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November/December 2013 Issue
Free Writing Downloads
Guide to Literary Agents Blogroll
- 2nd Draft Critique Service
Before you send out your work, have it edited by an established pro!
- Agency Gatekeeper
A literary agent shares secrets.
- Agent in the Middle
Agent Lori Perkins blogs and tells all
- Ashley Grayson Agent Blog
From the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency
- Ask the Agent
Literary agent Andy Ross in Oakland runs an agency blog.
- Association of Authors' Representatives
- Barbara Doyen's Articles Page
Agent Barbara Doyen shares her knowledge.
- Barry Goldblatt Literary
A blog from the whole agency.
- BookEnds Agent Blog
Agents from Bookends Literary blog
- Brenda BowenAgent Brenda Bowen's "Bunny Eat Bunny" kids writing blog.
- Cameron McClureCameron, with the Donald Maass Lit Agency, runs her "Book Cannibal" blog.
- Caren Johnson Literary Agency
The official CJLA blog
- Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market Blog
This blog, run by Alice Pope, is a must-read for anyone writing in the juvenile market
- Chip MacGregor's Agent Blog
A Christian agent speaks
- Chuck's conference speaking schedule
See where Chuck will be presenting and when!
- Colleen Lindsay's Agent Blog
A new agent at FinePrint Literary blogs
- DHS Literary Blog
David Hale Smith's "Literary Show and Tell" blog.
- Diana Fox's Agent Blog
A literary agent talks publishing
- Dystel & Goderich Agent Blog
- Eddie Schneider
An agent from JABberwocky Literary blogs.
- Elaine English Literary Agency Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- F+W Bookstore
Buy Guide to Literary Agents and a bunch of other great WD Books.
- FinePrint Literary Management Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- Folio Literary Management's Blog
All the agents chime in on this new blog
- Fresh Books Blog
An agency blog.
- Full Circle Literary's Blog
Agents from Full Circle Literary in California blog
- Girl Meets Book
Agent Jamie Brenner of Artists & Artisans blogs.
- Greenhouse Literary Blog
Agent Sarah Davies shares her thoughts and wisdom
- Hartline Literary Blog
A blog from the whole agency.
- Janet Reid
Agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary gives her two cents on anything and everything
- Jennifer Jackson's Agent Blog
An agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency blogs
- Jenny Bent's Blog
From the founder of The Bent Agency.
- Jill Corcoran
A kids agent at the Herman Agency blogs.
- Joshua Bilmes Agent Blog
JABberwocky Literary Agency
- Kathleen Ortiz Agent Blog
Kathleen with Lowenstein Associates
- Kelly Mortimer
Agent Kelly Mortimer's "Perils of Publishing" blog.
- Ken Atchity
The president of AEI, a script and literary management co., blogs.
- Kid Lit
A blog by kids agent Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency
- Kimberly Cameron & Associates
A blog from the whole agency.
- Knight Agency Blog
Exactly what it sounds like
- Laurie McLean's Agent Blog
The "Agent Savant" blog
- Lit Soup (Jenny Rappaport's Agent Blog)
An agent at the L. Perkins Agency blogs
- Lucienne Diver's Agent Blog
A blog on "Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings."
- Lyons Literary Agent Blog
Agent Jonathan Lyons blogs
- MFA Confidential Blog
This new WD blog features Kate Monahan and all things about getting an MFA
- Michael Larsen's Blog
Agent Michael Larsen of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents blogs about publishing and nonfiction writing.
- Miss Snark
No longer active, but this blog by anonymous agent Miss Snark still has oodles of priceless info in its archives
- Nathan Bransford
A popular blog from an agent at Curtis Brown in San Francisco
- Nephele Tempest's Agent Blog
An agent with the Knight Agency blogs
- Poetic Asides
A poetry blog from the editor of Writer's Market
- Promptly (Prompts Blog)
WD's own blog of writing prompts, run by magazine staffer Zac Petit
- Pub Rants
Kristin Nelson's Agent Blog
- Publishers Marketplace
- Query Shark
Janet Reid's blog where she dissects query letters
- Questions and Quandaries Blog
WD staffer Brian A. Klems answers questions of all kinds
- Rachelle Gardner
A blog by an agent who specializes in Christian Writing
- Romantic Reads
Dorchester editor Leah Hultenschmidt blogs romance.
- Sara Crowe's Blog
An agent from Harvey Klinger blogs.
- Scott Eagan's Agent Blog
The great Greyhaus agent blogs away.
- Script Notes
A WD scriptwriting blog from Chad Gervich, TV producer
- Steve Laube's Agent Blog
A Christian agent and former editor talks the biz.
