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The Unseen 90% Is What Makes the Other 10% of My Writing Readable

  • 2 min read

Writing is an iceberg.

I’m doing it!

I’m in the middle of writing my first novel.

In conversations with friends and family lately, I often refer to writing as an iceberg of an art form.

It’s the greatest explanation I’ve discovered for the discrepancy between the effort that goes into a book or an in-depth article and what the reader encounters when they turn the page or read my stories on Medium or my newsletters on Substack.

Like an iceberg, just ten percent of my writing breaks the surface.

That does not imply that the remaining 90% is superfluous.

Not at all.

The unseen 90% is what makes the other 10% readable.

However, if you’re attempting to determine whether that 10% is readable, that 90% can get in the way.

The majority of novels take months or years to complete.

Since the plot, the setting, and the characters have been living in your head for so long, it can be surprisingly easy to forget that other readers — including family, friends, agents, and editors — don’t have access to the inside of your brain.

A reader who is unfamiliar with the setting of your book may find something that is obvious to you confusing.


Ignore what’s in your head.

A friend of mine who has an agency for book authors recommended the following:

  • Make it a challenge to read only what is written on the paper and to ignore anything else that is only in your head.
  • Examine the book as though it were a stranger to you, as though you have never met the characters and have no idea where they are from or are heading.

Then ask yourself:

Is this a book worth reading?

Do I give a damn?

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