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News

Startel Interviews Peter DeHaan

Earlier this year Vince Vitale, marketing director at Startel, interviewed Peter Lyle DeHaan about the future of the call center industry and learned about his best content marketing tips.

The result is a two-part series.

The first piece, titled “Peter Lyle DeHaan: Contact Center Futurist,” appeared online in March this year. In it, DeHaan looked at the industry’s past to get a feeling for where it’s headed. “I see a bright future for the industry, limited only by our imagination and creativity,” said DeHaan.

His advice to get there is to “Invest in people, for frontline staff is our essential difference and our future distinction. Then support them with the best technology tools possible.”

The second piece, titled “9 Contact Center Writing Tips for Content Writers from the Guy Who Literally Wrote the Book on the Call Center Industry” addresses promotion opportunities for call centers and telephone answering services. DeHaan’s mission is to “change the world one word at a time.”

He warns against posting content on social media which limits what your audience sees and can summarily shut you down at any moment, for any reason. Therefore, post on your website, which you own and control.

“Once you have a professional looking and visitor-friendly website, consider content marketing for engaging prospects and for search engine optimization (SEO),” added DeHaan. Yet he noted that “Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. It requires practice.”

Call centers can produce content internally. Their staff knows the industry but may struggle with writing. Or they can outsource the writing part, but those experts may struggle with understanding the industry. It’s a difficult balance to achieve.

Regardless, “Start by producing quality content with a visitor-first perspective. Don’t write for search engines because they can’t make a buying decision. Only after you’ve written it should you factor into the piece good SEO practices.”

With a lifetime of relevant experience, Peter Lyle DeHaan has written extensively about the call center industry. He owns and publishes Connections Magazine, along with launching and publishing AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News.

Healthcare Call Center Essentials: Optimize Your Medical Contact Center to Improve Patient Outcomes and Drive Organizational Success

His industry related books include Healthcare Call Center Essentials, Sticky Customer Service, and How To Start a Telephone Answering Service.

His next book, Sticky Sales and Marketing, is due out later this year.

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Writing and Publishing

Tips on Getting Feedback

After writing regularly, the second most valuable thing I did was to get feedback on my writing. It was scary at first (and sometimes still is).

But to get feedback from our family or friends doesn’t count. They love us and will only tell us good stuff. Or even worse, they’ll say our writing is good when it isn’t.

Instead, get feedback from serious writers and readers. But don’t request feedback from someone who doesn’t write or read in your genre; they’re not qualified to give valuable input.

Here are some ideas for getting feedback:

  • Join a critique group, either online or in person.
  • Work with another writer to provide feedback to each other.
  • Hire an editor or mentor to help you hone your words.

Something that’s important to me when I give and get feedback is to “speak the truth in love.” I’ve worked with some editors who gave me good feedback, but their delivery was so caustic that it made me ill.

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.

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Writing and Publishing

What Do You Like and Dislike in the Books You Read?

In the book From No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo), talks about constructing our Manga Carta 1 and Manga Carta 2. What does he mean by that?

Manga Carta 1 is a list of what we like in the novels we read. Manga Carta 2 is a list of what we dislike in the novels we read.

Once determined, we can use these two lists to inform our own books as we write and edit them.

Here are my two lists:

Manga Carta 1 (what I like in a novel):

  • Strong main character
  • Character growth
  • Interesting characters with a bit of a quirk
  • Balanced characters with good traits and bad, including the antagonist
  • Unexpected twists
  • Believable story arc
  • Short chapters
  • Page-turning read
  • Snappy dialogue
  • Short or concise writing without fluff, wasted scenes, and unneeded description

Manga Carta 2 (what I don’t like in a novel):

  • Multi-POVs all told first person.
  • Sad endings
  • Ambiguous endings
  • Over-the-top, mean characters
  • Implausible plot twists
  • Blocks of description
  • Meaningless details
  • Preachy or agenda driven
  • Flowery or poetic writing
  • Boring middles that just plod along
  • The predictable, sometimes manufactured, major roadblock at two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through the novel.