- Suzie Townsend
A new assistant agent at FinePrint Literary blogs.
- Terry Burns's Blog
An agent with Hartline Literary blogs.
- Terry Whalin's Blog
"The Writing Life," as told by a former editor and agent.
- The Buried Editor
A blog dedicated to juvenile writing (YA, middle grade, picture books) run by an editor at CBAY Books and Blooming Tree Press
- The Gail Ross Literary Agency
The agency blog.
- The Inside Pitch Screenwriting Blog
A Hollywood Executive Talks About Screenwriting
- The New Literary Agents
A few new literary agents share advice.
- The Rejecter (Anonymous Agent)
- The Shatzkin Files
- The Sound and the Furry
WD contributor Nancy Parish talks writing.
- There Are No Rules
Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest Books, talks about publishing trends and has interviews online
- Tracy Marchini
An agent from Curtis Brown, Ltd. blogs
- United States Copyright Office
- Upstart Crow Blog
A blog from the whole agency at Upstart Crow Literary.
- Waxman Literary Agency
A blog from the whole agency.
- Wendy Sherman Associates Blog
Multiple agents blog.
- Writer Beware
A site dedicated to protecting writers from scams of all kinds - including unscrupulous agents
- Writer Unboxed
Primarily devoted to genre fiction, this site features plenty of interviews with industry pros
- Writer's Digest magazine
This big hub has tons of online articles from past issues of WD. Check out the revamped new site!
- Writer's Digest University (Writers Online Workshops)
Online writing courses are taught by WD staffers and contributors
- Writer's Market
This pay site is our online database of listings (magazines, book publishers, agents, and everything else). It has more than 6,000 listings.
A huge writing website and resource writers should check out.
- Wylie Merrick Agency's Blog
- Zack Company Blog
Agent Andrew Zack blogs.
- 2nd Draft Critique Service
Is Your Manuscript Publication-Ready?
Is Your Manuscript Publication-Ready?
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After an evaluation of your submission, one of the professional 2nd Draft critiquers will provide feedback and advice. You'll not only learn what's working in your writing, but what's not, and—most important—how to fix it.
2nd Draft provides a high-level review of your writing, pointing out reasons your work may be getting rejected, or may not meet the standards of traditional publication.
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How to get published — read hundreds of helpful Writer’s Digest guest columns from published writers teaching the craft and business of writing.
I wear many hats. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, an editor, a writer and a friend. How do I achieve success? Through a careful balance of discipline, prioritizing, self-motivation and mercy. I have 24 in a day and usually allocate eight for sleeping. In order to take care of myself, my family, and my career I must consciously discipline myself by 1) Being a boss—As a boss, I set schedules for myself. These include how many pages I will edit or write in a day and what chores I must accomplish that day…
GIVEAWAY: Jaimie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: GSMarlene won.) Read more
For an author, obituaries provide a wealth of story material. I’ve gotten character names from reading obituaries and story ideas. I’ve learned things I didn’t know and came across connections I would have never made otherwise. Try these on for size:
– Donald Doutrich raced against Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.
– Jeanne Recht loved to drive, too. She liked getting lost. She’d choose a road she had never been down and keep making turns to see where she’d end up. Sometimes, she’d drive for days. Alone.
– George Wise’s favorite pastime was sitting on his backyard swing, and Edward Etzweiler loved to boogie board at the shore with his granddaughters, their families said. Read more
2. Let the characters engage with the historical details. This goes along with that “show don’t tell” truism writers are told all the time. Rather than just dumping a bunch of facts on the poor reader, let your characters interact with these details with all these senses. Let them smell the offal dumped onto the cobblestone streets. Let them squint in the fading light of the tallow candles. Let them feel the tingling sensation as the physician places a leech on their bare skin. Read more
When I started working on my young adult novel My Life After Now, which is about a teenage girl who learns she is HIV-positive, the only thing I was thinking about was telling a good story.
Okay, I knew I specifically wanted to tackle the subject of HIV/AIDS because not only has teen literature largely skirted the issue, but society as a whole has become somewhat complacent about the virus, now that people aren’t dying from it at the rate they were twenty and thirty years ago. I also knew I wanted my character to contract HIV throughout the course of the book, as a direct result of her own actions, since that is how most people acquire it.
