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Writing and Publishing

Finding a Writing Mentor

Many Writers Wish They Had a Mentor

The problem is that those who are most qualified to be a mentor are also the busiest, and the people who have time are usually not as experienced.

If you find someone who would make a great mentor, just ask them, but leave them room to say, “No,” because they likely will. As an option, offer to provide them something of value in return.

It could be money, but more valuable might be a service that you could offer in exchange for mentoring. If you’re flexible and willing to give them something in return, the answer might just be “Yes!”

Consider Co-Mentoring

Another possibility is to find someone to co-mentor. If you’re both at the same place in your writing journey but have different strengths and weaknesses, then you can help each other grow as writers. This may be a more viable option.

Mentoring from Afar

Last, someone can mentor you from afar. I read blogs and especially listen to podcasts about writing and publishing. I consider these people as my mentors. I’ve never met them and most of them don’t know who I am, but they do mentor me from a distance and help me write better and publish more effectively.

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Writing and Publishing

Quotes for Writers

Check out these quotes for writers (in no particular order)

“It’s splendid to be a great writer, to put men into the frying pan of your imagination and make them pop like chestnuts.” -Gustave Flaubert

“Story, finally, is humanity’s autobiography.” -Lloyd Alexander

“Your voice dries up if you don’t use it.” -Patti Page

“The problem in our country isn’t with books being banned, but with people no longer reading.” -Ray Bradbury

“A word after a word after a word is power.” -Margaret Atwood

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” -William Butler Yeats

“Writing is the Latin of our times. The modern language of the people is video and sound.” -Lawrence Lessig

“Historians tell the story of the past, novelists the story of the present.” -Edmond de Goncourt

“When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue–you sell him a whole new life.” -Christopher Morley

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.” -Jerry Seinfeld

“Never lend books —nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me.” -Anatole France

“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds.” -William Ellery Channing

“Don’t ask me who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.” -Giorgos Seferis

“When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.” -Samuel Lover

“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” -Juan Ramon Jimenez

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.” -Thornton Wilder

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” -Edmund Burke

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” -Stephen King

“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” -Ben Okri

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison

“When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.” -Jean Fritz

“Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” -Marc Brown

“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” -Will Rogers

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” -Lorrie Moore

“Humanity lives in its fiction.” -Blaise Cendrars

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects —with their Christianity latent.”  -C. S. Lewis

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” -Ernest Hemingway 

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others. -William Faulkner

“Every writer I know has trouble writing,” -Joseph Heller

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live. -Francoise Sagan

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.” -Thornton Wilder

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or a new thing in an old way.” -Richard Harding Davis

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.” -William Makepeace Thackeray

“A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” -Jorge Luis Borges

“Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.” -Laurence Sterne

“One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter—who was a child at the time—asked me, ‘Daddy, why are you writing so fast?’ And I replied, ‘Because I want to see how the story turns out!’” -Louis L’Amour

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” -Benjamin Franklin 

“In a given year, more people make a living as professional baseball players than as novelists.”  -Thomas Smith

“Don’t rewrite —relive.” -Ray Bradbury

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” -J.D. Salinger

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” -Pearl Strachan

“The coroner will find ink in my veins and blood on my typewriter keys.” -C. Astrid Weber

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” -Elmore Leonard

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” -Gustave Flaubert

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” -Isaac Asimov

“A lot of people talk about writing. The secret is to write, not talk.” -Jackie Collins

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.” -Thornton Wilder

“It is as easy to dream a book as it is hard to write one.” -Honore de Balzac

“There is no doubt that I have lots of words inside me; but at moments, like rush-hour traffic at the mouth of a tunnel, they jam.” -John Updike

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” -King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 6:11)

“The fool multiplies words.” -King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 10:14)

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” -King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

“I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account.” -Dr Luke (Luke 1:2-3)

“I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.” -Paul, the apostle (1 Corinthians 14:19)

“That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works,” -David, king of Israel (Psalm 26:7, KJV).

“Insomniac, I twitter away,” -Psalm 102:7, The Message).

“Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God,” Psalm 102:18, The Message).

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” -Herman Melville

“Omit needless words.” -William Strunk Jr.

“Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” -Norman Mailer

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed. “ -Orhan Pamuk

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition,” -Henry Miller

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” -Saint Augustine of Hippo

“Words were not given to man in order to conceal his thoughts.” -José Saramago

 “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.” -E. L. Doctorow

“Puns are the highest form of literature.” -Alfred Hitchcock

“You do have a story inside you; it lies articulate and waiting to be written—behind your silence and your suffering.” -Anne Rice

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” -Stephen King

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.” -Harper Lee

“A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.” -N. Scott Momaday

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” -Frank Herbert

“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” -Chinua Achebe

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.” -Virginia Woolf

“I read hungrily and delightedly, and have realized since that you can’t write unless you read.” -William Trevor

“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.” -Gore Vidal

“When you read a book, you hold another’s mind in your hands.” -James Burke

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.” -Maya Angelou

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.” -Abraham Maslow

“Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” -Ezra Pound

“Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.” -H.W. Fowler

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.” -Hart Crane

“No two persons ever read the same book.” -Edmund Wilson

“A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside of us.” -Franz Kafka

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” -William Faulkner

“Writing is thinking on paper.” -William Zinsser

“Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” -Ezra Pound

“To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one.” -Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

“Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.” -Ben Okri

“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” -Terry Pratchett

“Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.” -Stephen King

“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” -Christina Rossetti

“A poor idea well written is more likely to be accepted than a good idea poorly written.” -Isaac Asimov

“Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.” -Ben Okri

“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.” -Marianne Moore

“My stories run up and bite me in the leg—I respond by writing them down—everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.” -Ray Bradbury

“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” -P.L. Travers

“Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.” -Paul Theroux

“Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.” -Barbara Kingsolver

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” -Louis L’Amour

“Dialogue is the life you put into a story.” -John Yeoman

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work.” -Stephen King

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Writing and Publishing

What Is Your Twitter Strategy? Discover How to Use Social Media

At one time, publishers would be impressed with your sheer number of Twitter followers (or Facebook likes), but now their focus is more on engagement. What is your Twitter strategy to build your author platform?

Are you interacting with your Twitter followers? Do you try to connect with them, and do they appreciate the value of your tweets?

Follow people who share your mindset and fit this perspective, and don’t worry about following back the folks who don’t.

And never buy followers. This accomplishes nothing positive and will cause you huge problems.

Don’t focus on your numbers of social media connections but on the quality of interaction with the connections you have. This is the ideal Twitter strategy.

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Writing and Publishing

How to Find a Critique Group

Local Critique Groups

Keep looking for a local group. There may be some, but you just haven’t found them yet. Try bookstores, schools, libraries, and coffee shops—any place where writers hang out. Also, ask every writer you meet if they’re aware of any area critique groups.

Another option is to start your own critique group. It’s not hard. It’s what I did. Again, look online for ideas and recommendations on leading a successful critique group.

Online Critique Groups

As an option, consider an online group. There are many out there. Just do a search. These groups have different goals and various formats, so look them over to find one that’s right for you. And if your first choice doesn’t work, try a different one.

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Writing and Publishing

Self-Publishing Versus Pursuing a Traditional Book Deal

Should You Bother to Pursue a Traditional Publisher?

Traditional Authors

Traditional publishing requires less of the author, will likely result in more book sales, and carries the prestige of a publisher selecting your book for publication. The negatives include the effort to find a publisher, the length of time to publish the book, and earning much less per copy sold—if anything at all.

Indie Authors

A commonly sighted reason to not indie-publish is the requirement to market and promote our books. While it’s true that if we self-publish our books, we must market them if we expect to sell any, traditional publishers also expect you to help promote, market and sell your books. If you can’t or won’t do that, the publisher is unlikely to decide to publish your book. In short, they want authors who can move books.

Hybrid Authors

There is no one right answer. It depends on the goals and priorities of each individual author. Also, some authors do both, depending on the book. They’re hybrid authors, going with traditional publishers for some books and indie-publishing (self-publishing) for others.

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Writing and Publishing

Putting Blog Content in a Book

Can You Book Your Blog?

