Breaking In (Writer’s Digest)

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Train Your Brain and Make Writing a Priority

Finding the time to write is a universal struggle for writers. Day jobs, kids, pets, presidential elections, to-do lists…there are a million things that require our time and attention before we can give anything to writing. When I was in college, I wrote a terrible young adult novel. I worked on it during holiday breaks...

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5 Tips for Writing Appealing Characters

An appealing protagonist (or villain!) gives readers someone to root for, but appealing characters are not the same thing as perfect characters. Characters that never make mistakes and have lives without incident are not only boring, they are the quickest way to turn-off your readers. Column by Emily Littlejohn, author of INHERIT THE BONES (Nov. 1,...

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The Constant Gardener

Before I had a garden, I remember how desperately and urgently I craved success. I remember staying up all night, writing as fast as I could, or agonizing over the same few paragraphs. I would do anything to get published. And all of that was profoundly unhelpful. What I needed to do was leave the...

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Contests: A Non-Traditional Route to Publication

Like most unpublished writers, I believed that there were only two paths to getting my words and thoughts before the world’s readers. I could go the traditional route of sending out query letters, and hope my brilliant writing would be plucked from the slush pile on a discerning agent’s desk. She would then successfully pitch...

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3 Things I Stopped Doing That Got Me Writing Again

Every writer has a “go to” set of techniques, strategies, and schemes they use to motivate themselves to get their stories written; all the things they do every day to write their way to “THE END.” However, after 20 years of barely completing a sentence, much less a story, here are three things I...

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6 Hard Truths Every Writer Should Accept

From a person who never dreamed of writing a book to published author, I’ve learned some things along the way. There are a few hard truths I feel every writer should accept. The sooner you accept them, the sooner you’ll stop obsessing about them and the sooner you can do the work to get...

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Facing the Edits: 7 Steps to a Happy Revision

You’ve slaved over your manuscript. Your heart and soul and perhaps even a few tears are spilled on the pages (and if you’re a klutz like me, a bit of coffee is on there too). You are ready to send that manuscript out to be read by your trusted readers, whether that’s your writing...

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Up Late With Sociopaths: Surviving Thriller Research

When I was a child, my mother worked as a librarian, and on some of those long summer days that contained neither school nor camp nor babysitters, she took me to work with her, where I was given the instruction to go forth and read. For many children, this would be punishment. For me,...

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10 Tips on Landing an Agent at a Writers’ Conference

When I was ready to seek representation, I chose not to approach agents in the usual way—by email query—even though most agents prefer that method. I wanted to get a face-to-face impression of my future agent’s personality and communication style, so I decided to attend writers’ conferences. Over six months, I pitched to nine...

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7 Tips for Writing About Other Cultures

I don’t make any claim to be an expert in diversity. I am a white American woman, and despite the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for the past six years, I’m still often blinded by my own privilege. But it doesn’t take an expert to notice that protagonists on the pale end of...

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The Key to Better Writing? Study Screenwriting!

I feel obliged to preface this short piece with a disclaimer: I am no expert. On the other hand, I’m not sure anybody is. Three words you often hear in Hollywood—and I’ve heard them myself—are: “Nobody knows anything.” You hear it from producers, you hear it from directors, you hear it from agents. (I’m...

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How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Submit?

If you’re even pondering this question, chances are you need to slow your roll. I get it—you’re excited, you’ve worked really hard, your mom likes it, you’re worried someone else is going to beat you to the punch with a similar idea, your particular genre is really hot right now, you have people waiting...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jessamyn Hope

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Jessamyn Hope, author of SAFEKEEPING, a novel) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things...

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How to Locate Your Weird (and Better Your Writing)

1. Embrace the First Truth: You’re a freak. No use denying it. I mean this very literally. After all, by definition, a freak is an “abnormal phenomenon.” So, if you believe that all humans are unique individuals, as I do, then there is technically no absolutely normal person and we are all, therefore, freaks....

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4 Writing Tips I Learned at Drama School

As an undergrad at NYU, I saw the writing classes I took as “core curriculum,” pure and simple. Sure, they were rigorous and fun, but they distracted from my real focus—the studio where I spent twenty-five hours a week learning how to act. It took several post-grad years for me to come to terms...

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The Utility (and Trappings) of the Novel Outline

I’ve been selling books for more than fifteen years and learning to write novels even longer. Of all the author readings and Q&A sessions I’ve hosted (and attended), one of the most common questions among beginning writers, even curious readers, is this: Do you start with an outline? You’ve heard the pros and cons....

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The Power of Vulnerability

How many emotions do you experience in a week? A month? If someone told your story, what emotions would they put on the page? Think about your lowest moment and your best experience. I know it’s scary, but if you want your stories to have power, you have to be willing to be vulnerable....