Category Archives: Commentary

Peter DeHaan’s commentary about the art of craft of writing.

UR Turn: Do You Post Videos on You Tube?

You Tube is the second largest search engine in the world

In past months we’ve talked about our presence on various social media sites.

Here’s my list: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+. Let’s connect on your platform of choice.

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...There’s also You Tube.

People gravitate to video.

As a writer, I don’t so much like this interest in video, but I have written video scripts for some of my clients, and it’s a lot of fun.

As a consumer, I like videos. They pop up on Facebook and Twitter, where they seem to capture people’s attention over images and text. (Again, not good news for writers.)

I have a You Tube channel. It has 41 videos on it. And I have a whopping two subscribers. (Maybe you can be number three!) Most of the videos are for my blog posts, which my VA embeds into my posts on my blog. My VA also creates the videos for me based on my text. She does a great job, so if you like them, it’s all because of her!You Tube is the second largest search engine in the world. Are you on You Tube? Click To Tweet

I also have a book trailer video for my book 95 Tweets. This reminds me. I need to make a trailer for my new book, How Big Is Your Tent? and my upcoming book, Women of the Bible. I’ll put that on my to do list.

Are you on You Tube? Do you post videos on You Tube? Do you have a You Tube Channel?

Please share in the comment section below.

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!

Great Writing Quotes to Educate and Inform

We can find encouragement and instruction in reading great writing quotes

Two weeks ago I asked you to share your favorite quotes about writing.  Mine was “Omit needless words.” Here are some more great writing quotes.

Check out these quotes about writing.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison

“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” -Chinua Achebe

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.” -Harper Lee

“You do have a story inside you; it lies articulate and waiting to be written—behind your silence and your suffering.” -Anne Rice

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” -Stephen King

“Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.” -E. L. Doctorow

“Writing is the Latin of our times. The modern language of the people is video and sound.” -Lawrence Lessig

“Writing is thinking on paper.” -William Zinsser

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” -William Faulkner

“If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.” -Thornton Wilder

“You do have a story inside you; it lies articulate and waiting to be written—behind your silence and your suffering.” -Anne Rice

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” -Louis L’Amour

“Every writer I know has trouble writing,” -Joseph Heller

“A lot of people talk about writing. The secret is to write, not talk.” -Jackie Collins

“It is as easy to dream a book as it is hard to write one.” -Honore de Balzac, novelist

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” -Stephen King

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” -Frank Herbert

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” -Gustave Flaubert

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”Isaac Asimov

“Words were not given to man in order to conceal his thoughts.” -José Saramago

“I read hungrily and delightedly, and have realized since that you can’t write unless you read.” -William Trevor

“Puns are the highest form of literature.” -Alfred Hitchcock

And given that:

“To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” -unknown

“A backward poet writes inverse.” –unknown

Which one of these is your favorite? What would you add?

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!

UR Turn: Favorite Writing Quotes

Quotes by writers about writing can teach, inspire and motivate us

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...Last month we asked the question, Who’s your favorite author? This month we’ll look at what writers say about writing. What are your favorite writing quotes?

My absolute favorite writing quote is the concise, exemplary advice to “Omit needless words.” It comes from the classic book The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.

(For the record, I think I follow this wise advice in my own writing but not as much when working for a client. Sometimes I need to hit a word count goal and having a few needless words help me get there faster. By the way, the best clients don’t insist on word count targets. They just tell me to cover the topic.)My favorite writing quote is to “Omit needless words.” What's your fav? Click To Tweet

Of course, there are many other quotes that likewise guide my writing and my work. In a few weeks I’ll share some of my other favorite writing quotes. But until then, please share some of yours.

If you don’t know the source, that’s okay. And if you need to paraphrase, no worries. The main thing is to share what helps you, because I’m sure it will help others, too.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite writing quotes?

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!

UR Turn: Who’s Your Favorite Author?

We love some authors so much, that we buy every book they publish

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...If you were to ask me who’s my favorite author, I’d shrug and say, “I don’t know.” However, that would be wrong. From my perspective one author rises above all others: Robin Mellom. I’ve gushed about her in the past.

I bought her debut novel, Ditched, which she re-published as Perfect Kiss. It’s a young adult rom-com (romantic comedy). I loved it so much, that I’ve gone on to read every book she’s published—except for her most recent one, which is on my Christmas wish list. I continue to read her books, even though most of them are middle grade fiction, which I typically don’t consider.

That covers my favorite fiction author. My favorite author: I’ll automatically buy her next book just because she wrote it. Click To Tweet

What about nonfiction? Though I’ve read multiple books from many nonfiction authors, none of them rises to the top to become a favorite. There are none of them who I’ll automatically buy their next book just because they wrote it. I’ll save that status for Robin.

That’s my story.

Now it’s your turn. Who’s your favorite author?

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!

UR Turn: What’s the Most Encouraging Thing Anyone Has Ever Told You?

A simple word of encouragement can mean a lot to a writer

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...As a person who uses words to make a living, words have a great impact on me. The words of others have encouraged me—and discouraged me. Even the lack of words, the things left unsaid, can have a powerful effect—a negative effect.

The things others have told me about my writing have helped me move forward, as well as almost derailing me. But let’s talk about the positive. Some of those comments have stayed with me for years.

Once, when working on a joint proposal for myself and another consultant, he reviewed my work and gushed. “I thought I was a good wordsmith,” he said, “but you put me to shame.” His remark truly affirmed me.

Another time, someone who I respected was reading my work. After a few minutes, she paused and said, “Well, you certainly know how to write, so that’s not an issue.” That was all the impetus I needed to think I could begin to call myself a writer.Maybe we use our words wisely. Click To Tweet

I have also had times when other writers have reminded me of encouraging things I’ve said to them. This, too, shows me the power of words. May I always use mine wisely.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever told you about your writing?

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!

Is Following a Writing Model a Good Idea?

Though using a pattern to inform our books’ structure has merit, it may lead us to a troublesome end

Is Following a Writing Model a Good Idea?There are multiple guides we can follow to properly structure the books we write. Perhaps the most common is the three-act structure, but there are many others as well.

There’s enough to make me dizzy, so I won’t start to list them. Besides, this post isn’t to promote these various models as much as to share my concern about them.

For example, I know that when watching a movie, I should expect a plot twist about three fourths of the way into the show. The incident may be trivial, could have been telegraphed too much earlier in the movie, or come as an unexpected shock, but one thing is certain: I know that something is about to happen, so I brace for it.

Because I expect this plot twist to pop up, it seldom delights me. I know that this annoyance is just one more hurdle for the protagonist to jump over before I can enjoy the ending—and I better enjoy the ending.

This happens in books too, but because I’ve watched more movies then read books, I’m more tuned in to it with movies.

While I think it’s important we know about these writing devices and be able to apply them when needed, I worry about slavishly following them.

Why is that?

Computers.

Computers and artificial intelligence.It won’t be long before computers will write passible stories and even books. Click To Tweet

Even now computers can write. And it won’t be long before computers will write passible stories and even books. Just enter a couple of characters, a story arc, a conflict, and a few other key parameters. Press enter, and a finished story emerges, following an established writing model.

This technology will one day make most writers obsolete. And I think it will happen much sooner than most people expect.

What computers and AI software will have trouble emulating, however, is the truly creative writers who don’t follow the writing models that the computer programs follow. These writers—and I plan to be one of them—will still be in demand, because computers will struggle to produce a truly creative book that transcends its writing-model programming.

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!

Are You Okay as a Writer?

It’s hard not to compare ourselves with other writers and dangerous when we do

Are You Okay as a Writer?As a teenager I remember reading the book I’m Okay—You’re Okay by Thomas Harris. As I recall, the book explained that we consider ourselves in one of two ways, either as being okay or as not being okay. Conversely, we judge others the same way, either as okay or not okay.

Combined, these two dichotomies result in four distinct perspectives of how we view and interact with others:

  1. I’m okay—you’re okay.
  2. I’m okay—you’re not
  3. I’m not okay—you’re okay.
  4. I’m not okay—you’re not

The first view is healthy, and the other three are not, with the book explaining what to do.

