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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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...

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10 Dos & Don’ts For the Aspiring Novelist

1. DO Start small. Writing short stories is a great way to do that. Many novelists have started this way, including me. Writing a good short story forces you to create and develop a character and take a plot from beginning to end in a limited number of pages. It also prepares you for...

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8 Rules For Writing in Bed

4. Turn on the light to get down your thoughts. I’ve often grabbed my clipboard and pen in the dark, cavalier and overconfident, brimming with creative bounty, and started writing like mad. In the morning, I look and the words, completely unintelligible, are splattered over the page like a drunken sonnet. 5. Sit up to...

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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...