In the technical and technology worlds, the term “data dump” has a particular meaning. In the world of writing and editing, it has a different meaning.
As a senior editor for a large engineering consulting firm, I worked on high-end proposals, reports, PowerPoint presentations and other word-intensive projects. Many of the people I worked with were good at organizing and writing, but others would simply present the editors with a stack of material to be “edited” into a document – in other words, a data dump. Wordsmithing a written document is one thing, but trying to sort through, and make sense of, paragraphs of information possibly assembled by a crazed packrat is something else again.
Good writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is writing that has been run through the filter of “critical thinking.”
For writers wishing to self-publish, the question is one begging to be answered. When you look at the words on your pages, is it writing that’s been put through the critical thinking filter or is it still just data?
In other words, what’s the logic behind the book? If it’s a “how-to” book, have you provided all the information needed to do whatever it is? And have you put that information into coherent logical steps? Does your memoir have a theme, a through-line that holds the incidents included together in a coherent picture? Even an experimental novel has a logic of its own.
Critical thinking is the foundation of a polished manuscript ready for publication.