GIVEAWAY: Jessica is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: juliette19 won.) Read more
1. Create a question in the reader’s mind right at the beginning. This might seem like a cheap trick, but even a literary writer like Marquez uses it at the beginning of a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” What? The Colonel is facing a firing squad? How did he get there? Will he survive? And notice the secondary information: ice in this world is a novelty. Where is this place? How long ago is it? In my own first novel, the beginning is tighter: “The Senator’s wife was late. Very late.” Hopefully the reader is intrigued: Who is this woman? Why is she late? Will she show up? And as the protagonist of my novel waits for the Senator’s wife, the reader waits, too, and gets sucked into the story. Read more
Before I learned to ride my own motorcycle, I rode a hundred thousand miles on the back of my husband’s. I’d prop a book on his back and read during the boring stretches. One day, outside Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a gut-clenching scare, he trotted back the way he came. But it gave me a germ of an idea for a story that wouldn’t leave me alone.
I debated for over a year. Who was I to write a book? Authors were way smarter than I. One day, while staring at a blank Word doc, I looked down. Hey, I had a ‘delete’ key! I could write the book, and no one would ever have to see it. So that’s what I did. But a year and a half later, when I finished, I had a new goal. I wanted to hold a book in my hand with my name on the cover.
So I sent queries to agents — 170 of them. I had a few requests for full manuscripts, but ultimately, everyone turned me down. Read more
1. Stay scared. If you want to really scare people with your writing, you need to keep your fear close. You need to experience that fear. Often. Memory is a poor substitute for the real thing—that cold sweat heart-thumping spine-shaking hair-raising feeling of total, mind-numbing terror. That abandoned house you walk by on the way to work? Go explore it. The old insane asylum at the edge of town that was recently converted into apartments? Move in. See what happens. The neglected cemetery with all the ghost sightings? Be there, at midnight. That creepy pitch-black basement in your grandparents’ hundred-year-old farmhouse? Go down there, alone, after everyone else has gone to sleep. Leave the flashlight upstairs. Read more
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that, as the name suggests, comes from the idea that technology never developed beyond steampunk. The science can deviate a bit from there, but that’s generally where it all starts. It’s a look into what could have happened had science and industry taken a different turn, but didn’t.
Guest column by Matt Betts, author of the 2013 steampunk debut ODD MEN OUT. Read more
1. Because it’s fun. If you don’t enjoy writing short stories, then never mind: you probably shouldn’t be doing it. But if you’re avoiding writing them because you believe that you have to write a novel in order to have a career as a writer, I beg you to reconsider.
GIVEAWAY: Suzanne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere in the world to win. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Kris won.) Read more
I am now going to give you the super-secret key to being a good writer. You will probably read it and say, “Phoo, Chapman, I’ve known that for years.” That may be, but if you are honest with yourself, you struggle with it, as I do, every time you sit down to write. Good writing is the successful communication of a truth. In retrospect, it seems self-evident, but I’ve read plenty of stories where the writer was trying to convince me that there was significance in his or her gossamer. Literary trickery can’t substitute for honesty. Read more
Not human babies, silly. More “word babies” — a.k.a. books. I cannot believe how many people write only one book and lay all their hopes and dreams on it. I never went that far, but I was guilty of putting my one book on through the submission process and endlessly obsessing over it for a long time before starting a new one.
1.) Most published authors can tell you that their first few novels were rejected before they made their big break. Stephen King had several novels and countless short stories rejected before he wrote CARRIE and became my hero. The fact is the majority of first novels fail. Most published authors didn’t land a book deal until their second, third, or even fifth manuscript. In my case it was my third. Don’t be disheartened. Your first manuscript provides priceless value in learning your craft. There may even be a few spare parts you can recycle. Read more
1. Once you have finished a good first draft don’t look at it for a while. Go back to it after having some space and you will see it afresh. This is even more important for novels. When you have spent such a long time on a piece of prose you really need to get some distance from it to be able to see it clearly.
GIVEAWAY: Jenni is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Inkstrokes won.) Read more
How do you truly know what’s right and wrong when it comes to storytelling?
How do you know if your twist is right?
How do you know if the ending makes sense and if the plot is strong enough?
In my opinion, you can’t know these things with any level of certainty; but, if you let them, the story and characters will lead you to logical places that feel right. You have to trust your instincts. And, it helps to have a good editor—one to whom you entrust your baby. Read more
I first met David Sedaris at a midtown Sacramento book store, around 1998. He had just finished reading from his essay collection Naked and I stood in line to get the book signed. He didn’t make eye contact. He just stared at my black and green plaid skirt with its oversized safety pin, and asked, “Is that a kilt?”
“Uh, no,” I said. “It’s a skirt. I bought it at Express.”
