How to write Chapter 1 of the book that will make your reputation

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You want to write a book that will make everyone take notice of the insights you’ve gained — insights that no one has thought of before. But how to start? I’m going to assume you have a powerful idea and you’ve researched it. (If you haven’t, nail those down before writing.) If you have a … Continued

The Plantin Moretus Museum and a 450-year reflection on publishing

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Yesterday I visited the Museum Plantin Moretus in Antwerp. Christophe Plantin was printer who published his first book in 1555. What surprised me most about what I saw was not how much publishing has changed in 450 years, but how much it hasn’t. Plantin came from Normandy, settled in Antwerp, and started a publishing business … Continued

Tom Wolfe had the right stuff

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Tom Wolfe died this week. His prose was a revelation. He was 88. Back in 1979, at the height of powers, he published The Right Stuff, a novel about the experimental pilots at the center of the space program. When I taught writing to homeschooled teenagers, I used a passage from this book to jolt … Continued

The letdown

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I’m turning in a very big project in a couple of days. I know what to expect. Sadness. It’s not regret. The book is great. The prose lives. Sure, it has warts, but it’s a major piece of work. I feel pride. I feel accomplishment. But also, sadness. When you’ve wrestled with a project this … Continued

The three kinds of facts and how to verify them

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When people find out I write books, they often ask, “Do you write fiction?” My answer: “Not on purpose.” I deal in facts. But not all facts come from the same place. Here are the three kinds of facts (plus one kind of non-fact) and how to make sure they’re true. Sourced facts What they … Continued

Writing a book with Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive

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I’ve been working on a collaborative book project with two other authors. On this project, I’m the principal writer; they are my clients. Here are a few things I learned about the superiority of Google Docs and Google Sheets for collaborative authoring. Using Google Drive for shared access to research My collaborators and I work … Continued

What not to do as your book manuscript nears completion

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You’re 90% of the way done with your (non-fiction) book manuscript. All the chapters are written. You’ve got a week or so to polish it, then it goes to the copy editor. And now that it’s complete, you have so many ideas on how to make it better. Since your perspective is gone by now, … Continued

A plan for the penultimate draft: taking your book from good to great

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When your book is complete but not done, you have an opportunity. You can make it excellent. Or you can stagger across the finish line and spend the next few months dealing with unnecessary bullshit. This post is about how to crush it on that penultimate draft. This advice is for writers of non-fiction books, … Continued