Tag Archives: writing

How to Find a Critique Group: A Writing Q & A

Question: What do I do if there are no critique groups where I live?

Writing Q and A: Critique Group

Answer: I hear this question a lot.

First, know that there may be some, but you just haven’t found them yet. Keep looking. Try bookstores, schools, libraries, and coffee shops—any place were writers hang out. Also, ask every writer you meet if they’re aware of any area critique groups.

Second, have you considered an online group? There are many out there. Just do a search. These groups have different goals and various formats, so look them over to find one that’s right for you. And if your first choice doesn’t work, try a different one.

Another option is to start your own critique group. It’s not hard. It’s what I did. Again, look online for ideas and recommendations on leading a successful critique group.

Five Types of Writers

Five Types of Writers

types of writer

Discover What Type of Writer You Are and Then Embrace It

There are different types of writers. They have different motivations, are at different places in their writing journey, and have different goals. Here’s how the different types of writers breaks down:

1. The Aspiring Writer

I’ve heard many people refer to themselves as aspiring writers. But they’re misusing that label. They say aspiring because at this point in their journey they lack the confidence to say they’re a writer, so they qualify it by tacking on aspiring. If this is you, I encourage you to take a deep breath, drop aspiring, and boldly say, “I am a writer.” It will take practice to say with confidence, but you can do it. You are a writer.

In truth, an aspiring writer is someone who doesn’t actually write; they merely aspire to write—someday. But they’ll never get around to it. Yes, they act like a writer. They read books on writing, go to writing conferences, and hang out with other writers. They talk a good game, but that’s all it is: talk.

They want to have written, but they don’t want to put in the hard work, to actually sit down and write. They aspire to write, and that’s where it ends.

Don’t be someone who aspires to write. Just write.

2. The Hobbyist Writer

Next, we have people who write for fun, write for therapy, or write for family and friends. They’re hobbyists. There’s nothing wrong with that.

So, if hobbyist writer describes you, accept it. As a hobbyist, you may not publish much and certainly won’t make much money from your work, but you are writing. And that’s what’s important. Own that label, and celebrate it.

However, if you want to realize more from your writing, consider moving beyond the hobbyist phase.

3. The Passion Project Writer

Some writers have a book they must write. It’s a compulsion, a calling. They work hard to produce the best book they can. They self-publish it. Then they spend years promoting and marketing their book.

It’s their passion.

But it may be the only book they ever write. Or if they do write other books, these may fall short because the passion isn’t there. And it shows.

There’s nothing wrong with having a passion project. I know many people who write one book, and that’s it. That’s okay. But if you want more, consider the next two categories of writers.

4. The Artist Writer

I know many writers who view themselves as artists. They produce wonderful work and produce it with some degree of regularity. But they write when the muse hits, and they write when they have a deadline. However, if they don’t feel like writing, they don’t. They’re often discovery writers (pancers: they write by the seat of their pants). Writing speed and output frequency doesn’t matter. They’re artists, and that’s what they care about.

If you’re thinking of the phrase starving artist, that fits this category of writer. They may not make much from their art, and they certainly won’t earn enough to support themselves. That’s why the artist writer needs another source of income. This could be a day job or a side hustle. It may be a spouse, an inheritance, or a generous patron.

5. The Career Author

The final category is a career author. Although their words may flow from many different motivations, they have one thing in common: writing is their job, and they strive to make money from it, either full-time or part-time.

They haven’t sold out. They’re just being intentional. They value the craft and may even view it as art. They also write with passion. But, in addition to that, they write with purpose. They want to share their words with others and earn money as they do. They have an entrepreneurial mindset. They are an authorpreneur.

A Final Thought about the Types of Writers

At various times in my writing journey I have been each of these types of writers. Some of my stops have been brief, and others longer, but where I am now—and where I want to remain—is as a career author.

Right now, I make some of my income as an author, and my goal is to one day earn all my income through writing. But money is not my motivator; it’s the outcome. My desire is to share my words with others. As I often say, my goal is to “change the world one word at a time.” And making money from doing so is a sweet result.

Discover what type of writer you are and embrace it. Don’t let anyone tell you your path is wrong or inconsequential. Click To Tweet

Discover what type of writer you are and embrace it. Don’t let anyone tell you your path is wrong or inconsequential. You are a writer.

