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Writing and Publishing

Was 2016 Your Best Year Ever or an Epic Fail?

We need a realistic view of our history to plan a reasonable vision for our future

Was 2016 Your Best Year Ever or an Epic Fail?

My wife sometimes says I view things as though my glass is only half-full, that I’m pessimistic. I counter that I’m simply being a realist, but the truth is I’m not sure who’s right. Perhaps a bit of reality resides in both perspectives. So it is in viewing my past year as a writer.

As such, I share two perspectives:

Best Year Ever:

  • After years of talk, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. What a great experience.
  • I wrote two novels, the second one in about three weeks. (I’m still editing them both.)
  • My work as a commercial freelance writer really took off this year, with more clients, more work, and more income—all new records.
  • I grew my Twitter followers from 2,400 to 11,500, surpassing my year-end goal of 10,000. I’m enjoying good connections and engagement there.
  • I took LinkedIn seriously and made 100 posts to a growing audience of 2,300, which more than doubled in 2016.

Epic Fail:

  • I didn’t publish a book this year.
  • I didn’t win any writing contests.
  • I wasn’t published in any anthologies.
  • I didn’t accomplish my number one goal for 2016. (Which is now my number one goal for 2017.)
  • Work/life balance continues to elude me. (It’s even harder to achieve when you work at home.)

I could reasonably adopt either of these two perspectives as my primary view of 2016. While it’s easy to dwell on disappointments, missed goals, and wasted opportunities, a better outlook is to focus on what went great this year. Though I might need to reread this post to remind myself, I can truly say that 2016 was my best year ever, and I look forward to 2017 being even better.

As you review 2016, I encourage you to celebrate the mountains and not allow yourself to wallow in the valleys. Though everyone is at a different place as a writer, no one had a flawless year and everyone has something to celebrate. Focus on these things as you move into 2017.

May it be your best year ever.

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, 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 I’ve Learned as a Commercial Freelance Writer

7 tips to succeed as a freelance writer and not go crazy in the process

What I’ve Learned as a Commercial Freelance Writer

As I earn more of my income as a freelance writer, I’ve learned some important lessons in the process:

Say “Yes”: At a former job, I’d quip to my sales staff: “The answer is always, ‘Yes, we can do that. Let me tell you how much it will cost.’” The same applies to a freelancer. Never turn a job down. (And if you’re not all that excited about it, quote more.) While most of my work is content marketing, I’ve also written website content, PowerPoint slides, marketing materials, case studies, whitepapers, outlines for presentations, resumes, and likely a few more things I don’t recall. Each one broadens my confidence, increases my capabilities, and enhances my marketability.

Quote with Care: I tend to underestimate how much time it will take me to do a project. Yes, I know how many words I can write per hour, but there is also research, editing, proofing, and sometimes just thinking. If I’m not careful I overlook the time to complete these other tasks, so I try to quote high. It’s much easier to give clients a discount than to ask for more.

Batching is Best: At first. I tried to spread out my work, doing one item a day. Yet, this is inefficient. It’s better to batch work. For example, I owe one client two pieces a month. I write them both on the same day, back to back. The second piece always writes faster and flows better. Another client wants content every Thursday and a third client every Friday. I’m more effective if I write both on Thursday. Plus that opens up Fridays for other opportunities.

One at a Time: I learned the hard way not to bring on two clients at the same time. Neither receives my focused attention, and it’s easy to confuse projects and preferences. Instead. I complete my first project for one client before I onboard a second one. It’s fair to them and keeps me sane.

Know Your Capabilities: I know how fast I can write, but I’m not as aware of the amount of time it takes to edit a piece and then proof it. But the more work I do, the easier it is to home in on these. I also know the time of day when I write my best and when things take longer, as well as certain seasons to not take on new work.

Collect Fast: For one client I spent almost as much time chasing his payment as I did doing the work. Now I have a credit card on file for each client. I do the work, email it to them, and then charge their card.

End with the Beginning: Most of my work for clients is ongoing. I write content marketing or articles along a specific theme, month after month. Each time I finish one piece, I make a note for the next one, such as a title, outline, thesis statement, the end, or even the opening. Usually, it’s just a one-line prompt. This is when I have the best ideas, and they come quickly. This makes it easy to start the next piece when the time comes. I never want to sit down with a deadline looming and ask myself, “What should I write?”

