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When Does The Author Write The Preface
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I've been a freelance writer for decades. Nonfiction book ideas come to me at odd times, in church, in the grocery store, or when I'm walking. So many ideas come to mid I carry a notebook to jot them down. Writing the preface of a book is exciting task, an adventure, because I am never sure how book will turn out.
Sometimes I've written the preface first and this works because it is logical. Other times I've written the preface last, something that surprised me. This works because I have a clear view of the book and can make the preface "fit" it perfectly. But I couldn't decide when to write the preface of my latest book.
I started the preface and, though it sounded pretty good when I read it aloud, it wasn't right. Trouble is, I couldn't figure out what was wrong. So I set the preface aside and started writing the first chapter. Before I knew it, I was writing the second chapter and the third. But the unfinished preface kept nagging me and it was driving me nuts.
The only solution was to go back and resume work on the preface. After a day of work I decided it accomplished all the things a preface should do. Keep in mind that a preface is not a foreword. Donald Bastian explains the difference in his BPS Books website article, "What's the Difference between a Foreword, Preface, and Introduction?"
The foreword of a book is written by someone else, usually an expert in the field. The preface is written by the author and tells how he or she came to write the book. "Using an old term from the stud of rhetoric, a preface is in a sense an 'apology': an explanation of defense," Bastian writes. He says the introduction is similar to the preface and explains the content of the book.
An article on the ehow website, "How to Write a Preface for Your Book," is more specific and lists the parts of a preface: why you wrote the book, a brief description, research, acknowledgements, any difficulties you had, and your target readers. This was good information and, though my preface had these elements, some were missing.
By this time I was approaching the end of the book. Yet again, I went back and worked on the preface. Instead of calling it a preface, I gave it a one-word title just to be different. Since I was the author, I decided to thank people at the end of the book, not the beginning. The preface was better and I resumed work on the chapters.
I finished the book and, you guessed it, returned to the preface. Was it long enough? Did it grab the reader's attention? Were the features clear? While there is no dramatic ending to my story, there is a message, and it is you can write a preface any time and all the while you are writing your book.
Keep working on your preface until it is an ideal beginning for your book. My preface states my purpose and contains just enough details to make the reader turn the page. In my mind, that is the purpose of any preface.
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