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.

beckon-tom-pawlik-book

The 9 Ingredients of Character Development

1. Communication style: How does your character talk? Does she favor certain words or phrases that make her distinct and interesting? What about the sound of her voice? Much of our personality comes through our speech, so think about the way your character is going to talk. Her style of communication should be distinctive...

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Picture Books Are Not Just for Children: 10 Reasons Why

2. Picture book language is often more sophisticated than the first chapter books that children read, and therefore an excellent way for children to learn language. It is here that children, and others, can learn vocabulary, imagery, rhythm, shape, structure, conciseness, emotional power. 3. The picture book is the most flexible of all literary formats....

the-typewriter-girl-novel

Story Problems? Maybe You Need a Good Piece of Device

Find your device early in your planning or drafting process. Laura Whitcomb included devices in a book about first drafts for a reason. In The Anatomy of Story, John Truby puts the device fourth in a twenty-two step process. He uses the term “designing principle,” and while we can debate whether he means a...

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....

a-violet-season-novel

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...

denise-jaden-author-writer

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....