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Writing and Publishing

Analyze Your Short Stories

Analyze Your Short Stories

In my post “Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long,” I talked about the benefits of writing short stories. I’ve catalogued mine and analyzed them. You should analyze your short stories too.

Here Are My Results

So far, I’ve written 23 short stories (plus one that turned into a novella).

Most of them are third person, past tense, which most readers prefer and is an easy default for most authors. But I’ve also written first person, as well as present tense, in addition to one second person piece.

Here is the breakdown:

  • Third person, past tense: 14 stories
  • First person, present tense: 5 stories
  • First person, past tense: 2 stories
  • Third person, present tense: 1 story
  • Second person, present tense: 1 story

First person, past tense is the easiest to write, but I prefer the personal, immediacy of first person, present tense. (And I doubt I’ll ever write second person again.)

Considering Genre

Looking at the genre is a bit more complicated, as some of them I’m not really sure about and others are cross genre. Here’s my first attempt:

  • Contemporary fiction: 7
  • Young Adult: 6
  • Middle Grade: 4 (all my middle grade shorts are backstories for characters in my novels)
  • Contemporary fantasy: 3
  • Sci-Fi: 2
  • Romance: 1 (though most of my writing has a romantic element)

As far as my novels—two are done but not-yet-published with five more in various stages of writing—they are all third person, past tense.

And my one novella is first person, present tense.

For genre, I think they cover young adult, contemporary fantasy, romance, and sci-fi.

Analyze Your Short Stories

Why do I share this?

Analyze your short stories to see what you write—and don’t write. Also notice what you like and don’t like.

Use the results to chart your path forward.

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

Should Writers Focus On One Niche?

The easiest way to build your author brand is to consistently publish the same type of content

I remember when I started taking writing seriously. I moved from simply writing to being a writer. The shift was huge.

I had so much to learn about the industry (and I still do). Of the many surprises, I encountered as I learned about writing was the importance of focusing on one niche. I didn’t like that. Don’t tie me down to writing one thing; I need variety. Yet the advice I received said to pick nonfiction or fiction or memoir. Just one. Then narrow the focus even more. If fiction, which genre? If nonfiction, what slice?

The thought that I had to pick one, and only one area, parallelized me. First, it sounded boring. Second, what if I picked wrong? Yikes! Though once I established myself in that one area, I might have an opportunity to branch out. But the idea still sounded too restrictive for too long.

Another person suggested I try all three options and whichever one sold first, that would be my niche. Though that made sense, it seemed I’d waste a lot of time and effort.

I went back to agonizing between nonfiction, fiction, and memoir. (Yes, memoir is technically nonfiction, but it contains elements of fiction writing, so it’s really a both-and pursuit.)

A third person opined that memoirs were selling, so I pursued that. I later learned this person was in error, or I had heard wrong. Writers can only sell their memoirs if they are famous, infamous, or suffered through the mother of all tragedies. As a regular guy with a normal life, I had none of these. Though I’ve written a few memoirs, none have sold.

I next moved to nonfiction and wrote a couple more books in this category. I also pitched several other nonfiction book ideas, but nada.

Between waiting for publishers to decide on my nonfiction books and book ideas, I dabbled in fiction, the remaining area not yet explored. First I wrote short stories and then wrote a couple of novels, too. Interestingly, I receive better feedback on my short stories and novels than on my nonfiction and memoirs.

In this way, I ended up writing in all three areas, and I’m waiting to see which one pops first. When it does, the wise career move will be focusing on that as my niche. But my interests are too eclectic to do that. I’ll probably end up pursuing multiple paths simultaneously. I’ll have to, or I will surely get bored. 

By the way, besides memoir, nonfiction, and fiction books, I also write for publications and am a commercial freelance writer, in addition to blogging. I like the variety; I need the variety. It keeps me from getting bored.

Yes, the best advice is to specialize in one area and build our author brand around that. But that’s not me. Don’t force me into a corner.

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

Writers Should Meet Reader Expectations

Last week we discussed “Why Writers Should Follow the Rules of Writing.” Now we’ll focus on reader expectations.

