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Author Archives: Brian A. Klems

Read These Successful Query Letters

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Writing a book is fun. Writing a query letter is stressful. In your book, you can add layers of backstory and extra pages to let your full story flow. In a query letter, you basically have four tiny paragraphs to say “PICK ME! PICK ME!” (Holy crap, I’m having grade-school playground flashbacks.) So what’s the best plan of attack to creating a pitch perfect query letter? Read more

7 Grammar Blunders to Avoid

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Nothing is worse than getting in the first edition of our new issue, opening it up and finding a giant grammar mistake plain as day. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it blows my mind. “How did that happen? We read the issue 5 times each, hired an extra copy editor and even used the Microsoft WORD’s spell check (which never misses a mistake, right?).” Read more

Are Serial Commas Necessary?

Q: When writing a sentence that contains a series of something (e.g., a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker), do I need a comma before the “and” connecting the final two … Read more

Plethora Doesn’t Mean “A Lot”

Q: Can you use “plethora” to mean “a lot,” as in, I own a plethora of baseball hats? A: The misuse of “plethora” is a pet peeve of mine. The word “plethora” … Read more

Are Agents Just Looking for an Excuse to Reject Your Work?

Q: Doesn’t it seem like agents are just looking for excuses to reject work? —Anonymous A: Actually, the complete opposite is true. Agents don’t want to reject your work, they want to … Read more

One Simple Question All Writers Should Ask Themselves

In this brief exercise, Douglas Preston, co-author of the bestselling Pendergast novels (Relic) and The Monster of Florence, challenges writers to really write what they know to take their thrillers to the … Read more

One Simple Way to Sharpen Your Pitch

As anyone who’s ever tried to come up with one of those vital one-sentence pitches for their book knows, getting it right can be maddening. Here, courtesy of bestseller Jon Land, is … Read more

Science-Fiction Author John Scalzi Explains How Not to Be Boring

JOHN SCALZI is the author of several science fiction novels, including the bestselling Old Man’s War series, comprising Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony. He is a winner … Read more

Selling Short Story Short: An Interview with ZZ Packer

ZZ Packer is the author of the short-story collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a PEN/Faulkner finalist that was selected for the “Today” show book club by John Updike. Her stories have appeared in … Read more

When the Story You’re Writing Isn’t Working: An Interview with Donald Miller

Donald Miller is the author of multiple New York Times Bestsellers including Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He has served on the Presidential Task Force on … Read more

Memoir Spotlight: Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir with more than 3 million copies in print, and Half Broke Horses, a bestselling true-life novel based on her grandmother. She … Read more

Women’s Fiction Spotlight: Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah (kristinhannah.com) is The New York Times bestselling author of 18 novels, including the blockbusters Firefly Lane, True Colors and Winter Garden, and, most recently, Night Road. You’ve said the seed … Read more

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Paula McLain

Paula McLain’s latest book is the bestselling The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and upstart years in 1920s Paris, told from the point of view of his … Read more

Humor Phenom Justin Halpern’s (Sh*t My Dad Says) Uncensored Insights Into Writing

In 2009, Justin Halpern created a Twitter account to archive his father’s expletive-ridden words of wisdom. Within a month, @shitmydadsays was an Internet sensation. Halpern’s first book, Sh*t My Dad Says, a … Read more

Voicemail from Boss

You get into work and find that your boss has left a voicemail message on your phone. The message is urgent. Though, what’s peculiar is that the message is not work related. … Read more

In 10 Words

Write a 10-word sentence that sums up your day. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

Your Favorite Childhood Book

What was your favorite book as a kid? Recount the way it made you feel when you read it. Post your response (500 words or less) in the comments below.

You’re Having Twins

The ultrasound come in and it turns out you and your spouse are having twins. Write the scene where you tell your family, especially your mother who for years has jokingly asked … Read more

Returning to Campus

On the 10th anniversary of your college graduation, you and your closest college friends decide to return to campus for a weekend to relive your “glory days.” Things go awry, though, when … Read more

Your Uncle’s Will

After living for years paycheck to paycheck, a windfall of money comes your way from a distant uncle. But in order to receive the money, you must complete a mission from your … Read more

Losing a Loved One

Someone who you are extremely close to unexpectedly dies. Write that person a letter explaining what you will miss most about him or her. Post your response (500 words or less) in … Read more

Not Your Real Mother

Mother’s Day is over and you’ve just finished a nice dinner with your mom when you receive a phone call. An unfamiliar female voice is on the other end and says, “Stop … Read more

An Apple’s Point of View

Write a story from the point of view of an apple, sitting in a fruit basket on your kitchen counter, observing life around it. Post your response (500 words or less) in … Read more

Turning Your Favorite Song Into a Short Story

Use the words from your favorite song (or the song that is stuck in your head), mix them up and write a short short story using every word. Post your response (500 … Read more

The Morning After

You are out partying with friends when one slips something into your drink. The next thing you know, it’s the morning and you don’t remember anything—though you have a collection of mysterious … Read more

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