Writing Books/Preface

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Question
I am writing a non-fiction story that when finished will most likely be book length.  I want to include a preface to give some background information before jumping in to the main subject of the story.  Are there any set guidelines about the length of a preface?  My first draft has a nine-page preface (double-spaced manuscript length).  Is that too long?

Thanks.

Answer
Hello Byron:

Prefaces, forewords and introductions are commonly associated with  non-fiction. These elements in fiction are called "prologues."

One problem with prologues is that they are usually b-o-r-i-n-g -  referred to as "word dumps" or "data dumps" - stuff the author wants the reader to know but doesn't want to take the time or expend the effort to work the information into the story, where it belongs.

Another problem is that they are often too long - I certainly wouldn't read nine pages unless it was absolutely compelling, meaning full of action and emotion. Readers don't want to wade through pages and pages of information, when they are unable to judge for themselves whether or not it is important; they want to be dropped right in the middle of something happening on the very first page. Besides that, a prologue usually screams "amateur!"

My advice to you would be to do the work you are expected to do: glean from your nine pages that which is absolutely necessary to the story, and find a way to blend it in.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated.  I am proud of my high score over 1350+ questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand

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I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.

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I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

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BA degree in Written Communication

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