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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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...

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How to Conquer Self Doubt And Just Write

There’s a monster hiding under my desk. He lurks there, waiting for the right moment to attack. He’s an ugly little bastard, too. I have a lot of names for him, but for the sake of not overusing profanity in this blog, I’ll call him by his real name, Self-Doubt. Most of you might...

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What To Do When You Get an Agent But the Book Hasn’t Sold (Yet!)

Getting an agent is hard enough. But leaving your manuscript’s fate in the hands of a stranger is sometimes harder. After spending all that time conceptualizing your story and drafting your chapters and preparing your proposal, it’s often difficult to sit back. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Here are five ways writers can stay...

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The Value of Free: Writing For Non-Paying Markets

I've come to realize I'm in a unique position to provide perspective on one of the hottest hot-button writing issues of the internet age: namely, the edict that (cue echo effect) The Writer Must Be Paid. It’s such an obvious rule-of-thumb, only a fool would argue against it. Turns out, I am just that fool....

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How to Write a Great Opening Line

For some of us, writing fiction seems a lot like trying to pick up a Hot Stranger in a bar: The opening line makes or breaks us. If we blow our opening line in a bar, the Stranger turns off, never to find out what scintillating people we are; in a book, the reader...

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How to Write and Plan a Book Series

It’s said that J.K. Rowling had the whole of the Harry Potter series in her head before she started. If you’re in the JKR camp, read no more. You’re way ahead of me. On the other hand, if you’re not a long-range planner, my experience may be of use. Like most writers, I have...

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5 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

Here are a few points that writers of historical fiction might consider as they sit down to work: 1. Fiction = Friction. Regardless of your time period, regardless of all the in-depth research you’ve done, you must remember that you’re writing fiction first, and historical fiction second. In other words, don’t forget that it’s...

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How to Write Your First Novel: 6 Pieces of Advice

6. Take the time to celebrate the milestones in your writing process. When you finish a chapter, take yourself and significant other out for dinner. When you finish the first draft, uncork a bottle of Champagne. (Not prosecco, real Champagne.) I timed the completion of the first draft to coincide with my birthday. I...

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5 Ways to Publicize & Promote Your Book

1. Start tweeting now! Or Tumblring, or whatever, and discover what feels genuine to you. My publisher is very active across multiple social media platforms and encouraged me to get involved well in advance of my book release, to explore what I was comfortable with and start making connections. I happen to like Twitter...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Mike Mullin

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 YA writer Mike Mullin, author of the ASHFALL series. GIVEAWAY: Mike...