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166. HOW I WROTE THREE PH.D. THESES IN SIX YEARS

By October 26, 2022June 10th, 2024No Comments

I published two books on Amazon and 120,000 words on Substack, but no one gave me diplomas.

If you don’t write seriously, you may think I’m a nitpicker. Advanced writers may find my ideas elementary or confining.

I wanted to contribute. Since physicians are not trained writers, I read, studied, and practiced. As my skills improved, other doctors’ writing began to seem unrefined.

BASICS: If your writing is not outstanding, you will be ignored no matter how good your ideas are. If you are ignored, you are simply writing a diary, which is a waste of time.

  • Your sole goal is to shepherd your readers through your material. It is not about you, so never show off.

  • If you are a beginner, you can still do competent work if you spend enough time editing.

  • Perfection might require fifty drafts. But if you have been studying and thinking about a subject for years, you may only need a few.

  • You must “kill your darlings.” This means to cut, cut, chop, and burn any part of your work that does not fit perfectly with the rest, no matter how much you like it.

  • Excellence, inspiration, and even greatness may emerge if you rewrite enough.

  • As your skills improve, it all requires less effort.

  • You must have both foundational knowledge about the subject and enough life experience to interpret it.

You must write several hours a day for years to learn this craft. Rewriting is the only path to competence unless you are a genius. It’s freakily time-consuming but satisfying if you have the “writer’s bug.”

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All writing and all thoughts should be condensed into chunks of between 1000 and 2500 words. This is the ideal chapter or essay length. Much more and you lose everyone. Your word processor will tell you where you are.

Long, awkward posts that have sound ideas can be trimmed into excellence with enough effort. Some recommend racing through your first draft and then editing, although this is not my approach.

You must get all the help you can from friends, editors, and family. Pay the good ones if you have the resources. College writing professors say that their best students need little help and their worst ones can’t be helped. But mentors are vital.

Use your thesaurus aggressively. One critical skill is to simplify vocabulary by using it in a reverse fashion. If you think of a complex, descriptive word, use it to find one that is more common and appropriate. I prefer powerthesaurus.org.

Structure is everything. Your reader must flow from one point to another. If you make them stumble, they will leave. To get it right, rearrange words in the sentences, sentences in the paragraphs, and the paragraphs themselves. Revise your title and internal topic headings over and over until they are perfect. Correct any usage and logic errors. For the final polish, read the document aloud.

STYLE: Read George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, monthly until it is part of your thinking.

Here is part of it:

i.       Never use a metaphor, simile, or another figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

ii.     Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii.    If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv.    Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v.      Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi.    Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

GRAMMAR AND USAGE ERRORS cause readers to pause and some to quit. Learn how to weed these out. Review punctuation rules until they are part of your hard drive. A few tips:

  • Dashes are used for emphasis or drama. Don’t overdo it.

  • “Which” is used when separating clauses and requires a comma. “That” does not.

  • Combining related complete sentences using commas can work. Dependent clauses at the beginning of sentences require commas, while those at the end do not.

  • Be consistent—either use or avoid contractions. Do not mix “don’t” with “do not” in the same document.

  • Two adjectives side-by-side modifying the same noun should be separated by commas.

  • Lists separated by commas must include a comma after the next-to-last item.

  • Typos invariably creep into even heavily edited final manuscripts. Hire a proofreader to correct these if you want your work to rise to the near perfection of a book.

  • For book quality, you must read your manuscript aloud to make final corrections. This is time consuming but necessary.

You should check your writing by copying and pasting each chapter into a website that measures grade level such as the one HERE. The lower the grade level, the easier the writing is to read. The document you are reading is at a seventh-grade level, which is excellent. My first book was at the 11th-grade level, and my second, written after more practice, was at the 9th.

OTHER KEY TIPS

  • Paragraphs should be five sentences or less. This is a firm but not an absolute rule. Sometimes one sentence works perfectly.

  • Delete 95 to 99 percent of your adverbs. If you can’t write without them, you need more practice. Example of a useless adverb: “It is extremely improbable.” Make sentences as declarative and simple as you can.

  • Full-time writers should use parentheses every other week—or never. Write around them.

  • Never hit the return twice at the end of sentences. Modern word-processing programs fix spacing perfectly if only one return is used after a period.

