Author & Editor Stephen S. Power on 5 Ways Writers Can Pass the Hemingway Test

Dragon Round cover.jpgThe following is a guest post from AMACOM Senior Editor Stephen S. Power, author of the recently published The Dragon Round!

 

In his essay, “The Art of the Short Story,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit.” A lot of writers of both fiction and nonfiction fail that test, though, because they can’t edit themselves.

Why? They fall in love with their words. They can’t bear to cut something they invested money and time in researching and writing. They’re afraid to question what they’ve written lest it fall to pieces. They’ve reached “the end” and think they’re done.

As a book editor for more than twenty years, I’ve been often baffled by these attitudes. If writers truly loved their words, valued their investment in a project, and considered their work sound, how could they not want to break their manuscripts down and inspect each part to make sure everything fit together smoothly? (As for thinking a work is done, only a rank amateur believes that. A real writer knows a work is never done, just published.)

As a first-time novelist, though, I now completely understand them. When I was writing The Dragon Round, a fantasy novel published this month by Simon & Schuster, I clogged the action with pointless scenes and unnecessary exposition, slowed the pace with overly ornate sentences, and figured plot holes would magically fill themselves if I just ignored them long enough. Only by deliberately establishing some distance between me and my manuscript could I put on my editor hat and fix the novel.

Here are the five editorial techniques that I found work best when trying to pass the Hemingway test:

  1. Print your manuscript.

I write in Google Docs. I love being able to write wherever I happen to be without having to worry about managing different versions of a work saved on different devices. I edit, though, on the page. Scribbling is a totally different type of play than what the computer allows. It’s easier to cross things out and take notes. And I can lay out 2, 4, 8, however many pages I want and see the full scope of a scene, something impossible on the screen.

(Note to Google: Multiple page view would be a nice addition to Docs.)

  1. Put your work away.

Every author goes to sleep a genius and wakes up a moron because even eight hours away from a manuscript can take the bloom of the rose of your writing. So when you reach the end of a piece, close the document and go mow the lawn. Or vacuum, which is like mowing the floor. Don’t think about the piece either. Soon you’ll feel like someone else wrote it, which will make it easier to tear apart.

  1. Change rooms.

According to an experiment I read about, walking through a doorway scrubs your short term memory. By changing rooms, then, you’ll drain yourself of all the alternative paths you didn’t choose, the words you didn’t use, and the material you’ve already discarded. Then you can attack the manuscript fresh, without any preconceived notions or regrets.

This technique also works if you’re stuck or feel burned out.

  1. Read your manuscript backwards.

To prepare for tournaments, the golfing great Ben Hogan walked courses backwards because that let him  determine where the course designer wanted balls to land to set up the next shot, such as an approach to a green. Similarly, reading your work backwards divorces you from the flow of your argument or narrative and forces you to consider each sentence and paragraph on its own. In addition, reading backwards enables you to question whether you’ve set up material correctly, that is, do your effects have proper causes, your conclusions enough evidence?

This technique also works for proofreading, especially spellchecking.

  1. Retype your work.

In the days before computers, the need to retype each draft forced authors to reconsider every word they’d written, and the time it took to retype incentivized them to terminate unnecessary words with extreme prejudice. Now, thanks to computers, whole blocks of text can float from one draft to the next without writers having any call to question whether they work as well as they might or even still belong. So when you rewrite, do so literally. Start with a blank page and recreate.

Finally, one caution: Don’t edit as you write. You don’t want to inhibit yourself. Let your words flow, knowing that with these five techniques you can fix, tighten and hone later when you edit.

About the AuthorStephen S Power author pic

Stephen S. Power is a senior editor here at AMACOM, the publishing arm of the American Management Association, and the author of the fantasy novel The Dragon Round, which is published by Simon & Schuster and available here. His short fiction has appeared most recently in AE, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online, and he has stories forthcoming in Amazing Stories, Deep Magic and Lightspeed. He tweets at @stephenspower, his site is stephenspower.com, and his home is in Maplewood, NJ.

Fall/Winter 2016 Catalog Now Online!

Image of AMACOM Books Fall 2016 Catalog CoverIt may be summer now, but when it’s time to curl up inside with a blanket and a book, you’ll know what to read: the AMACOM Fall/Winter 2016 Catalog is now available on our website alongside our past catalogs.

 

 

 

Some of the most anticipated books from our fall list:

 

Recipes from A PLANT-BASED LIFE: A Sampler

Once you’ve heard about the glories of a plant-based diet, it’s easy to become eager to jump in! Yet one of the most frequent obstacles is figuring out what to eat on a day-to-day basis, especially when routine guides you towards less nutritious options. Fortunately, in A PLANT-BASED LIFE: Your Complete Guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body (AMACOM July 2016), author Micaela Cook Karlsen includes over 100 delicious recipes to show readers how to put plant-based principles to work. You can tell from her photos that you’ll have many mouth-watering options. The slideshow embedded below the photos includes a variety of recipes that you can put to use right away.

