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  • Writer's pictureRenée Purdie

Tone and voice

So I'm reading a memoir by Reggie Hathorn. I think I first came in contact with him while I was in Chicago helping a client birth her book. I believe he has a brick and mortar store in which you can purchase candles.

Anyway, as I read through this highly entertaining tome, I am reminded of one of the first tenets of being an excellent editor, which is not to remake the book in your own image.

Reggie has a light, lively tone and it's clear the book is probably written the way he speaks. I've had so many people who have wanted to write a book most of their life tell me that they are struggling with completing it because they don't necessarily like to sit at the computer. I always tell them that more than likely they are oral storytellers. My solution for them is to record themselves. It adds an extra step because you need to have that transcribed, but it is often a way to speed up the process.

At the other end of the spectrum is people who like to actually hand write. That, too, adds an extra process in that someone needs to transcribe the material, but if it helps you get it out of your head-- the most important part of the process--do it.

The bottom line is if sitting on a computer typing is going to slow down your process whether you can't type, or it hampers your freestyle way of sharing the story, employ a different method.

Incidentally, this is also a good tip for perfectionists because they tend to write, delete, write, overthink, delete, repeat. I liken this to trying to drive with both the brakes and the accelerator on at the same time. It's a sure-fire way to not getting anywhere fast. So basically, write OR edit. Self-censorship is often a big part of why a book never gets done.

I will share a final word about the book writing process, especially as it pertains to creating memoirs or biographies. Often people write about trauma and when you're doing that, you tend to relive it. Some people never finish their book because they have unhealed wounds and it's just too much for them.

With that said, I would say that therapy would be a good accompaniment to the writing process, if there are certain things in your past you need to deal with in order to heal. I believe that writing is a therapeutic process as well, but sometimes you need some extra assistance and guidance.

People often ask me how long it takes to produce a book. That depends on so many factors, including when I actually get the entire manuscript. If people have unhealed wounds, I may get a book in bits and pieces over the course of months or years. My preference is to have the manuscript in its entirety so I can move things around, request further elucidation on some points, and to really get the feel of things, but sometimes the process is choppy. But that's a post for another day.

So, in short, I can help with the entire book creation process, but for therapy you'll have to find someone else!

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