The interview below is conducted by Kay Elizabeth, Editor/Co-Owner of The Cuckleburr Times.
Q: Please welcome David Bowman, owner and chief editor of Precise Edit and author of 300 Days of Better Writing, which was just released for Kindle readers. Thank you for agreeing to this interview with The Cuckleburr Times. Please give our readers an overview of 300 Days of Better Writing.
A: Thank you. I am very excited about 300 Days of Better Writing. In short, this e-book provides writers with 300 daily strategies for improving writing. The general concept behind this book is simple. If writers learn one new writing strategy every day, over time their writing will greatly improve; their writing will get better for each of 300 days. As a whole, 300 Days comprises our best strategies, advice, and instruction for writing well.
Q: What is your biggest hope for this book?
A: (Laughing) What does every author hope for? Lots of money from book sales and get on Oprah! Ok, I’m joking. Some books are for creating social changes or helping people live happy, healthy lives; others are for promoting services, and so forth. It’s not just money. Sure, I’d like to make income from this book. But we only make money if we are truly providing something of value, something people want. Let me be even more serious for a moment. This book is about communication, and I am passionate about communication. Communication is how people interact. It’s how people reach their goals. It’s how we grow as individuals and societies. Many people struggle with communicating, particularly in writing. So my biggest hope is that people will use these strategies and learn to communicate effectively.
Q: Many books are available to help people become better writers, though not so many for Kindle, at least not yet. What makes 300 Days of Better Writing different?
A: Yes, there are. I own some of those books, and I’ve read through many others. Some are good; others are not so good. This book is different in several ways.
- Practical. This book addresses a comment from a writing student many, many years ago: “Just tell me what to do.” That’s what this book does. It provides 300 answers to the question “What can I do to make my writing better?”
- Easy-to-grasp. This book takes big topics, such as paragraph structure, and breaks them down into individual strategies. For example, instead of telling writers, “Here’s everything you need to know about clear sentences,” it says, “Here’s one thing you can do right now to make your sentences better.” I will add that the book contains a topic index for those readers who wish to read many strategies on a specific topic.
- Instructional, not “fluffy.” Many books include cute cartoons, or tell stories about the author, or discuss the history of writing styles, or talk about various writers. Those authors are trying to entertain instead of trying to teach. In respect for the reader, 300 Days of Better Writing stays focused on instruction. 300 Days of Better Writing contains over 70 thousand words of instruction, and that’s a lot of instruction on how to write well!
- No English degree needed. Let me toss in one more difference. This book doesn’t expect readers to have English degrees and know a lot of grammar terms. If I needed a term to explain a strategy, I first explained the term. However, readers with English degrees will find this book valuable, too. Much of the content in 300 Days of Better Writing is not taught in English programs.
Q: How would you characterize this book? Is it for novelists and story writers, or is it for a more general audience?
A: I get this question often. Who should read this book? The simple answer is “everyone.” The purpose of writing is to communicate, regardless of the document or genre. This book is for all writers who wish to communicate well, whether they are writing a business letter, writing a novel, or writing a funding proposal. The issues addressed in the book are the same for all writers.
Q: I like how you characterize writing as communication. So often we forget that that’s what we’re really trying to do. What types of information will readers find in this book?
A: This book contains 3 types of information: 1) Writing well. These are editing strategies for communicating clearly, directly, and purposefully. This category contains the most strategies by far. For example, the book has 33 unique strategies on effective sentence structure and 33 strategies for using descriptions and modifiers. 2) Writing correctly. These are techniques for using correct grammar, punctuation, and usage. 3) Writing to accomplish a purpose. These are strategies for engaging readers, persuading them to believe you, and emphasizing your ideas. I have interspersed the various types of strategies. One strategy might be about punctuation, the next about choosing powerful subjects, and the next about tone.
Q: I see that you have several e-books available as PDFs at Hostile Editing (http://hostileediting.com), including Precise Edit Training Manual and Bang! Writing for Impact. Why did you decide to write this one, and why are you making it available for Kindle?
A: The answer to both questions is “market research.” Another way to say this is “paying attention to what readers want.” Subscribers to our “Writing Tips for a Year” service asked for a single document with the strategies. We had the content already, so why not? We modified the content from the subscription service and created this book. Why Kindle? We did what every writer should: we paid attention to what readers want. The PDF of 300 Days is nearly 200 8.5″ x 11″ pages when printed. That’s too much for most folks to print. They will use an electronic version, and this means PDF and Kindle. I did my market research. Are people buying instructional books for Kindle? Are writing titles already available? Is the Kindle market flooded with writing books? What price range is acceptable? And so forth. We decided to publish a Kindle version as a result of our research.
Q: How did you create the Kindle version?
A: The Kindle format is simplified HTML, like a web page. We did the conversion ourselves, and we learned a lot about the process. The instructions from Amazon are lousy, I mean really lousy. But we did some research, made a few mistakes, and we figured it out. Amazon will do an automatic conversion of PDF and Word documents, but this book relies on special formatting, italics, indents, etcetera, and I read that the automatic conversion isn’t accurate. The process took about two weeks, including figuring out the conversion and publishing process. Now that we know what we’re doing, though, the next one will be much faster.
Q: Do you have a website where readers can find out more about 300 Days of Better Writing? And can readers get a sample?
A: Sure. I recommend people head to Hostile Editing, which is the site for all of our writing resources. The URL is http://HostileEditing.com. Our free e-book, Your Writing Companion, contains a sample from each of our books. I have to edit that statement. The PDF version is free, but the Kindle version costs 99 cents. That’s the lowest price Amazon will sell books.
Q: Are you planning to write any more books about writing?
A: I keep saying “No more!” but then I write another one. Yes, I have at least one more book coming out. I’m preparing a short reference guide on commas and only commas. From my 19 plus years as an editor, I found that commas are the biggest problem people have with the mechanics of writing. As with the other books, we’ll do a PDF and Kindle version.
Q: I have to ask this. You run an editing company and, I suppose, do much of the editing work yourself, you teach university writing classes, you write grants, you write books and a blog on writing. You’re busy. How do you find the time?
A: The short answer? I work hard for long hours, and I take time to refresh my mind when needed. It’s a balance, but it’s not a chore. The long answer? I love what I do and find it very satisfying. When a client says, “Gosh, this is so much clearer!” or a book reader writes, “This book has really helped me write better!” I feel pretty good about all those long hours.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to discuss 300 Days of Better Writing. Do you have any last thoughts to share with our readers?
A: Just one point about the writing in general. Writing is about three things: passion, compassion, and technique. Passion is what you want to communicate, the content you want to express. Compassion is knowing what the reader needs and wants from you. What 300 Days to Better Writing does is help people learn the techniques to merge passion and compassion. It provides the techniques for communicating the content in a manner that meets the readers’ needs and accomplishes the writers’ goals.
KE: And that concludes our interview. I wish you success with your book and thanks again for joining us here at The Cuckleburr Times.
The hardcopy (13.95), PDF (9.95), and Kindle (9.95) versions of 300 Days of Better Writing are available for purchase at HostileEditing.com.
Use coupon code BETTER300 and receive free shipping for the hardcopy. Purchase the hardcopy or PDF of 300 Days of Better Writing and get a free PDF of the Precise Edit Training Manual (automatic through PayPal, no coupon code necessary).