For more information on A Plant-Based Life and Micaela Cook Karlsen, please click here!

Now Available on NetGalley: WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE

Cover art for What Customers CraveMarketing teams are accustomed to dividing customers according to demographics, as if you can basically know someone once you’ve got his or her income, race, gender, and a few more cold facts on file. That isn’t the best way to provide a truly personalized and rewarding customer experience. For that, as Nicholas J. Webb explains in WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint (AMACOM October 2016), you have to figure out what your customers love and what they hate. Journalists, booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, and media professionals interested in marketing and customer service are invited to request What Customers Crave for review.

The best companies in the world discover what their customers desire—and then deliver it in memorable and deeply human experiences. How well do you know your customers?

What Customers Crave examines how the hyper-connected economy is radically changing consumer expectations, and reveals what companies need to do to stay on top. The solution rests on two simple questions: What do your customers love? What do they hate? Find the answers, and you’re well on your way to success.

Jam-packed with tools and examples, What Customers Crave helps you reinvent how you engage with customers (both digitally and non-digitally) and:

Gain invaluable insights into who they are and what they care about • Use listening posts and Contact Point Innovation to refine customer types • Engineer experiences for each micromarket that are not only exceptional, but insanely relevant • Connect across the five most important touchpoints • Co-create with your customers • And much more

When you learn to provide your customers with exactly what they want, they not only buy—they come back again and again…and bring their friends.

NICHOLAS J. WEBB is a popular speaker and corporate strategist in the areas of customer experience design and innovation. His firm Cravve provides consulting and training to many of the world’s top brands.

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NetGalley is a service for people who read and recommend books, such as book reviewers, journalists, librarians, professors, booksellers, and bloggers.

There are a number of different reading options for this e-galley:

Find all of AMACOM’s e-galleys on NetGalley.

You can review how to get AMACOM’s digital galley request approval on NetGalley HERE.

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Cliff Ennico Shares 10 Need-to-Know Facts on the SEC’s New Crowdfunding Regulations

Ennico

The following is a guest post from Cliff Ennico, author of The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money For Your Small Business or Start-Up with Equity Funding Portals (AMACOM May 2016).

 

On May 16, 2016, the SEC handed down regulations under the federal JOBS Act that allow small businesses and early stage companies to raise capital on the Internet via “crowdfunding portals,” such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and SeedInvest.

The regulations are over 600 pages long, but here are some key points:

  1. It’s Not Just for Tech Companies.  Any small business can raise money under these rules, including retail, service and other “non-scalable” businesses that haven’t been able to tap into the securities markets until now.
  2. It’s Not Just for “Accredited Investors”.  Anyone can buy securities in a crowdfunded offering, although there are limits on how much they can invest.  If your company has a large following on social media, you can solicit them to view your offering (but see below).
  3. Some Companies Can’t Crowdfund.  Foreign companies (other than Canada), hedge funds and other investment companies, public companies and companies that have run afoul of SEC rules in the past can’t take advantage of the new rules.
  4. You Gotta Use a Portal.  You can’t crowdfund from your website or Facebook page.  You must register with a broker-dealer or “crowdfunding portal” (registered as such with both the SEC and FINRA) and post your offering only there.  Fees will run between 5% and 10% of the offering amount, with (maybe) flat fees for small offerings.
  5. You Gotta Do the Paperwork.  You have to fill out a disclosure document using the SEC’s Form C (available as an “online questionnaire”) on the crowdfunding portal.  You can attach “supplemental materials” such as marketing videos, product demonstrations and the like, but if you put these on the portal they can’t appear anywhere else (for example, on your website or Youtube.com) until the offering is completed.
  6. You Can Only Raise So Much.  You can raise up to $1 million over a rolling 12-month period with crowdfunding.
  7. You Can’t Advertise Outside the Portal.  You can post an “offering notice” on your website directing investors to the portal, and e-mail the “offering notice” to your social media crowd, but that’s it.  You can’t communicate with investors directly, only through the portal.
  8. For Big Cash Raises, You May Need Audited Financials.  If you are raising less than $100,000, your CEO can bless the financials.  Over that, your financials must be “reviewed” by an independent CPA, but if you raise more than $500,000 in two (or more) separate offerings, the second offering must include audited financial statements.
  9. You Can “Double Dip”.  If your crowdfunded offering is acceptable, you can go back for more (up to $1 million), but you will need updated business and financial information, and will probably have to pay a separate fee to the portal.  You will also have to explain why you need the extra money.
  10. You Need to Manage Your “Crowd”.  Consider carefully what it will mean to have dozens, if not hundreds, of investors to keep track of if your crowdfunded offering is successful.  You will need to develop an “investor relations” strategy for keeping your crowd informed, up to date and satisfied with your company’s performance.  It will be much tougher to “pivot” your business plan in a different direction with a crowd watching over your management team’s shoulders.

CrowdfundingHandbk

 

CLIFF ENNICO is a syndicated columnist and author of The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money For Your Small Business or Start-Up with Equity Funding Portals (AMACOM May 2016). This article is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.