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Writing and Publishing

Do Your Part Before You Ask Others For Help; There is No Easy Button

Too many novice writers don’t invest in the craft and expect seasoned authors to give them an easy button to publication

I post on this blog, send out a writing newsletter, and speak at conferences because I want to give back to the writing community, to share with others what I have learned over the years. By helping others the best that I can, I help myself. As I give, I also grow as a writer.

Though I can’t help everyone who asks and my time is limited, I do give a higher priority to those who are part of my writing community, those who journey with me to become better writers and share our words with others. These are the folks who put in the hard work to improve as writers, study the craft, and learn about the industry. They are worthy of receiving help. Not everyone is.

Recently a friend asked me and some others to review her manuscript. This is a big ask, and I had misgivings. As far as I know, my friend isn’t part of a writing group, doesn’t attend writing conferences, fails to write regularly, and neglects to study writing and the industry. Instead, she seeks those who have put in the hard work for help so she can skip doing the hard work herself. She’s hoping for an “easy button” to turn her rough draft into a publishable book.

And I’m not too excited about helping with this. I prefer to invest what time I have into writers who are putting forth the effort to improve. Too often I’ve tried to help people who asked for advice but weren’t ready to hear it. They lacked the basic tools to receive, consider, and apply my input.

They wanted an easy button, but in writing, there is no easy button.

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

We Need to Balance Formal Education with On-The-Job Training

While a college degree in writing has value, it is not a requirement for a rewarding career

Last week I talked about the appropriateness of hiring others to help us with our writing journeys. This has been a reoccurring theme in my career as a writer and my vocation as a publisher.

When it comes to written communications, I am self-educated: I am a self-taught writer, a self-taught editor, and a self-taught publisher. It’s not that I eschew formal education—I do have advanced degrees, after all—it’s just that they don’t happen to be in the field of communication.

I took one freshman writing class and one freshman literature class, both required in my engineering curriculum. That was it. I never suspected I’d end up working as a publisher, editor, and writer. Being an author was not part of my career plan.

Since I am decidedly finished with college I am left to design my own writing course, one propelled by real-world needs and bathed in actual application. This pursuit is both practical and effective. It includes:

Magazines: I subscribe to magazines about writing and publishing. These periodicals arrive with predicted regularity and feed me practical advice in bite-sized chunks. I look forward to each one.

Books: I also tap books for extended focus on particular topics. Though these are helpful, I have bought more writing books then I have read. Some are boring, and for others, it seems the authors are more concerned with impressing us than educating. Maybe it’s just me. Nevertheless, some writing books are most helpful.

Podcasts: Listening to others discuss writing is my go-to method of learning. I consume several hours of podcasts each week, listening to them while driving, doing mindless work around the house, and during lunch. They fuel me and give perspective.

Writing Groups: Being part of a writing community is a great resource, not only for learning but also for support and encouragement.

Online Courses: I also take advantage of online learning opportunities in the form of webinars and classes. The pinpoint focus of each allows me to pick topics of immediate, practical application.

Conferences: My goal is to attend two writing conferences a year. (This year will be three.) I look for those that provide value and are within driving distance (no airfare), and local (no hotels) is ideal.

Best of all, my educational path has no tests, finals, or grades. The only studying I do is actually applying what I’ve learned. I’m pursuing a self-directed writing education.

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

10 Tips to Improve as a Writer

To progress as an author requires hard work and diligent focus

I’ve been writing my entire adult life. In the early years, my primary goal was to write faster, but for the past decade or so, my focus was on writing better. As I attended to learning the craft of writing, my writing has steadily improved. Along the way, I have also begun to write with increased speed.

Here are my ten tips to improve as a writer:

  1. Write: The most essential step is to just sit down and write. Some aspiring writers put off this tip waiting until they are ready. Guess what? I doubt anyone is ever ready. Not really. So start writing. Do it on a regular basis. Take it seriously. Make your writing time sacred. When I did this, my writing blossomed.
  2. Study Writing: We must study the art and craft of writing. I read about writing, listen to writing podcasts, learn from the masters, and go to lectures. If you’re in school, take writing classes.
  3. Read Broadly: Reading informs our writing. We see what other authors do. We learn what we like and don’t like. We need to read in our genre and outside it. Read for fun, and read to learn.
  4. Watch Movies: Cinema informs my writing almost as much as reading. Movies reveal insight about plot development, effective openings, memorable endings, character development, effective dialogue, and more.
  5. Attend Conferences: Writers often complain about the cost of conferences: registration, airfare, hotel, and incidentals. I get that but tap into local conferences to eliminate the travel and lodging expenses. Some events are even free.
  6. Participate in Groups: Join a critique group, support group, accountability group, or some collection of other writers who have a shared goal of improvement.
  7. Pay for Help: If you need help, don’t be afraid to pay for it. This may be for edits, critiques, story development, or any other area where you struggle. What if you can’t afford it? Find an away. Be creative. Swap services. One enterprising writer “paid” her editor by cleaning her house.
  8. Give to Others: Share what you can with other writers. Give it to the industry and the industry will give to you.
  9. Work in the Industry: If you have the opportunity to find employment that intersects with writing or publishing in any way, grab it. This may be part-time or full time; it may pay well or little (and some gigs are a volunteer). But the key is to put yourself in a position to interact with other writers. You will learn from your environment; by osmosis, you will grow.
  10. Write: I end my list with the same tip I began with. That’s because too many aspiring writers become so busy, so fixated, on tips 2 through 9 that they skip the writing part. They don’t have time, become too distracted, or put it off. If you’re serious about writing, never stop. Writing is the most critical step to being a writer.

