Breaking In (Writer’s Digest)

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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....

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3 Tips For a Better First Revision

The first revision is probably the most important factor in sculpting your novel. One of my favorite quotes to express this idea is by Shannon Hale who wrote: “I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The first revision...

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Successful Queries: Agent Jim McCarthy and MIDNIGHT THIEF

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer's literary agent as to why the letter worked. The 67th installment in this series is with...

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4 Reasons You’re Procrastinating Instead of Writing

You have ideas for stories, but when you launch your word processor, you stare helplessly at a blank page. Every time you try to write, you end up spending the evening watching videos of cats on YouTube instead. Why is this happening? We’ve all been there. Here are a few things that might be...

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How I Got My Literary Agent: Maria Mutch

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Maria Mutch, author of the memoir KNOW THE NIGHT (March 2014). These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many...

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How I Got My Agent: Elizabeth Blackwell

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Elizabeth Blackwell, author of WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are...

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Stretching the Facts in Historical Fiction

My novel GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN is based on Frances Stuart, who posed as Britannia on England’s coins three hundred years ago. As soon as I started writing, I felt a sense of responsibility to make her story as accurate as possible. Scouring sources for facts about her life revealed many unanswered questions....

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Got Rejection Dejection?

Are you singing the rejection blues because your book (or poem or screenplay) has been rejected by a publisher (or magazine or production company)? Here are some things to consider when your writing project has been rejected. 1. Are you being realistic enough about the quality of your writing? Giving your essay or play or...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by E.L. Tettensor

2. Less is more. Everyone has their own style. Some prefer lean and muscular, others prefer something a little more florid. Both approaches have their merits, and their fans. That being said, I’ve never heard a reader say, “Gee, I wish there were more adverbs in this book,” and I’ve never read a review...

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7 Things I’ve Learned so Far, by Laura Krughoff

3. Fix the end by fixing the middle. I routinely tell my students that if they’re struggling with the ending of a story, it is probably because they haven’t quite worked out the conflict. I spent a long time struggling with how to end my novel, and I rewrote the final chapter many times...

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6 Simple Keys To Revising Your Fiction

1. Once you have finished a good first draft don’t look at it for a while. Go back to it after having some space and you will see it afresh. This is even more important for novels. When you have spent such a long time on a piece of prose you really need to...

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Successful Queries: Agent Melissa Jeglinski and “Ink”

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer's literary agent as to why the letter worked. The 62nd installment in this series is with...

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Revise Like You Mean It

There is a fairly common misconception about what >b>revision means. That is, if you are a talented writer, you will write an inspired first draft, which you can perfect by making sentences better, fleshing out characters, checking facts, catching continuity problems, and the like. But real revision – in fiction at least – is...

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How I Got My Agent: Amy Sue Nathan

“How I Got My Agent” (this installment featuring author Amy Sue Nathan) is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to get a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and...

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Story Problems? Maybe You Need a Good Piece of Device

Find your device early in your planning or drafting process. Laura Whitcomb included devices in a book about first drafts for a reason. In The Anatomy of Story, John Truby puts the device fourth in a twenty-two step process. He uses the term “designing principle,” and while we can debate whether he means a...

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How I Got My Agent: Julie Kibler

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Julie Kibler, author of the literary fiction debut novel, CALLING ME HOME (2013). These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads...

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Write Like a Lawyer: 5 Tips for Fiction Writers

I often tell people that being a lawyer isn’t so different from being a fiction writer. The comment always elicits some laughs, maybe a suspicious squint or two, but I couldn’t be more serious. As a junior and mid-level corporate litigator, much of my day was spent writing briefs, witness statements and other court...

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How I Got My Agent: Dennis Mahoney

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Dennis Mahoney, author of the 2013 literary novel FELLOW MORTALS. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks,...