Creating a blog.

Creating a blog.
photo courtesy of Pixabay

Creating a blog.

By David Joel Miller.

My writing journey began with creating a blog.

My first tentative steps along my writing journey began in 2011 with the creation of a blog. I started this journey without any clear picture of where I was going. Back in Graduate School, I had to ask one of my fellow students what a blog was.

Writing that blog served many purposes. It kept me studying the fields of therapy, counseling, life coaching, and having a happy life. It was also very useful in teaching me the process of starting with an idea and ending with a finished piece. Writing a blog has taught me a lot about creating, and it continues to do so. My efforts on the original blog have fluctuated, but I still enjoy creating these posts.

Here are some of my thoughts about creating a blog.

You can write the blog simply as a form of self-expression. There’s plenty of room for a blog that expresses your thoughts, but the most successful blogs seem to have a narrower scope that attracts readers with a particular interest. I believe it helps to have a more specific topic or direction.

Your first task probably should be to get clear on why you are writing the blog or what your subject will be.

Creating your blog can be simple or complicated.

I’ll describe briefly the process of setting up a blog once you have an idea of your topic, your intended audience, and the kind of content you’ll be creating. Some people get really into this. Clearly, you can have a lot of fun creating your blog. But you don’t need to be tech-savvy. Remember that if this old man could create a blog in his late 60s, almost anyone can.

Not being a tech-type person, I will use analogies here so I don’t get the details wrong and mislead you.

So, what are some things you’ll need to do to get this blog moving?

Decide where your blog is going to live.

Your blog will reside somewhere. If you already have a website, you can put your blog there. But if you’re new to this, you will probably want to house your blog on a site that specializes in blogs. I had two websites/blogs. One lived in a small house I built. And the other is housed in a condominium development called WordPress. I believe WordPress is by far the largest housing development for new blogs. I have noticed some bloggers use a variety of other sights.

Since I use WordPress, let me try to explain how I use this site. This will be an extremely simple description. I recommend you spend some time exploring the neighborhood before you decide where you want to move into. They have lots of information available and even some humans who can help you.

You create an account. You give your blog a name. They will check to make sure that someone is not already using that name. This name becomes your mailing address for information coming to your blog and going from your blog to readers. For example, my blog’s name is counselorssoapbox. The free version of that site would use the web address

You can elect to buy a web address. I purchased the web address, which is set up to send traffic to my location at I chose to buy the web address because I expected to use it over a long time and wanted to be sure it was mine. If you buy a blog name, you will pay a small annual fee, kind of like homeowner’s association dues. Since I bought, I can move to a different web neighborhood, called a “host,” If I ever wanted to.

For a while, I had a second counseling blog that resided in a planned community developed by a web hosting company. If you plan on becoming a large enterprise with multiple sites and doing e-commerce, you probably want your blog and your other web pages on your own site.

Let me tell you a little secret. I discovered it was a whole lot easier using the site hosted on than it was managing the self-hosted one. That second blog is now defunct.

When I decided to create a third blog specifically dedicated to my writing, I went back to WordPress and again purchased a domain name (

You need to pick a “theme” for your blog.

I think of the theme as the floor plan for my house. Do I need a large, brightly lit room to display my photographs, or do I need a room with lots of bookshelves and file cabinets for my papers? If you go with, they have a number of free “themes.” The nice thing about having my blog live in the housing complex is that if I change my mind about the floor plan I need, they let me move to a different “theme.” Not only did they let me move, but they moved all my stuff into the new theme for me, for free.

There are also a lot of premium floor plans (themes) that are available for a small one-time charge.

Themes can be customized.

Whether you decide on a free theme or buy a custom one, there are many options. You can change the colors, move the doors that lead from one part of your blog to another, and so on. Themes also allow you to create some storage sheds (called widgets) that you can line up along one side or at the bottom of your theme. I use some of these to store things like a list of the topics I write on and links to take readers to those topics.

If you like the idea of building your own house, you’ll love self-hosting.

Some people prefer self-hosting so that their blog is built on their own property. This allows you to do many other things with your website and blog but adds to the labor. A little secret you might want to know. If you decide to self-host, you can still use all the WordPress blueprints, which are available through Keep in mind if you self-host, there with be more maintenance. If your blog lives in the development, they do most of the maintenance for free.

So, at this point, you have the keys to your new blog. Next, you’ll need to decide about the furnishings and where you will put them. In the next post, I want to give you some do’s and don’ts for moving into your new blog. Don’t forget, if you have questions, please ask them. Otherwise, I’ll just keep rambling on with the story of my writing journey.

This is a revised version of a post which originally appeared on 8/9/2018

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Lessons I learned from my first book.

Bumps on the Road of Life

Lessons I learned from my first book.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

My first attempt at writing a book came after almost seven years of writing A blog. By that point, I thought I had pretty well worked out the process of coming up with an idea, creating an outline, and writing a section. Putting that all together created a book, but it was far from the end of my writing journey.

