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Writing and Publishing

Write Every day or At Least Write Regularly

The one single most important thing I ever did was to make the commitment to write every day.

This principle to write every day, however, is shorthand to write regularly. At first, I wrote five days a week, Monday through Friday. Then I made it six days and eventually seven. Now I’m back to six. It’s a rhythm that works for me in this season of my life.

Through all these variations, the one constant is that I get up every weekday morning and shuffle off to my writing desk. Whether I feel like it or not, I sit down and write. I commit to at least an hour each day, but my goal is to write longer. Usually, I make it.

Until I began to write regularly, the writing was ancillary. Now it’s central, and that’s made all the difference.

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

E-Book Formatting

Though I could hire someone to format my e-books, I format my own. For me, it’s a question of control.

With more people self-publishing and many doing their own formatting, readers no longer expect one ideal format. Even traditional publishers aren’t consistent in how they format their e-books. The key is to make sure the formatting doesn’t get in the way of the reader’s experience.

I use the free e-book formatting tool on draft2digital.com. I output a Mobi file and test it using Kindle Previewer. If it’s good, I upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Else, I continue to tweak it until I’m satisfied with the results. Draft2Digital also provides an epub file, which all other platforms use. In addition to Amazon (KDP), I also consider publishing with Draft2Digital, Kobo, Ingram Sparks, and Publish Drive.

There are also other free resources and inexpensive tools to format books. And for those who don’t want to mess with e-book formatting, there are many people who will do it for you. Check out Reedsy and Fiverr, I’ve used both for publishing-related services and had positive experiences. Another option is BookBaby, though I’ve not used them. In all cases, the price and quality vary, so proceed with care.

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

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

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

Before You Write a Novel, Start With Something Shorter

Write short stories to master the art of fiction writing

May is short story month. I share this news in advance so you can consider how you want to celebrate. You might want to spend the month reading short stories or perhaps focus on writing a few. But regardless, give short stories some consideration in the month of May. Doing so will inform your other writing, whether you write fiction or not.

I know many beginning writers who sit down to write a novel. They have a vision and enthusiasm, but not much else. They start writing but soon give up in frustration. And for the few who do finish, their story isn’t that good.

I’ve often heard that novelists write several bad novels before penning a good one. Those first books serve as training for them to learn what works and doesn’t, to find their voice, and to hone their craft. They need to figure out plot and structure and story arc and character development and dialogue and a slew of other things. And they write several practice books to get there.

Why not write several practice short stories instead?

I took that path. In fact, I focused on flash fiction: short stories with fewer than one thousand words. I experimented with a first-person and third person, present tense and past tense. I even wrote a second-person, present-tense short story—something I’d hate doing for an entire book.

Using short stories, I fine-tuned my dialogue. I worked on intriguing titles, strong openings, and satisfying closes. I practiced “show, don’t tell” and worked on word choice.

I did all this in preparation to one day write a novel. You see, I didn’t want to waste several novels practicing. I used my short stories for that. I got feedback from critique groups, hired tutors, and studied.

Then one day I wrote a piece of flash fiction. It started out as 900 words. But I liked the premise and added to it to produce a 2,500-word short story. I fell in love with the characters and wanted to write more. I did write more, a lot more. By the time I finished my story arc I had a 28,000-word novella. But it needed more. Next, I added two secondary story arcs and the length grew to 46,000 words, enough for a short novel and about perfect for the YA (young adult) genre.

So my 800-word piece of flash fiction grew into a 46,000-word novel.

But the story isn’t over.

Last year, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a 49,000-word sequel. Then I mapped out a series. I’m ready to start writing books three and four.

Writing short stories prepared me to write novels. And writing fiction helps me write better nonfiction and memoir.

To celebrate the short story. May is short story month. It even has its own Twitter account: @ShortStoryMonth, which often uses the hashtag #shortreads.

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

How Much Does It Cost to Indie Publish a Book?

The price to indie publish a book varies greatly. The answer depends on your skills, budget, and book-length.

I’ve heard people explain how you can publish a book for under one hundred dollars. While their advice is accurate, the results won’t produce a professional-looking book that will get people’s attention and earn good reviews. I suggest not trying to publish a book on the cheap.

