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May/June 2014 Issue
Free Writing Downloads
Workshops Starting April 24th
- Fitting Writing Into Your Life
- Writing the Memoir 101
- Children's Picture Book Writing
- Creative Writing 101
- Form and Composition
- 28 Days to Your WordPress Site
- Breaking Into Copywriting
- Essentials of Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Bloggging 101
- Writing Great Dialogue
Workshops Starting May 1st
- Fitting Writing Into Your Life
Guide to Literary Agents Blogroll
- 2nd Draft Critique Service
Before you send out your work, have it edited by an established pro!
- Agency Gatekeeper
A literary agent shares secrets.
- Agent in the Middle
Agent Lori Perkins blogs and tells all
- Ashley Grayson Agent Blog
From the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency
- Ask the Agent
Literary agent Andy Ross in Oakland runs an agency blog.
- Association of Authors' Representatives
- Barbara Doyen's Articles Page
Agent Barbara Doyen shares her knowledge.
- Barry Goldblatt Literary
A blog from the whole agency.
- BookEnds Agent Blog
Agents from Bookends Literary blog
- Brenda BowenAgent Brenda Bowen's "Bunny Eat Bunny" kids writing blog.
- Cameron McClureCameron, with the Donald Maass Lit Agency, runs her "Book Cannibal" blog.
- Caren Johnson Literary Agency
The official CJLA blog
- Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market Blog
This blog, run by Alice Pope, is a must-read for anyone writing in the juvenile market
- Chip MacGregor's Agent Blog
A Christian agent speaks
- Chuck's conference speaking schedule
See where Chuck will be presenting and when!
- Colleen Lindsay's Agent Blog
A new agent at FinePrint Literary blogs
- DHS Literary Blog
David Hale Smith's "Literary Show and Tell" blog.
- Diana Fox's Agent Blog
A literary agent talks publishing
- Dystel & Goderich Agent Blog
- Eddie Schneider
An agent from JABberwocky Literary blogs.
- Elaine English Literary Agency Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- F+W Bookstore
Buy Guide to Literary Agents and a bunch of other great WD Books.
- FinePrint Literary Management Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- Folio Literary Management's Blog
All the agents chime in on this new blog
- Fresh Books Blog
An agency blog.
- Full Circle Literary's Blog
Agents from Full Circle Literary in California blog
- Girl Meets Book
Agent Jamie Brenner of Artists & Artisans blogs.
- Greenhouse Literary Blog
Agent Sarah Davies shares her thoughts and wisdom
- Hartline Literary Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- Janet Reid
Agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary gives her two cents on anything and everything
- Jennifer Jackson's Agent Blog
An agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency blogs
- Jenny Bent's Blog
From the founder of The Bent Agency.
- Jill Corcoran
A kids agent at the Herman Agency blogs.
- Joshua Bilmes Agent Blog
JABberwocky Literary Agency
- Kathleen Ortiz Agent Blog
Kathleen with Lowenstein Associates
- Kelly Mortimer
Agent Kelly Mortimer's "Perils of Publishing" blog.
- Ken Atchity
The president of AEI, a script and literary management co., blogs.
- Kid Lit
A blog by kids agent Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency
- Kimberly Cameron & Associates
A blog from the whole agency.
- Knight Agency Blog
Exactly what it sounds like
- Laurie McLean's Agent Blog
The "Agent Savant" blog
- Lit Soup (Jenny Rappaport's Agent Blog)
An agent at the L. Perkins Agency blogs
- Lucienne Diver's Agent Blog
A blog on "Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings."
- Lyons Literary Agent Blog
Agent Jonathan Lyons blogs
- MFA Confidential Blog
This new WD blog features Kate Monahan and all things about getting an MFA
- Michael Larsen's Blog
Agent Michael Larsen of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents blogs about publishing and nonfiction writing.
