Effective communication should address both linear and 3D thinkers
Linear thinking people process thoughts and ideas in succession, logically moving from one point to the next
3D thinking people jump from one thought or idea to another, which often seems to have little connection with each other.
Printed material, such as magazines and books, lend themselves to linear thinking. Digital content, such as websites and social media, lend themselves to 3D thinking.
We must learn to communicate with both linear thinkers and 3D thinkers.
To make books accessible to people who process in 3D, we should put content in short, self-contained sections, provide sidebars and ancillary information, offer links, and make content easy for readers to scan.
To make websites and social media accessible to people who process linearly, we should put content in a format allowing sequential access, offer structure to those who seek it and provide indexes or directories.
Our world contains both linear and 3D thinkers. If we only address one group, we ignore half the market.
As I read more and more self-published books, I’m dismayed over a reoccurring theme: many lack robust editing. That’s not to imply these works had no editing at all, most did. It’s just that they lacked full editing.
The first reminder to every writer is we can’t truly edit our own work. True, we must self-edit, but we delude ourselves if we think we’ll catch every error. Traditional publishers subject books to multiple edits before publication. To do our work justice, self-published works deserve the same scrutiny.
Though the names vary and their definitions sometimes overlap or even contradict, I’ll share four types of edits, using generic labels.
Edit Type 1: Fact-Checking
As an author, we need to double-check our facts, especially when we self-publish. It’s possible that someone else may catch our errors, but more likely they’ll just assume what we wrote is correct. One book had the protagonist make a 200-mile drive in 90 minutes. Oops. Another common mistake is relying on memory for historic information. Don’t do that; I always verify, even when I’m sure I’m right.
Edit Type 2: Macro Edit
Sometimes called developmental or substantive editing, whatever name this edit goes by, the intent is to look at the big picture of the book. Is the overall structure sound, the organization good, and the flow understandable? I’m currently reading a memoir and the author’s timeline jumps all over the place, often backward and forwards, several times within each chapter, making the chronology overwhelming to follow. Other considerations are if the right style is used or if the voice matches the genre and supports the story or theme. A “macro edit” addresses all these concerns.
Edit Type 3: Intermediate Edit
The next level, often called copy editing, of edit takes a closer look at the flow and structure, from paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, and thought to thought. Does the writing make sense?
Edit Type 4: Micro Edit
The final edit usually called proofreading, looks at grammar, punctuation, and the technical details. I read one book that had a quality “micro edit” but lacked any other editing—and the work suffered as a result.
Paying others to edit our work when we self-publish is expensive, but our readers deserve no less and our career demands it.
For social media,I post an excerpt from my blog posts on social media, with a link pointing back to that post on my website.
Though social media platforms prefer you don’t do this, because they want to keep you on their site, I want to get people to my site. That’s what is most important to me. That’s why I tease the post on social media and send them to my site to read the full piece.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to repeat the whole post on social media, and it’s too time-consuming to write a new post just for social media.
Here are some options to identify speakers in dialogue.
1. Tag your dialogue with any descriptive word other than said, such as exclaimed, interjected, sputtered, yelled, and so forth. I learned this in Middle School and followed it for many years. Now the recommendation is to avoid doing this, as it singles lazy writing. I prefer to show the speaker’s emotion instead of stating it. For example:
Bruce narrowed his gaze and pursed his lips. “I can’t believe you did that,” he said.
I far prefer that to “I can’t believe you did that,” Bruce snarled.
I only use a descriptive tag if I feel it will make the passage stronger.
2. Only use said. While we need to identify the speaker, most readers skip the connecting word—or so I hear. Some people feel that using anything other than said is an annoying speed bump. Some people even recommend doing this for questions, as in: Then Gene said, “How long will you be gone?”
I generally use said when I need a dialogue tag, but I still use asked for questions.
3. My preference, however, is to use context to identify the speaker. In this way I minimize the use of dialogue tags and let the surrounding text show who the reader is, as in this exchange:
Ben stared at the book in his trembling hands. “You mean I get to keep this?”
Sue’s eyes danced. “Yes, it’s a gift.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“How about thank you?”
“I so appreciate this.” Ben blinked three times, fighting to hold back tears. “Thank you. This is wonderful.”
In this passage, there are no dialogue tags at all, but the context shows us Ben is the first speaker and Sue, the second. Since this is a rapid exchange, readers understand that Ben then replies to Sue, and she responds in the fourth line. Then to make sure readers don’t get confused, the fifth line confirms Ben is talking.
This takes more work to write, but it seems this is the current trend and strikes me as powerful writing.
Last week I experienced the importance of accuracy.
With anticipation I opened an article submission. The topic was relevant and novel.
My excitement, however, waned as I read his opening sentence. The author stated the earth’s population was 6.2 million. I thought there are over seven billion people on our planet, so I sought confirmation. Indeed we surpassed the seven billion mark a couple years ago. His number was wrong, out dated. That’s when I realized his second error, a typo: million instead of billion.
Spotting two factual errors in the first dozen words caused me to question the accuracy of the entire piece. I almost rejected the submission at that point, but I continued reading.
Then the author wrote that Mandarin is a lesser-known language. I questioned that as well. An online search confirmed my suspicion. Around a billion people speak Mandarin, more than English and Spanish combined.
I became angry over the article and mad at the author. Surely the writer had accuracy issues or just threw something together without much thought. I knew if I wanted to run this piece, I’d need to carefully scrutinize every sentence and check each assertion. I didn’t have time for that.
Had I not caught his errors, running the article as submitted, the author would have lost credibility and my magazine would look sloppy. This would turn off readers and damage our reputations.
But what if this wasn’t an article and instead related to a book?
If egregious errors exist in a query letter, an agent or publisher will not ask for the proposal.
If mistakes pop up in a proposal, the full manuscript will never be requested.
And if the book opens with the blunders I encountered in this article, the work would risk dismissal before the reader reached page two.
When you invest time and energy in writing a book, don’t let sloppy errors torpedo your efforts. Although I persisted with this article despite glaring mistakes, had they occurred in a book query, proposal, or manuscript I’d have summarily dismissed the entire project.