No matter how good a writer you are, there are several things that you must not skimp on, one is your cover, and the second is your editing.
This morning I had the honour of editing the beginning of one of the chapters for The Healing Book Project. I’d asked our authors to trust themselves, trust the process and just write. I assured them that the beauty comes in the editing because this is where we create rapport with the reader.
Getting to the first draft can be a challenge, especially when writing a healing memoir. It is, however, a wonderful challenge as you are getting your story out, healing, tearing your hair out, wanting to hide and feeling like a false prophet. You will possibly still be asking those questions like, who would want to read your story? Who are you to be doing this? I’ve healed, so why do I feel like shit again…?
Let me assure you that this is normal for the first draft. The only way to do it is to get it all out! But to also acknowledge what you have been through and be kind and compassionate with yourself. Compassion is creating rapport between the heart and the chattering mind. Switching things down and coming into a place of calm.
Getting to the final draft is magical but is often where we get word, punctuation and grammar blindness. But we also get our knickers in a twist wondering how to weave our story together. Editing is not easy.
Having said that, I love the initial part of the editing, which is bringing the content to life. It makes me think of the Bayeux Tapestry, which at 70 metres long is one hell of a story to weave.
Over time it can get a little tedious and frustrating. Imagine 50,000 words in front of you that need editing. That can seem overwhelming. It will be easier if you chunk it down with an editing plan and do one thing at a time. Starting with rapport works for me.
When I undertake a developmental edit for a client, I am looking first at the robustness of the outline, the flow of the writing, how the book connects with me emotionally and how it fulfils its promise. So often, when you get a book that you didn’t help to put together, you can see some fairly obvious mistakes. Which would have been addressed had it been properly planned. But pah, who loves planning apart from me?
What is important is that your book is checked and goes through a robust editing process before publishing. So first up before we get to rapport…
- Do you have an editing plan?
- What is in your editing plan?
- What is your editing process?
- Who will help you to edit and proof your book?
- What tools can you invest in to support the writing and editing process?
When someone selects your book, you want them to open it and keep turning the pages. Your book’s first impression starts with the front cover, continues throughout the layout, spelling, grammar, punctuation, choice of words, the flow of words, content, context, the pictures and feelings that the story conveys and right through to the blurb on the back cover.
Let’s talk rapport before we get to editing plans and stuff like commas, full stops and dangling prepositions. That’s another blog for another day.
Editing develops rapport
The words you use in your book will affect the emotions of your reader and your ability to build rapport with them. In life, people like people who are like them. People read books that emotionally connect them, tell a story that they resonate with and can see what is possible for them. Therefore, you need to show you care and be authentic in sending your message.
The secret to telling your story is that while it is about you, your life and your experiences. the story isn’t about you. Instead, it’s about how other people see themselves in your story. This is where the healing conversation comes.
Definition of rapport
Rapport comes from the French word to build a relationship.
Noun – a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.
Origin – mid 17th century: French, from rapporter ‘bring back’
Rapport is the unconscious “connection” you establish with another person, which we also describe as being “on the same wavelength”. When writing a book, we don’t have the luxury of using our body language to communicate, so we have to create that connection through our words. Editing allows us to turn words into our voice (personality). Think of it as building a bridge from your world to your reader’s world.
Milton Erickson, the father of trance and hypnotherapy and famous for building rapport, says, “anything is possible in the presence of a good rapport.” Your role with your book is to build rapport with your readers so that you make a connection, create a relationship, influence them and create an impact.
Book rapport is your reader believing that the person who wrote this (your) book is like them, understands them and has a solution for them. And very importantly that they have healed what they are going through and understand how that feels.
Think carefully about your readers before you begin to write and edit
Who are you writing for?
- Are you writing for people around a particular theme, e.g., health, domestic violence, abuse, low self-worth, lack of love, trauma, injury, poor relationships and many other healing themes
- You cannot assume the reader has knowledge of the terminology and concepts you will use, so consider how you describe these things
- Do you need to provide background material and additional references? What will these be?
- What expectations do you think your reader will have?
- What kind of thinking/learning style might they have. E.g., an accountant will think differently to an artist (typically). You may be highly visual, but what about your reader? You must take care to be inclusive with your language
- Think about their reading level – consider the words you use or how you might explain something, being overly intellectual will put most people off
- How fussy will they be over precise punctuation and grammar? While both of these are important, you must keep your voice
- What about the tone you are setting? It is still about your voice, but for example, no one wants to read angry writing
Write a short piece about something which you know really well. It doesn’t have to be your story. The idea is that you practice. All you have to do is put pen to paper and just get it all out.