I encourage you to make your own lists. Then consider them as you work on your novels.

Categories
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

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Pen Names

Authors use pen names for assorted reasons. Here are some that come to mind.

To Hide Their Identity

Sometimes an author needs to not identify themselves to protect them and their loved ones. This might be because they write about a highly volatile topic or a significantly personal one.

A pen name protects them and keeps them safe.

To Experiment

Some established authors want to try a different genre without it having any possible negative impact on the sales of their existing books. A pen name accomplishes this.

To Avoid Embarrassment

Sometimes authors grab a pen name to separate them from their genre.

One example of this might be someone publishing erotica but who doesn’t want anyone to know. Of course, there are other situations as well, such as the soccer mom and PTA president writing graphic horror or the gruff construction worker writing romance.

To Not Confuse Readers

A fourth reason to use a pen name is to avoid confusing readers. For example, an author of Amish romance might use a pen name for their sci-fi books.

This isn’t to imply that some readers wouldn’t enjoy both genres, but most won’t—and might stop reading the author altogether. Yes, the book cover should identify the genre, but some readers will still miss that.

In addition to readers, genre hopping can also confuse the Amazon algorithms and start suggesting the wrong books to the wrong readers.

My Take on Pen Names

My recommendation is to avoid pen names whenever possible. It quickly becomes too complex and is too time consuming to manage.

Yet, I’ve gone this route—sort of—with a quasi-pen name.

Most of my writing is biblical Christianity for the Christian market. I publish those books using Peter DeHaan.

Yet I also write for the business market, including my book about writing and publishing, using my full name, Peter Lyle DeHaan.

Why?

I don’t want to confuse readers (or Amazon), so I need to make a delineation, but I can’t use a real pen name because I have two PhDs, one relevant to each area. It’s hard to claim PhD status on a pen name.

When I’m ready to publish fiction, I plan to do so under a third name: P D Haan, which when you say it, sounds like my real name. I don’t anticipate much reader overlap between these three areas, so I’ll minimize confusion by using three somewhat different names.

My three pen names are not a secret, but I think using them does make marketing sense.

Pen Names Conclusion

When it comes to pen names, do as I say, not as I do.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Analyze Your Short Stories

Analyze Your Short Stories

In my post “Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long,” I talked about the benefits of writing short stories. I’ve catalogued mine and analyzed them. You should analyze your short stories too.

Here Are My Results

So far, I’ve written 23 short stories (plus one that turned into a novella).

Most of them are third person, past tense, which most readers prefer and is an easy default for most authors. But I’ve also written first person, as well as present tense, in addition to one second person piece.

Here is the breakdown:

  • Third person, past tense: 14 stories
  • First person, present tense: 5 stories
  • First person, past tense: 2 stories
  • Third person, present tense: 1 story
  • Second person, present tense: 1 story

First person, past tense is the easiest to write, but I prefer the personal, immediacy of first person, present tense. (And I doubt I’ll ever write second person again.)

Considering Genre

Looking at the genre is a bit more complicated, as some of them I’m not really sure about and others are cross genre. Here’s my first attempt:

  • Contemporary fiction: 7
  • Young Adult: 6
  • Middle Grade: 4 (all my middle grade shorts are backstories for characters in my novels)
  • Contemporary fantasy: 3
  • Sci-Fi: 2
  • Romance: 1 (though most of my writing has a romantic element)

As far as my novels—two are done but not-yet-published with five more in various stages of writing—they are all third person, past tense.

And my one novella is first person, present tense.

For genre, I think my novels cover young adult, contemporary fantasy, romance, and sci-fi.

Analyze Your Short Stories

Why do I share this?

Analyze your short stories to see what you write—and don’t write. Also notice what you like and don’t like.

Use the results to chart your path forward.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long

Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long

In “How to Write a Book,” I posted that the best approach for aspiring book authors is to start out with shorter pieces. No one wants to hear that, but it’s true.

Shorter pieces let writers experiment and learn—quickly. Feedback is fast. And in an online world, corrections are easy to make.

For nonfiction writers, shorter pieces mean blog posts and articles.

For fiction it means short stories.