- Miss Snark
No longer active, but this blog by anonymous agent Miss Snark still has oodles of priceless info in its archives
- Nathan Bransford
A popular blog from an agent at Curtis Brown in San Francisco
- Nephele Tempest's Agent Blog
An agent with the Knight Agency blogs
- Poetic Asides
A poetry blog from the editor of Writer's Market
- Promptly (Prompts Blog)
WD's own blog of writing prompts, run by magazine staffer Zac Petit
- Pub Rants
Kristin Nelson's Agent Blog
- Publishers Marketplace
- Query Shark
Janet Reid's blog where she dissects query letters
- Questions and Quandaries Blog
WD staffer Brian A. Klems answers questions of all kinds
- Rachelle Gardner
A blog by an agent who specializes in Christian Writing
- Romantic Reads
Dorchester editor Leah Hultenschmidt blogs romance.
- Sara Crowe's Blog
An agent from Harvey Klinger blogs.
- Scott Eagan's Agent Blog
The great Greyhaus agent blogs away.
- Script Notes
A WD scriptwriting blog from Chad Gervich, TV producer
- Steve Laube's Agent Blog
A Christian agent and former editor talks the biz.
- Suzie Townsend
A new assistant agent at FinePrint Literary blogs.
- Terry Burns's Blog
An agent with Hartline Literary blogs.
- Terry Whalin's Blog
"The Writing Life," as told by a former editor and agent.
- The Buried Editor
A blog dedicated to juvenile writing (YA, middle grade, picture books) run by an editor at CBAY Books and Blooming Tree Press
- The Gail Ross Literary Agency
The agency blog.
- The Inside Pitch Screenwriting Blog
A Hollywood Executive Talks About Screenwriting
- The New Literary Agents
A few new literary agents share advice.
- The Rejecter (Anonymous Agent)
- The Shatzkin Files
- The Sound and the Furry
WD contributor Nancy Parish talks writing.
- There Are No Rules
Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest Books, talks about publishing trends and has interviews online
- Tracy Marchini
An agent from Curtis Brown, Ltd. blogs
- United States Copyright Office
- Upstart Crow Blog
A blog from the whole agency at Upstart Crow Literary.
- Waxman Literary Agency
A blog from the whole agency.
- Wendy Sherman Associates Blog
Multiple agents blog.
- Writer Beware
A site dedicated to protecting writers from scams of all kinds - including unscrupulous agents
- Writer Unboxed
Primarily devoted to genre fiction, this site features plenty of interviews with industry pros
- Writer's Digest magazine
This big hub has tons of online articles from past issues of WD. Check out the revamped new site!
- Writer's Digest University (Writers Online Workshops)
Online writing courses are taught by WD staffers and contributors
- Writer's Market
This pay site is our online database of listings (magazines, book publishers, agents, and everything else). It has more than 6,000 listings.
A huge writing website and resource writers should check out.
- Wylie Merrick Agency's Blog
- Zack Company Blog
Agent Andrew Zack blogs.
- 2nd Draft Critique Service
Is Your Manuscript Publication-Ready?
Is Your Manuscript Publication-Ready?
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After an evaluation of your submission, one of the professional 2nd Draft critiquers will provide feedback and advice. You'll not only learn what's working in your writing, but what's not, and—most important—how to fix it.
2nd Draft provides a high-level review of your writing, pointing out reasons your work may be getting rejected, or may not meet the standards of traditional publication.
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Editing Services are also available.
How to get published — read hundreds of helpful Writer’s Digest guest columns from published writers teaching the craft and business of writing.
The most difficult aspect of revision is that the process requires seeing our own mistakes. That speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye is a lot easier to see than the log in our own. I learned most about sentence-level revision from Richard Lanham, distinguished scholar, writer, and UCLA professor, who has written a number of books, including Revising Prose, in which he develops the “Paramedic Method” (PM), a series of steps that help writers find both the sound and the sense of each sentence. Sound and sense: that’s what I like most about the PM. Aside from pushing us to see the ethics of writing, Lanham’s method reinforces the impossibility of separating structure from idea. The PM helps us see the axis of the sentence—both the actual main subject and verb, as well as the unacknowledged subject and verb. If we can see a difference between the actual and the unacknowledged in any sentence, it’s time to revise, to look again. Read more
So you’re working on a story, and there comes a point where it really ought to have a fight scene. But you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m not a martial artist! I have no idea how to fight!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Fight scenes are so boring. I’d rather just skip over this and get back to the actual story.” Or something else that makes you dread writing that scene, rather than looking forward to it with anticipation.