If a blog has a specific focus, could you compile this information in a book and sell it? But some people say you shouldn’t sell anything you’ve offered free. They think you won’t be able to sell something you once gave away (and may still be giving away) on your blog. An agent or publisher will also be concerned, fearful there is no one left to sell to.

However, I disagree.

Though you may have lost some sales, you will pick up a new audience with a book. In addition, some of your blog readers will buy a copy because they want all the content in one place in a convenient format, while others who read some posts won’t read the rest online, though they will read a book. Although it’s best if you can add new content to the book, which isn’t in your blog, this isn’t a requirement.

There are many cases of authors who successfully turned a series of blog posts into a book. (Of course, you can do the opposite and turn your book into a blog.)

With all the self-publishing options available to us today, I say go for it.

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Writing and Publishing

Do You Believe in Print?

Despite Interest in Audio and E-books, Don’t Write Off Print

As writers, our books can appear in three primary formats: printed books, e-books, and audiobooks.

Audio Books

Audiobooks have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Gone are the days of books on tape. Now it is digital files that readers listen to from their smartphones. This form of consumption has soared in the past couple of years, especially among younger generations. Audible books have also received a lot of buzz in recent months among the writing community. It seems I hear more about audiobooks than e-books nowadays.

E-Books

Reading books on devices is still popular. I hear the reader of preference has shifted from a dedicated reading device to a smartphone. However, many mainstream media have actually reported a decrease in e-book consumption.

Yet indie authors are quick to point out that a significant percentage of independent authors do not use ISBNs. This means no one tracks their sales as a whole. They maintain, though unverifiable, that e-book sales are grossly under-reported and are actually continuing their upward sales assent.

Printed Books

That leaves a print. For some 500 years, the print was the only reading option. While prognosticators have predicted the demise of printed books for the past several years, its death has yet to take place. Yes, it’s market share has declined, but readers still consume printed books and many prefer the tactile, and even olfactory, the experience of reading them.

Mainstream media also reports that younger generations are returning to print, apparently preferring to unplug and immerse themselves in the printed word. Besides, you don’t need a smartphone to read a print book. You don’t need charged batteries and you don’t need a signal to download content.

Do you believe in print?

Save

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Writing and Publishing

A Salute to Carrie Fisher and a Lesson for Writers

What writers can learn from the life and career of Carrie Fisher

On December 26, 2016, my wife and I went to see the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The next morning I learned that Carrie Fisher had died. Like most people, I knew her for her iconic performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Her obituary revealed so much more:

  • Worked steadily as an actress from 1975 through to her death
  • Author of several semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge
  • Wrote the screenplay for the film of the book
  • Starred in an autobiographical one-woman play
  • Author of the non-fiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on her play
  • Spoke about her experiences with bipolar disorder and drug addiction
  • Mental health advocate
  • Script doctor

All these items are impressive, but the last one caught my attention: script doctor. As the title suggests, a script doctor is someone who comes in to fix the screenplays of other writers. In short, when a screenplay is good but not working as well as it should, a script doctor reworks it to make it shine.

Carrie Fisher’s Wikipedia page says she was “one of the top script doctors in Hollywood.” Who would have thought? According to her Wikipedia page and her IMDB bio, here are some of the movies she worked on as a script doctor:

  • Hook
  • Sister Act
  • Lethal Weapon 3
  • Last Action Hero
  • The River Wild
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Coyote Ugly
  • My Girl 2
  • Outbreak
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  • Milk Money
  • Love Affair
  • Made in America

I’ve seen all but one of these flicks. In a lot of them she worked on dialogue or to develop a specific character. She worked as a script doctor for about fifteen years and said that at that time it was lucrative work (but apparently not so much anymore).

Carrie Fisher was known primarily as an actress, but she was also an author of books—both fiction and nonfiction—and screenplays, a script doctor, and an advocate. From her example, I have four takeaways for authors:

  1. Diversify our income stream. (She earned money as an actress, author, and script doctor.)
  2. Write in multiple genres. (She wrote fiction, nonfiction, and scripts.)
  3. Capitalize on our strengths. (She had a knack for dialogue and character development.)
  4. Use whatever platform we have to be a voice for what we’re passionate about. (She was able to use her popularity to talk about mental health issues and substance abuse.)

Thank you, Carrie Fisher. You entertained me and taught me about writing.

