Paperwork


We just refinanced our house this afternoon.

Don’t worry, there’s a writing lesson here I promise.

So back to the house. Kim called the bank a few weeks ago and asked what it would take to refinance. “No big deal,” they said. “You guys are more than qualified. We’ll mail stuff out to you. Fill it out and send it back to us.”

And so the paperwork arrived in the mail. There were two huge packets. One for our records and one to sign and return. The instructions on what to sign and how to sign were several pages. We had to initial the bottom of a bunch of pages and sign here and there sometimes with dates sometimes not. Some pages needed to be notarized but not those pages where it said “Seal” after our name. “Seal” did not mean “seal” it meant “sign”.

We rolled with it and one hundred pages and twenty signatures later we had finished the packet.

I know there are legal issues but what we really needed was a paper that said something like this:

“You know that big packet of paper we all signed a year and a half ago? Well both sides continue to agree to all of that while also agreeing to now pay off the balance of the principal at this new rate over this new term.”

That’s it.

Now look at your writing. If you are writing a book where you need to teach your reader something, make sure you haven’t delivered them a big pile or refinancing documents.

Have you organized a series of steps that your readers need to pass through on their one true path to knowledge? Do you provide an introduction that reads like a list of challenges ahead? Do you follow this with endless dry pages that allow them to check off each challenge as they complete it? You’re essentially having them initial two thirds of the pages and having them sign a quarter of them.

Instead of an instruction manual of the tasks contained in this collection of forms to fill out, tell a story of the challenges ahead. Lead your readers with just enough help and guidance that they can fight their own battles and be proud of their own accomplishments.