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When You Have Written Enough, Stop: Knowing When to Finish Your Book

How do you know when you’ve written enough in your book or chapter, and it’s time to stop?

Some may say …

When the deadline comes.
When it’s 1 am and you’re going cross-eyed.
When you can’t think of anything else to say.
When the coffee runs out.

I like to be thorough when I explain something. But as my editing partner tells me, I need to RUE—Resist the Urge to Explain. I may take “thorough” a little too far in my first draft. Often I need to remind myself to stop when I have written enough.

Sometimes a concept will take just a few sentences to explain, and sometimes we need to write a few paragraphs. While we don’t want to insult the reader’s intelligence, we do want to say enough to get our point across. So when is “enough,” enough?

I would like to offer some questions to ask yourself when you’re wondering if you’ve written enough. “Enough” happens when we have delivered our message with punch, zip, and wow. When we’ve adequately illustrated our point. When we’ve helped the reader to see our topic in a new light. Ask yourself the following ten questions to define “enough” for your book.

10 Questions to Help You Know When “Enough” is Enough

  1. Have I followed my outline well, and delivered the message I wanted to convey?
  2. Have I included relevant stories that illustrate my point without too many “distracting” details?
  3. Have I ended each paragraph and chapter with “punch”—a point that cuts to the heart of the matter and is delivered in a powerful way?
  4. Have I limited the amount of information I give the reader on a particular point so that I don’t overwhelm them or cause them to forget what I’ve said?
  5. Have I spoken to the reader as a friend, encouraging them instead of sounding “preachy”?
  6. Have I given the reader a new or fresh perspective on my subject?
  7. If I were the reader, would I feel like the take away was strong enough in each chapter and in the book as a whole?
  8. Have I resisted the urge to explain too much, allowing the reader to draw conclusions and apply the principles to their life?
  9. Have I given valuable help in my book that warrants someone using their hard-earned money to purchase it?
  10. Have I adequately delivered on what my introduction and the back cover copy promised that the reader would discover in my book?
10 questions to ask yourself to know if you have written enough in your book #writingtips… Click To Tweet

Don’t Finish Your Book Alone

Always get feedback on your writing, allowing an honest (and hopefully kind) writer to help you know if you practiced “RUE” and if you gave enough information on your topic. Give them the list of questions above, and go through the questions together. They may help you to know when to cut some explanation out and when to add some. Working with someone else on your project gives you a fresh perspective.

If you have time before your deadline, form a group of people who represent your target audience, and ask them specific questions as they read your book. Do you give enough explanation in each chapter? Does anything sound long-winded? Which paragraphs have “punch” and “zip,” and which ones need some?

Then Stop and Breathe

When you and your trusted helpers have reached the end of what you know to do with your book, stop. Breathe. Sleep. If you hire an agent, he or she will help you to know if the book needs some more work. Also, publishing houses will have their editors go over your book with a fine tooth comb.

Give your book your very best, and then let it improve with every person who reads it. Take new feedback to heart, and apply that advice to future projects.

Be encouraged. An end does come to a project. Till it does, keep working hard, and you will reap the benefits of that work when it’s published.

How to know when you should finish your nonfiction book #writingtips #writers #pubtip Click To Tweet

About Katy Kauffman - Writing Captivating Nonfiction/The Starting Line: First Lines, First Pages

Katy Kauffman - Writing Captivating Nonfiction/The Starting Line: First Lines, First Pages
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She is also an editor and a designer of "Refresh Bible Study Magazine" and the designer of "Broken but Priceless: The Magazine." She writes monthly for The Write Conversation and PursueMagazine.net. She loves to blog about the adventures of life with God, and her books focus on how to win life's spiritual battles. Her book, "Faith, Courage, and Victory," won the 2016 Selah award for Bible studies. Her newest book, "Breaking the Chains" is a compilation releasing April 2017.

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2 comments

  1. I really like the “RUE” formula and the list of questions you’ve provided. Thanks for a great article. I’ll be adding these tips to my routines.

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