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Writing and Publishing

6 Writing Tips to Quickly Pick-up Where You Left Off and Not Waste Time

How authors can resume writing without losing time or momentum

When I started writing, it always took me several writing sessions to finish anything.

I fell into a bad habit. When I would resume writing (even after taking a short break) I would re-read everything I had written so far, editing along the way. Then I felt ready to write more.

The problem was this warm-up ritual could take thirty minutes to an hour. That didn’t leave much time to add more words.

Here are six ideas to keep us from wasting time when we resume writing:

1. Stop in the Middle

Though it seems tidy to finish a section and then stop writing, this makes it harder to pick up the flow later. Instead, stop in the middle of the action or thought, such as “Smoke billowed from the window.” or “I fell into a bad habit.”

In both cases, the next sentence will proceed with ease. Although it takes discipline, sometimes I even stop mid-sentence, as in “Jeffy’s eyes grew…” or “The second point is…” This leaves no doubt what words come next.

2. Get a Running Start

When not knowing the next words, back up a sentence or two (a paragraph at the most) and re-read it. This provides a running start to jump back into our writing.

Even if the words that come next aren’t good ones, at least we are writing and moving forward. This beats staring at the monitor with growing frustration as each second ticks by.

3. Talk it Through

Another tip when we’re stuck is to write “What I want to say is…” and then finish the sentence. This often gives immediate clarity and helps words flow.

4. Begin the Next Part

Though we psychologically want to stop at the end of a section or chapter, resist that impulse, no matter how satisfying. Start the next part, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Bonus points if you stop in midsentence.

5. End with a Transition

In fiction, we call this a cliffhanger, and in nonfiction, it is preselling the next point. In either case, ending with a transitional sentence prepares us to write the next one.

6. Plan What to Write Next

Before we end our writing session, we can outline the next section, jot down talking points, or even write a key sentence. In fiction, we can write one line of punchy dialogue or note a plot twist. In nonfiction, we can lay down a pithy soundbite or profound callout.

Sometimes I write the last line of the next section. Then when I resume working, I merely write towards that ending.

Conclusion

These six tips help me to pick up my writing where I left off without wasting time or losing momentum. I hope they help you to do the same.

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

Is Your First Draft Too Long or Too Short?

Some authors write too much and need to delete; others don’t write enough and must add

Do you write long or short? Some writers produce long first drafts and then shorten them—sometimes a great deal—as they edit. Others write shorter first drafts and then add to them—sometimes a lot—as they work on revisions. Which camp are you in?

Write Long; Edit Later

Some writers produce long first drafts. Then they remove the parts that don’t fit or edit it down to hit a target word count. I suspect discovery writers (those who “discover” what comes next as they write) or those who write fast tend to fit in this category.

I try not to do this. It pains me whenever I need to cut something from my work. If you do cut a section, a chapter, a scene, or a character, always save what you remove; it could come in handy later – especially if you need to put it back.

Writing long feels unproductive to me. Writers who do this spend more time writing their first draft and more time editing it later. That’s why I try to avoid writing long. This is why I plan before I write.

Write Short; Add Later

The opposite is writers who write a short first draft and then expand on it as they edit. They insert scenes, characters, sections, or points. Sometimes this is to round out the text. Other times it is to hit a minimum word length.

I needed to do this once. After including all the information I was provided for a ghostwriting assignment, I was 10,000 words short. I added paragraphs, lengthened sentences, and inserted words. The result was longer but I fear not much better. This arduous task drained me, as well as taking up a lot of time.

For another book, my dissertation, it seemed everything I added messed up the flow of what came next. So each thought I inserted caused me more work with the following text, requiring even more rewriting. That wasn’t fun either.

A Just Right First Draft

My goal is to write the right length in my first draft. That’s a big reason why I outline, either on the page or in my head. This saves me the pain of cutting and the agony of adding.

Usually, I come close to meeting this goal. But not in this post. I just deleted 225 words because it was running long, but I saved them to use in a future post. So it’s all good.

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

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Meets Taken

I’ve listened to the Writing Excuses podcast for years. In the first nine seasons they would sometimes give writing prompts. In season ten they started giving homework at the end of each episode.

I’ve gone back to year ten and am going through the homework. Though the assignments are most annoying, they’re even more beneficial.

The assignment for 13.35 is to have a friend list three books or movies they really liked. Then list three of your own. Randomly select one from each list and make a mashup, as in title A meets title B. Then write that story.

I aimed for a micro-fiction piece (under 100 words), but it went longer. Still it nicely fits in the flash fiction category (under 1,000 words).

