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Writing and Publishing

Self-Editing Tips for Writers

It’s hard to catch mistakes in our own writing. No matter how hard I try, I still miss a lot. With every piece I get back from an editor, I’m dismayed over the many errors I didn’t catch, even though I know better.

Of course, they also spot many mistakes I would have never caught, which is why I always use at least two editors for every book. Despite these shortcomings, editors often remark that my writing is clean. But given all their corrections, I’d hate to see a piece that wasn’t.

So how do we catch errors in our writing before sending it to an editor?

Edit from a printed copy: Many authors print their work and edit from a hard copy. One author says she touches the tip of her pen to each word as she reads it. Though this is a good idea, I don’t have that much patience. 

I don’t print my work. I’m too frugal (codename for cheap) and environmentally conscience to waste paper and ink printing each book multiple times. Therefore, I do all my editing onscreen, knowing I’d catch more errors if I scrutinized it in printed form as opposed to an electronic version.

Read Backwards: Though it seems nonsensical, I’ve heard writers who insist they read backward when proofing their work. I tried it—for about ten seconds—and gave up. I don’t get this technique, not at all.

Read Aloud: To combat my aversion to printing my work, I began reading it out loud. Though my wife gave me strange looks and mocked me, I caught many more errors with this approach. Unfortunately, since I knew what I intended to write, that’s often what I read, even though that’s not what I typed.

Use Text-to-Speech Software: An even more effective way to proof work is through text-to-speech software. That way my computer reads my words to me. I catch so many errors this way. It may be why editors often say my writing is clean. This method works for me and works well.

I use this approach when editing my work. I do so three times for each book. The first is before it goes to my developmental editor. The second is before it goes to my copy editor/proofreader. And the third is just before I publish it.

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 Outline a Book Series

Just as you would outline a book, you can also outline a series. 

Consider your series outline as listing the main objective you want to accomplish for each book. Just as each book will have an arc, your series will also have one. Your series outline should reflect the series arc. 

Your series outline can be as simple as a bullet point for each book. That’s what I start with. Or you can add more substance to it, but I suggest you save additional details for the book outline, which you will need for each book in the series. 

Outlining a series is fun, and I recommend it. Knowing a series arc, through its outline, can inform your writing of each book in the series. 

For example, if you know your primary character for book three, make a subtle introduction in book one. This restrained reveal will delight your readers when they re-encounter that person two books later. Or if book eight has a plot development you worry may seem a bit contrived, with shrewd finesse lay the groundwork for it in books two, five, and seven. This unexpected development in book eight will still surprise your readers, but they won’t feel you forced it because you prepared them for it in earlier books.

Keep in mind that if you’re a discovery writer you can’t insert any delicious titbits into earlier books—unless they’re not yet published. But with a series outline to guide your writing, you can foreshadow what is to come in future books. 

In addition, having a series outline will keep you from wasting time writing passages you will later cut. And your plan will help make your books richer because readers can connect with your writing and characters more fully.

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

8 Tips to Improve as a Writer

Here are the actions I pursue to improve as a writer: 

  1. Write regularly.
  2. Read a lot (I struggle the most with this tip).
  3. Study writing.
  4. Listen to writers and publishing podcasts. 
  5. Follow writing blogs.
  6. Participate in writers’ groups.
  7. Attend writing conferences.
  8. But the most important tip is to write.

These tips helped my writing improve. May they do the same for you.

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 Need to Find Time to Read

Finding time to read, however, is a constant struggle. As with making time to write, we need to make time to read.

For me, the decision often comes down to watching TV or reading. Sometimes TV wins and other times reading wins. Often, the choice I make hinges on how good the book is versus how much a show or movie calls me.

I strive to keep my TV watch list short and my book list interesting. I also give myself the freedom to stop reading any book that bores me or turns me off. If I didn’t allow myself this option, the TV would grab my attention most of the time.

The point is, we all have some degree of discretionary time, whether it’s TV, movies, social media, going out, leisure activities, or even a nap. We can choose to do these alternate pursuits or to read. For me, I’ve cut back on TV to read more—and I’m glad I did.

However, some writers, including myself, feel that watching TV and, even more so, movies helps us learn about plot, character development, and good (or bad) storytelling.

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

The Benefits of Using Dictation Software to Write

I’m a huge fan of dictation and use it for all my writing, not only my first draft but even as I edit. Using dictation, I can write about two thousand words an hour—compared to about five hundred words typing. My dictated words come out in pretty good shape, about 90 percent of the way there. 

Although some people claim five thousand words an hour from dictation, I’m not one of them. Yes, I talk fast and could dictate ten to fifteen thousand words per hour, but those words would require so much editing to make them worthless. Therefore, I slow down, think about what I want to say, and say it. I’m pleased with the results and the speed.

I pursued dictation for two reasons. One was to write faster. The other was to protect my aching wrists. Despite doing the recommended exercises and taking frequent breaks, my wrist often throbbed after writing several hours a day, day after day.

Thanks to dictation, my wrists don’t hurt anymore, but now I need to protect my voice. Drink lots of water when dictating. Avoid carbonated beverages, milk, and coffee.

By the way, I’m a poor candidate for dictation. First, you should dictate in complete sentences, but I don’t. Most of the time, I don’t know how a sentence will end when I frame the beginning in my mind. Therefore, my dictation gushes out as a disjointed hodgepodge of sentence fragments and phrases. 

Second, I don’t enunciate well. And I often pronounce the same word in two ways. This trait makes it hard for the dictation software and requires a critical eye to catch errors, which are sometimes comical, albeit infuriating. As a result, my dictated work needs a bit more editing. Though my overall production speed using dictation isn’t four times faster, it’s certainly more than three times as much.

For full disclosure, using dictation has had unexpected side effects. It has resulted in a slowdown of my typing speed and has been a further hit to my spelling challenges. Still, dictation stands as a more-than-equitable trade-off, more than tripling my production speed, while avoiding carpal tunnel surgery.

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.