Should You Use an Outline to Write? A Writing Q & A

Question: I understand some people write using an outline, while others discover what comes next as they write. Which is better?

Writing Q and A: Use an Outline

Answer: The short answer is to use whatever works best for you.

When writing a short story, article, or blog post, I often start with a title, opening line, or concept. Then I start writing to see where it takes me. (Sometimes I have the last line in mind and write to get there.) Though this may result in extra content that I need to cut, it usually becomes part of another article or post. However, recently for blog posts, I’ve been writing to hit bullet points, which is a basic outline.

Conversely, when I start a book, I always have an outline. This gives me structure to easily move from one item to the next, without wasting time or words. After all, it’s not a big deal to cut 20 percent of a 300-word blog post (60 words), but it would be painful to cut 20 percent of a 50,000-word book (10,000 words).

However, just because I use an outline for books, that doesn’t imply I don’t discover things along the way. When I do, it’s an exciting bonus, which I’m happy to work into the text. Then I update my outline.

9 Keys to Self-Publishing Success

It’s never been easier to publish a book, but that doesn’t mean we should

Self-published book

I once read a self-published book, a novella. I read it for several reasons: it was recommended (which turned out to be a bad reason), it would be a quick read, I’d never read a novella, and it was free (I got what I paid for).

On the plus side, the opening captured my attention, the story line was intriguing, and the ending was a delightful surprise. On the negative side, the book did not flow smoothly, was poorly edited (or not edited at all), contained many errors, and was poorly converted into e-book format. Overall, the great ending did not overcome all the negative elements.

Self-Published Book Success

For a self-published book to be successful, it needs what all great books need:

1. A Promising Idea

If you don’t have a great story idea or theme, don’t start writing. This novella did, but its implementation fell short.

2. A Compelling Opening (a Hook)

The opening didn’t grab me, but it was sufficient to make me want to read more.

3. Great Writing

I felt I was reading a rough draft. Elements of good writing were present, but they were too sparse to be effective.

4. Professional Editing

The novella may have been self-edited (never a wise idea) or done so on the cheap, but the result wasn’t even close to professional. While publishing perfection is hard to achieve (if not impossible) the goal should be to get as close as possible.

5. A Satisfying Ending

The ending of the novella was superb. It was the most notable element of the work. But one good line does not make a good book.

6. A Memorable Title

Some titles are hard to forget and others are hard to remember. I can’t recall this novella’s title.

7. An Attention-Grabbing Cover

The cover didn’t hurt the book, but it didn’t help either. If I were judging this book by its cover, I would have passed.

8. A Pleasing Layout

In print, a self-published book shouldn’t look self-published. (We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it).

In electronic form, the formatting should flow smoothly with no glitches, misplaced text, bad alignment, or floating words or titles. In any good book, the interior design should be innocuous.

When people notice the layout it becomes a distraction.

9. Effective Marketing

The above items all relate to the quality of the product. (There are more elements to consider, but these are the main ones.) A quality product requires effective marketing. A stellar book with no sales will not be a success, nor will great marketing of lousy writing work out.

Before you self-publish your book, make sure you include these 9 requirements. Click To Tweet

If you’re considering self-publishing, be it in print or e-book, make sure you cover all nine of these items before proceeding. Your book’s success will depend on it.

Bonus Content

Here’s a resource I recommend from Jerry Jenkins, How to Publish a Book.

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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Grammar Checking Programs: A Writing Q & A

Question: I’m looking for a grammar-checking program. Is there one you can recommend?

Writing Q and A: Grammar Checking Programs

Answer: I seek the same thing!

I once signed up for a trial of grammarly.com. It’s a most impressive grammar checker.

The problem was that it was too sophisticated for me. It flagged many things to check, but I lacked the needed background to comprehend the issues. Many of their suggestions were beyond me. However, I recently took a fresh look at it, and it seems they’ve made it easier to use.

Regardless, the built-in grammar checker in Microsoft Word is a great place to start. Though this still requires the writer to decide which suggestions to accept and which ones to reject, it’s easier to manage. While this won’t catch everything, it covers the basics.

In my experience as a publication editor, most of the submissions I receive could benefit from doing this basic grammar check in Word before they submitted their work. It seems many people have turned off this option (I once did), and some don’t bother to run spell check either. Don’t make that mistake.