My day job was working as a mental health counselor. Before that, I had worked as a substance use disorder counselor. I thought I had the topic of how to recover from life problems pretty well down. Transforming all those blog posts, along with some additional content, into a book proved to be a much larger challenge than I had anticipated. Here are some of the lessons I had to learn because of this endeavor.

You need to be clear who your audience is.

I tried to write my first book for as broad an audience as possible. The result was a book that didn’t quite meet the needs of anyone. My topic was bouncing back from adversity; a diagnosis professionals label as an adjustment disorder; hence the name, Bumps on The Road Of Life.

I had been told that self-help books were primarily purchased by women. That’s consistent with the way things have been in the past. Traditionally men avoided going to therapy, thinking they could tough it out and that effort and toughness would get them through life’s problems. It’s also true that 2/3 of the people who get many diagnoses are women. The majority of therapists have historically also been women.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of men who have come for counseling and therapy. I’ve also seen a somewhat smaller increase in the number of male counselors and therapists.

Some of these life problems, such as career counseling issues, are drawing people to life coaches. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I went ahead and got certified as a life coach in addition to being licensed as both a marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional clinical counselor.) Since I also do clinical supervision and train new interns and associates, I also included some of the more technical material, hoping it would help them work with clients with adjustment disorders.

Somewhere in a business text, I read that if you make a product designed for everyone, no one will buy it. This is certainly true of writing a book intended for everyone. So, maybe one of these days, when I have some spare time, I’ll do a revised second edition of that first book or perhaps write a new book with a different title. But, for now, I’ve put the kindle edition on sale and moved on with my other writing endeavors.

Two drafts of a book are not enough.

I put that first book together by taking all my blog posts, rearranging them, and filling in the gaps. Then I gave it to a few friends and colleagues and asked their opinions. I got a lot of useful suggestions and completed the second draft.

Unfortunately, that’s where I stopped. After two drafts and some proofreading, I pressed the button on publish and completed that first book just days before my 70th birthday and my retirement. While that met my life goal of writing a book and publishing it, I now know it could have been significantly better if I’d spent more time polishing and revising.

You need to use beta readers.

Sometimes you get so close to the thing you’re working on you can’t see the big picture. That’s especially true in writing a book. The few readers I had on my first two books made suggestions that significantly improved the final result. But as I began to get more feedback from the copies sold, I learned that there were confusing parts and plenty of room for improvement.

Beta readers are probably even more critical when it comes to writing novels. People read fiction for fun, and many people have very specific tastes. For a book to find its audience, it must fit into people’s expectations for their favorite genre.

I’m not saying that the best books are written strictly to a formula. I’ve been reading fiction for fun ever since the 3rd grade. It’s nice to have some twists and turns. But people who read romance novels want a happily ever after, and people who read a mystery Want the protagonist to solve that mystery.

Beta readers catch things that aren’t necessarily wrong. They just don’t fit in with the rest of the story. It upsets readers when I describe a mystery in the early chapters, and then suddenly, it’s all solved at the end of the book. I know why it happened that way, but maybe I haven’t gotten it down on paper in a way that makes sense to my reader.

It takes more than one proofreading pass to catch errors.

It’s hard to catch your errors. Reading and rereading something doesn’t mean you’ll spot all your mistakes. After a while, your brain starts seeing what you want on the page, not what’s there. Even having one person proofread doesn’t mean you’ll catch all the errors. I’ve also learned that first drafts are often riddled with errors. My goal is to get what’s in my head down on paper.

When there are many errors, even the automated programs don’t catch them all. I’ve run a chapter through a spelling and grammar check and made the corrections only to find that correcting one thing in a sentence created a second error.

Sometimes ears work better than eyes.

Reading out loud can help catch spelling and grammar errors, but it can also help spot inconsistencies. For example, the character I had in chapter one with the gorgeous long blonde hair somehow was sporting an Afro later in the book.

The biggest lesson of all?

Writing a readable novel involves more than simply imagining a story in your head and getting it all down on paper. My take on this is that writing is both an art and a craft. No matter how unique and exciting the story is, it won’t hold the reader’s attention if it’s not told well.

Over the last three years, we’ve all had to adjust to the pandemic and changes in technology. I spent as much time as possible trying to keep up. The result was that I took a lot of classes on how to create things but didn’t spend the time I wanted to writing the books I had started.

I’m making 2023 a year to rekindle my creative endeavors.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Those confounded animals

Tina – Writing Cat

Those confounded animals.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

How come animals keep wandering into all my novels?

I’m working on my newest novel, and it suddenly occurred to me that another animal had wandered into my work in progress. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the large role that animals have played in my life. Still, it occurred to me that inserting various species into my novels has not been a conscious choice.

Most of my life, there have been one or more animals in the house.

Some of you know my life story, at least the abbreviated version. I was born and lived the early part of my life in the Midwest, Michigan and Indiana, to be precise. I know we had a dog in the family, but that was more my parent’s animal than mine, and somehow that creature stayed behind when we made the pilgrimage to California.

I arrived in California just in time to spend my teenage years, the 1960s, in a rural agricultural area amid apricot and prune orchards, which has since transformed into an area for growing semiconductors known as Silicon Valley.

