In “Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott says a writer needs to focus on short assignments to avoid feeling overwhelmed. She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how it reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. If you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. The same applies to learning writing, editing, and publishing craft. If writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting, and piece by piece, it will come together.
With more than ten years’ experience as an editor and writer of English Language Teaching (ELT) materials for various ELT publishers worldwide, I know that “breaking down” language and tasks into smaller focus areas is an effective learning method. After much experimentation on myself, and volunteer aspiring writers, I discovered it is extremely effective with writing, editing, and publishing too. And so the Writing in a Nutshell series was born.
The first book, Writing in a Nutshell: Writing Workshops to Improve Your Craft, I guide writers through a variety of “before” and “after” writing examples demonstrating the transition from weak to strong writing, and encourage them to follow my example through clear and simple self-teaching steps. This book is also broken down into three separate workbooks (available to purchase separately) should writers not need practice in all areas: Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing; Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery; and The Six Senses in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Bleak to Bold Narrative.
In the second book, Polish Your Fiction: A Quick & Easy Self-Editing Guide, I offer my tried and tested advice on the quickest and easiest ways to polish different areas of writing style, consistency of prose, grammar, punctuation, typography, and layout. Each section is armed with a numbered checklist for moments when writers need that “at-a-glance” reminder and nifty Microsoft Word tricks that will save time. At the end of the book there are also magnificent accounts of editorial mistakes other authors have made during their careers, to show that no matter how many times a book is edited, something always slips through, and to therefore not be so hard on oneself.
In the third book, Self-Publish Your Book: A Quick & Easy Step-by-Step Guide, I do not overwhelm with all information available—I explain exactly what one needs to know, without the faff, by following a foolproof, cost-efficient, time-efficient, extremely easy-to-follow, step-by-step, self-publishing method. By following this method, a writer can have their book go from manuscript to published book within one week. They’ll learn how to: prepare their manuscript in Microsoft Word, design their paperback and eBook cover, prepare their front/back matter and blurb, format their paperback interior & eBook, proofread their designed pages, register with desired retailers/distributors, export their eBook to a retail-ready file, and upload their paperback and eBook to retailers/distributors.
Not only is the Writing in a Nutshell series an excellent addition to any creative writing, editing, and/or publishing course, but it’s also a great primary learning tool for aspiring writers and self-publishers.