Self-Publishing Versus Pursuing a Traditional Book Deal: A Writing Q & A

Question: With so many self-publishing options out there, why should I bother to pursue a traditional publisher for my book?

Writing Q and A: Traditional Book Deal

Answer: I love this question!

Here’s my short response: Traditional publishing requires less of the author, will likely result in more book sales, and carries the prestige of a publisher selecting your book for publication. The negatives include the effort to find a publisher, the length of time to publish the book, and earning much less per copy sold—if anything at all.

A commonly sighted reason to not self-publish is the requirement to market and promote our books. While it’s true that if we self-publish our books, we must market them if we expect to sell any, traditional publishers also expect you to help promote, market, and sell your books. If you can’t or won’t do that, the publisher is unlikely to decide to publish your book. In short, they want authors who can move books.

There is no one right answer. It depends on the goals and priorities of each individual author. Also, some authors do both, depending on the book. They’re hybrid authors, going with traditional publishers for some books and indie-publishing (self-publishing) for others.

Should You Be a Writer or an Entrepreneur?

Authors are advised to treat their writing like a business

Entrepreneurial

If you write solely for the fun of it or treat writing as a mere hobby, then don’t read this post. Seriously, it will just make you mad.

But if you want to succeed as a writer, regardless of how you define success, then this post should give you some ideas to consider. Please read on. Then let me know what you think about it.

Writing is a Business

When we treat our writing like a business it means we strategically pursue actions to meet the needs others have. We hope to earn a profit doing so. This need we strive to fill is information, inspiration, or entertainment. Maybe all three. For nonfiction we know things (or can find out things) that most people don’t know. For fiction we tell stories others want to read. We write to fill these needs. When we charge money for meeting the needs of others, we ensure we have the means to write more—and meet more needs.

A Book Is a Product

Yes, our books are creative works. Books are art, but they are also products; books provide a service to our audience.

A Series is a Product Line

If one book is a product, then a series is a product line. This is why beginning authors need to stay within one genre or one theme, so they can develop a product line and build a following around that line.

A Book Proposal is a Business Plan

At its most basic level an author’s business plan is a book proposal. Look at the elements of a proposal. It outlines the theme and purpose of the book (the product), it lays out a vision for what it will accomplish, it talks about the need for the book, and it addresses the competition. It also proposes follow-up books (a product line).

At the very least, a book proposal informs our writing and guides us to producing a marketable book (product). No business will ever produce a product people don’t want. An author shouldn’t either.Writing is a business, a book is a product, and a proposal is a mini-business plan. Click To Tweet

We Need Backing

The purpose of a business plan is to raise funding, to procure investors. When it comes to publishing a book our business plan (our book proposal) is the means to get a publisher to back us, to invest in our product (our book).

In theory an advance is money to live on while we develop the product (write our book). Our publisher will produce the book for us, distribute it, and sell it.

If we self-publish our book, we may go to Kickstarter to raise funds or solicit friends and relatives. They’ll want to see a plan before they fork over cash. Even if we self-fund our book, we would be foolish to do so without treating it as an investment.

Marketing Plan

Our marketing plan—often part of the book proposal—addresses how we will let others know about our book. Even if we go with a traditional publisher, they will expect us to market our book. If we self-publish, marketing is even more critical.

Writing and publishing a book requires thinking like a businessperson; we must become an entrepreneur, especially if we choose to self-publish.

Do you think of your book as a product? What do you think about treating writing as a business?

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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A Book Need Not Be Perfect to Succeed

Book success can occur without it being perfectA few years ago, I finished a novel I was reading, the first in a series.

The first chapter grabbed me, but by the second or third, some of the scenes began to irritate. They were unrealistic at portraying real-life situations. Likewise, some of the dialogue didn’t work too well for me either. It was artificial, contrived. I certainly could have done better.

Yet the plot was intriguing, so I kept reading.

About midway through, some foreshadowing suggested an implausible ending. Surely, this was a ruse. I imagined two other scenarios I deemed more satisfying. Yet, further foreshadowing pointed towards a conclusion I didn’t want. As I raced towards the finish line, the improbable ending unfolded just as I feared. The book left me unsatisfied. I was irked, bordering on mad.

And I wanted to read the next book in the series.

What? Why would I wanted to read another book in a series when the writing of the first one frustrated me?

