Donald of the excellent Running and Rambling blog recently reviewed the second edition of my book. I chuckled toward the end of the review when Donald noted the disjointed nature of the second half of the book.
He is the first to actually comment on this… and I’ve been waiting.
When I first started writing, I was very self-conscious about sounding professional. I went to great lengths to endlessly edit my writing. I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. I sterilized my writing.
At some point, I had an epiphany. I hate reading sterilized writing. It feels robotic. Too clean. Pretentious.
The first edition of my book was rough. It was created from a series of blog posts that were glued together in an attempt to create a barefoot running guide. The second edition added lots of content and some added polish.
Just how much polish I should add was a difficult decision. I had a team of professional editors at my disposal. They worked in the publishing industry. My primary editor owned a publishing house for years. This book could have been polished more than the chrome bumper of a ’67 Corvair.
Disclosure statement: I have no idea if they actually made a ’67 Corvair. Or who actually manufactured the Corvair. It was a real car, right?
Anyway, I made a conscious decision to leave some of the imperfections in the book. It made the material more accessible. The added accessibility meant it was a better teaching tool. THAT was my ultimate goal… not to produce a work of literary art that would impress professional writers.
Interestingly, the ebook version of the first edition of my book continues outsell the ebook version of the second edition. Part of this is simplicity- the first edition is very short and direct… just the basics. The second edition has more information which appeals to a slightly different demographic… notably more experienced barefoot runners.
The other element- the first edition wasn’t as polished. The professionals tore the first edition apart (read some of the Amazon reviews). However, the people that actually use it to learn to run barefoot found it to be very useful. The book resonated with the audience that mattered.
Retaining that element in the second edition was a conscious decision. Yeah, it tends to irk the great writers, but I want my readers to feel as if I were talking to them, not at them. People learn better when there’s a personal connection.
I applied a lesson I learned a long time ago… write like you speak. The book contains bits of stupid humor. I sprinkle stupid humor in my conversations. The book does jump from one topic to the next at times. I jump from topic to topic sometimes. Essentially, the book is a reflection of how I think and talk.
As writers, I think this idea is exceedingly important. The more your writing appeals to people “in the industry”, the less it will resonate with your audience… unless your audience is a bunch of professional writers and editors.
Be yourself. Edit sparingly. Let people know you’re human. Your audiences will appreciate you more.