  • Your online blog post may have some individual style, but do not overdo this, or it will irritate readers. I use bold or large font at the start of a few related paragraphs. Books must be more traditional.

  • Let your messages speak for themselves in simple terms. Avoid internal comments such as “interestingly” or “quite noteworthy” or “It should be noted” or “this deserves mentioning.”

  • All authors of either fiction or nonfiction should read great fiction. This improves skills. Some authors reread their favorites many times. Hunter S. Thompson hand-copied Dickens’ books.

  • ALL CAPS is a rookie’s mistake of which I am sometimes guilty. If you are using a web or blog style, bold headings are easier on the eyes.

  • Sentence structure should be as short as possible without overdoing it. Cut them up! Throwing in an occasional longer, more complex sentence may help the flow. Your writing program will tutor you. I used the paid version of Grammarly for years and my prose benefitted. Some of my friends use Hemmingwayapp.com and there are others.

  • Never reference your point of view by writing words such as “I thought” or “It seemed to me,” or “I found,” or “I came across.” The reader already knows that you are the author.

  • Learn about the passive voice from essays and programs such as the paid version of Grammarly. Passive has its uses, especially for nonfiction writers. They should not try to abolish it completely. Fiction writers must drive a stake through its heart. They may also use more metaphors.

  • Here are three errors out of the 16 that the free version of Grammarly found in my first draft:

OTHER PROGRAMS: Use Scrivener for books. This is a firm recommendation. It has a wonderful autocorrect function and simplifies many other tasks. These include moving chapters around and searching the entire manuscript. It automatically backs up on your hard drive at intervals. If you don’t use it, you will waste a quarter of your time.

Having MSWord on your computer is helpful. It isn’t cheap. You should also be familiar with Google Docs. This can be used to publish individual documents on the web for free. These have their own “URL” web locations, so you can used them as referenced links. Dropbox has the same feature if you are getting away from the Google platform.

FONTS. Writers spend lifetimes obsessing over these. I spent a week reading about them. You can go as deep as you want, or you can take my advice and use Georgia. This is a modern “serif” type like the one you are reading here. These have small appendages on each letter. Georgia is free and appropriate for both print and computer. “Sans serif” fonts are less elaborate. They are popular for computers. Many experts like serif fonts better, but this is a personal choice.

Your typeface size should be considerate of older people. They can’t read the small ones.

BACKUP AND CENSORSHIP. Do not forget to back up your work. For Substack, I copy and paste each post into a Scrivener document as a chapter. Unlike many word processing programs, this works well for text, format, and images. If you decide to later write a book, your posts are on a program that allows convenient editing, organization, and manipulation.

I also copy my desktop at intervals onto a hard drive. Apple, Google, or Dropbox cloud backup is also a good idea. Research the tradeoffs between these, including the potential for censorship and deplatforming.

I always copy and preserve the URL with its post. In the worst circumstance, my computer and backups could be stolen or lost. Substack could go down, be bought, or be censored. But if I have those URLs (keep them secret, keep them safe!), I can still recover my content using the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. As long as the Wayback is alive and well, nothing ever dies on the internet; but viewing current trends, there is a concern even here.

You can also direct the Wayback Archive to save your posts under a new URL at the time you finish each one. This might be more secure. Preserve your content and you live to fight another day.

Substack is as yet uncensored, but it is worth more dead than alive to the global predators, and someday soon it may be sold to a giant. If this happens, savvy authors with backups will be able to move to the next platform at a moment’s notice. Bastyon.com might be the best choice because it is rumored to be censor-proof.

YOUR INSPIRATION: Your age, intellect, and experiences dictate what you can credibly write about. For example, older people can write about the issues of youth but the reverse is usually difficult. Another example: current events yield inspiration when seen through the lens of Chris Bray, an American history academic, yield insights. Another: Grant Horner is a Christian academic and a Milton scholar who often has a fresh take on complex matters. My outlook on today’s events combines my medical background, the medical corruption material, and my recent research.

You must be comfortable writing through your own eyes. You have important insights that are yours alone, and you must share them to write well. It may feel like a privacy invasion, and you may be fearful, but this is necessary to get the best out of yourself.

