How to plan and write pieces of any length

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What’s the best process to write something? The answer depends, more than anything else, on how long it is. You need a plan, but that plan depends on the length of what you’re aiming for. (This advice is for nonfiction. If you write fiction, I’m curious how much the process differs for you.) This post … Continued

The em dash is a bit of a jerk — replace it whenever possible

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Unless — and I admit this is possible — you’re trying to annoy the reader, try not to fall in love — or even in like — with the em dash. So many manuscripts I edit suffer from inflammation of the em dash — it’s rampant — as if these little buggers multiply like cockroaches. … Continued

Book tips: How many drafts should I write?

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A fellow nonfiction author recently shared that he’d written 18 drafts of his book. That’s probably too many. But how many is the right number? I’ll answer that question, but first, let’s talk about what a draft is. You have a chapter written. You go through and make a change. You save it under a … Continued

Writing, washing dishes, flow, and pleasure

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I have a confession to make. I really enjoy doing the dishes. (And yes, this has something to do with writing advice.) At my house, it is my wife’s job to cook and my job to do the dishes. This is good, because she is an excellent cook and I am terrible. She could do … Continued

Talking sense about acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, and neologisms

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Acronyms are cool, but they’re not all equal. The copy editors’ rule that once you introduce an acronym or initialism you must always use it in subsequent text, is bullshit. I’m here to propose a better way to think about acronyms. There are terms that are cumbersome to write and cumbersome to read. To help … Continued

Writing in flow is not a Markov process

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Writers follow the flow. But if you don’t keep track of the destination, the flow will lead you astray. Let me explain, using the mathematical concept of a Markov process. What is a Markov Process? You’re familiar with Markov processes, even if you don’t realize it. A Markov process is one in which the likely … Continued

How to write a book chapter

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I write business books. Every chapter is a 5,000-word package full of stories, detail, statistics, insights, and recommendations. You don’t just sit down and write one of those at random. Here’s what it takes to create one. In the last 10 years I’ve written, cowritten, or ghostwritten six books. Five of them were case-study powered business … Continued