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A Self Made of Words
PREFACE: CRAFTING A DISTINCTIVE SELF

     This book is devoted to your self and the ways you can bring it to life in writing. The idea of doing such a work came to mind shortly after I finished The Made Up Self (2010), and discovered that there wasn’t a book in print on the specifics of crafting a distinctive self—a crucial element of writing, strangely overlooked.  So I spent the last few years putting together the ideas and suggestions in this book, ideas and suggestions I’ve gathered and developed in the course of my work as an author, editor, and teacher of nonfiction.
      Though you can’t see it on the page, an impression of your self is there in everything you write, and it’s bound to influence the way that readers respond to your work.  That being the case, it’s best to take charge of how you come across in your prose, so that you create an engaging impression, rather than letting your written self take shape haphazardly in a form, style, or voice that might misrepresent you or turn off your readers.   To help you avoid that risk and create a distinctive presence, I’ve focused this book on the most important way of projecting your self in nonfiction prose —by means of a “persona,” which is a version of your self made of words, a carefully crafted version that you can vary as you see fit.   Confident or fretful, solemn or sassy, tough or tender, casual or formal—these are just a few of the many stances you can assume.   So many options, it might seem like a mere gesture to come across as you wish.   But every persona is the byproduct of numerous decisions made in the process of writing, decisions about what to say and how to say it.    Though any single word or phrase or sentence might seem to make little difference in the way you come across, collectively they produce an impression of who you are or seem to be.   Thus it’s all the more important to consider the various ways to create an engaging and distinctive persona.
     To help you achieve that goal, I’ve divided this book into two parts: (1) an introduction to the nature and function of a persona, which includes some preliminary exercises; and (2) a survey of the most important elements of writing, from point of view and organization to diction and sentence structure, with exercises that will give you practice in using each element to create a persona of your choice.