Lingamfelter: Getting the Writing Right

I’m taking a break this week to catch up on revising the final draft of my next book. Writing a book is no small effort and it requires patience and focus to get it right. This week I received very positive peer reviews on my latest work—the U.S. role in UN Middle East peacekeeping—but with it came recommendations for revisions they felt would strengthen the story. I agree. And I’m in the middle of those revisions right now.

Here is a curious observation. You would think that when you write a book that you would begin with the introduction and then proceed to craft the chapters that would follow. Right? Well, that is what I did. But having an outline or not, when you write—at least in my case—it’s not unusual to stray from your outline plan as you innovate, stumble across new facts, gain new insights, and refashion your narrative accordingly. This is what I found to be the case as I wrote this particular manuscript. So, when I submitted the draft for peer review, I used the original introduction. It is something I thought about redrafting when I sent it in, but I didn’t.

Guess what. The reviewers found that to be unwise, as the compelling story they felt I had written was frankly not reflected in the original introduction. And the introduction is frequently where potential buyers will go to see if they want to even read the book. So, I dove into a new introduction yesterday starting at 5 AM and redrafted it. I must say, it is much better and I owe that to the reviewers who critiqued my first draft.

There are some lessons here. First, never fear a good critique. Second, if you are thin-skinned, writing books may not be your calling. Third, don’t fall in love with your book. As one reviewer put it, “when writing one must ‘say goodbye to your darlings’ and do some hard editing.” Fourth, write the introduction last, or at least go back and properly align it with what you have completed. When I began this book, I had a concept of where it was going and how I was going to get there. As I wrote it, it wound up taking me to places I had not imagined. And now I have an introduction that reflects what I ultimately wrote, at least I think so.

After I’m done with this revision, I am expecting more, but I think we’re on track for a publishing in the late spring. On that note I will end here and get back to work to meet my deadline this month!

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