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Writing and Publishing

How to Fuel Your Writing

I write a lot and in many areas: magazine columns, newsletters, multiple blogs, non-fiction books, memoirs, and I recently added short stories. But this doesn’t sap my creativity; I still have more ideas than the time to explore them.

Here’s how I fuel my writing:

Keep a List of Blog Ideas: I have a running Word file of concepts for posts. Whenever a thought comes to me, I jot it down on whatever is available and transfer it to my blog file. Some ideas are immediately useful and some evolve over time, while a few fail to materialize. With this list, I always have a starting point for my next post.

Maintain a File of Book Concepts: I also have a running list of book ideas, which currently exceeds four dozen. It has a list of working titles, along with a premise, logline, or theme. As the idea blooms, I start a separate folder to collect a growing body of ideas and resources for that book. Soon an outline follows. When I contemplate my next book, I simply pick the most developed or promising item on my list.

Record Every Presentation: I don’t often speak publically, but when I do, I always record it. This isn’t because of ego but because my words may be a basis for a book. If so, I simply have the file transcribed, and I edit as needed. An hour of audio roughly equates to 10,000 words.

Save All Cuts: Each time I remove a scene from a book, a section from an article, or a paragraph from a post, I keep it. It may come in handy one day. Often it becomes the basis for another book, article, or post. Whatever I cut, I always save.

File Every Published Work: Once I publish something, that’s not the end; it may be the beginning. Books can come out in different forms or formats; articles may be reworked; posts can be repurposed. I never want to recreate when I can tap something already finished. (There are legal and ethical limits to this, so proceed carefully.)

Retain All Non-Published Work: Just because I can’t find a home for something now, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It could be the timing’s off, the right outlet hasn’t been found – or formed, or the audience is temporarily looking elsewhere. Perhaps I need to set it aside for later tweaking. Regardless, I never delete or dismiss it. Sometime, somewhere readers will be waiting – and I want to be ready.

By implementing these steps, I always have ideas on what to write.

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

Writing Investment

For years I made the mistake of not investing in learning the craft of writing. Though I certainly put in the time, for years I was reluctant to spend money. But taking the cheap way out merely held me back.

Here are some investments I’m now making to become a better writer:

  • Study magazines about writing and publishing
  • Read books and blogs about writing and publishing
  • Listen to podcasts about writing and publishing
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Hire editors: developmental editors, copy editing, and proofreading
  • Join online classes about specific writing-related topics
  • Take part in online writing communities
  • Hire mentors and teachers

Of course, none of these things would help if I weren’t regularly applying them every day by writing. This is a long list, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one item to invest in and add more over time.

Note that not everything costs money but merely time. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts is a free option to learn about writing and publishing.

Bonus tip: The one mistake I almost made but didn’t was quitting my day job to write full time. This was about eight years before I was ready. Yikes!

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

Find and Follow a Writer’s Style Guide

The Elements of Style is an excellent writing resource. Start with it. Then build on that foundation. 

For a comprehensive reference on punctuation and formatting, there are several notable resources. Unfortunately, none of them are in complete agreement, with obvious conflicts. Each guide has its advocates. And many have specific applications. 

While some people know the major style guides and their differences, I struggle to comprehend one. I selected The Chicago Manual of Style because it best addresses the various types of writing I do. I use it as my go-to reference.

I also ask my editors to follow it. It comes in book form and is also online at www.chicagomanualofstyle.org

In addition to The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), other style guides include:

  • AP (Associated Press)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • Turabian, often used for academic work

Special application style guides include:

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • AMA, the American Medical Association
  • NLM, the National Library of Medicine
  • CSE, the Council of Science Editors Manual
  • ACS, the American Chemical Society
  • ASA, the American Sociological Association
  • The Bluebook, for the legal profession

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new 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

Finding Balance in Writing and Life

Personally, when it comes to finding balance, it seems something is always slipping, with the areas of writing, work, and life being in a constant state of tension. Yes, there are times where I may go a couple of days keeping everything in balance, but one little bump in the road and the whole thing falls apart.

The key in finding balance is to continually ask ourselves this question about work-life balance and make whatever minor tweaks we can to move closer to achieving a sustainable equilibrium.

Each writer needs to figure this out, to learn what works best for themselves and their situation. Something common to all writers is that the solution requires intentionality and self-discipline.

One thing we can be sure of, if we don’t strive to make balance happen, it won’t.

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 entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Writing and Publishing

Should You Write a Book or Blog?

Many writers starting out try to blog and write a book at the same time. They end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready.

Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and endure much frustration. That assumes they finish the book. But they’re more apt to give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.

Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words—and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill (see “10,000 Hours”), I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction.

Blogging (and short pieces) offer several advantages: 

  • Blog posts are quick and easy to write.
  • Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
  • Feedback is fast.
  • Errors are easy to fix.
  • Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—trains us to meet deadlines.
  • Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces.