I fear a lot of writers struggle with the third scenario. They compare themselves to other writers—the popular, visible ones—and wrongly conclude everyone else is doing better than they are. By comparison they fall short, often way short.

I get this. I struggle with this from time to time. Perhaps you do, too.

We hear of writers who receive lucrative book deals with huge advances, ones we hoped for ourselves. We see authors who make some prestigious best sellers’ list or win a coveted award—sometimes on their first book—which we dream of for ourselves. Others have their books made into movies, which we yearn to experience. Then there are the indie authors who make six and even seven figures annually just on book sales, an outcome we secretly covet.

Then we feel small. Even our best accomplishment seems insignificant in comparison. Then that writer voice inside us says “They’re okay, but I’m not. They’re a success and I’m a failure.”Writers compare themselves to others and wrongly conclude everyone else is better. Click To Tweet

We need to stop that. It’s not healthy to our wellbeing, and it’s not helpful to our writing.

Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we need to compare ourselves to us. Ask two questions:

First, did I do the best I could with what I just wrote? If so, then be proud over our accomplishment.

The second question is, how could I do better? Pick one area, and set about to get better. Then our future self can look back at our present self with the firm knowledge over having improved. That’s success. Then we can say, “I’m okay.”

My hope for you is that you can truly say, “I’m okay—you’re okay.”

What steps do you take to avoid making unhealthy comparisons?

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!

What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?

Publishing labels are important and using them properly is critical

Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?I often use the terms of self-publishing and indie-publishing interchangeably. I shouldn’t.

They mean different things. So what’s the difference?

That’s a great question. I turned to my friend Google to investigate. It turns out Google doesn’t know. It simply confirmed a lack of consensus. Here are the findings of my research:

  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing are not the same thing. However, the difference is a matter of perspective.
  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing both emerge as alternatives to traditional publishing. And we need those alternatives.
  • Self-publishing may be a subset of indie-publishing.
  • The difference between self-publishing and indie-publishing may boil down to attitude.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Self-Publishing

  • Self-publishing finds its roots in vanity publishing, a pay-to-be-published model. (Though four years ago I asserted that attitudes have changed and traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing, offering a stamp of validation that I, for one, want.)
  • Self-publishing is all about art, and making money from art isn’t the point—or so they say.
  • The motivation of self-publishing is making books available to the public.
  • The hardcore self-publisher does everything, from cover design, to editing, to interior layout, to marketing. Unfortunately it shows in the final product. And for that reason I hate reading self-published books.
  • Self-publishing finds its place with the writing hobbyist.

Indie-Publishing

  • Indie-publishing finds its roots in the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Indie-publication is a for-profit endeavor with a clear objective to monetize the value of books as a business.
  • The motivation of indie-publishing is profit from the art of books.
  • The indie publisher assembles a team, tapping others to assist with the publishing process, from cover design, to editing, to interior layout, to marketing.
  • Indie-publishing finds its place with the writing professional.

I view my writing as both art and a business opportunity. Click To TweetFrom all this, I realize that when I say I plan to self-publish some of my books, I really mean indie-publishing. Though I view my writing as art, I also see the results as a business opportunity. And I’ve been an entrepreneur longer than I’ve been a writer—though not by much.

Yes, I still have a goal to traditionally publish some books. I also plan to indie-publish other books. Together they will help me to one day make a living writing full time.

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!

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Should You Go with a Traditional Publisher or Self-Publish?

Be open minded about the options available for book publishing and then pick the best one

Traditional Publishing is the New Vanity PublishingMy goal as an author has always been to be a hybrid author, one who self-publishes some books and goes with a traditional publisher for others. What changes over time, however, is the emphasis I place on one over the other. On this, I waffle frequently. Some days I favor the allure of being traditionally published and on others I lean toward self-publishing.

Though I embrace both as viable options, many people do not. It seems that many writers view one of these two options as the only choice for rational people, while outright dismissing the other for those uninformed. The problem is that some land squarely in the camp of traditional publishing as the only way to go, while others adamantly pursue self-publishing as the only sane choice.

