Publishing

What to Leave Out of Your Book

wastebasketAs you’re writing your book, you’ll come to a point where you feel you simply must include certain information. But you don’t have to put everything you know into that one book.

A book should have plenty of data, of course, but you can be selective about it. Especially a business book, which will outline a process or method, or describe a journey of exploration toward success. A business book isn’t like a Victorian novel, replete with subplots and filled with dozens of characters. A business book needs to be more concise, even if you include interesting anecdotes.

So, what to leave out?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Leave out anything that doesn’t pertain to your direct argument. Even if it’s fun. You probably have fun things to say about what your book is about. Humorous anecdotes might do well in another book.
  • Too many details. You need to provide backup for your process or method, and facts and statistics about why what you’re describing has worked for you. But too many details can be deadly. Enough detail to make your point, but not so much to dull it.
  • Too much back story. Unless you’re writing a memoir. We want to know why you do what you do, and why it worked, and what led you to where you are. We want to know your journey. But we don’t need to know everything. Give us enough to whet our appetite for what you’re going through and how you’re going to help change our lives.
  • Jargon. This can’t be repeated enough: don’t assume your reader knows your industry or its lingo. Write clearly, without insider terms. This will also help you think more clearly — you won’t assume you can take a shortcut to understand.
  • Acronyms. See jargon, above. We all use acronyms – FBI, CIA, NSA – and people within each industry have their own alphabet soup of organizations or methods. But using such acronyms in a general-interest business book can turn off readers. You don’t have to be that specific about your industry organizations – you can refer to such enterprises in a general way, enough to let the reader know what you mean. Then move on.

You’ll probably add too much in your first draft. When you go over it, look for where you’ve said more than you need, or taken too long to get to the point. Then be ruthless. Your readers will thank you for your concision.

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