I’ve been doing commercial freelance writing for a couple of years. This is what I’ve learned so far, and I’m sure I’ll learn more as I move forward.

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, 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 Always Know What to Write When it’s Time to Blog

Maintain an idea repository to jumpstart your creativity every time you sit down to write

How to Always Know What to Write When it’s Time to Blog

Each week I create several posts for my blogs. I also compose posts for others (content marketing). In addition, I need to produce columns for my various publications. At a minimum, I write five new pieces a week, sometimes upwards of ten.

Yet I seldom struggle with what to say. I always have at least one idea waiting for me when it’s time to write, usually many. Here’s my process:

  • Keep a Running List: For each blog, client, or publication, I have an idea file. Sometimes I note a concept or a title. Other times it’s the first line or even the last. Occasionally there’s an anecdote to serve as the focal point for me to package. Then there is a bulleted list, the result of a quick brainstorm session during a moment of inspiration. Such is the case with this post.
  • Look For Fresh Ideas: Life and living provides a treasure chest of ideas. We merely need to recognize their value when we see them. This takes practice, as well as discipline. Reading provides creative fodder for me, too, as do podcasts and especially movies. The key in this, which I learned the hard way, is to seize these gems as soon as I see them. Trusting my memory has cost me too many good ideas.
  • Retain What You Can’t Use: Sometimes a piece doesn’t develop as I expect or I need to skip a thought or go in a different direction. Other times I need to cut a section. I always stuff these untapped nuggets into my file for another day.
  • Build on Feedback: Some people comment on posts. Others email me their thoughts and questions, and a few react in person. Each source of input provides the potential for a future piece, which I add to my list.
  • Tap Your Muse as You Write: Perhaps the most common source of inspiration occurs during my writing process. As I develop one piece, other gems for future posts pop into my mind. I stop writing immediately and capture them in my idea file. This happens with about half the pieces I write. Sometimes I receive multiple ideas in succession. I eventually use most of them.
  • Bonus Tip: Sometimes when it’s time to write, I simply ask myself, “What do you want to write about today?” Without even peeking at my list of ideas, another concept pops into my mind, and I can’t help but develop it. This saves all the ideas in my file for another day.

I polished this process over time. First, it was to minimize frustration over lost ideas; then for the sake of efficiency. But now it has become necessary for me if I am to meet all my commitments and make my deadlines.

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, 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

Why Writers Need to Develop Their Writing Style

Our writing style will help us find work, sell our writing, and grow an audience.

When people hire me they often say “I like your writing style” or share some similar sentiment. (I do content marketing, ghostwriting, commercial freelance work, and whatnot.)

I’m glad they appreciate how I write. It helps us start our working relationship from a good place. At the same time,g I wonder what they mean.

Why Writers Need to Develop Their Writing Style

If you asked me what my writing style is, I would sputter at my response. I strive to write logically. I work to have a smooth flow from word to word, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. I use complete sentences, avoid clichés, and like to write in triplets. Occasionally my words have a playful tone, and I hope my writing is always interesting. Does this describe my style? Or does this merely delineate my technique? Is there a difference?

Regardless, I know that having a writing style is critical to me finding work. So I’m glad I have one. My writing style has emerged over time. How that happened for me is likely the same as for any writer.

We need to:

Put in the Time: I have logged my 10,000 hours and long ago hit the million-word mark, both milestones that writers must reach. All writers need to invest in the craft of writing. This takes time.

Write in Public: I blog, and I write articles. My work is out there for everyone to see. Many of the people who hire me have read my words for years but not everyone. My last ghostwriting client was a referral. Until that moment he had never heard of me, but he found my words online, liked my writing style, and hired me.

Get Feedback: When we write in public we sometimes receive criticism—both constructive or otherwise. We can also seek feedback from people we trust, such as other writers, a critique group, beta readers, editors, agents, and publishers. Their reaction to our words today helps make our words tomorrow better.

Strive to Improve: Not all aspects of our writing style are necessarily good. Everyone has weak spots. So we work to write better. As we do our style morphs into something grander. How I write today, though similar to last year, is better. The same is true for anyone who writes with intention.

Even if we don’t know our writing style, the people who read our words know what it is. Perhaps they can’t articulate it anymore then we can, but they know our work when they see it.

Having an engaging writing style will help us find work, sell our writing, and serve an audience. That’s why I write. How about you?

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.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

How I Became a Better Writer

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.