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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.37.50 PM

How to Locate Your Weird (and Better Your Writing)

1. Embrace the First Truth: You’re a freak. No use denying it. I mean this very literally. After all, by definition, a freak is an “abnormal phenomenon.” So, if you believe that all humans are unique individuals, as I do, then there is technically no absolutely normal person and we are all, therefore, freaks....

the-wrong-side-of-right-novel-cover

4 Writing Tips I Learned at Drama School

As an undergrad at NYU, I saw the writing classes I took as “core curriculum,” pure and simple. Sure, they were rigorous and fun, but they distracted from my real focus—the studio where I spent twenty-five hours a week learning how to act. It took several post-grad years for me to come to terms...

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 1.06.03 PM

6 Questions Writers Ask about Copyright and the Law

(Column by Chuck as well as WD co-editor Brian Klems. Please note that these guidelines below, while helpful, should not take the place of formal legal advice. We are editors, not attorneys.) Imagine you’re at a writers’ conference. You’re getting ready to pitch that great novel idea to a bunch of powerful agents. As...

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.10.17 PM

The Utility (and Trappings) of the Novel Outline

I’ve been selling books for more than fifteen years and learning to write novels even longer. Of all the author readings and Q&A sessions I’ve hosted (and attended), one of the most common questions among beginning writers, even curious readers, is this: Do you start with an outline? You’ve heard the pros and cons....

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 7.21.56 PM

How 5 Great Writers Got Started on Their First Books

1. Toni Morrison -- The Spark: A Writing Group. Morrison was a 35-year-old professor at Howard University when she joined a writing group just for fun. It soon became clear that she couldn’t remain in the group unless she actually wrote something, so she began toying with a story based on an African American...

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.57.37 PM

It’s 2015 — Believe Anything Can Happen in Your Writing Life

My rational mind knows that the odds of these things happening might not be in my favor—and probably a kajillion-to-one for #2—but there’s something very liberating about giving myself permission to be open to the idea that anything can happen. As Alice’s father says, “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe...

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.58.19 PM

The Power of Vulnerability

How many emotions do you experience in a week? A month? If someone told your story, what emotions would they put on the page? Think about your lowest moment and your best experience. I know it’s scary, but if you want your stories to have power, you have to be willing to be vulnerable....

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 3.31.15 PM

5 Reasons to Write YA

When I first started writing fiction, I never expected to end up writing YA. But once I discovered what a vibrant, challenging category it was, I was hooked. I love young adult fiction, and I love the authors working in the category. Explaining to my friends and family, though, what YA is and why...

the-masked-songbird-cover

5 Reasons to Write the Book You Need to Write

1. The Market Can Launch You by the Seat of Your Pants...Or Just Give You a Wedgie. You’ve heard the advice not to follow trends just to follow them. Publishing is a slow-moving beast, and just because something’s selling like frozen lemonades in a Manhattan July now doesn’t mean two years from now...

Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 10.50.45 PM

3 Tips For a Better First Revision

The first revision is probably the most important factor in sculpting your novel. One of my favorite quotes to express this idea is by Shannon Hale who wrote: “I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The first revision...

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 1.10.26 PM

To Text or Not to Text: How Much Should Technology Show Up in Fiction?

It's obvious that technology in the last ten years or so has changed our daily lives to an extreme. Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, texting...on and on the list goes, and it's growing every day. The way we communicate has been utterly transformed. Face-to-face interactions have decreased, while gadget-to-gadget interactions have increased. What does...

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.46.43 AM

“No, Thank You” — On Rejection & Writing

The most commonly acknowledged form of rejection for a writer is the rejection of one’s work by a publishing house. After spending months, if not years, shaping a story, you submit it hoping for acceptance and publication. Sadly, this is the exception, not the rule. The average writer is more likely to have a...

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 10.58.45 PM

How I Got My Literary Agent: Jaime Martinez-Tolentino

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jaime Martinez-Tolentino, author of TAINO. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good...

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 12.54.57 AM

7 Ways to Add Sizzle to Your Next Book Event

Have you ever seen a lonely author at a bookstore table—rearranging his book stacks, checking his signing pen, and making hopeful eye contact with the customers before they duck down the nearest aisle? I’ve been that author, and I’ve also stood for three days hawking my books at a country fair, where I ate...

no-time-to-die-novel-cover

5 Tips for Writing Suspense

1) Structure Scenes like Mini-Novels: Each one should contain its own narrative arc, with rising action and a climactic moment that signals the end of the chapter. It’s good form to finish most chapters on a cliffhanger—especially the first one. A major dramatic question should be raised in the opening scene, and then resolved...

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 1.21.36 PM

The Writer’s Journey: How Much Can Someone Possibly Stand?

Above your desk is a bulletin board, crammed with outlines, assorted index cards with character descriptions, fliers from places you went for research, cards from agents and editors you met at assorted writers conferences, a postcard from a favorite book (note to self: next query don't forget to mention your story is just like...

index~~element5

Research Before You Send a Query Letter

Now, there are really two different types of rejection letters. The first one I don’t have a big problem with. These are the letters for projects that might not be quite right for what I am looking for, or for stories that might not be ready for publishing yet. With stories like this, we...

the-sound-novel-cover-alderson

5 Mistakes Writers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

1. Thinking that your book will sell itself. I have five books published with Simon & Schuster and let me tell you: They do not walk off the shelves. I made the mistake of becoming complacent and thinking that because I had a huge publisher behind me that I didn’t need to do much...