Don’t Understimate the Value of the Cutting Room Floor
The longer you write the more you learn. My newest book, the yet-to-be-published Drucker book, taught me an important lesson about something that writers don’t talk much about: the stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor. Writing this book—over a five year period—taught me that what doesn’t get included can be as important as what does.
I have always believed that it is the responsibility of the author to make his or her point in as few words as possible. People are far too busy these days to waste their time. Achieving the aims of your book with an economy of words should always be your goal. It is also an excellent exercise in writing. So I carve as I write my own works, always trimming a few words here or a sentence there. Or better yet, cut entire chapters because they do not fit with the tone and/or level of the rest of the work.
In Inside Drucker’s Brain, more than a dozen chapters of the book ended up on the cutting room floor. I have more than ten versions of the introduction since I had various ideas on how to start the book. But when my agent (uber-agent Margret McBride—co-author of The 4th Secret of the One Minute Manager ) read the proposal, she had new ideas about how to begin the book. They turned out to be brilliant. Even after I executed the changes, almost no editors out there saw enough to warrant publication of the book, despite the strong track record of my first five books. The new introduction personalized Peter Drucker in a way that no book had done before. Only one editor, my boss, Adrian Zackheim (who has a phenomenal track record), saw enough in my proposal to warrant a contract offer to publish the book. How fitting it was, since Adrian worked with Peter Drucker as his editor years earlier.
Gone are the times that business book readers will tolerate poorly written 400-page tomes with excess baggage. In order to avoid this, please observe the following tips:
* Never fall in love with your own writing;
* If it isn’t informative, important, or interesting—take it out;
* Try not to include names of people no one knows or cares about (instead, use footnotes to recognize people when the situation calls for it).
These three rules alone can help turn a pretty good book into a first rate book. The key lesson is don’t wait for your editor to do the cutting.