To the first group, I say: the details of how to fight are possibly the least important component of a fight scene. The crucial components are the same ones you’re already grappling with in the rest of your writing—namely, description, pacing, characterization, and all that good stuff. To the second group, I say: it’s only boring if the author does it wrong.
GIVEAWAY: Marie is excited to give away a free copy of her e-book [mobi or epub formats] to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. Read more
Every aspiring author dreams of that first book contract. I landed one in April 2010 when Dorchester Publishing bought my crime thriller, The Highwayman, for a small advance. Success! I began writing it in 2007, finished it in 2008, queried, and got the usual round of rejections. Rather than believing all of those agents and editors were crazy, I figured there must be something wrong with what I was doing.
I attended the Deadly Ink mystery writers conference in New Jersey and met panelist Chris Roerden, a manuscript editor, and I purchased her book, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. Her panel discussion and insightful book crystallized why I was being rejected. I used boring words—in addition to using too many! I larded my manuscript with adjectives and adverbs (which have since been largely culled) to amaze my readers with my descriptive prowess. I explained stuff in bulky blocks of text that the late Elmore Leonard advises to keep to a minimum because readers tend to skip over them…
GIVEAWAY: Matt is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal. Also note that Matt’s novel comes out later this year, so he will mail the winner’s book once his author copies come in.) Read more
Some people love reality TV. Some people hate it. Not everyone reads Romance. But there is a covenant in a Romance, a true Romance, that can never be broken: The Happily Ever After.
Did I call HEA a covenant? Yes, but also a promise. It’s the reason I began reading Romances, it’s the reason I write them. These days couples don’t have to get married. These days, three is no longer a crowd. There are no more unwritten rules. The expectations have changed. But one thing has not. The main characters have to fall in love by the end of the book.
So, then, exactly what is a Happily Ever After? Read more
So you’ve decided to write a medical thriller. Your hopes are high. If Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, and Tess Gerritsen could do it, why can’t you? The answer is: you can. Medical thrillers appeal to a wide audience, and many literary agents and editors are looking for the next fresh voice in the genre. So go for it! See if you’ve got what it takes. But first, here are six helpful rules to keep in mind…
GIVEAWAY: John is excited to give away 2 free copies of his novel to random commenters. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: carolee1968 won.) Read more
I did not at any point request that my teacher refer to me as “the most happily disturbed writer” he’s ever known, nor did I request this quote be emblazoned across the top of my first book. And, yet, there it is.
I wasn’t at first comfortable with this. My wife and children don’t really think of me as a “disturbed” person, and as people who care about the world my wife and I don’t really relish the suggestion that I might be compounding the world’s troubles by adding to its many disturbing stories with even more “disturbed” stories of my own.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized being “happily disturbed” didn’t have to be the identity problem I’d first feared. The fact is, I am disturbed. The world and its many problems do disturb me. If the world didn’t disturb me, I’m not sure I would be a writer of fiction. Read more
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently, listing different ways readers can support authors. Most of them are pretty good ideas: buy their books, give them reviews, etc. I’m all about supporting authors; my book budget alone could support an army in one of those countries you’ve never heard of. (Assuming said army liked to read middle grade and YA.)
But when I read these lists, I can’t help wondering if the authors who post them spend as much time thinking about what they can do for their readers as they do about what readers can do for them. I know, I know, you spent years slaving over your manuscript. Isn’t that enough? Read more
Since I first saw Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m not alone in that. Lots of folks dream of getting a book deal someday. They chase the dream in a lot of ways. Reading obsessively. Going to writing conferences. Signing up for English Literature or Creative Writing MFA programs.
Me? I joined the military.
My third novel hits shelves in just two weeks, coming out from the biggest publisher in the world. I’ve got three more under contract after that. Sure, joining the military maybe wasn’t the most obvious route, but I sure am glad I did it. Here’s what it taught me… Read more
Step Five: Breathe. Take time to walk away from your masterpiece and breath. Get a fresh perspective from a trusted adviser. Take time to vent about your long writing journey. And take time to walk away for entire days, hell maybe a week or two. Time when you have left your thoughts on writing to the birds. Free your mind, meditate on life and it’s beauty, but what ever you do, remember that stepping away and thinking of other things can help you re-evaluate what you are putting on each digital or physical page. Read more
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. I ended up using as many facts as I could and just fictionalized the gaps. The first draft was done before I realized there are opposing opinions out there as to how the fact-fiction balance should be handled in this genre.