From the very beginning, our home always had some type of pet. When my wife and I first married, we inherited the family dogs from both our families, and for the next 50 years, more or less, we always had an animal in the house.

Without a pet, the house was empty.

That cycle was finally broken between 2017 and 2018 when the last two non-human members of my household passed away. January of 2018 marked my retirement at the young age of 70. That was also the year that saw my first two books published. While the house seemed empty, I was busy adjusting to being retired and some of the many challenges that came with speeding past the milestone marking 70 years on earth. I wasn’t expecting animals to creep back into my abode.

My unconscious seems to have had a different opinion.

Somehow, without my conscious intention, an animal made its way into my very first novel. That novel, Casino Robbery, certainly drew on some of my own life experiences. I don’t think I ever thought about whether or not to include a pet in the story, but it seemed to naturally spring from the plot of the novel.

Early in the storyline, the protagonist, Arthur Mitchell, a mild-mannered accountant working at a Las Vegas casino, witnesses a robbery in which his fiancée is killed. Arthur proceeds to adopt her dog, a black Labrador named Plutus. Somehow Plutus not only snuck into a couple of scenes in that novel, but he went on to become a regular member of the cast for Casino Robbery and the two succeeding Arthur Mitchell Mysteries.

Then in Letters from the Dead, a cat shows up.

That Plutus would make friends with a cat seemed only natural. So somehow Plutus got Aspen, the cat, an audition, and on the story goes.

Hotel Hauntings includes both a dog and a cat.

Hotel Hauntings is the working title for the first book in the Paranormal News series. Like most of my other books, the title may change when it comes time to publish. This series of books features Nancy Nusbaum, who first appeared in a time travel adventure titled Sasquatch Attacks.

In this book, Nancy encounters both a dog and a cat. I won’t give you their names now because that might change in the final editing stage. And I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I can tell you one thing. In this book, Nancy investigates reports of ghosts at the Oaktree Hotel. One of the things she needs to discover is if dogs and cats can see ghosts, which also raises the question of whether animals who pass can also haunt a property.

Those aren’t the only animals in my books.

If you read my other books carefully, you’ll find that animals, mostly pets, get cast in various roles just like humans. So if you go on an animal hunt in my books And have a particular favorite, please leave a comment. Just be careful not to spoil the story for someone else.

In honor of those various animal cast members, I periodically make one of the David Joe Miller books free for a day or two. So if you’d like to catch that offer, please subscribe to this blog and make sure to read the periodic posts.

The COVID pandemic has affected Pets also.

Over the last three years, because of all the changes in my life, I have put off bringing home another non-human family member. Too many changes were happening in my life to feel that I could be responsible for a dog or a cat. Recently my subconscious has been arguing with that logic. Several nights I had a dream about adopting, and not surprisingly, several people asked me when I was going to be getting another creature.

Recently I decided that the time was right to adopt another family member. With the help of a friend, I made a trip to a local animal center. Apparently, I was not the only one struggling with that decision. The local animal center had quite a selection.

We interviewed with several felines and were finally selected by one who appeared anxious to adopt us. The picture above is of Tina, my new writing partner.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel



Becoming a book publisher

Becoming a book publisher.
Photo courtesy of

Becoming a book publisher.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

Seeing my first book in print.

Once I had completed my manuscript and printed out a couple of copies for friends to read, I thought the road to launching that book into the world would get easier. There were a whole lot of challenges to navigate. Had I known how much was involved, I might not have begun this journey of writing books.

Some of those challenges turned out to be logistical, and some had to do with technology. Technology is one of those creatures I love to hate. Without all this modern technology, self-publishing would have been impossible or out of my price range. But technology also involves a learning curve that, to my old, tired eyes, looks like scaling a vertical wall.

Let me walk you through some of the decisions I had to make and the technologies they had to study. I won’t presume to say master, but I did make them all work, sometimes, at least partially, the way they were supposed to.

Do things yourself or hire people?

You can do, by yourself, all of the tasks needed to turn your manuscript into a finished book and make it available for readers to purchase. You can also contract these tasks out to others. Which do you have more of time or money? I can’t say I had a whole lot of either.

If you’re like me and love learning, you probably want to do as much as possible yourself. I also didn’t have a lot of money to commit to hiring people to do things.

A title for my publishing company.

Picking a name for my publishing company turned out to be one of the easiest choices I had to make. Since I was electing to self-publish, I could pick pretty much any name I wanted as long as it wasn’t already in use and I didn’t include someone else’s name.

I came up with the name “Portal Publishing” with the idea in mind that I wanted my books to transport readers to somewhere they hadn’t been before.

Titles for my books.

As I began each book, a title would occur to me. So that is the title on the file where all my notes and early drafts reside. My first book was a nonfiction book. If I ever publish a second edition, it will get a new title.

With my second book, I shifted to writing novels, and my experience with titles in the fiction area has been quite different. That book started out with one title, but when I got it complete, the original title didn’t quite fit, and I hastily retitled it just before I pushed the self-publish button.