I understand both perspectives.

What I don’t understand are people who are so obstinate toward their point of view and so biased against the alternative. They need to open their eyes: both traditional publishing and self-publishing have their pluses and minuses. Consider them, evaluate them, and then go with what seems best for your particular book at this particular time.

That’s my plan.

Here’s why:

Traditional Publishing: Traditional publishing pays authors to be published. But getting a traditional publishing deal is hard. In most all cases we need an agent first, which takes time. Then our agent needs to find a publisher to publish our book, which takes more time. Then our book goes into their publishing machine for edits, marketing, production, and so forth, which takes even more time. It often takes several years from writing a book to having a traditional publisher make it available to the public—assuming it happens at all.

Once we land a book deal, assuming we can, traditional publishers do most of the work and take all of the financial risk. Yes, they still want us to help market our book, but they do everything else—as we lose most of our control over the product and the outcome.

However, once the only real option for authors, technology has provided a viable alternative: self-publishing.

Self-Publishing: With self-publishing the author becomes a businessperson, investing money into a product in hopes of turning a profit. Success isn’t guaranteed, but the benefits are many. The author maintains control over the product, can get it to market fast, and will make much more per book. There are no gatekeepers to stand in our way, no one judging the size of our platform, and no one turning our baby into something we don’t like. Being traditionally published implies a stamp of approval. Click To Tweet

Self-publishing was once decried as vanity publishing, but now I actually see traditional publishing as the new vanity publishing. Being traditionally published implies a stamp of approval. It says we’ve been accepted, our work has gained approval, and we have jumped high hurdles. This strokes our ego.

I get that. I want that.

Yet the very things that make us attractive to traditional publishers—a stellar book and a huge platform to promote it—are also the very things that make us an ideal fit for self-publishing, where we control the product, take a risk, and make a profit.

I get that, too. I want that.

My leanings, one way or the other, change often. What I do know is that I want to publish books, and I’m taking a hybrid approach to get there.

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!

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How I’ll Write My Next Book

NaNoWriMo inspired me on a new way to approach writing a book

How I’ll Write My Next BookI’ve written several books, most of which didn’t have a deadline. Though I would regularly sit down to write and methodically plod through from start to finish, I wasn’t as intentional as I could have been. I would take several months to complete my first draft of these books—and it was arduous.

Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, where the goal is to write the first draft of a novel in one month. I effectively did this, but it didn’t happen as expected. (Check out my post of my first NaNoWriMo experience).

Going forward I plan to write all my books NaNoWriMo style. I’ll hunker down and crank through the first draft in one month. Here are the benefits of taking this approach.

Increased Focus: Writing a book in one month requires making it a priority. It’s not one of many things to dilute focus; it’s the one thing. This gives a hyper-intensive focus. In fact, I was so into my novel, which took place in May, that I actually thought it was spring in real life; I had to keep reminding myself that summer was not about to happen, but eight months out. That’s intense (or crazy). Regardless I had focus and finished writing that book.

Better Continuity: When writing large chunks of a book every day, it’s much easier to keep everything straight. One chapter easily moves into the next. But had time interrupted my writing it would have also caused me to lose my comprehension of the story arc. This would necessitate re-reading large sections, a too-frequent referring to my notes, and missed opportunities to produce a better read. But because I was able to stay in the writing zone, the words flowed forth with greater ease. Taking fewer days to write a book gets me to the end faster and avoids a mid-book slump. Click To Tweet

Faster Results: For me the difficulty in writing a book isn’t the number of words I need to write, it’s the number of days it takes. When I write a book in one month, there’s no time to bog down in the middle, yet a book that takes several months to complete will always produce a discouraging sag of motivation midway through. Taking fewer days to write a book gets me to the end faster and avoids a mid-book slump.

Sense of Accomplishment: It’s a great feeling to finish the first draft of a book. Writing with NaNoWriMo intention rewards me with that feeling of satisfaction faster. Having that great sense of accomplishment encourages me as a writer and motivates me to produce even more.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I plan to write the first draft of my next book in a month. And I won’t even wait until November to start.

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!