Nonfiction Results

Over the years, I’ve written a couple thousand blog posts, which are mostly on my main website and with many more here on this site. (I once had five blogs going. Now I’ve consolidated them and am down to two.)

I’ve also written hundreds of articles—both in print and online—many of which I’ve compiled and catalogued here on this site as well.

In addition, I’ve ghost-written several hundred pieces—mostly blog posts along with some articles—for my writing clients too.

These amount to more than one million words. And I wrote most of them before I published my first book, which now total two dozen—and growing. They are all listed here in the books section, as well as other places, too, such as my main website and my business writing website.

Fiction Initiatives

I’ve not done nearly as much in the fiction area, but I did cut my teeth on short stories before attempting novels. Though a few of my short stories have been published, my novels are still in progress, but I am getting closer to publication.

I just need to allocate time to work on them.

Moving Forward with Shorter Pieces and Long

I’ll continue to write short, as I now focus on writing long.

I have a list of over one hundred book ideas, which should keep me busy for a long time.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Podcasts about Writing and Publishing

In 2016 I posted “Recommended Podcasts for Writers and Content Producers.” Though I’ve made some updates to my writing podcasts post over the years, it’s time to make a new post.

Of that list of 17 podcasts, six have ceased and one I stopped listening to. That means 10 have remained, some of which have rebranded. They are:

  1. The Creative Penn (Joanna Penn) addresses writing from the perspective of a successful indie author.
  2. Novel Marketing discusses novel marketing, much of which applies to nonfiction too.
  3. Writing Excuses is a team of accomplished writers who discuss the craft of writing.
  4. The Sell More Books Show with Bryan Cohen and H. Claire Taylor
  5. Christian Publishing Show helps Christian writers change the world.
  6. Self-Publishing Advice Podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi ).
  7. Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
  8. Kobo Writing Life is a podcast about writing and self publishing.
  9. The Writer’s Ink addresses the the business of writing.
  10. Six Figure Authors is the podcast that helps you take your writing career to the next level.

I’ve also added seven new podcasts too:

  1. Gate Crashers Podcast, with literary agent Amanda Luedeke and marketer and freelancer Charis Crowe.
  2. Mind Your Business for Authors, with Joe Solari
  3. Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast.
  4. The Self-Publishing Show, with Mark Dawson and James Blatch.
  5. The Indy Author Podcast, with Matty Dalrymple.
  6. The Author Success Mastermind, with J. Thorn and Crys Cain.
  7. Pastor Writer, with host Chase Replogle.

That brings the total back to 17. It would seem that my podcast consumption has remained the same over the years, staying steady at 17 writing podcasts, but that’s not true.

Podcasts (at least the ones I listen to) are getting longer. It used to be that an hour long podcast was the exception; now it’s more the norm. Fortunately I now listen to them at 2x speed, so that helps. This let’s me listen to them all.

Still I go with the adage that “less is more.” For this reason, I always listen to the shorter writing podcasts first. Then I do the longer ones later.

(I also listen to 3 Patreon Q & A podcasts from The Creative Penn (Joanna Penn), Novel Marketing (Thomas Umstattd Jr.), and Writers, Ink.)

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Writing and Publishing

Practical Tips for Dealing with Rejection

Rejection comes at two times: prior to publication and after publication. 

Pre-publication rejection comes from agents and publishers saying “no” to our work. It isn’t good enough or “doesn’t meet our needs at this time.” A form of what can feel like rejection also comes from feedback on our work from critique groups, beta readers, and editors.

Post-publication rejection comes from reviews and online (or in-person) criticism of our work. This type of rejection is often the hardest to deal with because it may be mean-spirited or a personal attack.

Here are some ways to deal with rejection and negative feedback:

Accept that Rejection Will Occur: Know that rejection and negative feedback is part of what it is to be a writer. There’s no way to avoid it. The common advice is to develop a thick skin. Yes, that’s true. But how do we go about becoming thick-skinned? 

Developing a thick skin isn’t easy, but try focusing on the reasons why you write. What drew you to writing in the first place? What parts of it give you joy or fill you with satisfaction? Hold on to these positive elements of writing when dealing with the hurt of rejection.

