Big Problems with Big Projects

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Books are big projects, and big projects, because they require time and effort, are hard to complete. Indeed, many of us have to work hard to find the motivation to make time and put forth effort. 

When we finish a draft of a big-project book, we want to be done–done with the time-finding, done with the effort-expending. Done done. But despite the implication of “finished,” a finished draft is an end, it’s not (ever) the end. In fact, it’s usually the beginning of implementing the big changes that move a draft from finished to accepted.

Big changes suggested by critical readers, developmental editors, and (very) hands-on agents might include the following:

  • Too long: The book needs to be significantly shortened
  • Too much: The book needs to be broken into two or more projects
  • Too general: The book’s audience needs to be identified and accommodated
  • Too obvious: The book’s argument needs to be identified and integrated
  • Too weak: The book’s argument requires more, broader, deeper, primary, secondary, or other evidence
  • Too confusing: The book’s argument needs to be identified and positioned as the impetus of organization 

Changes like these seem big–too big–and it can be overwhelming to realize that yet more time and effort is needed. But big changes don’t always translate to big effort. Revision, even comprehensive revision, is far easier to complete than the arduous labor of producing the draft.

In the same way that carving a stone is challenging, while mining stone is backbreaking, shaping a draft into manuscript form is part of the process of artistry. Once the backbreaking work is finished, refinement can feel like relief.