Follow these tips to become a better writer. Pick one and implement it. Then add another. Keep going until you are doing all ten. You will be amazed at the results.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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

4 Reasons You Should Attend Writing Conferences

Being in a creative environment offers writers many benefits not found elsewhere

A few weeks ago I attended a writers conference, the Festival of Faith and Writing. Setting a record, there were over 2,100 attendees who invaded the campus of Calvin College. I wasn’t planning on going and then changed my mind at the last minute. I’m glad I did.

Rather than reporting on specific things I learned, I’d like to share some general observations as to why I advocate going to writers conferences, which this one exemplified:

Supportive

Non-writers don’t understand writers, so most everyplace a writer goes he or she is among people who don’t comprehend the writing life: the joys, the struggles, the motivation, the isolation, the rejection, and so forth. A writers conference is one place writers are surrounded by likeminded people. Their writers don’t need to explain themselves or guard their words; they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.

Encouraging

A writer’s conference is a supportive environment. There we see other people who have found success in the writing world. Sometimes it is widespread acclaim, but usually, it’s more moderate accomplishments. They show us what can happen and motivate us to do the same. Writing conferences spur us to persist in our work.

Diverse

Writers conferences offer variety in both attendees and presenters. By being exposed to a diversity of backgrounds and ideas, we expand our perspectives and open our minds to new possibilities. This informs our writing.

Educational

Of course we go to writers conferences to learn about the craft of writing and the business of writing. This is valuable, but I list it last because to me the other items are more valuable. Still the educational lessons I learn to stay with me.

I go to two writing conferences a year (though this year I’m making an exception and will attend three). A couple a year is enough to help keep me fresh and focused. If I go to too many it would actually get in the way of my writing, and I can’t allow that.

If you’ve gone to a writers conference that didn’t provide this type of environment or offer these benefits, maybe you picked the wrong one. But don’t dismiss all conferences just because one left you wanting. Instead, pick a different one and try again. You will find the right one.

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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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

How I Became a Better Writer

There is no single path to becoming a better writer. Instead, we have a myriad of options before us. Here are some of the opportunities I encountered on my writing journey:

Write Columns

Early on I contributed articles to a small newsletter (back when newsletters were still mailed). Having a deadline to hit each month was great preparation. It also taught me to always look for ideas and to work ahead. I did this for several years.

Get a Writing Job

Later I worked for a company in a seemingly perpetual state of reorganization. During one such reshuffling, I ended up doing tech writing. I wrote for eight hours-a-day, five-days-a-week, every week. Though another restructuring soon moved me elsewhere, during this stint I learned how to write all day long.

Blog

Years later I jumped into blogging. What started as an experiment, moved into a hobby, and later acquired a purpose. At one time I had eight active blogs. Now I’m down to three and may whittle that down to two. (But don’t worry; this one will stay). In the past eight years, I’ve published some 1,500 posts, amounting to nearly a half-million words. During this time, I found my writing voice.

Listen to Podcasts

I don’t listen to music on my iPod; I listen to podcasts, mostly about writing. I learn about writing as a craft and as a business. I listen for several hours each week. It’s like going to school—without the tests.

Get Feedback

I also participate in critique groups. My friends help me improve. Yes, it’s wonderful when they like my words, but it’s even better when they point out the shortcomings. They encourage me and keep me on track.

Study Writing

I also read magazines and books about the craft. Though I own more writing books than I’ve read, what I have read has helped me greatly.

Read Broadly

For too many years I read only nonfiction relating to work or faith. After a while, everything I read bored me. Now I read mostly fiction, from just about any genre. As I read more widely, I can write more broadly.

Form Community

I spend time with other writers. Only writers understand the isolation of the work, the frustration of when words don’t work as we wish, the agony of rejection, and the joy of publication. We need a writing community to journey with us, be it online or in person.

Content Marketing

In pursuing freelance work, I do a lot of content marketing, which for me is much like blogging. Here I write with a purpose, have deadlines, and earn money. I think every writer—whether they admit it or not—wants to make money with their writing. I do.

These are the highlights of my writing journey, haphazard for the first three decades and more intentional in the last one. Your journey will be different.

May we all move steadily down the path of our own writing roads.

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.

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.