Author Archives: Zachary Petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Based on interviews with authors over the years, conferences, editing dozens of issues of Writer’s Digest, and my own occasional literary forays and flails, here are some points of consensus and observations: 15 of them, things anyone who lives by the pen (or seeks to) might consider. It is, like most...

Actors-Turned-Authors: How Many Copies Did They Sell?

We always hear about those gargantuan celebrity book deals … but we rarely find out how those books actually fared on the shelf. The results may surprise (or sadden, or maybe even satisfy) you. According to industry analyst Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales from most major retailers, here are some of...

Rejection Letter Bingo

From the March/April 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest, here’s Rejection Letter Bingo. Print it out and play along. But hurry—I’m getting close!     —Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, and the senior managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. He’ll be at the Writer’s Digest Conference East April 5-7 in New York, doing some fun panels on...

Bug-Out Bags for Writers

As we all know from watching shows like Doomsday Preppers, you’ve got to be ready to get out of dodge fast if things hit the fan. So what should a writer have in their bug-out bag? Whether you’re escaping the zombie apocalypse or just fleeing to a cabin for a weekend...

Jodi Picoult: Top 10 Writers I Admire, and Why

It’s time for another writerly list. If you liked Erik Larson’s Top 10 Essentials to a Writer’s Life and Sherman Alexie’s Top 10 Pieces of Writing Advice I’ve Been Given (Or That I’ll Pretend Were Given to Me), here’s an excellent one from bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult: Top 10 Writers I Admire, and...

Famous First Lines Reveal How to Start a Novel

On this day in 1873, writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton died. One thing he left behind: The first line from his novel Paul Clifford: “It was a dark and stormy night …” The sentence went on to serve as the literary posterchild for bad story starters, and it also became the...

Happy Holidays From WD

Happy holidays from all of us here at WD. Here’s to hoping your own holidays, no matter what they are or where they may take you, are safe, filled with writing and the occasional mulled wine, and as elusively stress-free as they come. Today we randomly stumbled across a cache of...

Writing challenge! Can you write an opening sentence to a story incorporating these 3 words? (Winners will be published in WD)

Looking for a little Friday procrastination in the form of a writing challenge? Close that Excel spreadsheet you’re working on, minimize your boss’ emails or postpone your daily chores (come on, nobody would rather change a litter box than write, right?). Take five: It’s time for our Your Story contest. Basically,...

Where Debut Novels Are Born

Our “Lessons From First-Time Novelists” roundtable continues with a discussion of where the featured authors’ inspiration for their novels came from—plus tips for sparking your own creativity.

Flowchart: How Do I Publish a Book?

One of the questions we get asked the most at Writer’s Digest: How do I publish a book? Well, we decided to finally answer it in this flowchart from our November/December 2012 issue, which is on newsstands now. Hope you get a kick out of it. Happy Friday.   Want more?...

Sherman Alexie’s Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Writers

National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie’s birthday is Sunday, and his new title Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories was released this week. To celebrate the short-story writer (War Dances), poet (The Business of Fancydancing) and novelist (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), here’s some advice Alexie shared with us in...

How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference

In only a few weeks, our staff will be venturing west for the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, set for Oct. 19-21. On tap this year, writers can expect keynotes by Aimee Bender and Steven James, sessions taught by authors Elizabeth Sims, James Scott Bell, Rob Eagar, Nina Amir and...

Happy Birthday, Stephen King!

Today is Stephen King’s 65th birthday. To honor the man who is perhaps the most well-known living writer, here’s a linkfest of all things King. Don’t forget to have an It cupcake or two today. Stephen King’s Best Quotes: 13 of the author’s classic quips on the craft of writing. An Interview With...

How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps

By Guest Columnist Mike Nappa Mike Nappa is founder of Nappaland Literary Agency, and author of 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected, available wherever books are sold. * The woman asked a sensible question; she deserved a practical answer. I was sitting on an “Agents & Editors” panel at a...