- Create a list of criteria against which you will use to evaluate your writing
- What are the things you must watch out for in your writing?
- How can you be more flexible?
- How can you edit so that you create rapport?
How did that go, and what did you learn?
Writing and editing for different types of people
We are all unique, so are your readers. Some will like the big picture and some lots of detail. Some like to get a visual, and others want to get a feel for your work. Some want steps to follow; others want to try a what-if?
No matter how wonderful your insights and information are, if it is not written or presented in a way that engages your reader, what you are trying to say will be completely lost on them.
This is another aspect of creating rapport, but the key is balance. I know I am a big picture person, and my mum likes detail. If I get a novel that goes too far into detail, I literally flick the pages until I feel like I can rejoin the story. On the other hand, Mum is immersed in what I call waffle.
What about you? Think of how you tell your stories around the coffee machine…
Next up, we now want to know how our reader’s process information and how they access key ideas to make meaning so that we can build a relationship with them. I know it all feels a little too much now, but I promise you it will help.
When creating a story, you are engaging all of your brain because creativity requires you to use all of your senses. Understanding how to communicate with different thinkers and learners will give your book greater appeal. The brain is amazing. It has its own language and way of interpreting information. The language of the brain is:
- And smells
“information from the experiences of your five senses, which it then manipulates in the emotional blender we call the imagination ”Boothman 2002
Every day you are engaging all of these things without ‘thinking’. They are automatic responses to stimuli and don’t cause us to ‘think’ too much about them. However, I want you to now consider how you use your senses, process data and information. Understanding and knowing how the brain works will help you create a much better memoir and book.
The whole-brain approach to writing
We are used to the notion of left and right brain, one logical and one creative. In his book the Master and the Emissary, Iain McGilchrist states that “it should be understood that in any one human brain at any one time both hemispheres will be actively involved.” (McGilchrist 2009). Watch this RSA video about the divided brain.
What this means is, as I have said, you will be using all of your brains to write and publish your book and you will be connecting with your reader’s whole brain. You have no choice. That is how our brains work.
What we want to understand is our reader’s preferred way of thinking.
What if we were to consider the notion of the brain having four quadrants?
Ned Herrmann, the Whole Brain® thinking model pioneer, suggests this segmentation in his book The Whole Brain Business Book. I like the idea that, in considering his theories, we can compartmentalise types of thinking to help us understand how we can make our thinking more flexible and flex our writing style.
In a nutshell, whole-brain learning theory divides the brain into four quadrants:
- A: Left cerebral hemisphere – analytical – the logical, fact-based brain – how?
- B: Left limbic system – sequential – the detail-oriented brain – what?
- C: Right limbic system – interpersonal –the kinaesthetic brain – why?
- D: Right cerebral hemisphere – imaginative -the big-picture brain – what if?
Simply, some people want to know Why, some want to know What, some want to know How, and the rest want to know What If. Aren’t we clever sausages? What is clever is that some people are more flexible in thinking and using their brains and will easily flex their style.
When you are writing, you are using all of your brain because you are applying your thinking, judgement, critical analysis, evaluation, filtering and re-presenting of information and transfer of knowledge, amongst other things, without even realising it.
Writing and editing are truly whole-brained activities. As writers, it is our responsibility to write to communicate more effectively with our readers.
So, the theory tells us that people tend to favour one learning style over another. Remind yourself of yours. Even when writing a memoir, people still want these questions answered. Here’s a simple example.
- How did I get here and in this mess?
- What were the events that led up to the crisis?
- Why did I think that this was going to work?
- What if I’d have gone left that day?
When I am editing, and working on my rapport, I come back into the story and ask myself some what, why, how and what-if questions. Try it, go back to your short piece of writing and ask your four questions. How did that work for you?
Learning to focus your writing is important. This means sticking to the point that you are trying to convey, overall, for each chapter and each subsection. Sticking to the point involves having a clear idea of what you want to write about and how you want to convey your topic – building rapport.
Why you are writing will also affect what information you present. Remember your reader, and consider your book’s purpose and the strategy for your book.
As you edit, refine your focus and build rapport, check to see if you pass the “so what?” test. Readers have to care about your topic in order to continue reading, otherwise, they may look at what you have written and respond “so what?”
Have your chapter plan in front of you so that you can assess if you have answered your questions, solved your reader’s problems, got your key messages across and have a relevant and practical call to action through the story you are weaving.