When I say my first book, my second book, and so on, I’m talking about the ones I ended up publishing. I would estimate there are another 6 to 10 books that either didn’t get completed or, once I finished them, I didn’t feel they were good enough to publish. Someday, maybe, I’ll take those unfinished and unpublished drafts and run them through the process of revising and editing and see if there’s something there worth publishing.

While the titles worked for me while I was writing and publishing the books, they’re probably not the best titles for selling the books. One lesson I learned from this was that I should have taken more time and picked titles that reflected their genre and that would attract readers.

Creating covers.

For my nonfiction book Bumps On The Road Of Life, I used the cover creator program in KDP for the paperback edition. When it came time to upload the reformatted book for the kindle edition, I couldn’t figure out how to reuse the cover that was on the paperback. So, I launched into learning to use Canva to create my own covers. It worked exceptionally well, and I could make it work quickly enough to use it for several more of my covers.

Mastering the mechanical part of creating a cover was quite challenging. However, that process has gotten easier to use the more I’ve done it. And, of course, all the technology has improved over the years between my first book, published in 2017, and now.

There’s a vast difference between creating a cover and creating a good one. I’m firmly convinced all my books would sell better with professional covers. Having covers that match the genre of your book is a necessity if you want your book to sell well.

Formatting manuscripts twice.

Formatting a book for publication is another specialized skill. I quickly learned that it needed to be formatted differently for e-book readers, which needs to flow, than the way it should be formatted for paperbacks. This means that every book I published had to be reformatted multiple times.

Another formatting wrinkle here. Each edition needs to have the front and back matter updated, and any links in the books must be revised. If you want to publish wide, meaning with more than one publisher, you’ll have to revise that back matter and create separate editions for each publishing company.

Writing blurbs.

There’s an art to writing good blurbs. Unfortunately, it takes time to master blurb writing. I’ve taken several classes on writing blurbs and other advertising copy, but if you want to do this well, you’ll need more training than an hour or two of webinars.

Writing back copy.

Just like blurbs, learning to write back copy is another skill to master. While these two and other instances of writing advertising copy are related, they’re not identical.

Uploading manuscripts.

Uploading manuscripts to various publishers was also a time-consuming activity. In addition, different publishers have different platforms. Had I continued to publish wide, I could easily have justified paying someone else to format and maintain my books on the various platforms.

Two reasons why I discontinued my effort to publish wide.

There’s a huge learning curve with each platform your books are available on. For someone like me who has a full-time job and some other things in my life that require my attention, I needed to spend more time focused on my writing and less on the mechanics of getting my book in front of potential buyers.

I also discovered that a significant portion of my book sales came from books I had listed exclusively on KDP. So it just made sense to me to have all my books available in kindle unlimited.

Getting people to buy the book.

It’s a great feeling to have written and published a book. I still remember the first time I sold a copy. I also remember when a student in one of my classes brought in a paperback copy of one of my books and wanted it autographed. Reaching that point is a baby step on the journey to being an author with a following.

I know I’ve covered a lot of topics in this brief series of posts. If you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Having just had my 75th birthday, I’m conscious that there will never be enough time to do everything I want to do. But I’m certainly not done with my writing journey. Thank you for sharing this adventure called life with me.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

The steps between polishing and publishing.

The steps between polishing and publishing.
Photo courtesy of

The steps between polishing and publishing.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

Once your manuscript is polished, you need to try on some other hats.

Having finished your manuscript and gotten feedback from a few friends and family, it’s very tempting to move forward with the publishing process. If your goal is to have more than a handful of close relatives read your book, there are several other steps that should occur between typing “the end” and the beginning of the publishing process.

You will need to take a break from your manuscript.

By the time you finish writing a book of any length, your brain will be getting tired, and it will become tough to see the results realistically. A personal confession here, more than once, I have published a book and then a month later came up with an idea that would have improved that book a great deal.

If you’re going to do rapid writing and publishing, you can’t sit on each book forever, but if you have enough books in your pipeline, you can let each one marinate while you work on the sequel. What you don’t want to do is go on making changes indefinitely without having someone else look at your work.

Does your manuscript need editing or proofreading?

There is lots to learn about editing and proofreading, and if you continue to self-publish, you will need to learn all about those steps. That learning begins with differentiating between editing and proofreading.

Try reading your book out loud.

No matter how many times I reread my manuscripts, I couldn’t catch all the errors. The human brain tries to spare us the need to reprocess large amounts of data and make many small decisions. That’s why our brains really love creating and repeating habits.

One habit my brain has gotten into, and I’m told other people’s brains work essentially the same way, it’s my eyes see what my brain wants to be on the page rather than what I actually typed. After rereading and revising the same paragraph multiple times, my brain no longer detects the errors. One solution to this problem is to shift to a different modality.

Reading my book out loud, specifically when I read it to a family member, caused all the errors and unwieldy sentences to pop out. So I took to reading a chapter each night before bedtime to whichever family member would listen, and I made corrections in red pen as I went along.

You need several more steps between a finished manuscript and the publishing process.

Not all editing is created equal.