Many stress the importance of accuracy in historical fiction. Others think too many historical details sink the story. Still more believe it isn’t possible to achieve total historical accuracy in storytelling. Almost all agree that the author’s choices should be explained in an author’s note. The degree of emphasis an author places on fact versus fictionalization might be considered a matter of writing style. Read more
If you’ve ever tried to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) and been unable to complete it, you’re not alone. Plenty of people attempt to get that important first draft down on paper, so they can move to revisions with an eye for deepening characters and motivations, and finessing the plot. But more often than not, writers end their month of drafting with a partially-written draft that they’ll never look at again.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Don’t go into fast-drafting alone and without a plan. Find some camaraderie, some writer friends who will hold you accountable, and then make a solid plan for the book you’d like to not only finish, but market one day. Here are a few suggestions to help you put a plan into place before you start drafting, so you have a better chance of success…
GIVEAWAY: Denise is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Ron Estrada won.) Read more
Christmas 2013 was approaching fast. Tinsel and lights were everywhere but my festive cheer had taken another blow. I had just received yet another rejection for my debut contemporary romance novel “Rock My World”. I had received positive comments but ultimately, it was another “Not for us thanks.” I’d been firing it out to agents and publishers for months and although I had received some great feedback, there was no offer of representation or publication.
I remember trailing round the local supermarket the next morning, trying not to frighten small children with my glum expression. The faint strains of “Ding Dong Merrily On High” were crackling through the PA system yet I wasn’t feeling that merry. Read more
There are a lot of items that mark a successful entry into the publishing world. As a long-time book editor, and now a writer, I’ve encountered most of them. Here are two must-do’s, as well as one should-do to keep momentum going.
1. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT, NOT WHAT YOU KNOW. Unless they are one and the same. If you’ve got the itch to write, you’re going to have at least a vague subject in mind. If not initially, then eventually. It may be what you know or not. But whatever the case, focus on what you’re passionate about. That takes priority. If it’s a topic with which you are already conversant, then dive right in. If not, learn what you need to know, then take the plunge. Better yet, jump in first and learn as you go.
GIVEAWAY: Barry is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: sharonminer won.) Read more
When I was in high school drama, I was intrigued by method actors. I thought they were a little reckless, a bit more edgy than the average actor. I was impressed by their dedication, by their ability to fully embrace the life of their character. While I didn’t end up being an actress, I satisfied that desire—of inhabiting an entirely different life and set of experiences (with the added bonus of time travel)—with writing (and reading). When I started working on my historical novel I Shall Be Near To You, about a young woman who disguises herself as a man and follows her new husband into the Union Army, I found that merely looking at pictures of soldiers and battlefields or reading descriptions of life on farms and or in the ranks just wasn’t enough for me. I needed to feel like I was truly bringing my characters to life.
GIVEAWAY: Erin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: lionetravail won.) Read more
One of the surprises, for me, of finishing a first novel was discovering just how many of the most hackneyed pieces of writing advice actually turn out to be true. For example: Nearly every interview with every writer will include some reference to how important it is to just sit your butt in the chair—meaning, the best way to get writing done is simply to get it done. This is true.
And then there’s the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Spoiler alert: You’ve probably heard it before. Here goes: Write the book you want to read.
GIVEAWAY: Adam is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: burrowswrite won.) Read more
The other day, a writer friend asked for my advice in dealing with all pesky rejections in the query stage. I asked how many agents she had queried. “Forty,” she said.
“Well, then you’re halfway there.”
I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but if you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents. Really. But there are a lot of caveats attached to that advice… Read more
Tip #1: If you can get a pitch session with an agent/editor, do it! Agents get tons of queries every single day, and a good 90% of them come from people who haven’t worked very hard to perfect their craft. Agents know that if you go to conferences, you’re likely in the 10% who have. If you go to a conference and pitch, you’re likely a top 10% writer who has a book close to being worthy of representation. It also gives both of you a chance to meet each other, and that’s invaluable.