When readers consider our writing, they have a set of expectations—whether they realize it or not. If we don’t meet their expectations, they will stop reading. If we fail miserably, they may never read anything else we write—ever again.

The first expectation of readers is interesting writing that holds their attention. Without that, nothing else matters.

Nonfiction readers expect our writing will educate, encourage, or enlighten them. There are probably other reasons, too, but these are the main ones. Our writing must be logical, carefully researched, and well organized. It can’t contain factual errors or circular logic. It needs a compelling premise and a strong conclusion. Even if a reader disagrees with what we say, they shouldn’t find fault with how we said it.

Fiction readers seek escapism, entertainment, or an emotional journey. Like nonfiction readers, they may also want to be educated, encouraged, or enlightened, but, if so, these are secondary needs. With fiction, we need to hook the reader quickly, give them a reason to keep turning pages, delight them with surprises along the way, and not leave them disappointed at the end.

Also, each fiction genre carries its own set of expectations, such as word length, writing style, point of view, target audience, and so forth. These can best be learned by reading extensively in that genre. Read the classics, as well as contemporary works. Also consider those with critical acclaim, along with bestsellers—even if experts berate the writing.

The expectation of memoir readers falls somewhere in between nonfiction and fiction, while poetry and other written art (screenplays, song lyrics, ad copy, and so forth) carry their own unique expectations. Again, study successful pieces and praised works in a particular category to discern what expectations readers may hold.

Meeting reader expectations will go a long way towards success as an author, but the key is to simply write something people enjoy reading.

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

Should You Ever Take a Vacation From Writing?

Most jobs include vacation time, usually starting at two weeks a year and going up from there. Though I’ve never been a fan of taking a two-week trip, I used to look forward to those vacation days off from work to have a break, catch up on personal projects, and make shorter vacation-like excursions.

However, for the past fourteen years, I’ve had to forgo the annual vacation. As a magazine publisher of four periodicals, with overlapping production schedules, there’s always some time-sensitive task to do. At best, I can take a day off during a slow season or grab an occasional long weekend.

Although a traditional vacation isn’t feasible, should I ever take a vacation from writing? That is, should I schedule a time where, by intention, I do not write? A time when I take a writing break? If I do, will I return, refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to dive back into my world of words with renewed passion and heightened creativity?

I don’t know the answer, and I may never test my premise. At this time, I don’t feel the need.

In reality, if I take a break from writing, by the second day, I sense something’s amiss. My being longs for more. I have this innate need to create with words; I yearn to write. So a vacation would only agitate me.

Instead, here’s what I do:

  • When I complete a milestone on a major project, I take one day off.
  • When I can’t fathom another minute grinding away on my manuscript, I take a few days to work on another project.
  • When I need a break, I change genres. I work on a short story, web content, a contest submission, an article, or even plan a novel. Then, a few days later, it’s back to my project.

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

Stay Within Your Genre: The Importance of Consistency

Although I resisted it for months, I recently immersed myself in a Young Adult book, a romance, no less: Ditched: A Love Story, by Robin Mellom. I poured over it with can’t-put-it-down abandon. I read it in two days.

When I finished reading it, the next thing I did was read it again. I enjoyed it that much.

After the second time, I went to Amazon to buy her next book. Alas, she has none – at least not any YA books. She does have a couple of middle-grade/junior books, but as much as I like her writing style and voice, I couldn’t force myself to buy a book written for a nine-year-old.

She found a fan in me—and then had nothing more to offer.

Then I finally understood why people in the know, tell writers to “stay within your genre.” If you write period romance, then write only period romance—that’s what your audience expects. If you write crime novels, write only crime novels. Would you buy a romance with John Grisham? No. Or sci-fi by Dick Francis? No, even if it had a horse in it, it wouldn’t work.

I never understood why I couldn’t make a career by writing non-fiction and speculative fiction and devotionals and children’s books and memoirs and even poetry. It might be fun for me but would leave my audience confused and my career would fail to gain traction.

Now I understand why I can’t do that. I still don’t like it, but I do comprehend it.

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.