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Massaging the Text

October 4, 2010 blog, Notes on Editing Comments Off on Massaging the Text

It’s amazing how much work a good idea takes to develop into a publishable concept. This is especially true of nonfiction that is written for a general audience, which is composed of readers who may or may not care about your book topic until they’ve had a chance to digest your words on the matter. If you have a lot of data-rich content, such as facts, figures, theories, and other empirical minutia from studies and articles, the challenge is often retaining your readers’ attention. You either grab ’em and hold on tight, or you lose ’em.

To take hold of readers, you must re-contextualize the data and make it interesting in some way. Contrary to popular belief, however, this does not mean you dumb down content so that even the most beetle-browed of knuckle-draggers out there will be able to comprehend your words. It’s about speaking to people on common ground in an interesting way; it’s about your approach, and the best way I’ve found to do this is—as it is with fiction—by showing, not telling.

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