Excerpt from How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days

Excerpt from How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Dayspaullima.com (5th book on list)

The Internal Critic

We all have an internal critic harping at us to get our writing right. At the same time, it is just so darn difficult to remember all the minor and inconsistent rules of English.
My internal critic is Mr. C, my grade five teacher. Mr. C took his government-appointed task of teaching me perfect spelling and grammar very seriously. Wielding his red marker like the sword of Zorro, he forcefully cut huge red gashes across my mistakes. He never once commented on content or creativity. There was no room for art or craft. To him, writing was all about correct spelling, grammar and neatness or penmanship, as it was called.
In grade five, as our spelling and penmanship improved, Mr. C’s students were supposed to graduate from pencil to pen. But Mr. C made me use a pencil all year because I could not spell well or write neatly. I only received my pen on the last day of class. Mr. C tossed it at me and said, “Here, Lima, you’ll need this next year. Good luck!”
But look at the language I was trying to master! We have this so-called rule, “i” before “e” except after “c.” But how do you spell “weird”? That word is just, well, plain weird.
Mr. C was right. My writing was messy. For whatever reason, I could not remember most of the rules of spelling and grammar. And when I did manage to remember some of them, I could not remember the exceptions. Bottom line, I was a poor speller and I did not punctuate very well. When you can’t spell well, you learn how to hide the fact, which is why my penmanship was so poor. When you don’t know if it’s “i” before “e,” you make a chubby “i” and a skinny “e” and put the dot right in the middle—hoping to fool the teacher!
I battle Mr. C whenever I sit down to write. However, I have been earning my living as a professional writer for over 25 years and am the author of several books on business writing and the business of freelance writing (www.paullima.com/books). Today, when Mr. C rears his fearsome head, I say, “Get thee behind me!” and I keep on writing. I write through typos and grammatical errors. Through incomplete sentences and incorrect words. I write until I have finished an error-filled first draft, and I laugh in his face. Because I have learned something about writing. Writing is a process in which the act of writing is separate from the act of editing.
Mr. C wasn’t teaching us to be good writers. He was teaching us to be good editors. But the writing has to sparkle or you will have little to feed your editor. If you do not follow the process, Mr. C will trip you up every time. He will get you revising and editing when you should be creating. He will cause you to waste time proofreading work that is not yet at the first draft stage. In other words, it is okay to make mistakes when you write because the process allows you to correct them, or pay others to do so, when you finish your first draft. After all, your first draft is for your eyes only, so who cares if it contains spelling or grammatical mistakes? You can correct them before you send it out to an agent or publisher or before you self-publish your work.

Spell-check and Grammar-check Off

If you are using a word processing program like Microsoft Word and you have your spell checker and grammar checker turned on, you are inviting Mr. C to inhibit your writing. The green and red squiggles under your words, phrases, and sentences mean you are seeing (and correcting) so-called mistakes as you write—before you complete your first draft.
Every time you revise, when you should be writing, you are wasting time and derailing your train of thought. If you want to improve your writing productivity immediately, turn off spell check and grammar check and get writing.
I want to reinforce one point before we move on. Spelling and grammar are important. I try my darndest to catch spelling and grammar mistakes. I just don’t do it while I am writing my first draft. After I have completed what I consider a decent first or second draft, I focus on the more mundane, yet important, task of checking spelling and grammar.

Excerpt from How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Dayspaullima.com (5th book on list)


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