There are many kinds of editing. I was naive enough at first to think that anyone who gave a manuscript a good, detailed read could be an effective editor. Over the last few years, I’ve been studying editing and listening to webinars and podcasts about the writing and editing processes. A good editor can help you in many ways.

Is the story working?

To produce a quality story, I needed to learn to take my eyes off the sentence-level problems and start looking at the overarching story. I’m still working on this part of my writing craft. Having someone other than the author read the book can help you spot the areas that still need work.

A story can be improved greatly when fresh eyes examine it. Developmental editors, book coaches, and many other categories of professional readers can tell you a lot about whether your story works, whether there are plot holes, and other big-picture issues. It’s also helpful to know whether your early readers will find the story interesting and whether it meets genre expectations.

Beta readers can be extremely helpful.

I had hoped my friends and family could give me helpful feedback that would improve my writing. Turned out that most of the people I know are more film and video enthusiasts than heavy readers. I think they also wanted to spare my feelings.

Every writer who has dreams of a career producing multiple books needs to find a group of readers who appreciate the stories you’re trying to tell. Recruiting those beta readers takes time and effort.

Those beta readers are most helpful when they read the genre you plan to write. Sending your new horror thriller to a list of readers who prefer cozy mysteries isn’t likely to get you the kind of feedback you need.

There are plenty of good writing teachers and coaches who can tell you all the ins and out’s of genre. I’m still at the stage of writing where I’m experimenting with several genres. I’ll get back to you in future posts with more on genre and the beta readers I will be looking for.

Successful editing requires multiple journeys through the book.

Several writing and editing trainings I have listened to suggest that editing requires multiple passes through the book. Having tried to fix everything all at once, this is making more and more sense to me.

One approach to this editing is to make your first pass through the book, looking only at the major issues like plot and character. Next would come reviews of major structural components such as the inciting incident, the midpoint, and the climax.

Next comes smaller sections. In the beginning, I thought of this as revising one chapter at a time. I’ve learned to start thinking in terms of scenes. Some of my chapters consist of only one scene, but other chapters may include several brief scenes.

Next comes looking at the flow of the paragraphs. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a paragraph I thought I had written between one scene and the next never got from my brain into the manuscript.

Lastly should come the sentence-by-sentence review. The word choice may vary with the author’s style and the genre.

If you reach this point, and learning all this is no small task, you’re ready to tackle all the challenges of sending your story out into the world.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Turning a manuscript into a book

Turning a manuscript into a published book

Photo courtesy of

Turning a manuscript into a book.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

What are you going to do with that manuscript?

My writing a book began because I had something I wanted to say. I didn’t want to be one of those people who spent my whole life saying I was going to write a book and never did. As an aside here, I think of myself as an “indoor mountain climber.” I am always looking for a new challenge to master.

My top three-character strengths are:

  1. Love of learning
  2. Creativity
  3. Curiosity.

The idea of building on your character strengths comes from the field of positive psychology. As a therapist, just treating people to get them over their depression never seems like enough. I wanted to find out what it took to have a happy, joyful, and contented life. For more of all that thinking, take a look at my mental health blog

So, given my top character strengths, it came naturally that I would not only want to write the book, but I would want to learn and understand the process of going from an idea to a finished product. I was hoping that some people would actually read the book.

Am I writing a nonfiction book or a novel?

I struggled with that choice for quite some time. Ultimately, I decided to do both. I took a number of the blog posts I had written about overcoming life’s problems, added some more material, did some editing, and the result was a nonfiction mental health book. Someday I’ll get back to working on nonfiction books, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I printed copies of my first nonfiction book using the printer attached to my computer, hole-punched them, and put them in binders. Then I asked a few friends to look at the book. I got some useful feedback and made some revisions. Eventually, I published that book. My biggest regrets are that I didn’t get more beta readers and do more revisions before I decided to publish. On the other hand, had I kept revising, I might never have published anything.

Next came my first novel.

While I was waiting for feedback on my nonfiction book, I started work on a novel. There are several stories behind that decision, but I’ll leave those for another post.

While finishing up the nonfiction book, I kept working on my novel. As a result, I got better at taking a book writing project from start to finish. Like most beginners in any field, I could see what I was accomplishing, but I still didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I gave copies of my first novel to a second set of friends for feedback.

Again, the feedback was helpful, and encouragement from friends felt good, but at that point, I couldn’t identify areas that needed improvement. What I did identify were all those steps that come after finally saying the book is done but before it could be available for people to purchase.

This all happened when things in the self-publishing field were changing rapidly.

My first two books were published just as CreateSpace was being folded into KDP. I quickly discovered that just because the book looked good when viewed on my computer in Microsoft Word, it didn’t look the way it should when viewed on a kindle or printed out into a paperback.

There were certainly features of the process that I struggled to learn. However, by the time I returned to using them for my subsequent books, many of those steps had changed.

Both books got their debut.

Eventually, my first two books became available as kindle editions and paperbacks. I briefly tried “going wide.” but ultimately, I decided that the right thing for me was to be exclusive with Amazon and have my books available on Kindle unlimited. While the sales aren’t huge, some months, the revenue from Kindle Unlimited reads exceeds the revenue from sales of books.