Here’s my story:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Meets Taken

Ed Rooney drove his nondescript minivan down a suburban road. Ahead walked an attractive teenager. He pulled alongside her and lowered his window. “Sloane, would you like a ride?”

“Principal Rooney, why aren’t you in school?”

“I should be asking you the same thing.” He got out of his car and walked around. “Let’s talk about your truancy.”

Sloane stared at him but said nothing.

“You’re a very attractive young lady.” He extended a hand toward the teenager.

“Mr. Rooney, you’re making me uncomfortable.” Sloane took a step back and stumbled.

Rooney steadied her with one hand as he brought a white cloth to her mouth with the other. She collapsed in his arms. He shoved her in his car and sped away.

Minutes later his phone rang. He hesitated before answering. “Ferris Buehler, you’re going down.”

“No, Mr. Rooney, you are. Let Sloane go. Or my sister will beat you up, I’ll have your car towed, and you’ll have to ride the school bus.”

The call went dead. Rooney cradled his head in his arms. “What have I gotten myself into?”


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 Do You Like and Dislike in the Books You Read?

In the book From No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo), talks about constructing our Manga Carta 1 and Manga Carta 2. What does he mean by that?

Manga Carta 1 is a list of what we like in the novels we read. Manga Carta 2 is a list of what we dislike in the novels we read.

Once determined, we can use these two lists to inform our own books as we write and edit them.

Here are my two lists:

Manga Carta 1 (what I like in a novel):

  • Strong main character
  • Character growth
  • Interesting characters with a bit of a quirk
  • Balanced characters with good traits and bad, including the antagonist
  • Unexpected twists
  • Believable story arc
  • Short chapters
  • Page-turning read
  • Snappy dialogue
  • Short or concise writing without fluff, wasted scenes, and unneeded description

Manga Carta 2 (what I don’t like in a novel):

  • Multi-POVs all told first person.
  • Sad endings
  • Ambiguous endings
  • Over-the-top, mean characters
  • Implausible plot twists
  • Blocks of description
  • Meaningless details
  • Preachy or agenda driven
  • Flowery or poetic writing
  • Boring middles that just plod along
  • The predictable, sometimes manufactured, major roadblock at two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through the novel.

I encourage you to make your own lists. Then consider them as you work on your novels.

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

A Creative Way to Deal with Rejection

Rejection hurts. We’ve all heard stories of popular books that had scores of editors or publishers reject them before someone realized the potential and published them. The rest is publishing history.

Since writers deal with a lot of rejection, Writer’s Digest had the idea to provide a creative outlet for them to vent their frustration. They called it “Reject a Hit.” The popular feature ran for many years.

The premise was to pick an immensely successful book and write a fictitious rejection letter. It offered a safe way to allow authors to poke fun at the gatekeepers who blocked their path to publication. You can read some of these letters online.

I sent them my contribution, but the magazine shuttered the column about the time I made my submission. It never ran, and there is no suitable outlet to share my prose.

So, I’ll post it here:

Reject a Hit: The Bible

God,

I was a bit surprised to receive your submission for the Bible. Though I had lofty expectations, the writing left me disappointed, and the substance perplexed me.

First, this is an anthology—sort of. Anthology contributors should be contemporaries, not span several centuries. And you must pick one genre. Jumping from historical nonfiction to poetry is a stretch, and the prophetic works are repetitive.

Though I like the biographies of Jesus, do you really need four?

Dystopian is hot now. Could you rework it?

The writing styles are also jarring. Paul’s rhetoric annoys me. John’s words have a lyrical flow but confuse me. David’s poems seem bipolar. Luke’s writing is solid, though he does switch perspectives in the middle of Acts.

Also, there are too many layers here. It would take a lifetime to grasp; no one will invest that much time in one book.

Plus, the Bible is no place for violence, incest, and rape. Your characters must be wholesome if you want acceptance by religious book buyers. Additionally, I suggest you remove “Song of Songs.” It borders on erotica.

With great trepidation, I must reject your submission—all the while praying you don’t strike me dead. From a business standpoint, I don’t see an upside to this. I can appreciate that you expect the Bible will become the most popular book ever, but that’s unrealistic. Not even your contributors will buy a copy—they’re all dead.

Though I don’t see any future in this as a book, you may want to consider movies. There are a couple of good stories hidden in its pages. With some poetic license and the right director, you may be able to salvage some of this.

Sincerely

Rev. Uptight Preacher, PhD

Religion Editor, Pharisee Press


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.