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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How to Overcome the Sophomore Novel Slump: 5 Ways

1. Know your quality-writing speed and stick to it. Though it took six months to write and edit my debut, The Outcast, I often worked eight-hour weekdays. I had an agent’s interest in the manuscript; this, combined with the fact that I was expecting our first child, let me know that I needed to...

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4 Reasons You’re Procrastinating Instead of Writing

You have ideas for stories, but when you launch your word processor, you stare helplessly at a blank page. Every time you try to write, you end up spending the evening watching videos of cats on YouTube instead. Why is this happening? We’ve all been there. Here are a few things that might be...

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How to Critique Friends’ Writing

When friends know that we’re writers, they sometimes ask us to read and critique their works-in-progress. Handling these requests can be awkward. As friends, we want to help; as writers, we want to protect our own writing time. If we offer professional critiquing services, as many of us do, we also want to protect...

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How to Write Middle Grade Horror: 7 Tips

I scare children for a living. As the author of a middle grade horror series, my job is to deliver stories that frighten and thrill my readers. Those readers tend to range in age from ten to fourteen, which makes delivering on that task more difficult than you might imagine. My readership is growing up...

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Re-Vision? Easier Said Than Seen

The most difficult aspect of revision is that the process requires seeing our own mistakes. That speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye is a lot easier to see than the log in our own. I learned most about sentence-level revision from Richard Lanham, distinguished scholar, writer, and UCLA professor, who has written a...

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How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller, By Matt Manochio

Every aspiring author dreams of that first book contract. I landed one in April 2010 when Dorchester Publishing bought my crime thriller, The Highwayman, for a small advance. Success! I began writing it in 2007, finished it in 2008, queried, and got the usual round of rejections. Rather than believing all of those agents...

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6 Rules for Writing a Medical Thriller

So you’ve decided to write a medical thriller. Your hopes are high. If Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, and Tess Gerritsen could do it, why can’t you? The answer is: you can. Medical thrillers appeal to a wide audience, and many literary agents and editors are looking for the next fresh voice in the genre....

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3 Good Things About Disturbing Fiction

I did not at any point request that my teacher refer to me as “the most happily disturbed writer” he’s ever known, nor did I request this quote be emblazoned across the top of my first book. And, yet, there it is. I wasn’t at first comfortable with this. My wife and children don’t really...

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Ask Not What Your Readers Can Do For You…

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently, listing different ways readers can support authors. Most of them are pretty good ideas: buy their books, give them reviews, etc. I’m all about supporting authors; my book budget alone could support an army in one of those countries you’ve never heard of. (Assuming said army...

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3 Ways Military Service Has Made Me a Better Writer

Since I first saw Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m not alone in that. Lots of folks dream of getting a book deal someday. They chase the dream in a lot of ways. Reading obsessively. Going to writing conferences. Signing up for English Literature...

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6 Steps to Seeing Your Book Published

Step Five: Breathe. Take time to walk away from your masterpiece and breath. Get a fresh perspective from a trusted adviser. Take time to vent about your long writing journey. And take time to walk away for entire days, hell maybe a week or two. Time when you have left your thoughts on writing...

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Stretching the Facts in Historical Fiction

My novel GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN is based on Frances Stuart, who posed as Britannia on England’s coins three hundred years ago. As soon as I started writing, I felt a sense of responsibility to make her story as accurate as possible. Scouring sources for facts about her life revealed many unanswered questions....

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How to Write a Fast-Draft Novel

If you’ve ever tried to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) and been unable to complete it, you’re not alone. Plenty of people attempt to get that important first draft down on paper, so they can move to revisions with an eye for deepening characters and motivations, and finessing the plot....

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How I Got My Romance Novel Published, by Julie Shackman

Christmas 2013 was approaching fast. Tinsel and lights were everywhere but my festive cheer had taken another blow. I had just received yet another rejection for my debut contemporary romance novel “Rock My World”. I had received positive comments but ultimately, it was another “Not for us thanks.” I’d been firing it out to...

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3 Things to Set You on the Path to Publishing Success

There are a lot of items that mark a successful entry into the publishing world. As a long-time book editor, and now a writer, I’ve encountered most of them. Here are two must-do’s, as well as one should-do to keep momentum going. 1. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT, NOT WHAT YOU KNOW. Unless they are one...

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Method Writing for Historical Fiction Writers

When I was in high school drama, I was intrigued by method actors. I thought they were a little reckless, a bit more edgy than the average actor. I was impressed by their dedication, by their ability to fully embrace the life of their character. While I didn’t end up being an actress, I...

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Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queried 80 Agents or More

The other day, a writer friend asked for my advice in dealing with all pesky rejections in the query stage. I asked how many agents she had queried. “Forty,” she said. “Well, then you’re halfway there.” I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but if you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving...

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You Still Have to Lift

My barista and I have an ongoing conversation. Every morning, we pick up where we left off the day before, talking about writing while she pulls espresso shots. While she’s never tried to write a book, she told me one day that she’s often thought about doing NaNoWriMo, and we discussed how getting through...

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Conferencing for Introverts

You’ve decided this is it, the year to attend a writer’s conference. Forms are filled, hotel and plane tickets are booked, and a satisfied warmth fills you at pulling the trigger on this writing milestone. But as the day approaches, your brain buzzes. What to wear? What to bring? You look in your closet and...

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Got Rejection Dejection?

Are you singing the rejection blues because your book (or poem or screenplay) has been rejected by a publisher (or magazine or production company)? Here are some things to consider when your writing project has been rejected. 1. Are you being realistic enough about the quality of your writing? Giving your essay or play or...