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.

the-promise-of-stardust-book

9 Things That Will Help Get Your Novel Published

1: The Elevator Pitch. As I write this post, my first novel, The Promise of Stardust, is about to find its way into the world. It’s about a woman who suffers a devastating brain injury, and just as they are about to take her off life-support, they realize she’s pregnant. Oh yes, there’s more....

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5 Tips on Writing First Drafts

Set a deadline. A Violet Season was written over four summers—each summer, another draft. This was a crazy schedule, I know, but in some ways it was perfect. There was a clear end to the summers (sadly), and to my drafts. If you don’t have a deadline, you run the risk of one draft...

the-house-girl-novel

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...

a-very-minor-prophet-book

How Far Should Writers Go to Sell Themselves?

Recently, I put on an event called The Literary Gong Show at an infamous watering hole in Portland, Oregon called Dante’s Inferno. I was the host of the event, and had dressed myself in a tuxedo and a floppy-collared, bright yellow, pleated tuxedo shirt that I unbuttoned to the navel. This was intended as...

Three-Graces-Full-novel

Is Your Book Your Baby?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard how a book is the writer’s baby, I wonder if it would take the sting out of having written for all these years for nothing but hope and heartburn? Probably not. But no matter, the question is: is it true? Is each story a...

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How to Bring Subjects to Life in Your Nonfiction Writing

When you write nonfiction characters, you have to be vigilant and observant (this leads to good fiction writing, as well). People consist, for other people, of four things: 1.what they look like 2. where they are 3. what they say 4. and what they do. Ask any actor. It’s all about: costume; setting; dialogue, and movement or action....

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Agent Mary Kole Teaches “Picture Book Craft Intensive for Selling in Today’s Market” — Feb. 21, 2013 Webinar

If you are writing and/or illustrating picture books for kids, then this updated webinar with literary agent Mary Kole is for you. This updated webinar (one of our most popular of all time!) teaches writers winning practices for composing books, explains how to pitch your work to agents/editors, and reveals where many submissions go...

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Originality Isn’t Everything: Write What You Know

My Tips: 1. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about what you enjoy writing. 2. If what you love is genre, learn more. Study the origins, read criticism, read books about it. 3. Take the pressure off, and just practice. You don’t always have to be original. I don’t say that I write what...

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Writing Effective Grief In Fiction: 5 Ideas For Writers

Grief alone is not enough to make a novel. It can be the backdrop, sometimes the obstacle, but novels must be flavored with other focuses, obstacles, and emotions in order to draw in their readers. Here are 5 ways to use grief more effectively in fiction: 1. Make Them Care. When starting to...

dolls-behaving-badly-novel

Marathon Training to Finish Your Book

Let’s Start Training. The bulk of marathon training consists of longer runs interspersed with rest and recovery days. Your writing schedule should follow the same premise: A few short writing stints, followed with a longer write on Saturday or Sunday (your Long Writing Day, or LWD). A good beginning might be 30 minutes on...

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The Top 10 Worst Types of Critique Partners

4. The Distractor. She wants to talk about anything and everything but writing. Her children started swim lessons last week, her mother-in-law is visiting Paris next month, it's windy (cold, hot, rainy, etc.) outside, her favorite hairstylist is moving salons... you get the idea. She often has to leave the group session to take...

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Writing Historical Fiction Based On A Family Story

1. Research Comes First. Because I new little about tuberculosis or life on a farm in the 1920’s, I began reading novels set in that time period, North Carolina history books, memoirs written from sanatoriums, and doctors’ accounts of the disease. I consulted experts at the North Carolina Museum of History and the Swannanoa...

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Storyboarding For Success: Plotters vs. Pantsers

Where writers are concerned, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants when they write a story. They start off with no more than a kernel of an idea or a first sentence or a character, and away they go. They have no idea where they are...

strangers-on-the-beach-book-pahigian

5 Reasons to Set Your Novel in a Famous Place

3. A Receptive Audience Will Await. Since Islandport Press released Strangers in October 2012, I’ve realized the extent to which people who love Old Orchard Beach (Maine) love the idea of a book set there. The town has only about 8,000 year-round residents, but the population swells to more than 100,000 in the summer....

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6 Reasons Being a Pirate is Like Being a Writer

Here are 6 things I learned from a pirate about writing. It turns out pirates and writers need the same things in their arsenal. Every pirate (and writer) needs: 1. A hook: Hooks grab the reader in the first few sentences or can be found at the end of a chapter to keep the...

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How to Research a Novel: 7 Tips

1) You can't do too much research. In the military, we often say time spent gathering intelligence is seldom wasted. The same concept applies in writing a novel. You never know what little detail will give a scene the ring of authenticity. In a college creative writing class, I wrote about how a...

Montemarano-Book-Of-Why-novel

A Literary Agent True or False Quiz

3. Your agent works for you. True. Your agent is your employee. She offers you a service—selling your writing to editors—in exchange for a fee. I highlight this because many writers, especially young writers, get this relationship backwards; they feel that the agent is the employer and they are the ones looking for a...

CS-Lakin-writer-author

Getting Perspective in Your Writing Journey

Most writers write in the hopes that they will sell their book, connect with a readership, and make money from the sales. Their priorities may not be in that order, but it’s usually the goal when writing a novel or nonfiction manuscript. And that’s expected and reasonable. Yet, often, upon completing her first novel, an...

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8 Things Every Blogging Writer Should Know

1. Headlines Matter Most. If your goal is to get people to click on something, you need a killer headline. It has to be interesting, short, and hopefully provocative without being linkbait. The headline (and blog post) I’m most proud of is "He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day He Died." That...

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How to Make a Book Trailer: 6 Tips

1. Erase from your mind the ambition to make a movie trailer. The result will inevitably look amateurish (even if you enlist the help of your nephew who majored in film). You have to aim for an attainable aesthetic. The nature of this aesthetic will depend on your book, your audience, and the skill...

the-fire-horse-girl-novel

How to Deal With Writing Critiques: 3 Helpful Hints

As writers, we live with our stories and characters for years, even decades -- so it is no surprise that when we take those stories out of our heads and put them on the page, our defenses rally to protect them. Hearing critiques becomes an intense and emotional experience. But those protective instincts and...

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Finding My Voice in a Crossover Book — and Creating a Scholarly Work With Mainstream Appeal

The first hurdle to scholarly publication is catching the eye of an editor who then sends one’s proposal/manuscript out for blind peer reviews. A university press evaluates a submission in light of the potential book’s impact in a discipline. Typically, scholarly reviewers expect a certain kind of measured, unbiased tone, much substantiation of any...