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 seeming 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 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.
Veteran Magazine Publisher, Editor, Author, and Blogger Shares about Writing in Weekly Newsletter
June 9, 2015 – GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Since last year Peter DeHaan has shared about writing in his free monthly newsletter. He now opens up the subscription to anyone interested in writing, from the beginner to experienced professional.
“I started my newsletter to keep in contact with people who attended the sessions I led at writing conferences over the past several years,” said Peter, who is a magazine publisher and editor, in addition to being a writer with over three decades of experience. “I sold my first article in 1982, and the world of publishing has changed a lot since then. I want to share my experiences and encourage others in becoming better writers.”
Each issue of includes an article about writing or publishing, links to writing and book publishing blog posts, an inspiring quote, and a popular Q&A section where Peter answers writers’ questions.
Plus, each new subscriber will receive Peter’s valuable resource, “How to Format Your Submission,” at no cost. This is an essential guide for writers who want to present their work to editors and publishers in a standard, professional format. “Once we have produced our best work,” says Peter, “we need to present it properly so that it stands the best chance of being read and accepted. Editors and publishers are pushed for time and a well-presented submission will get their attention and increase our chances for success.”
Last week I blogged about Robin Mellom, an author whose YA (young adult) writing I really like, but she didn’t have a second YA book for me to buy. Though I could periodically check her author page on Amazon or her website, I know in reality I will soon forget, missing news of her next YA release. That’s why authors need to have newsletters – or at least to collect email addresses of their fans.
A newsletter is one thing I’m actually doing before I need it. My newsletter goes out once a month with new content (last month I wrote about my grandpuppy, Zane), along with links to existing work. Of course I can also let newsletter readers know about my books when they become available. My newsletter subscribers also receive a free copy of my e-book, How Big Is Your Tent?, as well as other subscriber-only goodies and breaking news.
Wherever your writing career is at, start building an email list today. It will pay off huge later on.
[Epilogue: Robin found my post from last week and contacted me. How cool is that! To my delight, she has another YA (teen) book, Busted, coming out soon. In addition, her second Junior (middle grade) book Student Council Smackdown! released this week.
Update: Robin also now has a newsletter – and I’m on it! Her book Busted is now called Perfect Timingand is available on Kindle.]
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!
My dissertation was finished and approved and my website was completely overhauled. I did complete the draft of one book (though not the one I intended) and started book two. Though I have had some informal interaction with agents, I have not queried any. I intentionally put this on hold, per the recommendation to wait until I finished writing the books.
There were also some other key developments that weren’t annual goals, having been started midyear: