Guest Columns

How to get published — read hundreds of helpful Writer’s Digest guest columns from published writers teaching the craft and business of writing.

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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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5 Reasons to Write YA

When I first started writing fiction, I never expected to end up writing YA. But once I discovered what a vibrant, challenging category it was, I was hooked. I love young adult fiction, and I love the authors working in the category. Explaining to my friends and family, though, what YA is and why...

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5 Reasons to Write the Book You Need to Write

1. The Market Can Launch You by the Seat of Your Pants...Or Just Give You a Wedgie. You’ve heard the advice not to follow trends just to follow them. Publishing is a slow-moving beast, and just because something’s selling like frozen lemonades in a Manhattan July now doesn’t mean two years from now...

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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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To Text or Not to Text: How Much Should Technology Show Up in Fiction?

It's obvious that technology in the last ten years or so has changed our daily lives to an extreme. Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, texting...on and on the list goes, and it's growing every day. The way we communicate has been utterly transformed. Face-to-face interactions have decreased, while gadget-to-gadget interactions have increased. What does...

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“No, Thank You” — On Rejection & Writing

The most commonly acknowledged form of rejection for a writer is the rejection of one’s work by a publishing house. After spending months, if not years, shaping a story, you submit it hoping for acceptance and publication. Sadly, this is the exception, not the rule. The average writer is more likely to have a...

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How I Got My Literary Agent: Jaime Martinez-Tolentino

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jaime Martinez-Tolentino, author of TAINO. 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 of good...

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7 Ways to Add Sizzle to Your Next Book Event

Have you ever seen a lonely author at a bookstore table—rearranging his book stacks, checking his signing pen, and making hopeful eye contact with the customers before they duck down the nearest aisle? I’ve been that author, and I’ve also stood for three days hawking my books at a country fair, where I ate...

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5 Tips for Writing Suspense

1) Structure Scenes like Mini-Novels: Each one should contain its own narrative arc, with rising action and a climactic moment that signals the end of the chapter. It’s good form to finish most chapters on a cliffhanger—especially the first one. A major dramatic question should be raised in the opening scene, and then resolved...

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The Writer’s Journey: How Much Can Someone Possibly Stand?

Above your desk is a bulletin board, crammed with outlines, assorted index cards with character descriptions, fliers from places you went for research, cards from agents and editors you met at assorted writers conferences, a postcard from a favorite book (note to self: next query don't forget to mention your story is just like...

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Research Before You Send a Query Letter

Now, there are really two different types of rejection letters. The first one I don’t have a big problem with. These are the letters for projects that might not be quite right for what I am looking for, or for stories that might not be ready for publishing yet. With stories like this, we...

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5 Mistakes Writers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

1. Thinking that your book will sell itself. I have five books published with Simon & Schuster and let me tell you: They do not walk off the shelves. I made the mistake of becoming complacent and thinking that because I had a huge publisher behind me that I didn’t need to do much...

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5 Essential Tips for Writing Killer Fight Scenes

Fight scenes are dangerous territory for writers. On the surface, they seem as if they're guaranteed to keep the reader glued to the action in the same way as they often do at the movies. In reality, though, readers tend to skip over fight scenes - skimming the long, tedious, blow-by-blow descriptions in favour...

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Self-Editing Advice: How to Tackle Character Consistency

Keeping your character(’s) traits consistent is very a important step in polishing your manuscript, especially if it’s written from multiple points of view (POVs). For example, if you have one character who constantly swears, and has a tendency to lose his/her temper at the drop of a hat, you do not want your other...

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Genesis of a Memoir: How I Came to Write My Story

In the fall of 1986, I was ten years old, and I found myself sleeping on the muddy ground of a temperate rainforest on an island in Washington State. The muddy bed was supposed to be temporary. My alcoholic Salvadoran stepfather was building a wooden pyramid for us to live in, one that would...

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Author John Searles Proves Nice Guys Finish First

Someone once told me, “You can't get by on just being nice.” But in the publishing world, if you're nice to readers they will adore you and you'll sell more books. Here's proof. I had no intention of buying John Searles' novel Help for the Haunted when he visited Colorado recently. I have two shelves...

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5 Things to Look For in a Critique Partner

Writing can be a very solitary profession. And most of us like it that way – huddled at our vintage desks or curled up on our couches, muttering to ourselves while our coffee grows cold. But once that draft is finished…then what? Well, I suggest you don’t run a quick spell check, type up a...

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How to Overcome the Sophomore Novel Slump: 5 Ways

1. Know your quality-writing speed and stick to it. Though it took six months to write and edit my debut, The Outcast, I often worked eight-hour weekdays. I had an agent’s interest in the manuscript; this, combined with the fact that I was expecting our first child, let me know that I needed to...