Tuesday, April 15, 2008

weekly writing coach: beyond compilation

If you have friends and colleagues who wonder what writers really do, you can take pride in your work after reading this New York Times article on the self-described "most published author in the history of the planet," with 200,000 books and counting to his credit. The rub? He compiles them, using complex computer algorithms that gather publicly available information from the Web. Here, a rundown on some of his books:
Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).
We quote the Times there so you know we're not making this up. What does this really mean for you, the writer? Your coach sees too many writers who come close to making this mistake, without the computer's aid, by offering their editors poorly organized compilations of facts. Writers pick and choose and organize facts, then help the reader by adding description or transitions, combining similar themes, completing thoughts. Our favored way to move beyond compilation: List every fact that's relevant to your piece as a separate bullet, then group them with the other facts that help make the same point. After that, you need only fashion your introductions and transitions, and edit the whole to make it coherent. Want to call us a stickler? You know now where you can look up the details...

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