The next step in my journey was learning how to publish my books.

I’ll tell you more about that in an upcoming blog post.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Polishing the manuscript

Polishing the manuscript

Polishing the manuscript,
Photo courtesy of

Polishing the manuscript.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

My journey from writing something to making it readable.

It’s a long process with many steps to transform that finished manuscript into a book that’s published and available for purchase. Each one of these steps has a learning curve. I’m going through the process of learning the most rudimentary parts of these steps, but I could certainly learn a great deal more.

Each one of these steps is a skill that takes time and effort to master, which is why many people elect to pay others to help with the steps along this process. I’ll briefly outline the steps I took, and maybe in the future, I’ll get back to some of these steps in greater detail.

Too much typing can be extremely hard on the body.

Back when I went to high school, and even my first go around in a Community College, typing was something delegated to secretarial students. I remember a friend in high school who majored in typing, stenography, and general secretarial skills. It seems to have worked out well for her.

Since my writing was not in my scope of duties where I was working, having someone else type up my dictated manuscript was not feasible. I learned to type mainly by looking at the keys as I went. As we adapted to entering our notes into computers, I was spending more and more time “pounding the keys.” I was able to work up quite a bit of speed writing that way, but the net result was that I, along with many of my coworkers, got to wear those annoying wrist braces used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.

I made the shift to dictating.

I’ve been using Dragon Speak for dictation for some time. I found it had both good and problematic features. As the years have gone by, the manufacturer has improved the program, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not so good. The most problematic part of using any technology is the rate at which changes occur.

I find it very upsetting when buttons move around the page, and the features I could use yesterday have disappeared today. Over time, I learned enough of the features to make it work, and then lo and behold, one-morning dictation appeared as a feature in Microsoft Word. I’m still learning to use the program, but with all the writing I do, it would not be possible to type out error-free pages.

You will need to fix all those errors.

In the early days of writing my blog, a lot of posts got published full of errors. Sometimes it was the wrong word choice, and other times it was incorrect punctuation. Words like “there” and “their” slipped through in the wrong usages.

Writing a piece and then immediately posting it creates a tremendous potential for errors to slip by. Especially after working all day and writing in the evening. When your brain’s fuzzy, rereading what you have just finished writing lets a lot of errors slip through.

How do you reduce those errors?

I rely heavily on every available resource to reduce the number of errors in the pieces I write. Notice I didn’t say eliminate the errors. The more aware I have become, the more I spot errors in traditionally published books. Even using professional proofreaders, some errors slip by. The more eyes you have on the book, the more likely you are to catch mistakes.

Whatever program you’re using to write, it probably includes a spelling and grammar checker. I find this a help, but not a solution. Over the last 15 years, since I’ve been working on my writing more seriously, spell check, grammar checkers, and editing software have improved dramatically. But, remarkably, these programs don’t all agree on some of these corrections.

Learning to dictate created its own set of problems.

Typing all day at an office-type job resulted in a case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing braces on my wrists helped somewhat, but it didn’t solve the whole problem, especially when I was coming home from work and “pounding the keys” late into the evening trying to finish a blog post or a chapter in a book.

I have used more than one dictation program. Unfortunately, each of them has had its problems. I know that there are writing coaches who advocate dictating as a way to speed up your word count. I have found that sometimes it does help me get my thoughts out on “paper” a lot faster. But dictation also results in introducing a lot of errors that need to be corrected. Spotting and correcting those errors sometimes takes your focus off reading the content and can introduce a lot of other errors.

One other resource I wouldn’t be without.

I don’t do a lot of heavy proofreading and editing when I’m in the writing process. I get the ideas, and I want to get them down on paper as quickly as possible. I’ve learned that there are many other steps that need to happen after I have a clean, finished first draft to turn it into something readable, even by family and friends.

One resource I do use is Grammarly. At the end of each blog post or when writing my novels after each chapter, I open up Grammarly and quickly correct the most glaring errors. There are ways to set the features so that it detects some errors and not others. I took another approach. I let it show me all the potential errors. Then I correct the ones I want to correct and leave the ones I choose not to change.

When writing dialogue, I try to give each character a different voice. Try is probably the keyword here. That means if the college professor is speaking, I correct all the errors. But if my protagonist speaks to another character, I let them have their own voice and leave unchanged some of the slang expressions they might be using.

You’d think I’d be done now, wouldn’t you?

Many more steps are required to turn this “unsanded, rough draft” into something I would want someone else to read. I’m still refining this process so it becomes the kind of automatic habit that can turn out readable manuscripts consistently. Getting those manuscripts ready for publication is another topic I’ll talk about in an upcoming blog post.

Am I planning on publishing another book?

Absolutely. I’m currently working on a series of books in which I bring back a character (Nancy Nusbaum from the Paranormal News) who appeared in one of my previous novels, and I will send her off to have a whole series of new adventures.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Getting the writing done

My Writing Journey
photo courtesy of Pixabay

Getting the writing done.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

It’s a miracle that my first book of mine ever got finished.

