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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.

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

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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

How to Format Thoughts in Writing

Writers are often unsure of how to format thoughts in their writing.

Thoughts are best put in italic and do not include quotes. For example:

I hope this description makes sense to you.

An attribute tag, such as “he thought” is not used, since the person doing the thinking should be obvious from the context. You know this is my thought since I am the author.

However, I have seen some publishers use different approaches, such as putting thoughts in quotes, including the attribute tag, or even skipping the italics.

One publisher made thoughts indistinguishable from spoken dialogue, except for the tag “thought” rather than “said.” I don’t appreciate these alternate presentations of thoughts. This is especially dangerous, given that many readers overlook the descriptor tag.

Now, here’s a question for you. I’m working on a story concept where two characters communicate telepathically, and I wonder how I should format it. For example:

Where have you been? Shelly was angry and relieved at the same time.

You told me to go away, so I did. Terry’s sad aura filled the space between them.

It was six months ago. Only now did Shelly comprehend the impact of her careless words. I’ve missed you…so very much.

I’ve always been nearby, just waiting for you to call me back. Terry smiled, the first visible sign that he missed her, too.

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

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, 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 Social Media Content Strategy Is Right for You?

Some writers post new material on social media. Others repeat content from their blog. I do neither. Here’s why.

Republishing the whole post isn’t a good idea because it repeats content, and search engines dismiss duplicate content. And I feel it’s too time-consuming and therefore not a good use of my time to write new material just for social media. 

My goal is to direct people from social media to my website, my home base, which I own and control. Therefore, I post an excerpt from my blog posts on social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, with a link pointing back to the post on my website. I do so on Twitter, too, because their character limit necessitates brevity. 

Though social media platforms prefer you do not post links—because they want to keep visitors on their site—I want to get people to my site. That’s what’s most important to me. So I tease the post on social media and send people to my site to read the full piece.

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

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, 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 Advice that May Not Be True

There’s lots of advice floating around about writing, being a writer, and finding success. Though well-intentioned, some of this advice is bad information or oversimplified counsel. Here are some tips I’ve heard, many of which I’ve also said.

Check out these common pieces of advice and discover the truth about them. Though we’ve already touched on some of them, I repeat them here, so they’ll appear in one place.

Show Don’t Tell: Using words to paint a picture (showing) is more powerful than to state what happened (telling). In general, this tip is good advice, but it’s sometimes better to just tell readers what happened. For example, it would be boring to spend several pages showing readers about a four-hour car ride where nothing significant occurs. Instead just say, “Four hours later they arrived at their destination.” That’s telling, and in this case, it’s the right approach.

Write Every Day: Yup, I said this maxim before, and I share this tip every chance I get. But I don’t mean it literally. I mean it figuratively. What I mean is to write regularly. Although for you it might mean every day, it could be every weekday or only on the weekend. The point is to have a writing schedule and commit to it.

Although this guideline makes sense to me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, some writers chafe at the thought of writing every day. Instead, they only write when they’re inspired or have a deadline. If this idea works for you, embrace it. Ignore the advice to write every day, but not until you’ve tried it first.

Write in the Morning: This tip is another one of my favorite adages. Many people even claim scientific confirmation that the morning is the best time to write (or do anything important), with maximum productivity and optimum results. My morning production is far better than in the afternoon. Writing in the morning works for me and works well. The early hours are when the good stuff happens.

Some people claim the morning isn’t right for them, that other times of the day work better. If that’s you, and you’ve tried mornings only to find them lacking, ignore those of us who insist you write in the morning. Pick the time of the day that works best for you.

Write What You Know: There’s an element of truth to this recommendation. What we know best, we can write most effectively. 

When it comes to nonfiction, writing what I know flows with greater clarity and speed. But that doesn’t mean I can’t research something I don’t know and write an effective piece. I’ve done it many times.

When it comes to fiction, if I only wrote what I knew, it would be a boring piece about a middle-aged white guy living an uneventful, routine life. Who’d want to read that? Therefore, in my fiction, I write about what I don’t know. More specifically, I write what I can imagine. Then I live vicariously through my characters and their experiences that I make up. 

You Must Have A Platform: An agent once rejected my submission, not because of the quality of my work or relevance of my idea, but because I didn’t have a platform. He didn’t say I had a small platform. He said I had no platform. Ouch! I doubled down and began working on building my platform in earnest. I hated it. It sapped the life from me. I almost quit writing because platform building distressed me so much. Seriously.

Yes, having a platform to sell our books is important, regardless of whether we want to indie publish or hope to be traditionally published. A platform will help us be successful faster, but it isn’t a requirement.

You Must Be Active on Social Media: This statement often finds itself coupled with building an author platform. I’m on several social media sites, but I don’t get them—not really. And although social media is at times enjoyable, it can be a huge time suck. I’m better off spending that time writing.

Someone who enjoys social media and understands how to use it to connect with people can realize great benefits. But I’m not one of those people—at least not yet. I connect best with people through my newsletter, on my blog, and via email.

You Must Have a Website: I agree that an author website is essential. It doesn’t have to be fancy or extensive, but it must exist and be inviting. 

And for writers who think social media is an acceptable alternative to a website, I vehemently disagree. A social media platform can change its rules at any time for any reason, can shut down your account without warning, or not allow your followers to see your content. These actions happen all the time. 

But a website is something we control. That’s why it’s essential. Even so, some authors claim to get along fine without one.

You Must Have an Email List: Email isn’t a sexy, new technology, but it is a proven method of reaching people. As authors, having an email list remains our most effective way of selling books. If you don’t have an email list, start one today. Every name you ethically and legally add to your list is a prequalified buyer for your books. Sure, you may get by without an email list, but why is a risk not using the most effective book marketing tool available?

Always Use an Outline: When I write, I always have a plan to guide me. It may be an outline, bullet points, or a destination to write toward. This approach is the most effective way to write quickly, not waste words, and avoid unnecessary amounts of cutting. Using an outline is the most efficient way to write, and as a career author seeking to drive income through my words, greater efficiency means increased revenue potential.

There’s nothing wrong with being a discovery writer (pantser)—and many authors prefer this method, claiming that having a plan stifles their creativity. But this approach isn’t the fastest and most efficient way to write. You decide what works best for you.

Use Microsoft Word: I’ve been using Microsoft Word longer than I can remember. Although I used other word processing programs before it, they’re now ancient. Microsoft Word is the standard throughout the publishing industry. Although alternatives exist and each one has its merits, you’ll never go wrong using what the rest of the industry uses. (See “Word Processing Alternatives.”)

You Must Use an Editor: Although this tip is wise advice, it isn’t absolute. No one forces you to use an editor before you publish your work. But if you want to avoid harsh criticism and one-star reviews, use an editor. And if you say you can’t afford to use one, I say you can’t afford to. Your writing career and your reputation as an author is at stake. (See the chapter on “Editing.”)

I used two editors for this book, as I do with most of my books. I can guarantee you they didn’t catch everything—no book is error-free—but they did make this work a whole lot better than I could have ever done on my own.

Don’t Design Your Own Book Cover: Again, no one makes you hire a cover designer for your book. You can do it yourself. But unless you have experience as a graphic artist and have produced successful book covers for other authors, don’t attempt to make your own. 

Your cover is the single biggest means to sell your book, so you need the best cover possible. And you aren’t the one to do it.

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

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, 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.