Visit this blog's 'Write a book' category page for previous posts in this series.
In the context of this monthly series, this post is less of a 'how to' and more of a call to arms.
In season five of the brilliant television drama The Wire much of the action is set inside the newsroom of a fictional version of The Baltimore Sun. On a number of occasions we see journalists and editors debating nuances of argument, word choice and grammatical accuracy. It's a nod to the seemingly old-fashioned idea that getting the words right actually matters.
Sadly, if many of today's newspapers are anything to go by, the pace and pressure associated with survival in the modern media environment have put paid to this dedication to accuracy. Hardly a day goes by where I don't find at least one blatant typo in our paper – usually more – along with a missing or duplicated line or an obvious hole in an argument.
The 'loose' (to put it kindly) writing found on blogs and websites all over cyberspace simply adds to a culture that 'near enough is good enough' when it comes to the written word.
However, there is one area of writing in which 'getting it right' still matters: the book.
There is something about a book that creates the expectation of a finely tailored suit. When we pick up a book we believe that we have in our hands a piece of work that has not been rushed. In which the authors and editors have taken the time and effort to perfectly align the pieces, to trim away any verbosity, to iron out all the kinks.
That's not to say the the occasional typo doesn't sneak into a book – of course it does, though they are surprisingly rare. The point is that more care is taken in the construction and refinement of a book than with most other forms of writing.
Nearly, but not quite. Before going any further I encourage you to give it one more go. You may need to take a break before doing this, but it's important to try and read your book anew, as if for the first time. Hone in on the same things we talked about in re-writing: tone and voice, clarity, structure, gaps and excesses, and style. Challenge yourself: have you done the best job you possibly could have?
Of course, as with any creative endeavour, your book will never feel completely finished. There'll always be more you could add, and tomorrow you'll learn something new that could have gone in there. At some point you do need to let it go. But I do encourage you, before that day comes, to just give it that one more 'once over' – one more polish.
This is the time to make sure your book will be something you can be proud of.