Looking back on my writing journey, I’m a little surprised that any of my writing ever saw the light of day. Even more surprising is the idea that some people have read the things I’ve written.

In the early days, I wrote blog posts. For a couple of years, I even struggled to write a new blog post each day. There were a lot of lessons about creating content I needed to learn, and writing something each day destined for publication kept me on track. A lot of the lessons I learned were painful. I’ll share those lessons, the good and the bad, with you as we move through this series of blog posts.

Turning out a daily blog post of 1000 words, more or less, Taught me a lot about my writing process, but pivoting to writing full-length books pointed out the difference between mastering a process and getting good at writing content.

Blogging consumed a lot of time.

My first blog was devoted to mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life. I still try to post on a regular basis over at but working on books and a lot of the other changes in my life over the last five years has been quite challenging.

The writing process I developed for producing a daily blog post got the words written, but there were many more lessons I needed to learn to transform my writing into a full-length book. One of the reasons I started writing blog posts was that it spurred me to research and learn new things. Many of the things I researched for my blog have gotten incorporated into my work as a therapist, a teacher, and a clinical supervisor.

The first two books I published were experiments.

My first book was a nonfiction book about adjustment disorders. Going through school, practicum, and internship, I heard very little about adjustment disorders. Adjustment disorders are those everyday problems that we don’t necessarily think of as a mental illness but which cause a whole lot of pain and suffering. These are things like a breakup, divorce, or job loss. When I started seeing clients, adjustment disorders were something I saw a lot of; hence I did the research.

That first book was produced by taking many of those blog posts, stringing them together, and then editing that content into something that made sense. I ended up writing a lot of new content to fill in the gaps, but looking back, that book didn’t have a plan, and it could have been a lot better.

When I started writing, I expected to write more nonfiction books about mental health, but I discovered that after working with clients all day and the grueling process of writing a blog, I was running out of the energy and interest needed to write a second nonfiction book.

What do you do once you have that manuscript?

That first year I refined my process so that I could start and finish a book. I think there are as many different ways to go about that as there are writers. I’ve tried both writing from an outline and starting with an idea and pantsing my way through. They’re pros and cons to both. I may have made a wrong decision, But I decided to take the self-publishing route. Starting at age 70, I wasn’t thinking I had a lot of years to spend querying publishers. I had also concluded that self-publishing and e-books were the wave of the future, and I wanted to see how far I could go.

If any of you are familiar with positive psychology and the idea of character strengths and virtues, let me share with you my top three of the 24 commonly accepted character strengths and virtues. You can find a free test at

My top character strength is “love of learning.” Number two is “creativity.” And in 3rd place is “curiosity.” For the record, coming in last at number 24 is “prudence.” so it certainly made a lot of sense, at least to me, that learning the process of writing and publishing a book was at the top of my agenda.

Over the next two-plus years, I repeated this process seven times.

Then came COVID. In the early months of the pandemic, I finished book #7, and then my writing career took a detour. Next on our agenda, I’ll tell you about the steps it took to turn those finished manuscripts into books available for purchase. After that, I want to talk a little bit about why having written and published seven books; my writing career has taken a different direction.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Decisions writers make once their book is written.

Moving from Writer to Author.
Courtesy of

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

Decisions you must make once you finish your manuscript.

You have finished your manuscript, which is probably a first draft, and now you must make a lot of decisions. Frankly, some of these you could have made before you wrote a book, but unless you are well along your journey to becoming a writer, publisher, and entrepreneur, you probably won’t do that. I know I didn’t. I will walk you through the decisions I had to make and some of the lessons I learned.

Why did I write this book?

Unless you’re doing write-to-market or someone else presented you with an idea, you probably got an idea and went to work on writing your book. Now you must ask yourself why you wrote this particular book and what you will do with it now that you have it.

If you wrote it because you felt you had something you needed to say, you probably want to get the maximum number of people to read it. If you are hoping to make money, maybe even make a living by writing, you need to look at what will be most profitable.

If you go on to write a second book, you will probably have a much clearer idea of the intended readers. The more refined your idea, the better your chances that this book will accomplish what you set out to do.

What do you intend to do with this book?

Not having a clear idea of your objectives results in people writing books that end up in drawers, never to see the light of day again. Writing a book about yourself or your problems can be very therapeutic. A lot of self-help books start that way. Most of them aren’t things that should be shared with anyone else. Writing an epic novel can be a lot of fun. Many books began with the author putting their daydreams down on paper. But now what?

If you decide to share this with others, you move from being a writer to taking on the many other responsibilities of getting your book ready for others to read.

Are you going to run off half-dozen copies of your memoir and hand them out to family and friends? Or will you try to get your book in front of a wider audience?

All these decisions I’m going to give you aren’t always made in this order, but eventually, you’ll have to think about these things. I know I did.

Should you Self-publish or submit to a traditional publisher?

Will you go looking for an agent or publisher? Or are you going to self-publish? If you hadn’t thought those things through before you started writing, you had better do it now.

Both have their advantages. If you find an agent or a publisher, they can do much of the work for you. They can also prevent you from making a lot of serious mistakes.

