Throughout my experience as an editor, I’ve found that nonfiction writers are more inclined to go off topic than fiction writers. I believe passion plays a huge role in writers’ rabbit holes, tangents, and off-topic stories or anecdotes. When writers are angry, allow their personal biases to seep through their work, or let their passions run wild on paper, that is when I see writers jump the tracks from the purpose of their book and digress into uncharted territory.
Over the years, I’ve heard writers defend their side topics. “But it adds color to my writing,” they will say, or “readers enjoy my stories.” Those rabbit holes, however, leave readers confused.
The good news is that almost all writers who go off topic employ the same phrases to signal they have strayed from their overall message or are trying to get back on topic.
Here are the 15 most common phrases I see while editing that signal writers have gone off topic:
- Let me tell you about that real quick.
- I’m going to go off topic here for a moment.
- This is off topic.
- This is beside the point.
- This isn’t related, but…
- On a side note…
- Speaking of …
- I’ll get to that in a minute.
- Let’s backtrack a moment.
- This is unrelated, but…
- Now, back to what I was saying.
- Let’s get back on track now.
- Now, where was I?
- That’s not related, but…
- I digress…
Search Your Work
Open your current manuscript and use the search feature to find keywords or phrases from the list above in your writing. If you come across a section where you went off topic, either delete the section completely or highlight it and go back later to see if you can rework the material so it does stay on topic with the message of your book.
If you’re struggling to self-identify tangents or rabbit holes in your writing, ask a friend or a professional to read over your work and mark any areas you got sidetracked.
Are you looking for professional help in identifying off topic material in your manuscript? Learn more about our editorial services here or call 321-345-7724 to speak with one of our publishing consultants.