Beta Reading, Publishing, Teaching Writing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Tips

Anne’s “Do” and “Do NOT” List For That Story You’re Thinking About Publishing

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Writing a story is one thing.

Writing it for other people to read- well, that’s a whole different ballgame, isn’t it?

Writing, editing, editing some more, rewriting, editing, choosing a publishing venue, editing, formatting and cover design, and a few more rounds of editing- getting a book to a point where it can be called “finished” is no small feat.

As I’ve worked over the last couple of years to prepare my first novel for publication, I’ve celebrated some wins and tried to learn from the fails (often while wallowing in chocolate.)

Today, with my book’s release looming next month, I decided to share some things I’ve learned along the way in hopes that you can benefit from my mistakes!

DO Get Organized

In the process of writing my first book, I used upwards of thirty research sources. Some are books I purchased, some were from the library, some were online.

Naturally, I saved the names and titles and links to these sources. Somewhere….

While this isn’t non-fiction, so citation isn’t an issue, there’ve been things that I’ve wanted to double check during the later stages of editing. Sifting through my old journal notes and the dozen or so files on my computer has been a pain.

Writing friends, I’d advise you to do better than I did- keep all of your references in one place, and if you have notes, make sure that you list just WHERE said notes came from. It’ll save you some headaches!

Do NOT Use the Tab Key

If you use a typing program that like MS Word which can use the “tab” for indentations, DO NOT USE IT.

If you do, and you wish to publish your book as an e-book, you will have to sift through the entire file later to remove them ALL. (If you want to know how to do paragraphs without using a tab, I am now an expert. Or, this site goes through the steps.)

DO Only Put One Space After Each Sentence in a Paragraph

See above.

DO Get Other Eyes on Your Work

I’m a teacher. I focused on English in college. I’ve beta read for other writers, and felt like I was pretty good at it.

Going through my final edits these last weeks, I STILL found typos.

As intimidating as it may be to have someone else reading your work before it’s “perfect,” getting fresh eyes on it can help you catch plot holes, grammatical errors, and silly mistakes.

A couple of my favorites from early drafts of my manuscript are:

  • a man who had his leg amputated walking around in the next scene (Fast healer!)
  • the phrase “he shook her head” (What was going on there?)
  • and the discovery that I’ve been using the word “askance” completely wrong. For years.

(If you’d like to know more about beta reading in general, here’s an older post of mine.)

DO Learn From Other People’s Experiences

It’s easy for the internet- social media in particular- to become a distraction from writing. However, it can also be a powerful tool to connect with other writers.

Many published authors are willing to share their experiences and advice on social media sites. Tapping into their expertise has helped me to figure out just what I need to be doing to get my book published and steered me away from some pitfalls.

I’ve found a couple of writers’ groups on facebook particularly helpful. If you’re looking to self publish, you might want to check out 20BooksTo50K. It’s a HUGE group, and I honestly have a hard time keeping up with it, but their archives have tons of helpful information for self publishing authors, all in one place.

I’ve also found the ladies in Katie Phillips’s Authentic Women Author Entrepreneurs group kind, helpful and informative. (Katie was also kind enough to do a blog post on author branding on this site recently.)

Do NOT Get Hung Up On “But they say I should…”

While getting advice and hints from other authors can be helpful, it’s important to remember that not every writer’s journey is the same.

The majority of the writers I’ve networked with are either

1. Younger without kids

2. Older with grown kids or no kids or

3. My age, but writing is their full-time occupation.

I’m a mom with young kids, a part-time teaching gig, and several volunteer positions that I can’t/won’t step away from.

When folks with vastly different lives give advice like “Quit binge-watching Netflix and write!” I laugh. The last time I can remember sitting long enough to do anything akin to “binge-watching” was… maybe 10 years ago?

It’s easy to get into the comparing game, especially with social media giving people an easy way to portray the “perfect” version of their lives.

Unless competition is a motivator for you, this isn’t healthy. Do what you can, writing friends- run your race faithfully.

DO Remember, It’s Your Story!

Of course, the trouble with having lots of access to other people’s advice and experiences is it become easy to second-guess my own work.

I never knew people could get so upset about adverbs. Or prologues. Or using different points of view.

I’ll admit, there are times when the influx of advice makes me want to chuck the whole project- it’s probably all wrong, anyway.

Thankfully, I have a great sounding board in the next room.

When those worries start to gnaw, I trot over to my husband (who’s been hearing about the minutia of all of this for years now.) I’ll tell him about the new advice I’ve come across and ask him, “Is my story awful?”


