The more I reread my own writing during the editing process of my book, the more I’ve noticed just how combative and preachy I can sound. In fact, the more I read blogs in general I notice that many are written with a sharper tone: preaching, ranting, provoking. That’s kind of the blog style I suppose.
After making the major changes to the content and structure of my book, the majority of my time is now spent rewriting the parts that come off as condescending or combative. Part of the problem is I’ve been blogging for three years now and each blog post is a brief article on a particular topic, a drive-by of sorts that engages with a particular point and then runs off to the next topic. I can hit hard, soften my tone in the comments, and generally assume that most of my readers have a certain level of familiarity with who I am and won’t get too worked up. Even if I don’t say it well, I think readers are more likely to give bloggers the benefit of a doubt.
A book is a different animal. It’s kind of assumed that if you’re writing a book, you have to know something about your topic, and so writers face the challenge of using their expertise and perspective, but not flaunting it, rubbing the readers nose into it. Books are the focused development of very specific ideas, not the topical grab bag of a blog, no matter have niche-focused it may be.
So a blog may be very opinionated, controversial, and combative and it will work fairly well because it’s a laid back, two-way form of communication (with the comment section for readers to use for responding). A book is a lob-sided affair where the reader is depending on the author being thorough, fair, and a tad nicer than a blogger. There is no room to argue the reader’s point, not to mention the reader had to actually pay for the book. No one wants to pay to be criticized or to read some know-it-all author’s snarky preaching.
The irony is that the most combative parts of my book dealt with topics where I am most critical of myself. In other words, I’m calling myself to account, but when I wrote those sections I sounded more like an angry critic of everyone with view A who has not come around to my favored view B. The reality is I’m offering a corrective, moving from view A to view B, but at the same time I don’t want to alienate the proponents of view A, nor shame them for holding to their view.
Rewrite, delete, edit, repeat.