He signed my book and I walked away. What a weirdo. Are all authors freaks? I will never attend another book signing again! Yet, fifteen years later, on May 9, 2013, I’m standing in line to get my books signed right after “An Evening with David Sedaris,” here in Colorado. He was hilarious, as usual. And humble. And gracious. He rocked the Q and A. Read more
1. You will spend most of your time in line. Go to any amusement park across this great nation. You will see loads of people willingly lined up in very long queues to board rides which only last around five minutes. Writing is kind of like that. The period leading up to my debut’s release was a very long wait, with not very much happening. My actual release month was like the time on the ride—I could barely catch my breath. Also, when I was first starting out, I thought that at some point things would move faster. I know for a few folks, sometimes things do move very quickly (if you manage to snag a VIP pass, you can skip the line). But for the vast majority of writers, there are long periods of waiting in between thrill rides. Write something else in the meantime. You’ve got time.
GIVEAWAY: JJ is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: KarenLange won.) Read more
The rejection that writers must face during the submission process to agents is brutal. Even though you know it will happen to you – as it does to all writers – it feels personal and daunting. It’s hard not to take it to heart when 20 or 30 literary agents say “no,” – with cold, automated “it’s not right for me” e-mails. It’s hard to remember that many of them receive 50-100 submissions a day; they can’t possibly respond to each one in any validating sort of way. And it only takes one “yes” to set you on the path to publication. How do you find a way to keep believing in yourself, to keep marching onward when doors continue to close? For me, the antidote to carrying around all that angst was to break a plate every time I was rejected. (This guest column by author Beck McDowell.) Read more
1) Routine. Back when my dad was trying to get me to be a more productive member of society (when I was 10 years old), he stressed the importance of doing a new action for 21 successive days. I’m sure he got this idea from some well-meaning book about how to become successful and happy and live to be 125. But there’s truth to it. Repetition breeds habit, and habit breeds routine.
GIVEAWAY: Peter is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: WagnerLisa34 won.) Read more
1. Virtual Tour. Google Maps is your friend. Plot believable routes for your characters to take, find out how long their walk to school or work is, and observe local monuments and landmarks. Don’t forget to take a tour down the smaller streets to see what typical neighborhoods look like. YouTube is another great place to start. You’d be surprised how many videos you can find of people walking around local shrines, temples, or markets. While writing SHADOW, I referred to an hour-long video of the train ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station to remind myself what it’s like. I even found myself swaying in time to the train as I watched. Talk about muscle memory.
GIVEAWAY: Amanda is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Milkfish won.). Read more
2. Suspects are the main characters. Not everyone will agree with this idea, but for me it’s quite important. Usually crime novels have a hero– a main character in charge of the investigation (like a policeman, a journalist, a lawyer or an anonymous person interested in solving the mystery). That hero will probably have their own problems, weaknesses and strengths. But what we call secondary characters—the ones who have a relationship with the victim, the ones who may have committed the murder—must be portrayed as complex human beings. In other words, in real life they would not be secondary characters so give them your attention. Additionally, we lie both in real life and in fiction, so keep that in mind when writing dialogue. Lies can be meaningful for suspense-building, After all, nobody tells the complete truth. Never. Read more
My friend’s example spurred me to reconsider my responses when fellow writers asked for my critiques. Recently reading a colleague’s memoir, at the opening pages I reacted like Jon initially—instant dismay. How could my friend write this crap? Then I recalled Jon’s next response: he recognized his daughter’s honest desire and took it seriously.
With trepidation, I approached my friend’s work, not wanting to “offend.” But I realized I had to honor both myself and him by being honest—as Jon was in listing the needed and maybe less-than-pleasant requirements of the lemonade project. Read more
When literary agent Elizabeth Kracht (Kimberley Cameron & Associates) asked me to be her assistant, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I have been exclusively perusing E’s slush pile; helping with client manuscripts; aiding with editorial pitch letters; and answering a general melee of unique and sometimes challenging questions.
Learning about The Industry from the inside has really helped me see what I need to do in my own writing, in order to boost myself up to that place we all desire: Getting our novel or collection or memoir, etc, out there. The information, the discussions (some involving me, some overheard), the questions and challenges, are invaluable to a young writer. I am learning the ropes, cutting my literary teeth, washing the green off, slowly. Read more
People ask me – you’ve got a child, a job, a commute, a house to run. How do you fit it all in? Well, to start with, all that stuff about scheduling my day, setting aside proper writing time, settling myself into a solid routine? Forget it.
That’s all shiny and fine if you’ve the time and the space. If you’ve got the job, and the family and the multipack of other fun responsibilities, you know it doesn’t work like that. However good your intentions, it’ll get messed up within three days of that nice chart thing that you’ve pinned to your fridge. That’s just how life works. So:
1. Master the art of snap-writing… Read more