Submitting your book to a publisher or agent includes a high risk that you will get rejected. Even if you get it accepted, unless you sell a lot of books, you won’t see much money. But you will have the publisher helping you through the process of getting your book out there.

One warning here. Paying a publisher to get your book printed usually results in spending a lot of money and ending up with a garage full of books. Real legitimate publishers will pay for the expenses if they expect to sell some books, and they reject it if they don’t. People who charge you to print your book plan to make their money off you, and whether you ever do anything with the books is not their problem. I suppose there are some exceptions to this, but bad experiences are so common I cannot encourage that route.

I decided to do the self-publish route.

I finished my first nonfiction book shortly before I turned seventy. I wanted to say that I had achieved my goal of writing a book and seeing it published. I wasn’t sure I would have it in me to write more books. Looking back, I wish I had done things a little differently, but I’ll share those challenges with you.

If you decide to go the self-publish route, even with the help of one of the major platforms, you will be wearing one, two, or maybe even a dozen hats in addition to being a writer. Each function you will have to perform has a learning curve. I found some of those curves as steep as climbing a shared granite wall. But I’m still climbing.

So, are you ready to become a published author?

If you reach this point, you have finished your manuscript, decided you wanted to get it out in the world, and probably have decided to self-publish your book. You’re now ready to move from the art of being a writer to the business of being a published author.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Polishing my first book.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

Polishing my first book.

So, what happened to the first manuscript I had finished?

The first book I wrote was definitely an experiment, though I didn’t know it at the time. My conclusion has been that the steps in becoming a writer are the equivalent of a musician practicing the scales. It may not sound pretty, but it’s a necessary step to perfecting your craft.

I thought that I had a pretty good handle on the book. I had written a nonfiction book specific to the field I worked in. I felt that if I worked at this every day, I should know enough to write a book on the subject. Knowing about the subject matter is not the same thing as being able to write about it.

My topic was how people overcome the difficulties of everyday living. People who work in the mental health field would call this an adjustment disorder. Professionals have a phenomenally long list of problems of living that can cause people difficulty. Most of this stuff is normal reactions to life’s problems. But when someone has an excessive reaction to the problem, that can be diagnosed and needs treatment.

I started compiling my first book.

At this point, I had been writing a blog on mental health for about six years. I’d written some technical posts about adjustment disorders but also written some things that were meant to be helpful for people who were struggling with life’s challenges. So, I started by pulling all those blog posts together and putting them into the correct order.

By this point in my journey to becoming a writer, I had been reading several blogs on writing. I had read multiple posts about “blogging a book” I understood that to mean you could take a bunch of blog posts, put them together and turn them into a book. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

I can’t blame any of the authors of those posts for the way my first book turned out. The problem was not with the suggestions or even the advice. It had to do with the execution. Later in this series, I’ll talk about which writing blogs I have found most helpful.

Probably I should’ve started with an outline of what I was going to write on the blog and gradually posted sections making sure to utilize the feedback for my revisions. But at this point, I still wasn’t clear on what I wanted to end up with in the book, so I just kept doing more research, writing additional blog posts, and adding some of them to my manuscript. Trying to turn all those pieces into a book was quite a challenge.

I knew I needed to get some other eyes on the manuscript.

I kept feeling there were parts of the story that were missing in my book and that I needed to include. So, I asked several friends and some coworkers in the mental health field to read the book and give me their feedback. I got some beneficial ideas which I incorporated into a second draft. But I shouldn’t have stopped there.

A lot of what my first couple of readers discovered were proofreading issues, grammar, and spelling. I don’t think any book is ever written that doesn’t have those kinds of errors in them. I recently reviewed a book from a big-name publishing company for the class I teach, and sure enough, I found some proofreading errors and even a couple of factual problems.

I ran my book through a second draft.

The second draft consisted mainly of fixing grammar and spelling and adding more passages to cover things I left out of the first draft. At this point, I thought I had a book ready to send out into the world to see what other people thought. So I decided my next step would be to study the publishing process.

Close to my retirement date and not sure about my finances, I decided to self-publish my book and do as many things as possible myself. I learned a lot from this process. One major thing I learned was that self-publishing is a lot more difficult than it appears. You need to learn many new skills to navigate the self-publishing process. I’m thankful that Amazon and several other companies have made this process feasible. Still, I’ve also learned there are many possible mistakes, and you need to practice each skill repeatedly until you can get good at it.

I made a lot of mistakes in this process.

I seem to have a genuine talent for making mistakes. Not just once, but I make some of the same ones repeatedly. Just because I figured out how to do something once five years ago does not mean I will remember how to do it again today.

I try to avoid being a perfectionist.

One of the mottos I live by is progress, not perfection. But it’s embarrassing sometimes to look back at something I did in the past and realize how much better it could have been. Not everything that was wrong with that first book was necessarily a mistake but there sure were a lot of things that I needed to learn if I wanted to improve my craft.

In my next post, I’ll describe some of the mistakes I made, some of the things I wish I had improved on, and the lessons I learned from this process.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel