Editors Blog

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 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...

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Why Dogs Make Fun Writing Partners

A little less than four years ago, around the same time our youngest child was toilet-trained and sleeping (mostly) through the night, my husband and I took a bold step and decided to add to our family. Almost everyone told us we were crazy to do it, but we were determined. There was something...

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Writing a Memoir

1. We must build a shelter with our truth. Other writers working on memoirs often ask me, “But why would anyone care about my story?” When I was struggling to write Unremarried Widow, I asked a memoirist friend the same thing. She said, “We must build a structure with our truth so that other...

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The Pros and Cons of Getting a Creative Writing MFA

If you’ve been writing long enough, you’ve probably considered getting a Masters in Fine Arts degree. Perhaps you checked the tuition costs, choked, and wondered: Is it really worth it? That’s a tough call. Plenty of successful writers do not have advanced degrees. And plenty of MFA grads never publish a book. If you’re...

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Make a New Year’s Power Grab

We all know writing is hard. But most of us also know that it isn’t really the writing that’s hard—it’s writing in the face of all the psychological crap around being a writer that’s hard. Multiply these everyday difficulties by the profound sense of powerlessness that comes with feeling like your writing career is...

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Polish Your Work Before Submitting: 6 Revision Tips

1. Listen to your critique group. When I first began to write, I was fortunate to meet some wonderful writers who became fabulous friends. We met regularly to work on our manuscripts. We worked to give constructive feedback to one another and because we listened to each other, our writing got better. We listened...

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10 Keys to Becoming a Successful Writer: An Agent Spills Secrets

Now is the best time to be a writer, but technology is forcing writers to reinvent themselves. They need a new model for becoming successful. The goal of these ten keys is to provide the model. 1. Passion—your love for creating and communicating about your work 2. Purpose—personal, literary, publishing, and community goals that inspire you...

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Should Sex Be in Your Novel?

Should Sex Be in Your Novel? If you write romance or erotica, then, of course, the answer is yes. For children books, it’s a definite no and questionable in Y.A. and religious books. But what about the other genres like historical fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, fantasy, science fiction, and even memoir? The fact is that...

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Character Development: Finding a Friend for Life

Like all writers, my methods for building characters are a mix of mishmash and melting pot, drawn from both personal experience and academic study. Below is a short list of the ideas I’d like to cover. 1. A Character Who Refuses to Die 2. Know Your Archetype 3. The Great Man/Woman Theory 4. What MUST the Character Do...

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Why Tough Love is Crucial For Writers

Hope is a powerful word. It’s also a dangerous one. When it comes to the aspiring writer community a premium is put on positivity, the old pat on the back with kind words of encouragement, keep your chin up, stay the course, that sort of thing. This support system has merits, and undoubtedly aids...

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How I Learned to Kill My Darlings

William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” When I first heard that from my mentor, the late Andre Dubus Jr., I knew what he meant. Don’t show off! It’s about the story, not about you, the author. But this was easier said than done. I’ve always been a pretty good story...

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Voluntary Masochism: Writing with Emotion

Readers expect emotion. Oh, they love humor as well but they expect and really want characters they can identify with deeply, who go through pain and learn and heal and come out on the other side changed and triumphant! Writer Sharon Sala teaches a workshop on how to express emotion. Her advice...