Quite simply I’ll read more because the author did a wonderful job creating characters I care about. I wanted to see how their stories unfold. I hoped to see them continue to grow as individuals and realize the potential I see for them.

Yes, the writing could have been better, and some readers would not tolerate it. But for light entertainment it was good enough for me; the book was a success.

As writers, we need to make our books as good as we possibly can, while at the same time not becoming paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection—because there’s always something we can improve.

Book success can occur without being perfect. And I couldn’t wait to read the second book.A book can succeed without being perfect. Click To Tweet

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!

Writing is an Art; Publishing is a Business

Producing and selling booksConsider all the really great books that don’t sell. Consider some of the poorly written books that do. Although this is unfair, it is also reality. Fortuitous timing aside, these two situations point out the fact that producing and selling books is part art and part business.

I’ve been in business much of my adult life: managing businesses, owning businesses, starting businesses, running businesses, and buying businesses. Being a businessman is in my blood; it’s part of who I am. Producing and selling books is part art and part business. Click To Tweet

Writing is Art

I’ve been writing even longer, but in the past years, I’ve taken writing seriously, moving it from hobby status to professional. I’ve worked at improving my work, at communicating clearer, and at understanding the craft. Along the way, I realized writing is art. For a person who didn’t think of himself as creative, seeing writing as a form of art is huge. I embrace the role of an artist who writes. Writing is my passion. It’s in my blood; it’s part of who I am.

Publishing is Business

In accepting the reality that writing is art, while publishing is business, it would seem that as a businessman writer, I have the best of both worlds. My creative side produces content and my business side turns it into product that sells. Unfortunately I have trouble connecting the two, at least as far as my work is concerned.

Many writers also struggle with the business side of their art. And while I am closer to connecting the two, my struggle is no less real.

Though the reason why I have this issue still evades me, the solution is clear. As Nike says, I need to “just do it.” And with all the evolving technology in the world of publishing, it has never been easier to do.

Are you more artist or businessperson?

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!

Why We Need a Book Proposal for Every Book We Write

Book ProposalI’ve never met an author who likes to write book proposals, yet if we hope to sign with a traditional publisher, we need a book proposal—a really good book proposal. Aside from being tedious and time-consuming, parts of a book proposal are challenging, such as researching competitive titles, selling ourselves as the ideal person to write the book, and talking about our platform (a.k.a. how we can move books). If we hope to sign with a traditional publisher, we need a book proposal. Click To Tweet

To further complicate things, there is no standard format for the ideal proposal. True, there are some common expectations, but the list varies. Even the order is a matter of preference. To further frustrate matters, some people advise including items that other equally knowledgeable folks say to ignore.

Writing Book Proposals Is a Chore

This all conspires to make writing a book proposal a chore. Thankfully we only have to write book proposals if we’re going the traditional publishing route, right? No. The gurus say to do a proposal if we’re going to self-publish too. Yeah, like I’m going to do that.

However, I gained some insight into this when attending a book proposal workshop by Andrew Rogers at the Jot Conference. In addition to giving the most helpful information I’ve ever encountered on the subject, the act of writing parts of a proposal in class was insightful.

For the purpose of the exercise, I used my then current WIP (work in progress, which I’ve since published) Women of the Biblefor which I did not have a written proposal. Noting the title and subtitle was easy, since I already knew that. A synopsis paragraph affirmed my vision for the book, while describing the target audience was insightful. Though we didn’t have time for it, writing the hook—a compelling one to two sentences to sum up the book—would provide additional clarity. Last is the table of contents, which effectively is an outline to guide the writing. (I realized that to self-publish I could skip the other items of a typical proposal, including a detailed outline, platform information, author bio, and sample chapters. Yea!)

A Mini Book Proposal for Self-Published Books

Having these five key items established would help me write and hone any book I want to self-publish. Plus, they wouldn’t take too long or be burdensome to develop. Armed with this insight, I intend to write a mini book proposal for all my future self-published books to guide my writing and clarify my vision.

The items for a mini book proposal when self-publishing are:

  1. Title and subtitle
  2. Hook
  3. Synopsis paragraph
  4. Target audience
  5. Table of contents

This is not an overwhelming list and won’t take much time to pull together. Remember, this will make our book easier to write and the finished product, better.

What’s your experience writing book proposals? Do you see yourself writing a mini book proposal for your next self-published book?

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!