There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these outcomes are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend starting out with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later (see “Work Up to Writing a Book”).

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

Finding Time to Write

Finding time to write is a dilemma most writers face at one time or another. Maybe all writers do.

I think the problem, however, is in the question. We don’t need to find time to write as much as we need to make time.

We each have 24 hours in our day. While work and sleep occupy part of each day, we exercise some degree of control over the rest. We decide what we will do with it. We can choose to write or opt to do something else.

Before you say, “But my situation is different,” let me agree with you.

Then let me ask, “How much time do you spend each week watching TV or on social media?” That is a prime opportunity to write instead.

If writing is important to you, you will make time to write. It may be a little or a lot. It may be every day or only once a week, but make it happen.

If you can carve out ten minutes a day, every day, and write one hundred words each day, by the end of the year you will have written 36,500 words.

If you can carve out one hour a week, every week, and write 500 words, by the end of the year, you will have written 26,000 words.

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

Writing Perspectives (Point of View)

Many beginning writers wonder about point of view in writing and which should they use. Though there are many books written on this subject, here’s a brief overview.

Note that most people use perspective and point of view interchangeably—that’s what I learned in High School English—but others make a distinction between them, claiming that point of view is the correct term for this discussion.

Here is a brief, basic overview of perspectives/points of view.

First Person Point of View

First-person perspective uses I, as in I said… or I went…

For example, I went to the bookstore to buy the latest book by my favorite author.

Second Person Point of View

Second person perspective uses you, as You said… or You went…

For example, you go to the store to buy a journal and pen.

Second person is hard to write (and to read), so most authors avoid it. As an exercise, I wrote a piece of flash fiction in the second person, present tense. It was tedious.

Third Person Point of View

The third-person perspective uses he, she, and they, as in He said… or They went…

For example. They went to a book signing to see the famous author.

Two Types of Third-Person Points of View

There are two flavors of third-person: Limited (only what the point of view character can observe or think) and Omniscient (where the narrator knows what everyone thinks).

Third-person omniscient is out of favor and seldom recommended any more—though many of the classics, including much of the Bible, is third-person omniscient.

Writing Tense

For each of these four options there are two choices: present tense (what is happening now) and past tense (what has already happened). This results in eight possible combinations to consider, but eliminating the second person and third-person omniscient, cuts our considerations down to four.

Past tense is easier to use, and the first person is more natural for most writers. After all, when we tell stories about ourselves to our friends, we use the first person, past tense.

Beginning writers should start with first person perspective, past tense, as in “I wondered which point of view I should use.” Then try third person, past tense, if you wish.

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

Keep Up on Evolving Writing Conventions

Do you want to stay current with other changes in writing conventions? I wish there was a site, a book, an app, or a publication that would answer these questions.

But if there’s a one-stop resource, I don’t know of it. Besides, there would likely be disagreement over it, anyway.

Here’s how I work to keep up with ever-changing writing trends:

  • Participate in critique groups.
  • Network with other writers.
  • Go to writing conferences.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to have a professional editor look at my work.
  • Learn from the recommendations of editors.
  • Study the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Look at the conventions followed in books recently produced by major publishers.

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

Benefits of Writing Short Stories

The main benefit of writing short stories before writing a novel is to identify and learn how to fix problems with our writing style and voice. And every writer has them.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Short story experience will help us edit and polish our longer works more effectively, before sending them off to a professional editor.
  • A novel’s chapters are often like short stories, with a beginning hook, page-turning middle, and satisfying end. So short story experience will help us in deciding chapter breaks, as well as starting chapters with more punch and ending them with more flare.
  • Short stories about characters in our novel will help us understand their backstory and then we can write, rewrite, and edit them more convincingly. (I wrote a couple of short stories about a sidekick in my novel, and she’s the one my beta readers most connect with.)
  • We can use short stories as a lead magnet to build our mailing list and to share with fans between novels. And this is even more compelling if the short stories are about our novel’s characters.
  • We can submit a short story to an anthology, which will give us a writing credit prior to publishing our novel.
  • Short stories give us an opportunity to experiment and try new things.

For those who write nonfiction, the same rationale applies to writing articles, blog posts, editorials, and so forth. In both cases, the goal is to start small and work up to longer pieces.

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

Writing about Your Health Issue

Many writers want to write a book about their health scare that almost killed them. But will publishers be interested in that book?

These stories are very personal for the writer, very real and raw. Unfortunately, it isn’t unique, and publishers want unique books. (Unless a writer has a big platform that will move books. Then publishers won’t care so much about the topic, because the size of the platform will overcome it.)

Publishers interested in your topic already have one or more books on the subject, and taking on another one could hurt the sales of the books they already have, so they’ll pass.

And publishers who haven’t published a book on your topic haven’t done so because they’re not interested in the subject.

The only likely scenario is a publisher who has published a book on your topic, but it’s dated and not selling well anymore. Then they may look to replace it with a new book—providing the author has a platform to move books and an agent to represent them.

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.