“Do you think I should change X Y and Z?”

If the advice is legitimate, he’ll let me know, but the usual answer is, “Anne, it’s your story.”

Writers, take the good advice, but in the end, you’re the one who has to put your name on your work. Write your story.

Which, I suppose, means I’m telling you to ignore all of the above if you want to…

Except the tabs thing. Trust me.


Do you have a “Do” or “Don’t” to share?

Many thanks for visiting!





17 thoughts on “Anne’s “Do” and “Do NOT” List For That Story You’re Thinking About Publishing”

  1. LOL “Except the tabs thing. Trust me.” LOL Hilarious!
    And what a great collection of wisdom! And you’re spot on. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I’m in charge of this rodeo. If I focus on pleasing myself as a reader, I can believe I’ll please other readers out there. And that doesn’t mean we can’t learn or improve. But I’ve always said that I’m not writing my book for those who would hate it, but for those who would love it. I try not to focus on how many people love or hate prologues or epilogues, etc, etc. Instead, I try to ask myself whether or not I like them. Or whether or not they fit well in the current story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, and hang in there! The first publication is the hardest. Don’t get me wrong, every book will run you through the wringer but none quite like the first. 😉 So it DOES get easier. And congratulations on the upcoming release! I’m so happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Anne – noted … as I’m not there yet – but will be one day … the dreaded distinction with English spelling (of course that’s the correct one!) and the American version – which we’ll use, because there’s no choice … so it will be color, and not colour … et al … well done – and thanks for these tips – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OOH yes, the spelling is a bear, Hilary, I discovered that I’ve been using the non-American version of travelling- didn’t even know there was a difference! All the best on your writing journeys!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for all of this Anne. Although I’m writing non-fiction, much of what you’ve said applies. One thing though, I clicked on the link to MS Office Support to learn how to avoid the TAB key, it seemed to be telling me how to use the Tab key! At risk of asking a busy mum to spend precious time teaching a busy-ish grandmother, I’m going to ask if you can explain it please.

    I do like you advice (echoed by your husband) about it being YOUR story. A would-be editorial service suggested I write fiction before they’d even read any of my m/s but I needed no reminding that this is MY book! It’s non-fiction. End of!!!

    Thank you to others who have responded to your blog too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! Sorry for the link- I’ll try to find a better one!

      Proper Tabs, the (relatively) Short version: If you’re using MS Word, when you’ve opened a document, in the “home” tab at the top there’s a “paragraph” section. There ‘s a little angled arrow in the corner- click that.

      A window pops up that has an “indents and spacing” tab. There are a whole bunch of options on there- look for “special.”

      Under “special”, click the “first line” option. It SHOULD automatically fill the “by” box next to special with “.5″” which is, I think, standard spacing. Click OK (or maybe Set as Default?) and from then on, whenever you hit “Enter,” each new paragraph should be indented for you, without angering e-book formats-hooray!!!

      Side note, you might also want to select in that same window “don’t add spaces between paragraphs of the same style” if you’re doing a straightforward document- sometimes my computer tries to do fancy formatting that I don’t want :p

      If you already have tabs in there and want to find them easily, the button with the backwards capital “P” in the upper right hand corner of that “paragraph” section on the home tab enables you to see all of the spaces, tabs, etc on your document.

      I hope this is helpful- if you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I wouldn’t have ever known to look out for this if it weren’t for a short story contest I entered- I’m glad it’s helpful!

      And good for you! Your non-fiction proposal sounds fascinating, and we NEED things like that, to show people just how amazing non-fiction can be!


  5. Hilarymb – please join me in refusing to accept the ‘wrong’ version of English. It’s ‘Colour’ not ‘colour’ etc! [says me, hailing from UK, and frustrated when spell check tells me I’m wrong!]


  6. Such great advice, Anne. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned. I especially liked your reminders that it’s the writers story. It’s so easy to forget when you get feedback from others and feel like you should follow it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, isn’t it? And it’s also sometimes hard to differentiate between the sound advice that will strengthen the story and the stuff that’s just someone else’s opinion!
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Heh. SO much on other writers being at different stages of life. Turn off Netflix? I’ve watched it for half an hour in the last week! I don’t think turning it off will give me that much more time!

    I watch a number of authors on YouTube, which helps get my gears turning. Yes — learn the paths of other writers, while not getting “stuck” in the same path!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? The TV only goes on when we’re too exhausted to get anything else done anyway!
      My hubby has actually found some good YouTubers that he’s recommended to me writing-wise – I’m glad you’ve found some good ones too 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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