There are also people who outsource much of the work and pay several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars to publish a book. If you have a lot of money, that may be the option to choose.

For myself, I budget $1000-$1500 per book. Here are my typical expenses:

Developmental Edit: $100 to $800 (though you can spend much more)

Copy edit/Proofread: $300 to $600, depending on the book-length

Cover Design: $300 to $500

Interior Layout: under $100 and up

I do everything else myself, so the only cost there is my time.

For the developmental edit and copy edit/proofread many editors charge by the word. Others charge by the page or by the hour. I prefer the per-word fee because I know what my cost will be. Though you can find people offshore who will do this service for much less, be careful. They may not speak English as their primary language or even if they do, their editing work may fail to meet the expectations of native English readers. Also, with any type of editing work, the longer the book, the more it will cost.

For the cover design and interior layout, you can save money by going offshore and still get a professional result. I’ve worked with cover designers in several countries and have gotten good quality artwork. I’ve only worked with one interior layout designer, and she did a great job.

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

Login Fatigue

Do you suffer from “login fatigue?” I know I do. Login fatigue is that overwhelmed feeling produced by having too many computer login names, passwords, and codes to keep track of. (A Google search for “login fatigue” resulted in 75,400,000 entries, more than a hundred times higher then when I last checked. I am sure that number will keep growing.)

It’s not that I’m lazy or trying to make a statement about logging in. The sad reality is that I had way too many logins to keep track of.  As a result, I’ve had to resort to maintaining a list of my various cyberspace logins.

For the most part, I needed every one of them to conduct business. There are a variety of financial websites, secure access for numerous services, a plethora of logins for my diverse Internet presence (email, Websites, blogs, search engines, and so forth), and even a few—a precious few—for personal enjoyment.

Because of this frustration, I used to regularly close websites that require I login just to peek at their treasure trove of information. I’m not talking about those pay-for, subscription sites—which I steadfastly avoid. I’m referring to those free sites that demand that I setup an account and login with each visit. Nope, it’s not going to happen.

Its been suggested that we need some sort of universal login, one login that will work for multiple sites. That sounded great to me. I needed it.

So when I’ve heard about Last Pass and 1Password, I got excited. I looked into them. Both securely manage passwords and generate unique passwords for each website you use. Try them. You’ll like it.

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

Contest Conundrum

I have paid to enter some contests. It’s okay when you win, but it’s a double hit when you don’t.

Contest Fees

I’ve paid from $1 to $20 to enter contests, and each time they gave a compelling reason why I needed to compensate them to consider my work. And each time I’ve felt duped afterward.

Going forward, the only reason I would pay to enter a contest was if I was going to receive feedback on my submission. So far, I’ve never seen this offered in the contests I’ve considered.

Beware Bogus Contests

Also, be aware there are some bogus contests, whose only purpose is to make money for the contest owner through the submission fees they charge. Research contests carefully and steer clear if you have concerns.

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

Avoid Big Word Syndrome

Selecting the right word is important for writers. In fact, aside from using the correct punctuation to frame those words, it is the only thing. This may seem shocking but at the most basic level, all we do as writers are figure out what word comes next. Then we insert punctuation for clarity. The words we choose are what matters most.

A sloppy writer will grab the first word that comes to mind; a diligent writer makes sure it is the right word, while a perfectionist agonizes over every selection. To aid in finding the right words, a dictionary is their constant companion.

When I started writing, I was more often diligent than sloppy. Unfortunately, my diligence soon assumed the wrong focus. I thought using bigger words made my writing better, that sending readers to the dictionary, scratching their heads, was a good thing. This, I reasoned, would surely earn their respect for my command of the English language and my soaring intellect. I was delusional on both counts.

I was writing to impress, not communicate. I fell victim to big word syndrome.

If a big word is the best word, then use it. However, if a smaller word works just as well, grab it, and if shorter fits better, it’s a win for everyone. (I suppose an exception might be high-level academic work and scholarly reviews but only if your goal is to impress others.)

When I read my past work, even from a few years ago, I often shudder at my fascination with big word syndrome. I’m getting better at it, but I’m a work in progress as I strive to improve.

As writers aren’t this the case for all of us? We are a work in progress, determined to get better.

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.