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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Don’t Get Rejected Before Agents Even Read a Word

People who work in book publishing always have a ridiculous amount of reading to get through. I once worked on what is pejoratively termed the "slush pile" in the HarperCollins fiction department, where I would often be the first reader. As such, I would get to decide if the story was worth further consideration...

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A Thank You To the Agents Who Said No

I wrote my memoir, Home is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family’s Journey in China, sent it to beta readers, edited and rewrote, and began work on that all important task: the query letter. Following the advice I’d read on this blog and others, I wrote a query letter that rocked, and...

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How to Pitch Agents at a Writers’ Conference

So you’re at a writers’ conference and you have a chance to sit down with an agent. This encounter is basically like speed dating because you have about five minutes to get the person across the table from you to want, if not to commit to a relationship, at least to try one...

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What Writers Can Learn From Charlie Sheen

Here is where we must be more like Charlie Sheen. When the highest paid actor on television gets fired after a public psychotic break, which he then turns in to a concert series, which then lands him a new television deal, we must conclude that any of us can have our dark night of...

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How Rejection Can Lead to Hope

Guest column by Nichole Bernier, author of the novel THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D. (Crown/Random House, June 5, 2012). She has written for magazines including Conde Nast Traveler, ELLE, Health, Men’s Journal, and Child, and is a founder of the literary blog Beyond the Margins. She lives outside of Boston with husband and...

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How to Write A Great Thriller: 5 Pieces of Advice

There are all sorts of guides on how to write a great thriller. I’ve read some. I’ve learned a lot from writing my own novels and I’ve learned a lot from co-writing with James Patterson, someone you have heard of who knows a thing or two about drama. This is by no means an...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Steven Raichlen

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Steve Raichlen. GIVEAWAY: Steven is excited to give away a...

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Notes to the First-Time Novelist

When I started writing THE GREEN SHORE, I didn’t call it a novel. It was a “project,” or “this thing I’m working on,” or maybe even a novella, but a “novel” it wasn’t—at least I didn’t admit as much. At first it felt wild and free, like a new crush, undefined and full of...

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Your Novel’s Missing Ingredient? It Could Be You

I know BB King when I hear him. I may not have heard the song before, but a few bittersweet notes from his Gibson guitar is all it takes to make a positive identification. His sound is unique, an expression of his singular personality. Like a song, a novel is many things. It’s a...

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4 Reasons For Making Time to Read

2. Reading Builds Confidence – As a beginning writer, I lacked confidence in my work. When I received feedback on my writing, I would start changing things to meet one person’s criticism only to have another reader suggest the opposite, and I had no idea how to evaluate their comments. These people were my...

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6 Reasons Editors Will Reject You

Before I wrote my first novel, The Expats, I spent nearly two decades at various arms of publishing houses such as Random House, Workman, and HarperCollins, mostly as an acquisitions editor. But a more accurate title for that job might be rejection editor: while I acquired maybe a dozen projects per year, I’d reject...

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10 Writing Myths

I read every “how to write” book I found, every writing magazine, every article on authors I could find. I loved hearing about how they did what they did. And still, I didn’t have a clue about how things worked in this business. Here are 10 myths about being a writer that I discovered...

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Rules for Writing and Revising Your Novel

When you revise, you must go back and fine-tune your work—add, delete—what needs to go in, be taken out. Repair the characters. Do it when your mind is still fresh with the scenes and the characters of that chapter. However, you must be unbiased (which is hard toward what you’ve just written), detached (which...

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The Short Happy Lives of Short Story Collections

Short story collections are the weird sister of the publishing world. Though you can see anthologies of shorts in bookstores (i.e., 2012's Greatest Stories About the Kardashian Sisters), you rarely see collections by individual authors. Sometimes the poor things are teetering on the tippy-top shelf of a general fiction section, because it's a rare...

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Another Take On “Show, Don’t Tell” For Writers

It’s a writing rule most of us have heard before. And it’s a good one. Because no reader wants to be spoon-fed a story. Readers want to see the story for themselves, to make up their own minds. It’s more interesting and entertaining that way, and even more importantly, it lets the reader become...

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The Key to a Good Series is Excellent Characters

I’m a series junkie. In addition to those noted above, faves include Lew Archer, Spenser, Elvis Cole, Parker, Fletch, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch … I could go on. And one of the things that draws me to series is that feeling of slipping into a familiar world – a place with its own logic...

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Write to Express, Not to Impress

The answer to everything: "Write to express, not to impress." That's it. A six word powerhouse. It's the universal answer to just about everything a writer asks. Go ahead, give it a try. 1) How do I get past writer's block? Write to express, not to impress. I don't believe in writer's block. The...