Breaking In (Writer’s Digest)

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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.”...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...