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Writing and Publishing

Call Yourself a Writer

I remember it well.

Alone, I sit in my home office. I should be working. I’m not. I’m distracted. In my windowless basement room, I swing the door shut and dim the lights. I know what I must do, but I don’t want to.

I’ve been writing and publishing for years, but I’ve never owned this reality. Now I must. It’s a seminal moment, of that I’m quite sure. If I don’t do it today, it might never happen. My gut rumbles. I inhale deeply and close my eyes as if eyelids will afford me protection from what I’m about to do.

Pulse racing, my lips move, but no sound comes out. On my third attempt, an audible rasp oozes forth, a murmur I can barely hear. Almost indiscernible, I think I just mumbled, “I am a writer.”

I try again. Eventually, my volume rises to a normal speaking level, but my words still lack confidence. A few months later I try this in front of another person. It emerges as a most pitiful attempt. It takes a couple of years before I can confidently tell someone that I am a writer. 

That was years ago. Now saying “I am a writer” flows forth without effort and no self-doubt—because it’s true.

At writing conferences, I occasionally teach a workshop for newer writers. I often lead my class in saying this phrase out loud: “I am a writer.” Their first effort is cautious, timid. But by their third attempt, they grin with confidence. We need to first call ourselves writers if others are to believe it.

I am a writer and so are you. That’s why you’re reading this book.

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

How to Format Your Submission

There are two main points for the proper way to format your submission.

First, there are common basic criteria that almost all people agree on.

Second, most publishers and editors will tell you what else they expect in their submission guidelines. So, follow these basic formatting expectations in all your work, and then tweak it as needed for specific instances.

Here are the basics:

  • Times New Roman font: 12 points, black
  • Double-spacing between lines
  • Only one space to end a sentence
  • Flush left and jagged right (that is, left-justified but not right)
  • Indented paragraphs, usually a half an inch (Use the indentation setting in your word processor; don’t use a certain number of spaces or set a tab.)
  • One-inch top and bottom margins
  • Equal side margins (usually either one inch or one and a half inches)
  • Don’t have a hard break (that is, a “carriage return”) at the end of each line.
  • Don’t add an extra line at the end of a paragraph, except for a scene break or transition).

If you follow these basics, few editors will object, and most will consider you a pro.

Here are some bonus considerations:

  • Don’t format the margins differently on odd and even pages (as you would see in a book).
  • On the first page, include your name and contact information (email, phone, and mailing address) at the top, along with the word count (and with articles and short stories, indicate the rights you are offering). Some publications will specify that you put this information in the top right and others, the top left. Some will say to put this in the header and others will specify the top of the page, so expect some variation, but the key is to not omit this critical information.
  • For all other pages, add a header with your last name, short title, and the page number. There may be some variations on this too, but the main thing is to have this key information in a header (or footer), not on the page itself.

Last, don’t let formatting paralyze you. In almost all cases, editors will fix a minor deviation or two without complaint. They generally want you to succeed. Following conventional formatting—along with great writing—will help get your work published.

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

Social Media Content

For social media, I post an excerpt from my blog posts on social media, with a link pointing back to that post on my website.

Though social media platforms prefer you don’t do this, because they want to keep you on their site, I want to get people to my site. That’s what is most important to me. That’s why I tease the post on social media and send them to my site to read the full piece.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to repeat the whole post on social media, and it’s too time-consuming to write a new post just for social media.

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.

Categories
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 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.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Short Stories Versus Novels

A reader emailed me. He said you recommended starting by writing short stories. Unfortunately, I’m already near finishing my first novel (which took years of planning). I skipped the step of starting with short stories. What should I do?

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

It’s much easier to fix something that occurs a few times in a short story, than dozens or hundreds of times in a novel. And sometimes these problems in novels are so pervasive that they’re not worth fixing. That’s why many novelists abandon their first novel (and often their second and third and . . . ) to start over with a goal to avoid what they did wrong the first time.

Since you’re nearly done with your first draft, you won’t realize the benefits that come from writing short stories. So, given your situation, I encourage you to keep working on your novel.

However, you can realize other benefits by writing short stories, which I’ll cover next month.

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.