 2021, I opened a brand new journal, picked up a favorite pen, and wrote a simple anecdote about my first Zoom New Year’s Eve party the night before.
This was the first step in a prolonged experiment: What would happen if I wrote a story or anecdote every single day for a year?
I’m on my second journal now, and not planning to stop. The task takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how absorbed I become. It’s a welcome daily practice.
This experiment focuses on the first, fundamental skill of storytelling-identifying the story. I…
An artist on my email list shared her frustration with the social universe and its effect on her motivation to share her work. She put things out in the world, and didn’t get many likes or comments. She became disenchanted with Instagram (although it’s a great medium for her visual pieces.)
This affects writers as well. We labor, we publish, … we wait.
It’s hard putting your work out in the world. But it’s even harder when you hear nothing back in response.
We cannot see the people who encounter our work, or watch its effect on them. All we…
Our first crop of sunflowers was a gift from unseen forces-a bird, perhaps, or a squirrel? The seedlings poked their heads up in the two raised beds in our garden-in and amongst the poppies, alongside the cosmos plants we had raised from seeds and planted in the bed.
My husband Steve (the one who does the gardening), contemplated the upstarts.
“I’m going to let these grow and see what they are.”
He had an inkling they were something special-volunteers worth giving a chance. I suspected they were broad-leafed weeds, but agreed.
A few weeks later, he was certain. “They’re sunflowers.”