GIVEAWAY: Peggy is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: MikeHays won.) Read more
My barista and I have an ongoing conversation. Every morning, we pick up where we left off the day before, talking about writing while she pulls espresso shots. While she’s never tried to write a book, she told me one day that she’s often thought about doing NaNoWriMo, and we discussed how getting through the very first first draft is often the greatest challenge.
“If I keep telling myself I’ll do it one day, maybe that’ll work,” she joked.
I shrugged. “Hey, positive thought is an important part of the process. You have to believe you’re going to do it, right?”
“True,” she said. “But sometimes I think that’s the problem.” Read more
You’ve decided this is it, the year to attend a writer’s conference. Forms are filled, hotel and plane tickets are booked, and a satisfied warmth fills you at pulling the trigger on this writing milestone.
But as the day approaches, your brain buzzes. What to wear? What to bring? You look in your closet and suddenly forget what looks good together, what fits, and what shoes work with which pants. The jeans you love seem too run down. That skirt you wanted to bring is too dressy. Or is it? Maybe you could wear it to the pitch you scheduled. And then it hits: FULL BLOWN PANIC. You forgot about the pitch you booked while high on the glow of finally taking the leap. Read more
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 whatever you’ve written to your mother to read and having her hand it back to you with a gold star doesn’t cut it. You need an objective critique from someone reasonably knowledgeable about the genre in which you’re writing. Is there someone you trust to give you open and honest feedback? Is there a writing group you can join? If not, think about forming one yourself. One hundred percent open, honest comments may sting, but they’re invaluable in helping you become a better writer. Read more
A little less than four years ago, around the same time our youngest child was toilet-trained and sleeping (mostly) through the night, my husband and I took a bold step and decided to add to our family. Almost everyone told us we were crazy to do it, but we were determined. There was something missing from our lives—we just knew it.
So we got a dog.
GIVEAWAY: Jennifer is excited to give away a free copy of her novel (hard copy or digital) to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Cathy won.) Read more
1. We must build a shelter with our truth. Other writers working on memoirs often ask me, “But why would anyone care about my story?” When I was struggling to write Unremarried Widow, I asked a memoirist friend the same thing. She said, “We must build a structure with our truth so that other people can shelter there.” We often forget that by offering up our stories we help others understand their own. In this way, memoir is not self-indulgent but a road map for the human experience. Read more
If you’ve been writing long enough, you’ve probably considered getting a Masters in Fine Arts degree. Perhaps you checked the tuition costs, choked, and wondered: Is it really worth it? That’s a tough call. Plenty of successful writers do not have advanced degrees. And plenty of MFA grads never publish a book. If you’re on the fence, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
1) Community: Writing is a solitary pursuit, and after spending hours alone with your thoughts, you might crave a tribe of writers. MFA programs offer exactly that: total immersion in a culture of books and writing to the exclusion of all else. (Call us fanatics. Call us bores. Guilty.) Read more
We all know writing is hard. But most of us also know that it isn’t really the writing that’s hard—it’s writing in the face of all the psychological crap around being a writer that’s hard. Multiply these everyday difficulties by the profound sense of powerlessness that comes with feeling like your writing career is in everyone’s hands but your own, and it’s a wonder anyone pursues a writing career at all. Sound familiar? If so, there’s a good chance you’re giving your power away as a writer.
This year is the year to take your power back. What do I mean by “giving your power away” as a writer? I’ll show you. Here’s a sampling of people and things to whom I have served my power on a silver platter…
GIVEAWAY: Alison is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: TJay91259 won.) Read more
Back in 2007, midway through querying my first novel and drafting my second, I attended the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop in Martha’s Vineyard. During the course of one intensive week, I attended a workshop by Jumper author Stephen Gould designed to help our select group of aspiring Science Fiction and Fantasy writers understand what life was like after publication.
At the time, this workshop seemed a waste of important writing time. Weren’t we all there because we were unpublished newbies? We just wanted to know how to write good queries, network, and get somebody—anybody—to read and love our little word-babies. A year and a half later, when my acceptance letter came, I wished I’d listened better to that lecture… Read more