Everyone makes mistakes—even writers—but that’s OK because each mistake is a great learning opportunity. The Writer’s Digest team has witnessed many mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them early in the process. Note: The mistakes in this series aren’t focused on grammar rules, though we offer help in that area as well.
( Grammar rules for writers .)
Rather, we’re looking at bigger picture mistakes and mishaps, including the error of using too much exposition, neglecting research, or researching too much. This week’s writing mistake writers make is oversharing in self-help writing. Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Oversharing in Self-Help Writing
Self-help is a really interesting medium because it brings the author right into the reader’s life in a way that other nonfiction doesn’t; for example, memoir is all about someone telling you their life story. Self-help is you sharing your experiences to help someone navigate theirs.
But a large problem when it comes to this kind of writing is that the writer seems to think they’re penning a memoir. You might be familiar with the joke that you have to scroll through a recipe blogger’s whole life story before you can get to the recipe? We don’t want your reader to feel that when they’re reading your self-help book.
Look, I get it. It’s hard to look at your story and decide what will be important to your reader or not. Your whole story is important, isn’t it? It’s your life! But the fact of the matter is that self-help readers are selfish. I say that with as much love as possible. But home cooks surf recipe blogs for the recipe. They may be interested in knowing the blogger’s experience with making the recipe, but they don’t really care that they discovered it in an old tin that they got from an estate sale they happened upon while apple-picking with their mother. Self-help readers come to your book to solve a problem, and they only care about your experiences as much as it relates to solving that problem. Mistake Fix: Revise From Your Reader’s Perspective
Before we dive into this, I want to say that first and foremost, you need to be able to identify who your reader is and what they want from this book. This article will be most helpful to you if you’ve already done the exercise outlined in my article “ Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Identifying Your Reader in Self-Help Writing ” here on the Writer’s Digest blog.
Once you’ve done that, you can go ahead and dive into making sure you’re not oversharing in your book! To do that, follow these three simple steps: 1. Write from the heart
Your first draft should come right from your heart—don’t worry about the typos, the run-on sentences, or the massive amount of oversharing that you’re likely to do. Write down your experiences as you remember them. Don’t hold anything back from the reader or from yourself.
This should help you avoid some writer’s block, but […]