Jumping In: Book Revisions

EditHow do you revise a non-fiction book? I have pondered this question over the last several months.

Writing my book proposal helped me figure out what stories and information I want to include in my book AMERICA’S FIRST GATEWAY. However, my book proposal did not lay out a clear plan for how I should revise my manuscript.

I finished my book proposal in late September 2013 and since that time I have worked on freelance articles, blog posts, and an academic journal article.

I finished the journal article 2 weeks ago, which means that I finally have to start revising my book, not just talk about it.

Last week I willed myself to start revising.

I opened my book proposal, read through my Chapter 1 description, and dissected it.

I outlined all of the major topics and subtopics for the chapter. Under my subtopics I listed all of the books and article titles that I need to read/skim to write about that subtopic.

This week, I began reading books and articles that will help me find the information I need to revise Chapter 1.



I do not know how long it will take me to revise my book. I do know I want to work smarter than when I wrote my dissertation.

I am trying 3 new techniques to ensure that I write and make progress every day. (Okay, maybe not every day, but most days).

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailExperiment 1: Early Morning Reading

Each morning I read.

I read an article or part of a book before I sit at my computer.

I love my computer, but it is a major source of distraction.

I used to start my day by checking e-mail, Twitter, and blog feeds. Inevitably, one or more of these items would distract me from the work I needed to do.

Now, I begin with reading, which helps me focus on work before I get distracted.


Experiment 2: Active Note Taking

After I read, I enter my notes into DEVONthink.

The process of typing my notes helps me consider the information I read. After this deliberation, I open Scrivener, click on the book/article card I created, and summarize the reading in my own words.

The act of summarizing ensures that I write every day.

I plan to use my summaries as reference material when I write each subsection.


SuccessExperiment 3: Increased Accountability

Progress requires action. It also commands accountability.

I will make myself accountable to others.

I will make weekly progress reports to my writing coach and update my writing group during our bi-weekly meetings.

I will also blog about my revisions work.



I am not sure if my revisions plan is the best plan, but it is one that will help me make steady progress.


time-to-shareWhat Do You Suggest?

How have you (do you) approach your long-term writing projects?

Do you have a system or technique that allows you to make steady progress?


5 Steps for Writing Better Sentences

I am obsessed with writing. This should be a natural preoccupation for every historian.

After all, we need to convey our fascination with past people, places, ideas, and events in a compelling way so that others realize the importance of history and its relevance to the present.

Writing-StyleTo write better prose, I am learning how to become a better editor both through reading books on writing and by taking workshops at Grub Street in Boston.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a class called "Better Sentences Now" where instructor Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich presented a 5-step process to writing better sentences.


1. Eliminate Vagueness and Ambiguity of Prose

  • Look for generic & plural words
  • Ask, what do I really mean exactly?

This step requires you to think about word choice. For example, when I write "elite of Albany" in a sentence, do I fully convey that I mean the city's political and financial leaders? Specific and explicit language describes exactly the scene you wish to paint and conveys the definitions you want to make.


2. Verbs

  • Ask, is this verb as evocative & informative as a it could be or would a more specific verb add information?


3.  Adverbs

  • Adverbs compensate for a lack of development in another area. Cut the adverb. If you can't, then you have failed to build the information you are trying to convey in that adverb elsewhere in your piece.


4. Adjectives

  • Is there a more specific noun that would convey the meaning of the adjective more directly?
  • Is it the expected adjective? If so, think about cutting it.
  • Do I really need this adjective?


5. Look out for Pronouns


  • Do you use like pronouns before you ID what it refers to?
  • Does the same pronoun change meaning within the span of a few sentences? Or within the same sentence?
  • It was a sunny day--What does this sentence mean? Be more specific and convey the same meaning.

Additionally, Marzano-Lesnevich stated that editing is a multi-step process; writers won't see excess adverbs while they look for vague words. Moreover, editing should be time consuming and should be handled with great care. Editors publish prose that contains sentences where every word works and therefore communicates more understanding to its readers.