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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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...

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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...

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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...

How to find a literary agent

The Importance of Being (Slightly) Arrogant as a Writer

Webster's defines arrogance as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions." Basically, you think and act like you're better than you actually are — and possibly even better than other people. With that kind of definition, who in their right mind would admit to being arrogant? I...

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How to Find the Perfect Writing Spot

I always find it interesting to learn where writers actually do their writing. There are the usual suspects—coffee shops, group writing spaces, home offices, local parks—most of which I’ve used at one point or another. (There’s one coffee shop in particular where I should probably be paying rent by now.) But there are also...

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“Platform” Doesn’t Have to Be a Four-Letter Word

When I set out to write my first book, a humor memoir, I thought that writing the book would be the biggest hurdle on my inevitable ascent to the bestseller list. Then I started querying. I spent all of 2010 engaged in this most humbling of pursuits. Several agents requested a partial or the...

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How I Met My Editor and Agent, by Martha Brockenbrough

... As I sat there, marinating in a self-concocted brine of shame, a faculty member chose a seat near mine. I glanced at his nametag: Arthur Levine, the legendary editor from Scholastic. As I wished for an invisibility cloak, the speaker at the lectern reminded us to turn off our cell phones. At that...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Noelle Sterne

1. After all the time, send-outs, get-backs, and hard work, the ecstasy of acceptance is fabulous and tear-filled. Let yourself scream, cry, feel the nervous soaring rise in your chest. If you can share it with someone, all the better. GIVEAWAY: Noelle is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a...

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The Value of “Show, Don’t Tell” In Your Writing

When I first started to write fiction and send my manuscripts out for feedback, the first and most frequent thing my readers said was "Show, don't tell." In theory, I understood what this meant. But it was almost impossible for me to put it into practice after comments such as, “Why don’t you show your...

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3 Reasons Why Thinking Like an Actor Will Help Your Writing

I used to be an actor. Then I became a fiction writer. This transition had very little to do with a spine-injuring production of The Tempest. Neither swords nor backstage ghosts were involved, whatever rumors you might have heard. In any case, several theatrical skills and lessons turned out to be useful in my...

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7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter

Previously, I attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback. This is how it worked: An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first 250 words out...

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10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters

1. Rejection letters take you out of submission limbo. Familiar with that hell whose name is Waiting? Is the agent reading your submission? Chortling with her cronies over it? Using it as a doorstop or drink coaster? With that rejection letter in hand, you now know where you stand. No more wondering. No more...

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A Great Example of What a Pitch Should Not Look Like

One of my biggest tips when teaching people how to pitch is to avoid generalities. Because a generality could mean anything, it fails to draw us in to the story because it's not clear what you're getting at. If you're ever wondering about what constitutes a generality in a pitch, look no further than...

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5 Ways To Increase Conflict

The curse of a vivid imagination is that you can almost always imagine something that would make the situation worse. This is why if there is a sudden lurch on a flight, you can count on me to grip my armrest, mentally picturing the wing suddenly falling off of the plane. Strange...