Some writers keep a file of positive notes, emails, and other encouraging feedback. When rejection or hurtful comments occur, they spend time reviewing what they’ve saved in their file to offset the negative.

Consider the Source: Look at who is rejecting or criticizing your work. Do they know what they’re talking about? Do they have the expertise to state an informed opinion? Have they even read your piece, or are they rejecting what you wrote based on some external or inconsequential bit of information? 

Everyone has a right to state their opinion, but not everyone’s opinion is worth our time to consider it.

Seek to Learn from It: Each rejection or criticism holds the potential for a learning opportunity. Yes, rejection stings. But often there’s something in it we can take hold of and use to improve our writing, whether it’s in this piece or the next. Don’t dismiss these potential tidbits just because they exist within a hurtful rebuke.

Know When to Dismiss It: We should ignore some rejections and criticisms outright. The negativity that fails to address our writing but instead focuses on us as an individual is a personal attack that doesn’t merit our attention. Recognize that the person making this attack has a personal issue they’re dealing with inappropriately. Unfortunately, they chose to direct their problem at you. Dismiss their words and move on.

Limit Your Exposure: Many authors never read the book reviews that readers post online. They face two risks in doing so. One is to believe all the five-star reviews, and the other is to believe all the one-star reviews. Both give us an unbalanced perception of our writing ability or lack thereof. Therefore, don’t read your reviews. 

Other authors have an assistant read their reviews. The relay only those comments that may contain relevance to the author.

Of course, pledging to not read reviews and then following through is hard. But the risk of not doing so is too high, with one scathing review—even if unwarranted—possessing the potential to send us into a downward spiral of despair. 

Instead of reading reviews, write your next book.

Take Time to Grieve: This bit of advice reminds us to not push aside the pain of rejection but to acknowledge it. Just don’t wallow in it. Some people take a day or two to cool off. Others indulge in a guilty pleasure, such as a bowl of ice cream or chocolate candy bar. Or they may hang out with friends who understand them, love them, and encourage them. Then they resume writing.

Any writer who shares their work with anyone should expect various forms of rejection to occur. Accept this reality as part of writing, but strive to not let it damage you as a writer or as a person. Use it to make you a better writer and a stronger person. Then keep on writing.

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Writing and Publishing

Self-Editing Tips for Writers

It’s hard to catch mistakes in our own writing. No matter how hard I try, I still miss a lot. With every piece I get back from an editor, I’m dismayed over the many errors I didn’t catch, even though I know better.

Of course, they also spot many mistakes I would have never caught, which is why I always use at least two editors for every book. Despite these shortcomings, editors often remark that my writing is clean. But given all their corrections, I’d hate to see a piece that wasn’t.

So how do we catch errors in our writing before sending it to an editor?

Edit from a printed copy: Many authors print their work and edit from a hard copy. One author says she touches the tip of her pen to each word as she reads it. Though this is a good idea, I don’t have that much patience. 

I don’t print my work. I’m too frugal (codename for cheap) and environmentally conscience to waste paper and ink printing each book multiple times. Therefore, I do all my editing onscreen, knowing I’d catch more errors if I scrutinized it in printed form as opposed to an electronic version.

Read Backwards: Though it seems nonsensical, I’ve heard writers who insist they read backward when proofing their work. I tried it—for about ten seconds—and gave up. I don’t get this technique, not at all.

Read Aloud: To combat my aversion to printing my work, I began reading it out loud. Though my wife gave me strange looks and mocked me, I caught many more errors with this approach. Unfortunately, since I knew what I intended to write, that’s often what I read, even though that’s not what I typed.

Use Text-to-Speech Software: An even more effective way to proof work is through text-to-speech software. That way my computer reads my words to me. I catch so many errors this way. It may be why editors often say my writing is clean. This method works for me and works well.

I use this approach when editing my work. I do so three times for each book. The first is before it goes to my developmental editor. The second is before it goes to my copy editor/proofreader. And the third is just before I publish it.