WHERE AM I in this writing fraternity? I am a popularizer and rewriter of important ideas originally told with prose in need of editing and shortening. I can also occasionally synthesize important ideas. Like most middling writers, I must spend untold hours editing. I have developed some podcasting skills.

NARRATION AND PODCASTING: Substack and some other platforms allow you to narrate your posts. With practice, most people find it is easier than writing. Use a free recording program on your computer such as Garageband for Mac and then download the result on your blogging platform rather than using their recorder. That way you keep a backup. With practice, your voice clarity will improve and serve you well on podcasts.

Go on as many podcasts as you can and speak about your content. Pitch them at matchmaker.fm, which costs $100 a year. Other sites that hook you up are more expensive. Let me know if you find any good ones.

Be courteous and helpful to beginning podcasters. Two of my hosts were only fifteen years old. Accept offers to speak on small platforms—they might refer you to others.

Doing your own podcast on Substack, Buzzsprout, or other platforms requires another modest learning curve. The microphone and video camera together are about $180, and some of the support websites are $20 a month. You can post on Rumble, Bitchute, or others. YouTube has turned traitor and actively censors.

YOU ARE COMMITTING to sitting in front of a computer all day, so learn about electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and take simple steps to moderate your exposure. These are short wavelength radiation coming from WiFi, microwaves, and cell towers. You can:

  • Turn your cell phone to airplane mode as much as you can.

  • Use your cell solely on the speaker and keep it away from your ears. (The small print warnings for your device recommend this.) Holding modern phones to the ear is increasingly suspected of causing brain tumors.

  • Turn off your home’s WiFi at night.

  • Stay away from your microwave when it’s in use or replace it with a convection oven.

  • Some disconnect their WiFi altogether and hardwire their TVs and computers to Ethernet. This older technology works well but is less convenient.

Read about the dangers of EMF exposure. The Children’s Health Defense website is a good source. You can then develop a personal risk assessment. These hazards are taken far more seriously in Europe than in the US.

TIPS FOR BOOK SELF-PUBLISHING AND MARKETING

Kindlepreneur.com*

Vellum* typesetting program or use a contractor

Scrivener writing program*

Amazon ads* are powerful. Use a contractor for this. I found mine on kindlepreneur.com, and he has placed hundreds of thousands of keywords for me. His name is Michal Stawicki* He is at https://www.resurrectingbooks.com/ads-ry/, and he gets half of the profits.

Amazon ads is used as a censor. They won’t cover topics that compete with big Pharma’s drugs. They refused to work with Hormone Secrets, my second book.

Your book cover, title, and blurb must be perfect or your book won’t sell. Read that again. Learn about these, then spend weeks perfecting yours. Yes, weeks.

If you manage to make money, you are an exceptional animal. My earnings after over five years of full-time effort are less than $500 a month. This includes my two books, which are on Amazon and other markets. I also get a small income from Substack. I might have done better had I focused more on marketing, but I was more interested in spreading my messages.

Fiction is the most likely to be profitable. Successful authors usually write a lot of words—sometimes even a hundred thousand every month or two.

NOTES ABOUT THE PHOTO AT THE TOP:

  • I heavily recommend Things* personal organizer if you don’t use a similar one such as OmniFocus. It has a cloud backup that will transfer prose between all your devices just like email. I have one problem with it. As my lists grow, like Hotel California some of the guests never check out!

  • The Scrivener* file you see is a backup for most of my Substack articles. The URLs are at the top of each page and also on a thumb drive. My books are elsewhere.

  • I still use Gmail but am switching (transitioning?) to Proton mail.

  • I do my final editing on Substack.* I’m getting the house wired for Ethernet.

REFERENCES INCLUDE:

Stephen King

         On Writing

Steven Pressfield

         Do the Work

         The War of Art

         Turning Pro

John McPhee

         Draft no. 4 On the Writing Process

Listen to podcasts. I didn’t like most of those about writing. The ones for book marketing include:

         Dave Chesson* at kindlepreneur.com*

         Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Show

         James Altucher’s show originally inspired me to write. I was fascinated with him, but he seems to have devolved. Or maybe I have matured. It’s hard to get a handle on that one.

*Indispensable for me

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