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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The Writer’s Promise: How to Craft a Book’s Pitch

I was in the ad biz back in the post-Mad Men days and rather than quaffing martinis and playing office politics, we spent a lot of time focusing on the “promise” of a product: it’s emotional payoff rather than its efficacy. Sure, Spongy paper towels absorb liquids just as fast as its competitors at...

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How to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance: 9 Tips

This past weekend, I had the honor of signing books at my local (awesome) book festival: Cincinnati's Books by the Banks Book Fair. It happens every year in the fall, and this was my third appearance. Every time I sign books at a regional fair in Ohio or Kentucky, I seem to get better...

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5 Ways To Be a Good Literary Citizen

A term I’ve heard with increasing frequency is “literary citizen.” It is usually spoken of along with an admonition to be a good one. But how exactly are we supposed to be good literary citizens, and why should we try? Writing is often thought of as a solitary occupation, and it’s true we writers spend...

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Make the Most of your Indie Bookstore Event

It’s important to realize that the speaking/reading/signing engagement is the tip of an iceberg, promotionally. Whether you have dozens of people lined up for you, or you fight off the despair that creeps in when the seats are empty, your event should yield more publicity and generate more sales than what hits the register...

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If You Build It, They Will Come: Letting Agents Come to You

I didn’t get my agent the traditional way. I found agent Michelle Brower of Folio Literary through a different route. I tried the traditional way, of course. I sent queries, I sent chapters, I sent samples and stories and clever letters, but they didn’t work. In the end, an agent approached me. You could say...

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5 Easy Steps to Conquer the Heartache of Rejection

There is no writer, no matter how famous and fabulous, who doesn’t deal with rejection. One might say that the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that one of them was persistent in the face of rejection and the other one simply folded. I say, don’t let rejection bury you!...

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Working with a Publishing House Editor

Prior to working with Susan Swinwood, senior editor of Mira Books, my only experience with editors dated back to my college days. A short story called “ The Sand Castle” was picked up for our college literary magazine. The editor said he loved my story, but added that it could use “a spot of...

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6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

1) Make sure you’re in love. I’m not a genius, my stories are not born lovely and perfect, their language strong, their plot lean and exciting. I have to work at it—a lot. And I don’t mind, because I enjoy editing. But I know there’s a big difference between revising a story I love...

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Need Ideas or a Writing Boost? Read Your Newspaper’s Obituaries

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...

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Tackling Tough Topics in YA

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...

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5 Networking Tips for Writers

1. Don’t go to Networking Events. Any time I attended a networking event – you know, pay $15 and get one crappy drink – I never made a useful connection. And that’s probably because these events were open to anyone. The lack of focus meant I probably wasn’t going to meet anyone who needed...

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How to Write a Page Turner: 5 Steps For Writers

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...

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How to Give People Nightmares: 6 Tips For Young Adult Horror

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...

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5 Reasons Novelists Should Write & Publish Short Stories

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...

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Should You Simply “Write What You Know”?

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...

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6 Reasons Why You Need To Have More “Babies”

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...

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6 Simple Keys To Revising Your Fiction

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...

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How to Plan a Great Book Reading: 5 Tips

1. Be professional. I’ve gone to readings where the writer is late. I’ve gone to readings where the writer insults the audience’s intelligence. I’ve gone to readings where the writer pulls papers out of his jacket, smoothes them on the stand, and then starts reading aloud with his head down for thirty five minutes...