November 6, 2009
One of my authors called me yesterday. We're wrapping up his current book today and sending it to the typesetter on Monday and after he rests for a few days we're starting his next book. We were talking about what will change and what will stay the same in the way we work together.
"You know," he said, "I've learned how to send you email."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"No matter how many questions I include in my email, only one gets answered. I've learned to split my questions so that each question is in its own email."
He's right, I do that. I've been caught at his end of that type of exchange as well. I dash off an email with three questions and get an answer to one. I want an answer to all three but I'm not clear with the person I'm sending the email to and so he responds to the question he sees as the most important.
So back to you and your writing—do you get caught up in this kind of exchange with your readers? Do you make it too hard for them to know what your core message is in this sentence, paragraph, section, or chapter?
If you aren't clear on what your one thing is then your readers may isolate on the wrong thing. Remember that as you take them on their journey, you are pointing out the sights to see. It's up to you to pick out enough points of interest to keep them engaged but not so many that they get overwhelmed.
Prepare them for the one thing you're talking about then transition them to the next one thing. But one thing at a time.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.