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Writing and Publishing

Writers Need to Learn By Doing

Knowledge about writing has value only when we put it into action

At the risk of offending all writers who are pursuing or want to pursue an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree in writing, let me share some concerns. Yes, I look at writers with MFA degrees with admiration, even though the eyes of envy. And as a person who has earned the right to hang letters of accomplishment after my name, I understand the heady allure and practical benefits of doing so. Yet I have also wondered if an MFA degree is worth the effort and the cost, both in terms of time and money.

This week in listening to one of the many writing podcasts I follow, the accomplished guest (sorry I forgot your name; I can’t even check because I don’t recall which podcast it was) put things very clearly for me. He (yes, I remember that much) said something to the effect of “Don’t waste your time on an MFA degree, where you will spend years writing one book. You’re better off spending that time writing many books.”

That makes sense, especially given that most authors have to write several novels before they pen one that’s marketable. That’s a big reason why I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this November to write my first novel. I want to get it out of my system. I need to move it from my head onto the page, inching me closer to authoring a book that is worthy. Of course, if my first novel is good I won’t complain, but I’m not expecting that outcome. But by the time I finish the series (two sequels and a prequel) I hope I’m ready.

I’ve been moving toward this for a couple of years: reading fiction, receiving instruction, opening myself to critique, and writing fiction. I started with short stories. Though each of these steps is essential, the final one matters most, the actual implementation. During the practice phase, the theory becomes real. When we apply head knowledge, it becomes an art.

I often run into wannabe writers who have stuffed their heads with theory but have never bothered to apply it by actually writing. Their ideas mean little and their critiques carry questionable merit because they lack the practical experience that turns education into work that matters.

Yes, learning is critical—and writers who refuse to learn are not really writers at all—but working out that head knowledge as we write is even more critical.

Writers spend their time writing and poseurs spend their time learning.


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Writing and Publishing

Does the Thought of Marketing Your Book Make You Squirm?

This blog is about writing. An important aspect of writing is marketing what we write, first to get it published and then to get it to read. I don’t talk much about promotion because, like many authors, I don’t like to do it; I don’t even want to think about it.

Robin Mellom's book Perfect Timing

When Robin Mellom told me she was thinking about self-publishing her next YA book, Perfect Timing, I encouraged her to do it and promised I’d help get the word out. Thankfully it’s much easier to “market” someone else’s book than your own.

Here are some easy steps we can do to promote another author’s work (which we can later apply to ourselves when the time comes). Consider these seven options:

Blog: We can blog about the author and the book. This can be direct or indirect. Even a brief mention with a link can help. We can also post a review of the book on our blog.

Amazon: We can review the book on Amazon. While every author wants five-star reviews, a book with only five-star reviews is suspect, so give an honest rating. Perhaps more important than the rating is the actual review itself and especially the headline we give it. If you spot another review that is favorable, mark it as “helpful” so more people can see and read it. More Amazon reviews mean more exposure to prospects by Amazon and more people likely to buy the book.

Goodreads: On Goodreads, we can first flag the book as one we “want to read.” Then, as we read it, we can post our progress. When we’re finished, we mark it as “done.” Each of these steps shows interest in the book and helps other Goodreads readers to discover it. Of course, we can also write a review on Goodreads. Some book-marketing gurus think Goodreads is more important than Amazon.

Facebook: We can make status updates about the book and the author. For example, “I can’t wait to read Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing” or “Perfect Timing was a real page-turner.” Of course, include links and even the cover. We can also follow the author; then “like” or comment on his or her updates. With Facebook, the more likes and comments an update receives the more people who will see it.

Twitter: We can tweet about the author and the book. Use their Twitter handle and book hashtag. We can also follow the author and retweet their tweets. All these efforts increase their reach on Twitter.

Pinterest: Technically with Pinterest, we’re only supposed to post our own images or ones we have the right to post, but what author would object to us pinning their cover? The more places it appears, the better.

In-Person: Although we think about using social media for marketing, we can also go old-school and talk about books in person with our friends and family.

Try some of these options to help your friends promote their books. Then when it comes time to market your own, it will be a bit easier.

(And please check out Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing.)

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.